Thursday, March 16, 2006

Westminster Cathedral

I started off yesterday planning on walking to Westminster Abbey and then on towards Trafalagar Square. But along the way, since I was taking a new route, there were shops to see, sales to browse through and a large cathedral that seemed worth taking a look at. Westminster Abbey is of course well known, what's less talked about is Westminster Cathedral which is along the way (if you walk along Victoria Street), gorgeous and free to enter. Unlike W. Abbey this actually feels like a real church. It's very very large for an active church with lots of little side chapels. There's artwork everywhere! There's mosiaics, paintings, relics, stained glass on the walls, the roof - anywhere that there's space. There were no signs banning cameras so I turned the flash off and quietly took a few photos as I went round. I have to pay a bunch extra to hook up a camera at the internet cafe so I beg forgiveness for the delay but will wait until I have a collection of photos and then put them all up together.
I have to say one thing for the Catholics, their churches certainly have an air of beauty and reverence that the pentecostal auditoriums lack; of course they also lack the drum set & rock type music that the youth services get but it would feel out of place in this setting. The trappings that they have aren't necessary for prayer but there is a certain comfort to lighting a candle, kneeling on the wooden kneely-thingy (very precise terminology I know), bowing your head before a painting of Christ and communing quietly with God.
A less quiet communion was further round the church where this man started up a conversation with me while I was looking around and, undeterred at finding out that I was Christian, was determined to convert me to Catholicism. I patiently explained to him that I was quite happy with my faith in God and disagreed with a number of tenents of the Catholic Church. He insisted on a list and I started talking about the virtual deification of Mary, the use of saints to replace local idols and the worship of lares and penates (the household gods of home & hearth), the belief in transubstantiation [the church has a seperate chapel where you can kneel and pray before the communion wafer!], the invention of purgatory & limbo, the invention of intercessions, of buying your way out of time in purgatory by donating to the church and purchasing masses to be said for your soul and the sale of - I've forgotten the historical term (sorry Lindsey, I was paying attention in class) but essentially the Catholic Church decided in the Middle Ages that Jesus had more brownie points with God then he needed and that the excess could be turned into a consumer product. Then there's the history of the Catholic Church as essentially a political body, got to love the written edicts that still remain in relation to the Crusades. What to do with errant knights that won't behave at home? Why tell them that murder is suddenly okay as long as they're peaceful heathens rather than Christian peasants that you're killing for sport. At least they had the decency to look dismayed when Constantinople got sacked and they started looting, raping & pillaging against the Eastern Orthodox Church - after all the remnants of the Eastern Roman Empire weren't nearly as important to God as the that based in the West. Then there's the resistance to female preachers and their bizarre insistance (based upon the writings of Paul I presume) upon priests remaining celibate despite the fact that Jewish priests tending the temple in Jerusalem were expected to marry and have a normal family life (and thus produce more priests), even Paul acknowledged that Christian church leaders would marry and encouraged them to have their marriages and family life set a good example for their congregation. Oh, and the Catholic tenents in relation to confession, absolution by mortal man & saying Hail Mary's etc.. as penance. (I got to see a confessional box!! Not from the inside obviously but it was cool to see one outside of an episode of Angel or some American movie) Suffice to say that even putting aside Church history there are a number of fundamental tenents to the Catholic faith that I disgree with - as have many others but they tended to get successfully terminated until the reformation.
Not that I have a problem with Catholics as individuals. There will be as many individual interpretations of faith as there are among the Protestant churches.
So anyway, this guy was still trying to convince me that I should look past the trappings and history etc... to the core beliefs. I pointed out that since both streams of the 'Church' accept the holy trinity, the divinity, death & resurrection of Christ then what difference did it make to him if I identified more strongly with a Pentecostal or Catholic faith. *g* He still kept trying to sell me on the notion that Catholics were better and in the end I thanked him and walked away.

Doh, my time's about to run out and I didn't even get to writing about W. Abbey. One last very cool thing about W. Cathedral - they have holy water on tap! I kid you not. So that you can fight the blood-sucking denizens of the night they have a tap with a sign saying 'Holy Water. Please turn off tap after filling bottle'.

- Also very cool was a side chapel whose decorations mainly related to the siants who started monastic orders. My geeky little heart rejoiced (from both the disciplines of History and English lit.) to see represented the Augustinians, the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Benedictines etc...


Blogger Paul said...

The term is Simony

10:29 AM  
Blogger Nixie! said...

Thanks Paul

10:52 PM  

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