Sub Dean - Canon Rev Michael Rawson
For me one of the joys of living in London is the never ending opportunity to experience some amazing galleries and exhibitions
Last week I visited Monet and Architecture at the National Gallery. Inspite of the big crowds, you have the chance to see 75 of his paintings, charting the artist’s career through the buildings he painted, and marking the very different styles he employed. Some are very detailed pictures of almost photographic quality whilst others are vivid bursts of colour and texture. He wasn’t an impressionist for nothing and his free-flowing artistic descriptions of the Grand Canal in Venice, the great west front of Rouen Cathedral and the Palace of Westminster in the smog are among my favourites.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity, of God revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our celebrations bring into sharp contrast the God whom we worship and adore, and our inadequacy in trying to describe such a God. It seems impossible. If I asked you to describe in words how you felt when you first fell in love, or first experienced grief I wonder how you would fare? I suspect that unless we have a few artists or composers or poets in our midst then we might struggle. And even they might too. For when we seek to describe our feelings words often fail us.
In his sermon last Sunday, the Dean quoted TS Eliot’s Four Quartets which were read in the Cathedral by the actor Jeremy Irons last month. In Burnt Norton, Eliot writes,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.
If that’s the case for Eliot then how much more so for us.
Words strain, Crack and sometimes break.
Our two scripture readings offer us an impressionistic vision of God. The prophet Ezekiel wrote from exile in Babylon that ‘the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.’ In his somewhat bizarre description the prophet writes of the majesty and glory of God as a precursor to warning the people about God’s judgement over the moral and religious failure of God’s people. There is nothing homely or comforting in Ezekiel’s words. They are intended to provoke fear and awe in his listeners. The same is true in the Revelation to John when he writes that ‘in heaven a door stood open.’ Like Ezekiel, John’s language is more impressionistic than descriptive. His words are a means to an end, merely hinting at what might be but they can never fully convey the majesty of God.
These readings may well resonate with you, and however inadequate the words, point to the God we worship. Or they may totally miss the mark. For others standing on the top of a mountain or experiencing the beauty of God’s creation will bring us to our knees in adoration of our God. Or we might be drawn into the presence of the living God through the kindness and love of another human being. However God comes to us, we can only kneel in awe and wonder as we echo the words of St Augustine,
‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.’