Not often in my life has it happened that I have stepped in a church and the sheer beauty and grandeur of the architecture, the art and the overall interior design left me rapt in wonder. At such times there is an immediate sense of awe. No one has to quiet you for the sacredness of the space is so immediately apparent that a sense of inner hush stops the noise of aimless verbosity.
Such an experience happened to me Friday when JoAnne and I visited St Joseph’s Cathedral in Hartford Connecticut. The soaring Gothic span, the breath-taking splash of translucent red, blue and sun-yellow panes, the repeated larger-than-life reminders of precious Biblical truths and events all combined together to bring an inner swell of reverence. It was simply awesome.
Yet at the same time, there was a noon mass coming up a few minutes after we left and only a very small hand-full of parishioners were assembling to worship, presumably in one of the side chapels. It seemed to be a living commentary on the change in values that has happened in the last fifty years. The church we were visiting was built in the early 1960’s to replace one destroyed by fire in the mid-fifties. The “greatest generation” and their parents must have sacrificed greatly to construct this house of worship. Yet today’s generations were not here today. Churches across the Northeast are experiencing the same unfortunate contrast, and Roman Catholic dioceses are closing churches in response. I am saddened as I think about this disparity.
Yet God has not changed. “His greatness no one can fathom.” “He is great and greatly to be praised.” He is still awesome in his sanctuary and desires for us to make his house a house of prayer for all people. Who are those today who will accept his invitation worship and prayer? Who will offer sacrifices of praise by confessions of faith, hymns of praise and personal testimonies? Who will intercede for the sick, for growing children, pastors, and for the work of the kingdom? I am afraid sometimes we are more like the generation of the OT who lived well in their own “paneled” –read finely decorated– homes and took care of their own pleasure and business well while the house of God fell into neglect.
May God help us to rise up and fill every house of worship; to indeed remember our Creator while we have strength to offer back to him as our most reasonable and logical worship. Happy are the people—the generation—whose God is the Lord!