My old publisher started his life in a Brethren assembly but ended his days worshipping in a cathedral. The gathering of disciples in a simple room is so New Testament. Why move?
He isn’t here for me to ask. But I too am drawn to the old buildings – I think for these reasons.
- Permanent. Cathedrals were built to stand forever, through all time and times, like the Church does.
- Humbling. Still so today, they must have been extraordinary as they towered over thatch-and-plaster muddy villages.
- Universal. They welcomed and sheltered a whole community. (Admittedly this didn’t stretch to outsiders, such as the Jews.)
- Filled with beauty and music. Like heaven and earth itself.
- Reminding us of heaven. Just look up, and see stained-glass accounts of God and his saints.
- Watered by a stream of liturgy. Ancient, comprehensive, slowly flowing, varying but never changing completely, all the generations take turns to swim in it. Through it habits form (in theory) and cultures are shaped; by it we take our part in the unending flow of praise to God. Babies enter the cathedral, corpses exit it, the flow of worship goes on.
- Corporate rather than individual. Admittedly, bishops or Queens or crusaders get special tombs ; but for most cathedral worshippers, their main identity is in being part of the mass of humanity; without individual lives, there is no crowded heaven.