Usually located in the midst of a busy city, people who step into a Cathedral can find solace for their spirit in the midst of much stress. Whatever ailments of the soul beset them, as they sit and look around they can observe the crowning effort of many people’s faith, a ‘palace of the poor’ that acts as a stately protest to a world bent on giving its best to money and luxuries.
To see a Cathedral’s art and to hear plainsong chant within it awakens a nostalgia for God, for transcendence, for a perfection that no work of art in itself can satisfy. This is the re-evangelising power of the Cathedral in our contemporary culture: its beauty draws people to God.
Today’s artists, today’s intellectuals in general, drink from different fountains to those of centuries past. Pastors of souls should not underestimate the importance of the Cathedral as a source of inspiration and place of focussing artistic endeavour in returning artists to the wellspring of the Gospel.
Our response to God’s self revelation, our faith, is most fully expressed in a Cathedral where the source and summit of Christian life is celebrated in the liturgy. The people are sanctified by God and they, in turn, give glory to God by becoming fully alive (in the sense St Irenaeus meant that term). Membership of the Body of Christ does not annihilate our humanity, it perfects it. Our culture is taken up into the Roman Rite, it is elevated and purified by the Gospel. Nature itself is transformed and the human mind impregnated with sacramental rites that feed the senses.
Pope Paul VI held the split between faith and culture to be the drama of our time, as it is in all times. Alongside good preaching and sound philosophy, restoring beauty to the liturgy is a powerful help towards healing that rift.
Listen as Fr Don Richardson explores these ideas in more depth in this talk entitled “Cathedrals & the Locus of Faith & Culture”.
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This talk was presented as part of the Scholarship in the Cathedral series being organised by the Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society at the University of Notre Dame Sydney.
Come along to St Mary’s Cathedral Crypt, Sydney at 6:30pm each Friday during Lent to hear reflections on recent popes and the evangelisation of culture from Professor Tracey Rowland, Scott Stephens, Dr Robert Tilley, and more. For more information visit the Scholarship in the Cathedral Facebook page.