Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cathedral Quiet Day - further glimpses

this innovation of FabBishop's is now in its third year, which means that throughout my ordained ministry I've been able to spend Shrove Tuesday away from the parish, drawing breath before the Lenten madness begins. Inevitably, some speakers work "better" for some people than others. In the first year, Stephen Cotterell was so unbelievably wonderful that very few people could fail to disappoint, but I've not yet regretted going.

Today's speaker, in his first address, posited the delightful suggestion that the Primates might have fared differently (better?) if they had had to paint their conclusions, instead of issuing a comminque...He offered us some thoughts on sight and insight, on the need to be open to discover both the pattern that we see and that which is yet to be revealed. We were given permission to wander and look, to allow what we saw to speak for itself without the presuppositions of our own frame of reference that so often colour what we see, and how we interpret it.
I settled down in the quire, looking up first at the amazing roof, where intricate vaulting sung of the aspirations of medieval masons who risked their lives to express their vision of God's glory. Over the high altar, carved angels hang, unnoticed almost every day, but always present, captured in their song of praise. Below them is the huge east window, where stained glass saints in their splendour shed the light of dreams and prayers offered intently though countless seasons, so many Lents begun, so many Easters celebrated.
But as you enter the quire, your eye is held by the gilded richness of the reredos- our best attempt to here enshrine what cannot be caught, to tie God down forever in the represenation of the life of Christ - babe and manger, corpse and tomb, risen Lord in glory.
And beneath that, on this last "green" day for many weeks, the frontal was a wonderful piece of silk painting, a naive child's eye view, full of courage and joy.

And of course, as I reflected on so many different attempts to portray the glory of God, I knew that they were all alike wrong, all equally inadequate, though each had glimpsed something of the reality - and the great thing was, and is, that it doesn't matter at all. So many attempts, so many failures, but God remains gloriously God-self and our views, feelings, deliberations do nothing to alter that glorious truth.

Faire is the heaven,
Where happy soules have place,
In full enjoyment of felicitie,
Whence they doe still behold
The glorious face of the
Divine Eternall Majestie.

Yet Farre more faire be those bright
Cherubins, which all with golden wings
Are over dight,
And those eternall burning Seraphins,
Which from their faces dart out fiery light:
Yet fairer than they both, and much more
bright be th' Angels and Archangels,
Which attend on God's owne person,
without rest or end.

These then in faire each other farre excelling,
As to the highest they approach more neare,
Yet is that highest farre beyond all telling,
Fairer than all the rest which there appear,
Though all their beauties joynd together were;
How then can mortall tongue hope to expresse
The image of such endlesse perfectionesse?

Edmund Spenser

1 comment:

serena said...

Sounds wonderful. And any post which puts Faire is the Heaven in my head is a blessing :)