Summary: How should one ’feel’ when rubbing shoulders with God? Can we be expected to feel something specific to the occasion? Maybe what I feel and how I behave has much to do with how I understand authority; how I respect or despise it; maybe my behaving and fee
Life, a Cathedral
Scripture: Exodus 3:1-5
Glenys and I recently vacationed in Quebec. While there, two experiences stood out for me as the highlights of our vacation. These impressed me, not in the sense that it met my entertainment approval but these affected me and my sense of things.
The first life-affecting impression was our visit to Parliament in Ottawa, our Nation’s Capital. The tour was breath-taking. The thing that stood out amongst the massive architecture, antique furniture, dated wooden doors and impressive marble was the Senate. Prior to entering the Senate we were instructed to remove our hats. It was not a request. I wondered if the accompanying security officers would hustle anyone outside who did not comply! As we entered the room it became quickly obvious that we were quarantined to a restricted area. I sensed the possibility that the floors outside the majestic rope barrier were sensor-plated and one false step could mean tripping an alarm that would bring the Queen’s Guard running!
I was impressed with the thought rather quickly that this is not a garden variety country club.
Another thought occurred. I complied with the instruction to remove my hat, not simply because I was told but because this was a sort of hallowed ground. Then I wondered, if standing on restricted space in the empty Senate pulls a deep reverence from my heart, how should I ‘behave’ when rubbing shoulders with God?
This experience was a prelude to the ultimate experience so I won’t stop here.
We move on to when we visited Our Lady of Quebec, the Cathedral Basilica in old Quebec City. I had a plethora of emotions upon entering this bastion of structures, dating back 365 years, having been built in 1647. It continues its stately gaze as the oldest parish church in North America. My experience there shaped my impressions – of me and my relationship to God and the world.
As soon as I entered the edifice, I saw candle stations in strategic places. A Confessional on my right near the door I just entered immediately caught my attention. It was not a coincidence that I was invited - maybe challenged – before I took another step, to prepare myself for this unforgettable journey that would eventually take me to the altar.
Directly in front of me was the first of several candle stops. I was informed by the posted instructions that I could light a votive for a dollar. A few steps to my left on the other side of the Cathedral I was invited to light a prayer candle in another station. This candle would cost five dollars. As I moved a few feet forward I felt a growing intimidation. I felt intimated trying to work my way to the front of this magnificent holy place that represented humanity’s relationship with Divinity.
How should one ‘feel’ when rubbing shoulders with God? Can we be expected to feel something specific to the occasion? Maybe what I feel and how I behave has much to do with how I understand authority; how I respect or despise it; maybe my behaving and feeling have much to do with how I perceive ME – as an equal or a subordinate, worthy or wretched. It certainly has much to do with how I understand HIM – meaning God.
Another candle location allowed me to pray a prayer of peace and blessing. This Station was about me. It was for a price as the others, another five dollar invitation.
I mentioned a strange feeling of intimidation. I say ’strange’ because I don’t intimidate easily! So, here I was feeling an odd sensation in my spirit. I felt something but didn’t know what I felt or most of all, why I felt it. It resembled a child-like concern that I might get yelled at. Am I allowed to just walk through here as if at a ballgame? While I pondered this odd sensation a tour bus arrived and a wave of tourists invaded our space. Some quietly entered and marvelled, as others started clicking cameras and at times were offensive and intrusive. One man stood directly in front of a woman in prayer to get a shot of a statue near her.
After a while I began moving forward but always a few steps, with pauses; ever watching for the ’authority’ to touch my arm and challenge me about what I’m doing here and waiting to possibly be evicted.
The journey to the altar was a long and demanding experience.
As I thoughtfully advanced I was intrigued by different things. One fascinating consideration was the pulpit. It appeared suspended a few feet above the congregational level, maybe about ten feet. It was in the center of the Cathedral, between the front entrance and the main altar at the far end. It stood a significant distance below the ceiling that was magnificently crafted and accentuated with gold in places, until at the very front of the Cathedral the whole ceiling and its images were completely saturated with gold! I could only imagine the messages of this arrangement - the priest is the mediator between the people and God and even the priest, with soiled robes of heart and experience, will work through challenges coming near the Almighty who is so far removed from us.