Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Perceiving God in All 5 Senses

I want to share with you the trip I took yesterday to Portland, ME. You will recall that a couple of weeks ago, I sang a very challenging concert with the Back Bay Chorale: Rachmanioff's Vespers. Well, we reprised our performance for the good folks of Portland, which is about a 2-hour drive from Boston. The concert was hosted by the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, and I just love cathedrals! They make my senses come alive and heighten my awareness of God.


Of course, when one enters a cathedral, the sense of sight is immediately arrested, and the eyes are drawn upward toward the heavens. This church's website states that it is built in a modified English Gothic style, but I think it's pretty conventional neo-Gothic because of how "boxy" the space is. Here is a picture I took of the Chancel area. It was taken on my iPhone, so it's not the best quality, but it shows how the square construction of the walls contrasts with the intricate Gothic-style woodwork.

 This is a close-up of the Rederos, which is the term for the wooden facade behind the altar. It is grand, intricate, and definitely gives a sense of awe.

"Central in the Reredos itself stands the Virgin Mary with the Child in her arms. She is known as Our Lady of Portland and has a unique quality in that she was carved with the Native American communities in mind. Her dress and hair are modeled after typical native fashion and the Baby Jesus is wrapped as a papoose. The figures of the Blessed Mother and Child are almost life-size."
(from the church's website)

 This is me in the pulpit. it's not the greatest picture of me, but I just couldn't resist. Notice the four wooden carvings on the front of the pulpit set into the stone carving. They are the symbols for the four Gospels. In this symbolism, each Gospel is associated with a real person whose name correlates with the Gospel, usually assumed to be disciples of Jesus.

This is a ceramic tile at the center of the floor of the Chancel area. It beautifully shows the symbol for St. Luke (which makes sense).
In art, Luke is represented by a winged ox because he begins his gospel with an account of the priest, Zachary, (Zechariah), sacrificing in the temple. The ox represents Christ's sacrifice. -Father Hinsperger

 This is the only picture of a stained glass window I could get to come out decently (most windows must be photographed professionally). I took this because they depicted my mom's favorite Scripture, "Let the little children come unto me" (Matthew 19:14).


This is a kneeler I found. Each one was hand-stitched by church members. The Cathedral Church of
St. Luke takes textile arts seriously, and has actually created a guild of kneeler-makers. I never thought cross-stitch could be elevated to high art! I also was surprised to see this kneeler, which depicts the Creation. I was very surprised to find that magenta can be a pious color! The quality of the stitching was consistent and very comforting to touch.

The wood carvings were all done in black ash, which is a hard wood and has a distinctive texture. Behind the nave, there is a chapel for small worship services. Its ceiling is cone-shaped and made of wood with gilt paint, which is really unique. Another unique thing about the chapel is this picture of the Madonna and child, called "American Madonna." It is the only such picture that shows Jesus as a child, not as an infant. I thought it was interesting that Mary is wearing a rose robe, not the traditional light blue color with which she is usually associated.


The acoustics in the Cathedral are very live, which is my favorite type of acoustic in which to sing. It covers a multitude of vocal sins. I did a longer post earlier about the music of Rachmaninoff's Vespers, but I will embed another video for you to hear. This is the last movement of the piece and sits extremely high in the soprano vocal range. Since it's at the end of the piece, it's very exhausting to sing, because one's energy reserves are low by that point and it takes even more effort to push through even this very short piece.

After the concert, exhausted but happy, we got on the bus for Boston. When we got there, we all piled into carpools and headed home. My carpool was headed from Newton to Cambridge by way of Brookline, which necessitated driving by Boston College.

Taste and Smell

As we drove into Cleveland Circle around midnight, my friend Mary Margaret spied a food truck that sells grilled cheese sandwiches. We were all thinking of midnight snacks, so we made a U-turn and returned to the truck. Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese did not disappoint!
James, our cashier, was nice enough to pose for a picture with Mary Margaret and Candace. He was interested to hear of our adventures in Maine and made some excellent sandwich suggestions. Thanks to him, Roxy's may be coming to a BBC event sometime soon!

Mmmm, grilled cheese... this was the Turkey Bomb: turkey, gouda, chives, and cranberry cream cheese. It was a culinary masterpiece! A person cannot live on bread alone, Jesus said in last week's lectionary reading. He was right- you gotta add the cheese!

"O taste and see that the Lord is good" Psalm 34:8

In this instance, God's goodness was warm, gooey on the inside, and perfectly crisp on the outside. Perfection.

God time doesn't always have to be when we're alone. For me, I felt God's presence in every aspect of my day: surrounded by friends, expressing profound and cathartic music, eating my favorite foods, and losing myself in the space of the cathedral. Choir tours are one of the most socially and artistically intense experiences, but I always feel closer to God when I immerse myself in music and my beloved community.

Have you ever experienced God even when you're surrounded by people and noise?

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