Echoes, footsteps, hushed voices. Candles, choirs, eerie melody. Dark and blackened wood and shadows. Heavy stone carved and stacked past my minds comprehension. So many shapes, curves and forms. Too many to grasp. So I gape.
And light as I’ve never seen it. A playful dance between sun and glass - red, blue, green and all the in-betweens, mixing, colliding and rolling in rays and patterns, lighting the dust. Here is the real magic.
This place, this sacred place, is made to hold the weight of time. Filled with awe I stand, surrounded by history. Noble bones lie beneath my feet. I walk, gaze and wonder. Who were these people? How did they create all this? Were they flesh and bone like me? Surely not.
Look at the bigness and the robustness of it all! And then the minuteness and the attention to detail. Have we grown as people, with our cars, cameras, tv sets and computers, or have we shrunk? I stare at statue after statue, saints with fingers poised in blessing and knights entombed in honor, hands crossed on swords with loyal and lean dogs at their feet.
I walk past legends, both the traitorous and the courageous, past all the laughter and tears. Life of threshold, throng, market and all the busy life of the in-between were swallowed up in here. They must have needed this place. The sacred stillness and astonishing grandeur helped them make sense. But even for them time moved forward, putting them in their place. But they left this and it is spectacular.
What will they think? Those who walk the halls of our times. It’s depressing to wonder. Our sophistication seems paltry in comparison to this. How can an iphone compare to thousand-ton chiseled rock and carved oak that has withstood wars, famines, disease and all the mess of humanity?
The wood is carved, stained, varnished, and aged with years of use, aged by oils from hands as frail as mine. I suspect the wood is even more solid now, even more weighty. Then there is the fine smell of dust and incense, the robes and colors and stuff of the divine, and all my senses are coming undone.
The answer to the mystery lies in these halls. These halls that were crafted to take the breath and house those who no longer breathe. These mortals may no longer speak but they echo louder than our generation ever will, regardless of all our noise and perhaps because of it. Through history they speak to something larger, a time when God was bigger. A life that was closer to real, and to a right sense that more in life was sacred.
These halls were made to shrink us, to make us feel the weight of our insignificance but also to woo and woe us, to pull us out of ourselves and our trivialities. They were made precisely to reflect the God who inspired them. And as I realize they are a shadowy reflection, I run my hand along the smoothed stone and whisper “Woe am I, for I live among a people of unclean lips and damned iphones.”