Using different senses
Having visited a staggering number of churches on my recent holiday in Florence, I could not help but be struck by the visual imagery on show: pictures, statues, frescoes, gilding, marbling, mosaics, reliefs, marquetry – the list went on and on. While sometimes it was all a bit overwhelming and I was left wondering quite how the carpenter from Nazareth would view it all there was no doubt that wherever you looked there was something to inspire the sight and something therefore to inspire reflection and contemplation.
As Anglicans we are much less people of objects. After the Reformation our churches have become much plainer affairs with cool whitewashed walls, unadorned with anything very much. We have turned much more to the word – to speaking together aloud and to singing. Anglican liturgy is a feast for the ears. Think of a Cathedral Evensong – music, chanting, readings, prayers – an aural banquet indeed.
At the moment we cannot sing together in church and our voices are muffled as we speak together. As we look towards Christmas we realise what a noisy celebration it is: carols belted out and descants soaring. To merely listen to recorded music and not contribute to the sound is going to feel desperately odd. How can it be Christmas without “Hark the Herald” on loop?
Perhaps we should look to a different sense this year. Rather than singing and hearing, lets turn to looking and reflection. For sure it will be quieter, but will it be any less meaningful? Images have tremendous power to speak to us, to inspire us, to help us contemplate and reflect. Perhaps this year we will leave church not with ears ringing, but with eyes shining, as we catch a glimpse of God’s glory.