Upon approaching Westminster Abbey last week, I felt enormous joy well up inside. This is evident by my Mary Tyler Moore-esque reaction when I got to actually stand in front of it and behold the wonder of it all. I had, really, absolutely no idea of the enormity of emotion I would face once inside the building. The admonition of “no photos allowed” pressed heavily on my heart, and so I (along with all the other awestruck tourists) had to rely on my mental cameras, switched on high and intensely as possible. Trying to mark the memories of visual history in every square foot of the soaring architecture and carved, painted, sculpted, written, and otherwise art-laden environment was overwhelming in every sense.
As I sat listening to the audio tour device given, Jeremy Irons’ deep baritone voice cluing me in as to so much of the history and details of the place… organ music and choral voices swelling in the background…. I found myself needing to have a sit-down. I needed to “be still and know…” and to just absorb the sunlight coming through the stained glass and the sky-high flying buttresses above me (at least I THINK they were flying buttresses, but my knowledge of historical architecture could very well be inaccurate.)
I sat entranced. An unidentified emotion came rolling over my spirit and my body found that it could not contain the enormity of the moment. Big crocodile tears began to roll down my right cheek… then my left… and I found that my heart caught in my throat and I was actually holding back a sob.
Since returning to the States, and telling many of my friends and family that I had a visceral reaction there, it has been difficult to explain why that happened. It took me until the long plane ride home to figure out why sitting in the nave at Westminster Abbey had this effect on me. I journalled it by hand, and came up with these words:
“The combination of listening to Jeremy Irons, whose voice has always gotten the best of me, and hearing the gorgeous organ music that felt like it swelled up into the flying buttresses accompanied light that glowed and echoed through the stained glass and seemed to illuminate even the floors and marble, while the chambers of my heart opened up like the pipes on the organ. I was imagining kings and queens right in front of me, in that exact space, receiving their crowns, gathered around by throngs of ornately dressed royalty~ processions ~ thousands of them ~ having gone through the space in which I was now quietly and dubiously seated. An ethereal awareness of centuries of faith; of hundreds upon thousands of individuals having shared this masterpiece of space to beseech God with hopeful hearts~ hurting ~ human ~ just like mine. The countless hours invested by ordinary people to build, paint, embellish, carve, entomb, engrave, sculpt, envision ~ the whole of humankind’s grandest effort to capture heaven in an earthly space… a spirit~ soaring ceiling… my body erupted with joy in the form of tears, as if it was a container that had sprung a leak.”
Those moments are now inscribed on my soul…