When all that remains for us is love
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The mystery of life and of the world
It is now almost twenty-five years since I started to be entrusted with projects of particular symbolic importance in a very wide range of locations.
In 1996 it was the Golgotha Cross at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Standing monumentally atop the dome of what is called the Katholikon, the cross marks the place where Jesus Christ was crucified, laid to rest and where He rose again.
In 2004 it was the star on top of what is probably the most famous Christmas tree in the world at the Rockefeller Center in New York.
In 2017 I had the honour of being asked to make the ‘Golden Gash’ in Breitscheidplatz (Breitscheid Square) in Berlin, a memorial which has been finalized in July this year and which commemorates the dead and injured of the attack on the Christmas market there.
However different the three locations and works are, one element all of them have in common is my striving to deal with and understand the many attempts that have been made to explain the mystery of life and of the world.
At Christmas eternity enters into time
At Christmas eternity enters into time. This is symbolized by the star that, during this very night, comes to rest over the place where God became incarnate. A star cannot really come to rest, just as time cannot: everything comes into being, exists and then dies.
God has made Himself as vulnerable, as easy to hurt as Man is. Christ’s violent death on the cross is not the end of time, because on Easter Night – in the image of the resurrection of the dead – time transitions into eternity.
At Breitscheidplatz near the Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church) in Berlin, and on one of the nights before Christmas, time irrupted brutally into the eternity of all who simply were there and met their deaths. All of those who were injured, all of those who rushed to rescue and to help, all those left behind and also the many who felt sympathy for those affected must feel this in exactly the same way.
But, as they say, life goes on and time heals all wounds. What remains are scars.
The ‘Golden Gash’ was chiselled into the surface of the square, and, sealed with poured molten bronze, this wound was healed. For me it is one of Berlin’s scars, a scar that remains and which, for that reason, will always cause us to talk about something that has both happened and is inconceivable. The most important thing is that we talk to one another so that we do not forget.
On the first anniversary of the attack on December 19 2017 two events moved me profoundly. During the ceremony to commemorate the victims of this terrible incident, Anja Antonowicz, who, only ten minutes before, had left the place where the attack took place, recited the text of Jacques Brel’s chanson Quand on n’a que l’amour in the German version by Klaus Hoffmann. The second was the moment at 20.02, the exact time the attack took place, when the bourdon bell of the Gedächtniskirche rang out for twelve minutes and everyone and everything in Berlin stood still. For me that was another moment when eternity entered into time.
When all that remains for us is love
‘When all remains for us is love, as the sole reason, as the one thing that binds us for eternity; when all that remains for us is love to suffer with the poorest amongst us, to clothe them with warmth however pitiful their state; when all that remains for us is love to give us strength to pray, to sing as a troubadour of tenderness, when all that remains for us is love as the tiniest glimpse of hope for those who, in the dance of everyday life, are searching for truth; when all that remains for us is love to carve out our own path and to shape our own destiny, no matter how impossible that is; when all that remains for us is love in dialogue with cannons, like a song, like a chanson until each and every drum falls silent; then we will become friends, just as we are; that will be our inheritance; when all that remains for us is love, then, friends, the world belongs to us!’
original lyrics in french by Jaques Brel´s chanson "Qand on á que l´amour"
I often think about how future anniversaries of this incident will be marked.
If my wish were to be fulfilled, life around Breitscheidplatz would stop for twelve minutes each and every year on December 19 at 20.02; this would happen from now on, and the bourdon bell of the Gedächtniskirche would sound once more for twelve minutes.
Translation from German into English by John D. Watson