I had an unexpected experience this afternoon that reminded me of many previous and similar ones. I had planned to visit Westminster Abbey for the umpteenth time. It has always struck me as a museum, but as a medieval historian that's not bad. However, as I got there near 3 it was only open for services. I hurriedly put away my camera, agreed when told I must stay at least an hour, and went in. I have to say it was my best experience of Westminster Abbey by far, even though I'm Catholic. I've done the same elsewhere -- Christmas in Notre-Dame in Paris; Pentecost in the Duomo in Florence, etc. And I have always gone (when possible) to services in synagogues and mosques that are very old historical buildings. I certainly feel the religious atmosphere in all, but there's a wonderful aspect to tourism that revolves around mostly just sitting in such a place and taking it in. In the Abbey I was facing the north transept rose window, which was beautiful. And the chorale was amazing.
Professor, thanks. My wife and I have attended a number of services in London (one at the Abbey) and others in scattered villages around the UK. In Europe a few masses here and there. I must say, that as a former member of the Episcopal Church, it was reassuring to hear and see the Rite of Service done in the native tongue! Thanks for reminding me.
Sorry SS, some of the hymns were sung in Latin! Whenever I go to an Anglican or Episcopal church I often feel it's 'higher' in terms of incense, tradition, etc. than most Catholic churches I'm used to. The great convenience of being Catholic is that it's the same wherever you go (when to stand, when to sit, when to go up for communion, etc.) except the homily is frequently in another language .
What I really love, though, is the experience of the historicity of going to whatever kind of services wherever I am, because you really get a sense of the place and the culture. Mostly I've just found you follow along with whatever everyone else is doing (or don't, as you choose). And most non-Christian rites are simpler in any case.
Latin is fine with me. As you may know it is alleged that post-it notes were invented when a 3M engineer was faced withmultiple page notations in the Book of Common Prayer and the Hymnal and a need to mark them without damaging the pages themselves. Necessity in this case was a divine inspiration!!!!
Ah, poor Thomas Cranmer! He actually was moderate enough in his beliefs to survive (and even earn the friendship of) Henry VIII, only to be burned by Mary I, who held him primarily responsible for her mother, Catherine of Aragon's, death. Anyone who knows Henry VIII knows otherwise. But fortunately he'd already done the Book of Common Prayer. Before he was taken to the stake he recanted but then was so ashamed he stuck the hand that had signed the recantation into the fire first.
Although I go more regularly to mass when in Europe than at home , it was an eye-opening experience when I did so on holidays at the Florence Duomo and Notre-Dame, where I've been more times than I could count as a tourist. Actually sitting there during a service, mass, or whatever, you really take in your surroundings in a way that you never can just going around looking at old oddities (even if I love those old oddities). This was the first time I loved Westminster Abbey. (The previous visit I mostly got yelled at for taking surreptitious non-flash photos, at which I am nearly an expert.) Mosques and synagogues are (to me) a bit more challenging, but I find if you mostly just watch what other people are doing it works out fine. I did so in both Turkey and Israel. I think one of the things that made me want to was an undergrad college course in religion where you had to go to a religious house of worship of which you were not a member and write a 'participant observation.' One of the things that got me to my area of study as a researcher was trying to understand why people believe or not, and why they're willing to kill or die for their beliefs. It happened a lot in the 16th century.
Anyway, back to the point, both Episcopalian and Anglican Vespers are a real treat!
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