Friday, November 12, 2010

Cathedrals? You Want Cathedrals?

Ryan asked me why I took a trip to Europe and all I've been sharing are pictures of cars, mustards, and luggage. It's all about the story, I told him. Those are the stories that came out first.

But if you want a story about cathedrals, I can give you one.

We saw a lot of cathedrals. We saw cathedrals that were buried underground, under the city, under a new modern world.


We saw other cathedrals that were grand and foreboding and bustling with tourists.



There were some that were famous because of people who worshipped there (namely, a young Pope John Paul II).


There were some that looked like castles.


And some that were solitary, quiet and chill.


There was plenty of hauntingly beautiful stained glass.


And plenty of beautifully haunting sculpture and art.


There were cathedrals to lose yourself in.


And there were some to set you straight. (Well, at least your watch.)


Here is the thing about cathedrals---I can't help but think about the building of them. I can barely imagine the blueprints, the finding and preparing of materials, the back-breaking labor to create them. I look at the arches and steeples, practically on their tippy toes as they reach for heaven, and the thought crosses my mind that they might be trying too hard. (Bless their hearts.) I want to say Hey, Cathedral, you're coming on a bit too strong. Take it down a notch. You don't have to kill yourself, throwing up every ornate idea that ever crossed your mind. God is just as into minimalism. (I think.)

Then I realize that I have judged, something God himself advises against, and I feel sort of bad.

The truth is, cathedrals don't do it for me. In all honesty, the most spiritual moment I felt inside any one of these buildings was when I looked at this.


The picture doesn't do it justice, but I promise it was spectacular. Yes, the window itself was jaw-dropping, but it was all the fuzzy reflections on the wall that stopped me, stirred something inside. The colors were brilliant and ethereal, real yet not real in the very same moment. In retrospect, maybe that's what I missed. Maybe that's the whole entire point. Maybe the purpose of a cathedral is not about building something beautiful for God, but about building something that lets us see God's beauty reflected back. I can imagine God sighing and saying, Thanks for the pretty window, but let me show you what I can do.

I don't know. That kind of makes God seem like a one-upper, but maybe you get what I mean.


Becky said...

Well said! I completely agree with your observations. :) Great post!

Alison said...

Thanks for sharing.

buddens said...

I love it - seeing God's beauty reflected back through the glass has got to be one of the greatest uses of imagery and spirituality I've heard. Thanks for sharing.

And I get it. Maybe it's not bad to say He's a one-upper. If you think about it, it's almost a cycle of one-uppedness. Like a big game of "I love you more." He blesses us for obedience, sacrifice and faith, so we show more obedience, sacrifice, and faith, so he blesses us more, etc. Perfect.

Jesse C said...


Omgirl said...

When I first visited Europe and saw the amazing Gothic cathedrals, and realized how many years and how many back-breaking man hours of labor it took to build them, I was kind of mad. I thought, "Who was the church to make thsse poor peasants slave away their whole lives to build this amazing church while they themselves lived in poverty?" And then my host father explained to me that this labor was all that those peasants could give, and that they worked lovingly on each piece of stone and glass and tapestry, eager to dedicate to God the only things that they had--their sweat and their skill. And then I saw a new beauty in those cathedrals.

Christy said...

Awesome post! I loved the meaning in your words.

And a side note: Could you be any cuter in your touring cathedrals outfit? The boots, the hat the scarf. You look amazing, just like the building you're in.

Mia said...

You know how you read something really beautiful and let out an appreciative gasp/sigh... I love this.

Ann said...

Such a satisfying photo essay--loved the way you ended this. Wow.

Miranda said...

These cathedrals are pretty and all, but I'm kind of obsessed with your slouchy beret and boots.

alex dumas said...

That was lovely.

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