The Chapter House of York Minster is the largest in England. It was begun around `1270. While smaller Chapter Houses have a support column in the middle of the vaulted ceiling, York’s is self-supporting. I suspect the builders were particularly proud of themselves (I know the present inhabitants are).
Interior of the York Minster Chapter House. (photo is not mine)
Preaching is a performance art. You learn by doing and the doing is always in public. Congregations have been remarkably tolerant and kind to this preacher. The first decade of my ministry found me physically sick most Sunday mornings. When I am anxious I talk too fast and I have labored for over 30 years to slow down. It is still a work in progress. At least I get another chance next week. The living of our lives is performance art and the rumors of our performance follow us.
As an example of performance art, I submit the Chapter House windows of York Minster. But first a bit of explanation; the Chapter House is the place where the monastic community gathered to hear a chapter of the Rule of Saint Benedict read aloud. The builders of York Minster built the largest and most beautiful Chapter House in all of Britain. It is Octogonal and all but one bay is filled with stained glass. It is perhaps my favorite building. It is perfection in style and spirit. And yet…
… notice the windows in the side that has less traffic being the opposite from the town. Yes, you are right a couple of the windows are off, actually they are misshapen. These were practice windows for appreciates to the Guild of Stone Masons. The only way they could really learn the skill was to do it and the windows they built worked (and have of almost a thousand years) but perfection eluded them. You would think they would have rebuilt them and why they didn’t is a mystery.
Windows that work but windows that perfection has eluded.
These men very likely learned the skills to do build precisely and perfectly as they spend their lives adding to the 250 years of construction to make the Minster.
The living of life is done in public. For good and ill we learn by living. We live in a laboratory of the Christian faith and the good news is that we don’t have to always get it right. That’s good news. In the 13th and the 21st Centuries.
Lately I’ve begun to think about the gaps in life. I suppose this is intensified by the recent death of my father for as Robert Capon writes, “We live as we marry for better or for worse.” There is a gap in all our striving.
We might think that Biblically the gap begins in Genesis 3 and the unfortunate incident with the fruit tree, but not so I think. Note Genesis 1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (Kindle Locations 462-466). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Separateness produces opposites Light/Darkness & Day/Night. The recipe for fruit compote the neighbor shared over the back fence, lead to knowledge not just of good and evil but opposites in general and not just the natural ones of sequence and order but the moral opposites that gives rise to sin.
Creation endowed with freedom of possibility begets the process that leads to the gap in Genesis 3.