This past week the Church celebrated its annual call to unity. And for me, it provided a unique opportunity to visit a place that I’d never set foot inside of, for all my years moving about Dublin: the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, otherwise known as Christ Church Cathedral.
Maybe it’s appropriate that my visit coincided with this time of the church year, if only for this fact: officially – that is, through the lens of traditional assertion – both the Church of Ireland (Anglican) and the Roman Catholic Church claim Christ Church as the seat of their faith, their cathedral church.
There was no spirit of territorialism, though, the evening I visited... only the language of welcome, of hospitality, of common prayer. And significantly, what all these families of faith chose to unite their voices together was the song of Taizé.
|Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin|
The changing face of the church wasn’t lost upon me, not by a long shot: here was the Anglican Church, reaching out to all denominations (including many Catholics), at least five different language groups represented (I recognised Irish, English, Spanish, German, and one – I think – from eastern Europe). But the words that brought them all together were the words of ancient Rome, newly woven together in the simple four-part refrains of the ecumenical community of Taizé, an ecumenical community found in the Burgundy region of France. The celebration was unabashedly global, both by way of its participants, and by its language.
There is a place in the last book of C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, That Hideous Strength, that finds an assembly of operatives confounded by their own speech – the “curse of Babel”, as it were. In the midst of their meeting, the participants found their language could no longer be understood by others: the resulting scenario was nothing but chaos, discord, violence and misunderstanding.
When I take in the news lately, it seems that this very same curse has taken over a spirit of meaningful dialog in the world. Yet here I sat, in an ancient stone cathedral, in a city that, 100 years ago, witnessed revolt, assassination, and overwhelming destruction. Here I sat, surrounded by people seemingly divided by the very words they spoke, yet united by simple songs. It was Babel redeemed, the sound of humanity brought together in a new way by an ancient language. And everyone understood what was being said.
Perhaps it was a bit like what the earliest of apostles experienced two thousand years ago, when those once-timid men stepped forward, finding that their words were understood by all: a miracle of the Spirit moving in their midst.