The Eternal City


I took my whole family to Rome this year for Easter… and, as usual, it was an invigorating, life-affirming, faith-building experience for everyone. Rome has a way of doing that to people. I’ve been to many of the great cities of the world – from New York, London and Paris to Berlin, Athens, Cairo and Jerusalem – and none has the mystical quality to it as Rome does.

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My wife agrees. Paris is beautiful… Berlin is majestic… but Rome is truly magical. Perhaps it’s the warm, spring weather, the bright blue sky that lights up the white travertine of the Colosseum. More probably, it’s the way that all of western civilization… all of our political, historical, philosophical, religious understanding… is somehow condensed, like a diamond, in the 2,000-year-old buildings that still dot the Roman landscape. You can almost hear voices from the past as you walk through the old Roman neighborhoods of Trastevere and through the city center. Even jaded, bored teenagers gawk in astonishment as they walk through the portals of Rome’s great temples, from St. Peter’s Basilica to the Pantheon. When you combine that with the intoxicating energy that flows through the Eternal City like a live wire – the youthful exuberance of a hundred different nationalities – it’s easy to see how Rome can totally change your outlook on life. I feel more alive in Rome, a lot freer. God still speaks to people in Rome. Sometimes they even hear him.

The thing is, in Rome Christianity is not a religion. It’s not even a way of life. It’s history. Family history. The good, the bad and the ugly. And all of it happened, as far as Romans are concerned, only yesterday.

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Robert J. Hutchinson is an author and essayist. His most recent book is Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth (Thomas Nelson, 2015).