Monday, March 8, 2010
Sunday in Oxford: Holy Eucharist and Evensong
St. Mary’s Church, ie. University Church, Oxford, England. This morning I had breakfast in the Castle and Gardens Café on the side of the church, then popped over to experience the Family Service. Next, the Holy Eucharist.
Breakfast was the most excellent sugary affair I’ve had! Espresso here is infinitely better than Starbucks. And the chocolate chip croissant was so “melty” and buttery. I could get really fat here with all these wonderful and interestingly foreign foods. I didn’t have enough courage, however, to try the traditional beans, bacon, and tomatoes. Perhaps next time. Yes, I really must buck up and be more adventurous!
The Family Service was adorable and heartwarming. I love hearing the British accent in little children’s voices. They sound like bells, pealing with cheer and mirth. And the hymns, so full of scripture and passionate desire for God are sung with humble voices. But humble as they are, they rise and reverberate against the ancient stone and wood of the cathedral until the music could not be more beautiful than the voices of angels.
Holy Eucharist was also moving. There is something very holy and humbling feeling about kneeling in church. (The fact that the priests do not does make one feel lower than them and less holy upon reflection, but after meeting them, I did not find they furthered that appearance.) I love the hymns and the beautiful sounds of the choir in those ancient vaulted cathedrals. The articulate details and ornate artistry of the architecture and the beautiful stained glass windows give a feast for my eyes. My senses were overwhelmed and I was often almost moved to tears with the beauty of it all. They might not all have the right desires or ways to go about drawing near to God, but some must to have devoted so much time and immaculate work into these places of worship.
I found Evensong that night at Christ Church gave me the same sensations. The boys choir there is wonderful. However, I did miss not being able to be more apart of the service. Their voices would have been marred by ours. I understand. But I missed joining in and giving my own praise. It must be very hard to be a child in a church like this. It makes my memories of church worship services as a child even dearer, where it was common for me to be before the altar with all the other little children, dancing with abandon and joy to Jesus. The structure of High Church is beautiful and does cause me to pray and reflect in wonder at my God, but it does not allow me to express it. I do not feel free. And I wonder what Jesus would do if He walked in as a man to one of these services.