Friday, July 8, 2011

A Wonderful Sunday

After church in Liverpool on Sunday, we went for coffee with our dear friend Elias, and as we climbed out of his car and were about to walk toward the cafe, we heard drums.  The drumbeat was loud and quite fierce, coming from about a block or so away.  I ran to the corner in time to see the parade approach; several drummers, drumming most aggressively, followed by a dozen or so hand-held accordions.  What was this?  What was the occasion?

Then my question was answered, for behind the accordions came schoolchildren, and each of them was wearing an orange sash over his or her shoulder.  Orangemen.  Named after William of Orange, the Dutchman who became King in 1688, the Orange Order is that (in)famous Irish Protestant fraternity, supporters of English rule in Ireland, and you've probably heard of their provocative annual marches. 

As this band passed another intersection, another contingent emerged from the side street and joined them, doubling their ranks. And where were they going? Straight toward the Catholic Cathedral, two more blocks away.

Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King (Catholic), Liverpool
I was appalled . Appalled to witness firsthand the sectarian hatreds being passed down to these small children. As Demetrios put it, "Here are people who violated another country and are still proud of it."

And  then again, I was also thrilled because it seemed to me a history book had been opened and I had stepped right into it. 1795 is when the Orange Order was founded.

We stood there on the corner gaping for a few more moments, then decided this might be a very good time not to stay around, so into our coffee shop we went and spent an hour greatly enjoying one another's company.

Elias had to leave to sing at a 3:00 wedding back at the church, so we left when he did, and thought this might be the day to have a look at the inside of "St. Paddy's Wigwam," as Catholics (and others sometimes call their Cathedral.

There are 56 steps to climb to reach the Cathedral's main door, but we didn't find it difficult.  I suppose we've become stronger from all the walking we do here, plus I weigh a lot less than I used to, so we managed without any ado. 

This is a building you either love or hate.  I did not love it.  Demetrios said he thought it would make a lovely concert hall, but I didn't think so. 

Around the circular nave are four towers, nicknamed John, George, Paul, and Ringo, after the Four Evangelists Beatles.

There are 16 steel girders in a circle, sloping inward to form a conical roof, and poking out of the dome meant to look like not a teepee but a Crown of Thorns.  The inside ceiling has more girders in concentric rings.  My feeling of sitting inside a spider web was accentuated by the gigantic chandelier, a tangled mess, just like the stained glass dome above.

The blue narrow panels of blue glass either side of each girder did not help, as they gave the nave a cold look.

The chancel is a circle elevated 2 steps from the main floor, and the high altar, in a smaller circle elevated 3 more steps. (The bishop's easy chair, center background in this photo, is elevated 6 steps.) As the altar sits on a circular platform, it can of course face any direction; it faces northwest.

The altar is of white marble, and I can think of nothing that looks colder than white marble in blue light.

There is a Lady Chapel, and it has more agreeable lumination. Its focal point is a wall-mounted sculpture of Madonna and Child. Little Jesus is tucked between his mother’s legs, she straddling Him, and He just fits, with never a millimeter to spare. The odd impression thereby created is of a woman giving birth to a toddler tiddler.

There are numerous other chapels around the circumference of the nave, some of them more agreeable, most not, in my opinion.  The Reconciliation Chapel, for confessions, has narrow glass windows all in scarlet. I suppose the symbolism is of the Blood of Christ, which although appropriate theologically, is an aesthetic disaster.

All the art is very modern, meaning most of it is deliberately ugly. Even the statues are Picasso-esque, notably one of Abraham freeing the ram from the bush, which yuo can see here.

Evening Prayer was in progress as we entered the Cathedral, and it was interesting to note that in England, Catholic chant sounds very much like Anglican. That's to say it was lovely.

When the service was over, we were freer to wander around, and as we were walking from one side chapel to another, a woman’s voice addressed Demetrios: “In profile, you look just like the Duke of Edinburgh!”

“Same sort of dress code, too,” a man’s voice added.

“I’d have to be taller and thinner, though,” Demetrios said, laughing.

And that’s how we met Susan and Brian, two lovely people about our own age. They aren’t married but are good friends.

“Well, The Duke of Edinburgh is Greek, you know,” I said, “So I thought I’d follow her example and marry a Greek myself!” (WHY do they spell it Edinburgh but pronounce it Edinburra?)

“Oh, you’re Greek!” said Brian to Demetrios. “Kyrie, eleison!” He shrugged. “That’s all the Greek I know, but it pretty well sums it all up, doesn’t it?”

Well, I rather think it does.

Brian wondered whether we knew of the Greek Church not far away, and we said yes, that’s our church. Susan said she’d like to visit it. And then, of course, as they were Catholic, we began discussing the prospects of unity.

They felt it was mostly a matter of perspective, of people looking at the same things from different vantage points. Demetrios said the issues really were doctrinal, and it was terribly important to get the doctrine right. If you get the doctrine of God wrong, you’ll also get the doctrine of man wrong, as man is created in God’s image; and you’ll mess up the relationship between God and man, as well.

Anyway, at Susan’s suggestion, we ended up exchanging contact information, and as we liked them very much, we intend to follow through on it, too.

Finishing our tour of the Cathedral, Demetrios wasn’t ready to go home yet; it was too glorious a day to be indoors. So, having discovered our train ticket to Liverpool enables us to go anywhere on the Northern Line, and can be used all day long, we decided to go to Birkdale. Last year we drove through a part of it that contained some big and beautiful houses, and Demetrios was hoping to find them again.

It was evening before we arrived in Birkdale, though, and we were more tired than we had expected to be. So we thought we’d have a little supper first. We passed a pub, but nobody there seemed to be eating, only drinking. Then we found a restaurant, but it looked very expensive, too posh for our inclination this time. Demetrios embarrassed a couple of the locals by asking where the town center was, with cafes and pubs; the answer was, this is it.

Eventually we found the Park Hotel, the ground floor of which is a pub serving food all day. Demetrios had a burger and I had fish and chips. And then we simply returned to the train station and came home, exhausted and happy.


DebD said...

I don't much like the Cathedral as a worship space, but I think perhaps Demetrios is right about a concert hall. The statue looks like Dali.

Anam Cara said...

"WHY do they spell it Edinburgh but pronounce it Edinburra?"

I know, I know! Ask me! Ask me!

Because that is the way a Scotsman would pronounce it. In English it would be spelled "borough." A better question is, "Why is Pittsburg not prounounced 'Pittsburra'?" (I must have the punctuation wrong there!)

The answer is that Pittsburgh was orginially Ft. Pitt, with the settlement becoming Pittsboro or Pittsburgh. It was named by a Gen. Forbes in the mid 1700's who was a Scot, so the spelling became fixed as "burgh". There was an influx of immigrants from Scotland (Think Carneige) who used the Scottish spelling.

But later immigrants came from eastern Europe where "burg" is a mountain (and pronounced as we do since English has been influenced mainly by Latin and German languages). So the spelling stayed, but the pronunciation changed.

It is the same sort of thing as we have in this area. Living in Northern VA we hear a lot on the news about an area in Maryland called Ann Arundel. People say "Ann A-run'-del". This drives me nuts. The county was was named after the wife of the second baron of Baltimore and the family name is properly pronounced "Aaron'-dell." Once again, they kept the spelling (well, they dropped the final "l") but changed the pronunciation. I'm not certain when that happened, but it was probably just laziness that did it.

As you can see, I am somewhat fascinated by the etymology of words and names.

Anonymous said...

Ooooo...I REALLY ENJOYED reading your post...."Demetrios said the issues really were doctrinal, and it was terribly important to get the doctrine right. If you get the doctrine of God wrong, you’ll also get the doctrine of man wrong, as man is created in God’s image; and you’ll mess up the relationship between God and man, as well."....nice, nice, nice....

Was the Duke of Edinburgh really Greek? I always thought he was of German origin (Mountbatten from Battenbourg).

Cathedral is pretty, but more "concert hall" that "church" for my tastes.