Poland’s Favorite Sons
We arrived two days early in Warsaw in order to acclimitize to a new time zone, nine hours ahead of Arizona. A period of adjustment is important to me when preaching God’s word. To walk to the podium feeling as though it is four in the morning without having had any sleep the night before is a recipe for disorentation, not only to me but also to the audience!
On day one in Warsaw, I awakened at the unsociable hour of three in the morning Polish time. Unable to sleep any longer, I jumped into my work-out clothes and hit the jogging trail alongside the Vistula River, headed towards a destination I had plotted out the night before – Old Town Warsaw. I ran past the ornate National Stadium, where a few days earlier the final of the Europa Cup (soccer) had been played, which Jon and I watched a world away in our living room in Scottsdale. I also passed a dozen or so of the hundreds of wartime momuments commemorating Polish resistance during World War II.
When I finally arrived at Old Town, I was amazed to find a place so enchanting, so completely devoid of humanity. Since Warsaw is located at relatively northern lattitudes, daybreak in June can come as early as 3:30 in the morning. With the sun already peeking over the horizon, it was odd to find the streets completely deserted. (Three days later we would return as a family to Old Town for a Polish meal of chicken dumplings in one of the many outdoor cafes in the marketplace; at noon it was overrun by thousands of locals and tourists.)
What a magnificent sight the old sector of Warsaw – once completely destroyed by a vindictive Hitler, now completely restored to its original charm brick by brick, by the careful use of historical blueprints and photographs of the original layout . . . churches, cathedrals, palaces, monuments, marketsquare, buildings, cobblestones all meticulously reassembled.
Next to the science building in the University of Warsaw stands a provocative statue of Copernicus, a favorite son of Poland and the first person to posit a helio-centric universe, rather than an earth-centered system, which had been the cherished dogma of the Church from earliest times and which earned Copernicus condemnation as a religious heretic. On the statue, Copernicus is holding in his hand a round sphere symbolizing our solar system, with the sun at the center. While it would have been better to depict the hand of God cradling our solar system, and billions of other solar systems as well, the lesson which Christians can take away from Copernicus, himself a professing Christian, is the importance of humility in our assessments of the natural world. Science is not a discipline to be regarded suspiciously, but, when handled prudently, as a textbook into God’s creative mind.
Similarly with great music, by whomever composed, whether Christian or non-Christian – great music opens a window onto God’s glory. Certainly that was the case with Frederick Chopin, another Pole and favorite son, after whom the international airport of Warsaw is named, whose heart is entombed in a cathedral adjacent to the statue of Copernicus. Almost everything Chopin writes resonates with Jonathan, who often drifts into sleep at night to the notes of the peerless composer’s Nocturnes. The Chopin Museum in Warsaw is a rewarding stop – ask Jon about it. I missed it, needing to work on my talks for the conference.
Read other posts in this series:
- Tokens of Love and Gratitude to Christ | Part 1
- Tokens of Love | Part 2: History of Poland
- Tokens of Love | Part 3: Through Our Suffering, God Can Work Mightily
- Tokens of Love | Part 4: Freedom in Jesus Christ
- Tokens of Love | Part 6: Peace and Freedom
- Tokens of Love | Part 7: Assurance of Eternal Life
- Tokens of Love | Part 8: Exploring Krakow
- Tokens of Love | Part 9: From Artistry to Depravity
- Tokens of Love | Part 10: The World Slowly Being Transformed into a Wilderness
- Tokens of Love | Part 11: New Life in Christ
- Tokens of Love | Part 12: Reaching the Gypsies
- Tokens of Love | Part 13: Grieving the Empty Seats
- Tokens of Love | Part 14: The Greatest Work of All
- Tokens of Love | Part 15: The Kingdom Plans of the Lord
- Tokens of Love | Part 16: Until We Dance at the Foot of God’s Throne
- Tokens of Love | Part 17: Fullness of Life