Thursday, June 12, 2014

Trust in doves

"Don't trust the pictures of doves on the decorative banners festooning your churches. Trust real doves."

"Don't trust any stained glass windows whose frames have been hammered into the shape of a rose, or that depict elegantly creeping vines or gentle lambs. Trust real roses, and real vines, and real lambs—things that breathe and eat and drink and live and die."

"Whatever you do, don't trust in your lofty ideas about this world, or in your abstracted liturgical metaphors about what it means to be living in it. Trust only—and always—in the real thing."


"...I began to feel the stirrings of revelation. Instead of processing the urban environment as an agglomeration of sidewalks, storefronts, and apartment buildings—all of them combining to crowd out or tamp down nature—I became convinced that I was witnessing holy, irrepressible nature assert itself in response."

"In the cracks of the pavement before me, I noticed micro-gardens of tiny weeds sprouting up defiantly.

"High above my head, the clear morning sky had slyly appropriated the glass-paned sides of office towers, turning them into giant mirrors that reflected its bright blue light.

"As I waited at a crosswalk, my newly acquired X-ray vision enabled me to look down at the street and to see, inches below it, the continent-wide expanse of rich, black, living earth."

"At that moment I was made to understand: the kingdom of heaven isn't some plane in another dimension, understandable only through symbols and reachable only upon death. The kingdom of heaven is here on earth. The natural paradise that surrounds us is our true home, both physically and spiritually."

"But if we're to partake in all the glorious gifts it would bestow, we must acknowledge its sacredness. Every plastic six-pack ring that makes its way to the ocean, every gallon of toxic waste that leaches into an estuary, every tenth-of-a-degree rise in average global temperatures represents another step away from the garden...."

Excerpted from the article Back to the Garden by Michael Ellick
Photos: Cathedral of St. Paul


Mr. Ellick also wrote: "I recalled learning that the pillars and arches of some of Europe's grandest medieval cathedrals were intended by church fathers to evoke towering tree canopies and forest groves—trees that had to be cut down so the very cathedrals evoking them could go up."

Which put me in mind of another cathedral dedicated to St. Paul that I visited a year ago in London. And how when there, at the risk of sounding churlish, I spent most of my time wondering why humans spent so much effort creating a sacred place, when every inch of this earth is already sacred and shining with life and spirit.

Was it because they'd fallen in love with the symbol so deeply that it crowded out their natural human affinity for the physical? Loved the thought and the word, and rejected the blooming rose, the fruiting vine, the lamb who hungered, all outside the doors?

I'm minded of the Fool in Twelfth Night, who sings:

What is love? 'Tis not hereafter.
Present mirth hath present laughter.
What’s to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty.


  1. I do have a great love of fine cathedrals—though I think the space would be better suited to art spaces. My fave is St Magnus cathedral in Kirwall in Orkeney Islands, north east Scotland. I hope one day you can see it, made of alternating types of sandstone, the yellowish and the red. There are the most amazing gargoyles there with animal heads and the bas-relief inside is amazing. I attended only one service, and the preacher was very Celtic in his message, which I found in the other service I'd attended in the lowlands too. Glad that doesn't disappear. Is St Paul's open to the public all day?
    But as this form and place of worship I don't know... Have you ever seen the English miniseries or read the books 'The Darling Buds of May'? This is my fave show ever I think. In it Pa Larkin learns that one of his kids is visiting the church. He says something like 'If I'm going to thank the one who made all this I'll go out there, into the fields of Kent, not some dusty old building' and he looks out at the countryside. You might enjoy that show or the books its based on. It's about a family that just enjoys a simple life who help other automatically and constantly as a matter of course. Sidney Larkin is a real hero in his way.
    Not sure how soon now I can get up to The North...the finances could leave me in tough shape very quickly. But I'm determined to get up there this summer, just not this month like I hoped :(


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