Architecture and God
Do you remember back to the wedding of William and Kate? Do you recall those beautiful trees alongside the pillars in Westminster Abbey. Now did you like that or not? I was a fan and thought them beautiful in their shape, size and fresh green. However not very practical for us commoners at our wedding celebrations. There was a simplicity in them that really did speak out and not just about the beauty of a place of worship when dressed for a wedding.
My favourite cathedral in the UK has to be Durham. I really love it and having been at Durham, spent many an hour inside its solid walls, either just loitering or in prayer and worship or taking friends to visit it. I really do like it. Is it a favourite of any of yours? It proclaims something about God, and this distant photo of the cathedral shows how dominant and solid it stands against the sky.
It is generally not a cathedral of dainty beauty, though of course there is a sense of beauty in each stone and in the grandeur of the Galilee chapel, the pillars, the wall paintings and intricate carvings. Durham cathedral to me, is solid dependable and shouts out to God in all ways. It is hugely tall which is further accentuated by its position on the peninsula on the River Wear and the drop down to the water. I love its solid geometric pillars marching up to the High Altar, in much the same way I saw those trees marching to the High Altar in Westminster Abbey. What statement is that saying to you about God? The God who you worship and the God who is in your life.
Our God is visible in the beauty all around us natural and created. God is in the beauty of this cathedral built by people who were making a statement in stone about the God they worshipped and had a relationship with. Our God is constant in every situation even when all else fails through disaster, illness and lack of knowledge. Our God is love, entering our human life, in Christ. Our God is hope, faith, creator, righteous, sustainer, holy, unique, eternal and personal. Our God is almighty, mysterious, Father or Mother and Spirit, but this building says more about God and our relationship with such a God.
God cannot be limited to four walls, God is above us all and yet intimately involved with us. The whole building speaks of a God who yes, is involved with His people but who is Omnipotent, who has unlimited power. God is Omniscient, meaning that God knows everything to be known and God is present everywhere and isn't limited by our measuring of time or place.
Some of this is what the builders of cathedrals tried to express in their amazing buildings. The sheer enormity of such a space speaks of Omnipotence and we are dwarfed by it. God cannot be boxed into a building, God is above our knowledge and understanding and what is to be seen in a building, just reflects what we as mere humans can understand. In the person of Christ, we are able to further understand some the divine mysteries.
Durham Cathedral - Letitia Landon
Those dark and silent aisles are fill'd with night, There breathes no murmur, and there shines no light; The graves beneath the pavement yield their gloom, Till the cathedral seems one mighty tomb. The Cross invisible—the words unseen That tell where Faith and Hope in death have been. But day is breaking, and a rosy smile Colours the depths of each sepulchral aisle. The orient windows kindle with the morn, And 'mid the darkness are their rainbows born; Each ray that brightens, and each hue that falls, Attest some sacred sign upon the Walls;— Some sculptured saint's pale head—some graven line Of promise, precept, or belief divine: Then sounds arise, the echoes bear along Through the resounding aisles the choral song. The billowy music of the organ sweeps, Like the vast anthem of uplifted deeps; The bells ring forth—the long dark night is done, The sunshine of the Sabbath is begun. What is that temple but a type sublime! Such was the moral night of ancient time; Cold and obscure, in vain the king and sage Gave law and learning to the darken'd age. There was no present faith, no future hope, Earth bounded then the earth-drawn horoscope; Till to the east there came the promised star— Till rose the Sun of Righteousness afar— Till, on a world redeem'd, the Saviour shone, Earth for his footstool—Heaven for his throne.