Monday, March 6, 2017

Westminster Cathedral: Where Time and the Timeless Intersect

The first time I was in London was in 1982. I had gone there for entrance exams for a college I wanted to attend. However, after I had applied, I discovered that Rachel and Monte IV were on the way and knew I wouldn’t have the finances to support a family of seven, in London. The reason I still went for the exams was that I wanted to know if I would make the grade. I did. The joy of the twin’s birth washed away any regrets that might have lingered.

After the exams, thinking I would never again be in London, the next day I went on a walk about. I saw the Changing of the Guard, the Crown Jewels, Parliament, walked through the parks smoking Habana’s I had bought on Bond Street, sipped beer where Samuel Johnson had gone for libations, visited St Pauls’ Cathedral to pay homage to one of its most famous poet-priests, John Donne, and, of course, visited Westminster Cathedral.

Westminster It was like stepping into the very stream of history.

Authors and poets I revered were buried in the Abby and Nave, as were Kings and Queens.  Poets Corner was like walking into the Holy of Holies, for people like me. Chaucer, Browning, Dickens, Dryden, Kipling, Tennyson and so many others were laid to rest there. 

At one point, I sat in one of the pews in the Cathedral and basked in the magnificence of it all. While sitting there, an a cappella Boys Choir began practicing. They were hidden behind the apse and the high altar, which elicited a sense of mystery. “Ave Maria … Ave Maria.”

The historian Christopher Dawson wrote that such places as Westminster gave us a greater understanding of the magnitude of the religious element in our culture and the depths of its roots than anything we could learn in school. I know this was true for me.

Westminster Where time and the timeless intersected and, for a brief moment, it was numinous. All of us have such moments of grace. The trick is to be paying attention when they happen.  

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2017

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