I don’t often get the opportunity to visit Christian churches, but still oddly enough find myself in one around once or twice a year. I know that during the yuletide my wife and I join her parents for Christmas eve services at their Lutheran church both because we knowit is important to them and because they ask us to play music during the service. I grew up in the Lutheran church and can appreciate the service, but sometimes times it is hard to keep an open mind. If nothing else it stands as a reminder to my wife and I of what we left behind re-affirming our own Pagan faith. We leave the service with mixed feelings about the message from the Homily given but proud that as Wiccans we are open-minded enough to subject ourselves to it. It does indeed feel like service putting ourselves aside to be there for other people. Recently however I got a real treat as my niece was Christened in the Catholic faith. It has been ages since I have been in a Catholic church and the ones I remember were no where near this magnificent. The Rite was held in one of the oldest Cathedrals in Texas located in downtown Austin, St. Mary.
Copyright (c) Dave Wilson, 2009
You walk up the short concrete steps and are greeted with massive wooden doors surrounded in gothic architecture that otherwise seems quite out of place in the heart of downtown Austin. The building itself is so moving as a work of art and is steeped in history, symbols, community, amazing art, and lots of care. You can tell as you enter that this is sacred space. You can tell because of the way you are overcome as you pass over the threshold. The church itself greets you both with a hello and warning. I wont say that I felt magick inside, because I know the Church wouldn’t want it to be refer to that, but I certainly felts the hearts and prayers of over a century of religious work. There is also a spacial trick that happens with all of these types of buildings. From the outside they look huge, but when you step inside the space seems to double. It may all be a
matter of perspective but it is a great effect that adds to the experience for sure. The symbolism and religiosity inside is quite overwhelming. Surrounding the great length of pews in the center of the Cathedral are styled walls, stain glass, and statues. 40 foot columns rise from the ground to touch the ceiling which is decorated in Gothic trusses and amazing patterns of light and color. It is simply beautiful, but honestly as I acclimated to the surroundings I began to miss something…
I was surrounded by the supernatural. This was all a great feet of inspired Human ingenuity and religious incitement, but it lacks what really stirs my soul. The cool Earth, an awakening breeze, a warm fire, and refreshing water. Granted all of those things were present in the Church. The stone beneath our feet, the atmosphere of the space, the flickering of the lit candles, and the font filled with fresh water for baptism. Even still, it wasn’t same. The man-made becomes the focal point and the most precious gifts, our natural elements, become the accents. I am opened minded enough to know how amazing this place is and how much it must mean to the people who worship here, but aware enough to be reminded of my own path and what stirs my spirit. There was comfort in those thoughts. It was an exercise to find worship surrounded by dogma.
As for the Rite itself, it was amazing. There is so much imagery and mysticism in the Catholic Church. My wife pointed out to me at the beginning they asked the child’s name and what they wanted to achieve here today. This was so much like every time we as Wiccans enter the circle and are asked for our name and purpose. We looked at one another and smiled, or in her case smirked. She is very smirky. I’m fortunate to be able to share little moments like that with someone. This was a lot of things during the ceremony that I couldn’t agree with, after all I am Pagan for a reason, but I just put that under differences in religion and do what I can. That is be there for my family, shower this babe with love and hopeful energy, and say my own silent prayer to the God and Goddess of thanks.