Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Evensong at St. Paul's, Melbourne

Detail of mosaic tile, characteristic of this Gothic revival cathedral.

Main door.

The reredos behind the high altar.

Stained glass window showing the beheading of St. Paul.

St. Paul's at night.

A beautiful service. A men & boy's choir of 10, lead by a (lady) priest. The music was almost agonizingly beautiful in that simply breathtaking cathedral. Made all the more agonizing by the sense, so powerful here, that Christianity is but a shadow of what it once was, a beautiful carapace, as hollow on the inside as the shell of a dead turtle. The leaflet giving a self-guided 10 minute tour of the Cathedral is clearly written for people who have no clue about even the most basic tenets of the faith. And that ugly square on the other side of the street seems, and perhaps I'm being a bit too dramatic, a fitting symbol of the battle between faith and godless secularism -- ugly, irrational architecture against a beautiful if empty cathedral. It's clear who's won. At least for now.

More opportunity for evangelization, eh? :)

There were about 6 people in the congregation, all men as it turned out. (Of course, this was during the week. But still.)

The Anglican chant was, of course, lovely. The readings were from Judges 4 (the story of Deborah) and 1 Corinthians 7 (Paul's advice on marriage. "I wish that everyone would be like me." The priest ended the lesson with a smile ... "The words of St. Paul to the people of Corinth and one time and one place." Clearly, "oh that dear silly Paul. Thank goodness we don't have to pay attention to that!)

I was reminded of something I read in "An Introduction to Christianity" earlier in the day -- something about beautiful customs being all that is left of Christianity in the West, but I shall take that up and develop it when I get a little mroe time.

Enjoy the photos!


Mac said...

It's "reredos," I think: when I had small children we had David Macaulay's Cathedral and Castle and we would build both out of Lego, complete with clerestories and ambulatories.

Sheesh. Isn't the thing in Melbourne's Federation Square perfectly awful.

It looks like the dreadful wen they have attached to the Royal Ontario Museum in TO. Doubtless in due course cooler heads will prevail and they will remove both.

(The ROM was pretty ruthless about deciding that the McLachlin [or however its benefactor spelled his name -- that's actually the spelling used by Her Ladyship the Chief Justice of Canada and I think not of the ROM benefactor) Planetarium had outlived its usefulness and could safely be got rid of after a mere 20-odd years. Possibly having Michael Ondaatje's brother Christopher donate a vast Oriental wing made that easier; perhaps some similar benefactor will enable the good burgesses of Melbourne to take similar steps with respect to their own white elephant.

All the friends who met you here in Brisbane have expressed vast enthusiasm as to my American visitor, save only (1) my Gujarati Muslim friend, as to whom I commented earlier (he came around for tea later on to express his regret in person as to having inconvenienced me and indeed S., "But I'm not apologising to that Hindu Indian guy!" Oh well...) and (2) my Tamil Anglican friend, who is wary of Catholics. (Aren't South Asians fun! He really is Anglican -- well, Church of South India -- notwithstanding his dumb act when you asked as to his religious background: “I was afraid he’d start trying to convert me!”)

All commented on how certain of their verdicts Americans are; but all -- perhaps somewhat coached by me, be it said -- professed to find it entertaining rather than objectionable.

(A propos of Americans, "You Canadians understand Americans a lot better than we Brits and Indians and Australians do, evidently." "Well it only stands to reason: we are the only people who have successfully resisted a war of invasion and annexation by them, after all." "This may perhaps account for Canada having managed to stay out of both Vietnam and Iraq where we Australians hoed right in -- Monsieur Chretien didn't SEEM such a clever guy but he certainly had Mr Bush's number...." "Well yes. That and having lost many times more boys per capita during the First and Second World Wars before our American friends wandered in and then having been entirely written out of the Hollywood versions of both wars. You should have heard my maiden great aunts, who all lost their fiancés on the battlefields before our American friends joined in! Not to speak of my parents when "The West Wing," brilliant though it is, contained howlers like, "Does Canada even have an army?"

It was great fun. You must come back again! And discovering that the RC Cathedral in Brisbane has a good, literate clerical establishment and a fine musical one was useful indeed.

Gashwin said...

"I was afraid that he'd start trying to convert me?" ... and what, leave unfinished? Geez. I must say, your set of South Asians are even more peculiar than the ones I know! ;-)

Mac said...

Oh, they're all passing strange, those South Asians: I can't imagine that yours could be any more odd than mine are. And if they were any less peculiar I wouldn't be nearly so minded to cultivate them.

But. You have not perhaps been entirely attuned to the recent carnage in Karachi, the Australian press for perhaps obvious reasons not being quite as conscientious in reporting events in Pakistan as that of Canada is. (I shall email you the URL for a blog that discusses the events as seen from the ground.) I really should have insisted that we carry on to wee Haresh's Pakistani restaurant that Sunday to deliver the Pakistani CDs -- it is his cousin from Larkhana who is the first Hindu Chief Justice of Pakistan whose ouster of the previous CJP has occasioned all the carnage.

My report of the entirely satisfactory liturgy at the RC Cathedral in Brisbane met with a quite pleased response from my Mum: she is off to Quebec for the wedding of a grandson, my nephew, this Friday and, they being francophone Quebeckers, the wedding is to be held at the courthouse! The other grandmere-in-law has told the new granddaughter-in-law that she MUST make a point of practising her English with Gramma from the West: "If you want to make a success of living in Canada you have to be able to get on in English!" I see. That's why I can never manage to practise my French in Quebec!