This post, I have to say, is very random and entirely unprovoked. And not only that, I’m about to cut loose and be extremely dogmatic about things that are entirely outside the realm of my personal expertise. (I like putting it that way, because it makes it sound as though I actually have a realm of personal expertise tucked away somewhere.)
Having issued fair warning, I would now like to give my candid, personal opinion of Canterbury Cathedral. (Told you this was random.) And if you have strong personal affection for the highly liturgical version of the Anglican Church, then I would suggest you stop reading right now. Before I haul up my socks and get too rude, however, I should give a brief summary of the good points about Canterbury:
Historical interest: Five Stars
There you go. Now for my opinion. Since I know nothing whatever about the actual architectural finer points of that building, and I’m sure there are many because you can’t have a ceiling that tall without it being architecturally impressive, I am going to assess it purely from a feng-shui-style perspective. (Notice I said “feng-shui-style” because feng-shui is also something I know nothing about.) But if I believed in Karma, Canterbury is wallowing in a sea of the BAD kind. If I thought that buildings emitted an energy, Canterbury’s energy is way out of touch with the straight and narrow. If I thought that buildings exuded a wafting, colored cloud, Canterbury’s would be the color of anti-freeze. If I thought buildings had a conscience, Canterbury has a lot of sin on its. If I thought buildings had a personality, Canterbury is a pompous, self-serious, Know-It-All with short-man syndrome. If I thought buildings could talk, Canterbury would be one of those insufferable people who trill their R’s. If I thought buildings would listen to my advice, I would send Canterbury straight in for a chat with my grandfather on the subjects of confession of sin and practical Christianity. And then he would insist that it write letters of apology and make restitution and that would do it all the good in the world.
Have you ever been to Canterbury? Initially of course, you’re quite wowed by the tall ceilings and the music and the fact that the Black Prince is laid out right over there, andÂ Thomas a Becket was murdered right over here, and that this is the very same place where people like the Wife of Bath and the Miller and the Knight have been coming to worship saints’ relics for, oh, centuries now. (And telling each other terribly off-color stories on the way.) But then you pause and wonder to yourself why that obviously homosexual man (“as camp as a row of tents” as they say) with the earrings and the eye makeup is all decked out in that dress with all the whirligigs on it. Ah yes. He’s a minister here. “What are all those whirligigs?” you wonder to yourself. “Aren’t they just the tiniest bit gaudy what with all the gold embroidery and whatnot?” But then you remember that Jesus did, after all, say to make sure that you really widen the borders of your garments and broaden those phylacteries so that everyone sees how important you are. It’s a vital part of being a Christian minister. We’re all pretty sure that the apostle Paul wore a golden cape around. He was pretty hot on everyone paying him a lot of respect. (Yes, I can hear you. You’re saying, “You silly fathead! It’s not about the MAN, it’s about the OFFICE.”) Right. Yes. Paul wore a golden cape around with enlarged borders to show everyone what an important office he held. My mistake.
We’ve all heard about theology being built right in to the very stones of the cathedrals. Canterbury seems to have been constructed along the ever-so-biblical Yertle the Turtle lines. You walk into the cathedral and look down through all the arches and there, at the end, is a flight of steps. What’s up the steps? You can’t see that high. You’re not supposed to, you plebe. Only people with fancy capes get to go up there. Oh wait. Luckily we’ve had the Reformation, so it’s ok. (I’m pretty sure the Wife of Bath didn’t get to go up those steps.) There, in the dead middle, right at the focal point of the whole enormous cathedral, is a throne. Yertle the archbishop’s throne. It reminds me a lot of the verse about how he who desires to be the greatest should set himself up a fancy seat that has the best view.
While we were there, we stayed for a service. Luckily, no one went off-script and said anything not in the Prayer Book. (When we were at Westminster Abbey, we got a sermon on how wonderful it is to pray to the saints. “They intercede for us and isn’t that lovely?” I’m totally not making that up. We then had to boycott singing a hymn to Edward the Confessor. Not about Edward the Confessor, to Edward the Confessor.) Anyway, the service we were there for at Canterbury didn’t involve a sermon, which was all to the good. But what we did have was a whole enormous amount of processing. A man in a cape who sat in a special seat with a velvet curtain around it got out of his seat and processed in with a wispy assistant marching before him carrying a long silver spoon. After a bit he processed back accompanied by the tender chap with the spoon and got back into his chair while his little assistant shut the curtain. (The gay one with the earrings.) Then he and the silver spoon got out again and processed back past. After a bit he processed one more time (spoon and all) and his little assistant tucked him snugly back into his seat. Every time that man went by, we all had to stand. Of course for the reading of the Scripture we remained seated, but boy we all had to hop to whenever the man with the cape and spoon went past. Also of note was the fact that no one was allowed to sit in the top row of seats. Along both sides of the chapel there is a row of gorgeously carved, high-backed seats . . . and also carved upon them is the notice of the important personage for whom this seat is reserved. Much like the parking places that say “Reserved for the CEO. All others will be towed.” That too seemed to really be in touch with what Jesus always praised about the Pharisees. He loved how they made sure to get the best seats in the synagogue. Thought it important enough to mention specifically what a good trait that was of theirs. James, too, would definitely be a fan of that seating method. Actually, come to think of it, the King James version of that passage is especially applicable.
And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place.
He even covered the gay clothing and everything.