Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Holy Spirit comes to Luton?

Some might say that this image of a dove on the church windows on the eve of Pentecost was a miracle. Others (perhaps more correctly_ would say that a pigeon flew into the church window and left a mark on it - birds being worse than people at discerning sheet glass before their eyes!

In any event I would see it as a word addressed to us. If the Holy Spirit is battering Himself at the windows, desperate to get in, then what are we doing about it? We don't need to worry about what God is doing - He knows His business. We have to worry about whether we are keeping the Holy Spirit out, or whether we are receptive to Him. Are we set in our ways and apathetic in our faith - or are we ready to accept the challenge that He will bring us.

Make no mistake, He will bring us a challenge. But He will also lead us most surely on the road that leads us to God. He will brush aside our apathy, our small-mindedness, our half-heartedness, and will reveal to us in all its glory the word of Jesus Christ - the Word that has been safeguarded by the Church which Christ founded; the Word that will lead us to everlasting glory.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Signs of the times

It is always a shame when people lose sight of the symbolic value of things that were - and sometimes still are - important; but in an increasingly materialist world it seems an inevitable progress. I read in the Tablet - and I'd better be careful in quoting in case I breach their copyright! - of Bishop Mone's 25th anniversary of his episcopal ordination. Congratulations to the Bishop and thanks be to God for his many years of service to his people.

According to the article, however, Bishop Tartaglia in the course of the service of thanksgiving invited Bishop Mone to take his place on the cathedra at Paisley where he had sat as Bishop for so long. The congregation applauded this gesture. Let me say that on the human level it was a fine gesture. Bishop Tartaglia wished to indicate that his precursor as Bishop was still a Bishop, and retained a place in the hearts and lives of the people of the Diocese. That is fine and good, and well done Bishop Tartaglia for not wanting to hold centre stage for himself. And yet...

The Bishop's cathedra is not simply a chair or a place to sit. It is a visible symbol of the Bishop's authority. I do not think that Bishop Tartaglia was saying that he wished to be subject to Bishop Mone's authority! To sit in the cathedra is not simply a sign of being a good chap - it is a sign of the authority of the apostles carried by the Bishop in the local church. While praising Bishop Tartaglia's gesture, it also seems sad to me that the symbolic value of the cathedra seems to have been forgotten by him and his people.

This is not just nit-picking. In the Church we are dealing so much with those realities that cannot be discerned by human senses, and so the value of symbols needs to be very much in the forefront of our minds. I knew one priest (now dead, God rest him) who used to argue that when people no longer saw the relevance of a symbol we might as well get rid of it. I would urge that we rediscover the symbols and signs of our faith; that we teach them and love them; that we hold them closely to us and pass them on to the future. For we are not materialists, but realists.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Wonders of the world

The most splendid sight on a recent trip into Spain was the central lantern-tower of Burgos Cathedral. The Cathedral complex has been declared a World Heritage Site - not not surprisingly, for I do not think anything like it exists elsewhere. One might wonder whether the architect was familiar with Ely Cathedral: but here, in 1540, following the collapse of the original tower built by Juan de Colonia, the concept was even more audacious. The transition from the four sided tower to the octagonal lantern is masterfully handled, and the tower itself contains two levels of windows and is vaulted: but the vaulting ribs are not infilled with stone but with glass, permitting a huge influx of light into the Cathedral. The Flamboyant Gothic devoration on the pillars serves as a final flourish setting off the whole construction. The architect obviously liked the idea because at least two other chapels within the cathedral are partly vaulted with glass - though this is the tour de force.

Beneath the tower are the graves of Maurice the Englishman (the Bishop who really got the work on the Cathedral started) and the great Spanish hero known as El Cid, and his wife.

To the right is the vault of the Chapel of the Constable at the Eastern end of the Cathedral, containing the tombs of the Constable Don Pedro Fernandez de Velasco and his wife Dona Mencia de Mendoza, sculpted in Carrara marble. They were the founders of this chapel, designed by Simon de Colonia in the early fifteenth century, a decade or so after Don Pedro's death.

Finally here, a general view of the great Cathedral showing the exterior of the great lantern, and to the right the Chapel of the Constable - we can expect more posts from Spain over the days ahead!