Apartment Therapy on Cathedrals

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

1 rm. Cath. w view.

[We were lucky enough to attend Paul Winter’s Solstice Celebration on Saturday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. It was a memorable concert, made stirring by the holiday spirit and the sensation of sitting shoulder to shoulder with thousands of other people in a space that defies description.]

The concert begins, the entire hall is eerily dark and silent. A lone horn player appears in light, playing from the far end of the cathedral. The pure sound echoes across the immense space. As music carries, we are suddenly inside of huge musical instrument – a room designed solely for the transmission of sound.

The ceilings are so far above us.
The walls and pillars are so hard, made out of stone.
The arches bow gently, sprung like sides of a cello.
The sheer distance plays tricks on our eyes.

This cathedral is one large room. One room.
(We live in two rooms).
A room for what? A room for us?
No, it’s too big. We are too small for it…

This is a room for something else. For something so much bigger than us that the ceilings need to be lifted and the doors widened so that it can get in.

Sitting in the crowd, we see the purpose of the space. As the music plays, we are waiting for the arrival of the being who lives here, who lives in this huge space and is returning home. We are all visiting its home.

We imagine the huge kindly being stepping gently into the room and lifting it’s head up to the ceiling. Slowly, it looks around at the waiting crowd below and unwraps itself into the space.

Cathedrals are homes built for them by us (the same goes for mosques, synagogues and other places of worship). They are so much bigger than us that we need to build big spaces. They are never big enough.

Every space is a home for something. Good spaces are clear and unmuddled with their purpose designed right into their core. They have everything they need and remove everything else, all clutter, all mixed intentions, all things that get in their way.

A cathedral is a home. It is a home just like mine and yours, but its owner is far bigger and gentler than us. It only returns when we invite it in with our good witness.

To sit in a cathedral with three thousand people is to feel how good it is to be at home.

This is not myth or superstition or any of the jabber you see on TV.

This is reality, and we crave it.

We crave the connection and the clarity of a good home, and we get a chance to take some of its home into our own each holiday season. MGR