I am walking under umbrella past the Holy Trinity Brompton and hear the organ, and choir singing ‘How Great Thou Art”. The sound is arresting, and I make an about turn out of the cold and wet and venture inside, just in time for the final strains.
Content, and in in another zone, I sit and ponder why this music arrests me. My mind wanders back to the recent trip in Georgia and Armenia where we visited so many churches, but the overall experience is different there.
The singing in the cathedrals we visited, not only in Georgia and Armenia, but in Romania was by male voices and no organ music. It was quite haunting listening to men’s voices singing powerfully and passionately in cadences that had me standing there agape. Add the heavy Orthodox ritual, with a plethora of priests and servers in coloured vestments, much incense, and a devout congregation standing for more than an hour bowing heads and crossing themselves with every mention of the Lord’s name, it was unforgettable.
Edmundo may have a point when he says that Vatican II lost all that important symbolism for us Romans! If he were ever to be elected to the Chair of Peter, the three-tier jewelled Papal Crown of Byzantine and Persian origins, the prominent symbol of the Papacy, would definitely be brought out and placed on his head.
Approaching each church in the Caucasus was more exciting than arresting. I realise now that outside the involvement in the Orthodox liturgy in larger churches, there was no real spiritual emotion in the experiences of discovering a new church. It was much more the spectacular locations of the churches on remote mountaintops, green or granite, on canyon ledges overlooking deep gorges with wild rivers running through them that were so exciting. Having said that, the sense of mystery and wonderment was compelling. My lack of historical knowledge was frustrating.
Another interesting corollary since being in London springs to mind. I’m not reaching for my camera each time I notice an architectural feature on one of the many notable churches or Institutions here in London. What would I do with the photos anyway?
Now I sit and ask myself what I’m going to do with the hundreds of photos from my trip to the Caucasus of stunningly located churches, engraved cross stones, capitals, crucifixes, and architectural stonework beautifully hewn and executed by master craftsmen centuries ago?
I walk back outside, and the sky is now blue – very London! Nonetheless, I’m going to detour only to pick up my favourite Pret A Manger Langoustine and Rocket sandwich and walk back to Eddy’s flat.
I’m ready for the photo cull. This afternoon!