unexpected song

I stood where I always stand, in the centre of the nave.

There’s a spot — two-thirds of the way back — where the building offers itself whole. The nave stretches out in front of you:  altar, crossing, rood screen, high altar.   You can see just enough of the tower that it seems to rise forever into the light.  And you can sense– rather than see– the breadth of the transepts and the chapter house misbehaving in the corner.

I love the simplicity of it.  The complexity of it.  The perfection of scale ( all the more endearing for the oddities of the rood screen).

I stood for a long time, letting the stones still me.  Accepting that they had, in fact,  faced far worse atrocities than the current entry system.  I stood till all was calm and I had found myself again in proportion.

And then the building began to hum.

I have spent many hours in York Minster.  More that you might think, given that I’ve never lived anywhere near.  I have prayed quietly and joined in large congregations.  I’ve heard concerts, crowds, and construction.  But never anything like this.

I could feel the wind through the open West Door.  Maybe that was it?  Some odd coincidence of open doors and atmospheric pressure, turning the nave into song.

Then I though it was perhaps one of the bells, sent vibrating by a similar confluence of wind and  movement, buzzing in sympathy with a struck stone.

I wondered if it were angels, archangels, and the whole company of heaven (bass section).  And even thought that it could be the same sort of vibration that starts a bridge swinging, bouncing, snap.

If the building was about to rearrange itself, the experience would be worth the risk.

So I stood still.

In time, I began to realize that the sound was the echo of a drum.  African drums, it seemed (perhaps something in the crypt or naughty chapter house?)  And as soon as I had decided on the truth of that I heard a cry — a song of sorts– the sound of a voice, carried across the plains, that speaks to some deep ancestor in all of us (reinforced no doubt by modern recordings from Africa and Hollywood laments of Indian Chiefs).

The thing is:  it felt so right.

The building knew it was right.  At last, a song that was big enough to honour the stones.  A song that was wild enough to echo the yearning.  The spaciousness of God in reflection, held and filled and free.

I stood for a long time, dwelling somewhere above the crossing.  Then when yearning turned to peace, I came down to the cross that was by then alight on the altar.

Eyes can do funny things in the midst of the spaciousness of God.  But words are not as clever, so you will just have to take that on faith.

I eventually did move.

And I learned what had set the building humming.

But that’s enough for now.  I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “unexpected song”

  1. Reading this is like being poised on tiptoe, just on the edge of balance, in anticipation – silence and the beginnings of sound, such that one doesn’t quite breathe for a moment.

    To be there…

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