The Mystery in the CathederalJuly 12, 2011 No Comments
I just returned from a delightful vacation in Ireland. It was renewing to my husband and me to have 10 days alone together with no distractions, no obligations, only each other. We searched the beaches for shiny rocks, listened to the waves while lying on a down blanket on the beach. The sun was warm yet there was a chilly Arctic breeze. We laid there side by side, wrapped in our sweaters and coats, laughing and talking for a long time. That simple afternoon was by far the favorite time had for each of us.
After relaxing in the quiet and cool northern part of the island, we traveled down the narrow and bumpy roads to Dublin for a few days before flying back home.
While in Dublin, we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It is the National Cathedral of Ireland. The ancient Church was rebuilt into it’s current state in 1205, about 800 years after St. Patrick’s death. It is masterfully crafted, with spectacular side altars and chapels, magnificent ceilings, beautiful stained glass windows, sculptures and lovely details in the architecture. We wandered around taking pictures and just basking in the beauty for hours.
I had a nagging uneasiness. It bothered me that the immense building felt strangely empty, more like a museum than a Church. The popular tourist destination was filled with images of saints and inspiring art, but my soul did not soar toward God as it normally does when faced with such awe-inspiring beauty. Despite the other people all around, it felt strangely silent.
I wondered about the state of my soul because I did not feel the Presence of God that is a constant in our Church. When I am in a state of serious sin, my sense of physical closeness to God is obscured, even that close to the Tabernacle. What had I done now?? I spent a long time that night examining my conscience, looking for a reason that I did not sense the Presence of the Lord. I was puzzled to discover that I knew of no mortal sin that would have distanced me from God so. I put my puzzle before the Lord and fell asleep.
It was only the next day that I realized what was amiss. I was reading the guide to the Cathederal and noticed in the welcome message, “…Welcome to St. Patrick’s Cathederal……built in 1205 ‘… in the Anglican tradition…..’” What??? There was no “Anglican Tradition” when the building was rebuilt! It was then that I realized that was an Anglican church! There was no Tabernacle present. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist did not illuminate the stained glass. The gilded sculptures seemed dull and dusty without the light of Christ shining upon them.
Jesus was missing from this Catholic built Anglican building. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, reserved in the Tabernacle was what I missed, what I expected to find. And I did miss Him! It was as if I went to visit a friend, and was shown around their vacant home instead.
The event left a deep impression on me. As Catholics, we are immersed in holiness within our Church, and often take it for granted, as if it were background music. Sensing the lack of that holiness, that Divine Presence, in the Cathedral deepened my appreciation for the Catholic Church, with Her treasury of Sacraments that help to keep us face to face with God. It deepened my sense of intense awe at the sheer glory of the Eucharist.
Now, back at home, I look forward to Mass this Sunday at my local parish. It will be a home-coming. It is where I belong, no matter what country I find myself in.