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The Sacred: Deep & Dumb Ramblings (with Killer Rabbits too!)

December 2, 2009

Westminster Abbey circa 1749


The Sacred: Deep & Dumb Ramblings (with Killer Rabbits too!)

There is ‘something’ about sacred ground.
It is almost inexplicable, yet undeniable for those who have been brave enough to step upon it.  I don’t think “sacred” is a word we can use casually, and I’d argue that it’s an adjective that is best left to those things that can truly epitomize its meaning.

I’d like to say that any place of worship can be experienced as “sacred”, though, I suppose, much of that is up to subjective experience.  I mean, if you watch a somewhat decent vampire movie or t.v. show, anything remotely “sacred” that can repel them.  “Holy Water”, a sacred “cross”, the “Holy Hand Grenade”,  (though you won’t really find a Holy Hand Grenade in a vampire movie…Though you will find that it can repel Killer Rabbits.  <See Monty Python and the Holy Grail movie> )  and things like that seem to possess an almost mystical essence of purity and goodness in combination with a sense of mystery…something “Higher than I”.  Well, for the academic geeks like me, you might notice that I have avoided really “defining” what “sacred” is.  That’s on purpose.  Partly because I’m feeling a bit lazy and it would take another paragraph, but if you must attach to a deeper reason, then I’ll say it’s because the word “sacred” cannot ever truly be defined because of its dance with the “mystical” and the “mystery” with That which is “Higher than I”. (Didn’t I just say that in the previous sentence?  Yes I did.  But the concepts were so cool, I had to repeat it. haha)

Last weekend, during the first day of Advent (if you don’t know what that is, just Wikipedia it), I had a couple of fantastic opportunities to check out two “Advent Carol Services” on the Sunday evening, at some fantastic places of worship.  One of the highlights was at Westminster Abbey (an artistic rendering of it is in the picture above).  Wow.  If “sacredness” could be dumbly simplified and measured along a continuum, I would say that the sacred meter was like at a 100 on a scale of 0 – 100.  (Yes yes, that is really dumbing down sacredness.  But I did say in the title something about “dumb” right? ).  Yep, it was my first time at the Abbey (I had prevented myself from going there until I special occasion, because I wanted to “save” visiting this spot for a special service that I could really “savour”.).  What a truly spectacular sight to behold (it’s hard to describe, and again, I’m a tad lazy now, so best bet is to either Youtube “Westminster Abbey London”, or else Google image search it for a “sense” of it…but of course, “being there” is a completely different and wholly unique experience).

Anyway, when I walked inside, the whole abbey was darkened and mostly illuminated by candlelight. (thought there were a lot of candles strategically placed, to ensure there was enough light throughout the space.  Also the early attendees were fortunate enough to be given a candle to hold).  There was a large golden centrepiece/altar area, and us commonfolk were off to sit on the sides.  Surrounding us on every wall were stone memorials and statues to saints and influential figures throughout British history.  In fact, you might already know that below the Abbey is the final burial and resting place for some significant historical figures (e.g. 18th century critic, Samuel Johnson’s burial place <don’t confuse him with Samuel L. Jackson> is right below Shakespeare’s memorial <though Shakespeare’s burial place is elsewhere>). (Click here to check out some names).

As I was looking around, the choir started singing.
My jaw dropped.

…The sound that the choir was able to produce included perhaps the most amazing choral performance I had ever heard (so far).  For me, the sound simply epitomized how I have described “sacred” in this blog–and if I may repeat–“possessing an almost mystical essence of purity and goodness in combination with a sense of mystery…something ‘Higher than I’ “.  Sure sure….maybe the pure awesomeness of the experience was due to the combination with the amazing Abbey acoustics and atmosphere plus the brilliant hymn they sang (it’s old from late 90’s, but I had never heard it previously, and it sounded simply EPIC.  An immediate favourite, that I immediately researched and subsequently purchased on ITunes when I got back to my room), but even if it’s not THE best, I’m sure that the Westminster Abbey Choir is still renowned as one of the top 5 in the world of its kind (probably St. Paul’s Cathedral choir is up there too..and I have yet to hear the “Westminster Cathedral Choir” which is also legendary by reputation<the Cathedral is different from the Abbey>).

Here’s a website with a sound sample of “A New Song” from the album by “James MacMillan” who wrote it, performed by the Westminster Cathedral Choir (the choir I haven’t heard yet in person).  It sounds great even on the sound sample and on my Itunes quality version, but again…I think I will need to “go there” to really get a sense of how awesome it is. (Sound Sample of  “A New Song”-James MacMillan, performed by Westminster Cathedral Choir)

…Cool eh?

Anyway, I’m a tad hungry so will need to eat.  I guess my dumb ramblings were much less than my deep ones (or so I think).  But, just for those that seem to enjoy my dumb ramblings about the sacred…well, I’ll just give you this video link to the “HOLY HAND GRENADE OF ANTIOCH”!!!!

Classic.  An awesomely Dumb, Sacred, Yet Brilliant piece of British history. 😉
…oh, and in case you’re wondering, the Knights are trying to kill a “Killer Rabbit” (see below).


One Comment leave one →
  1. December 6, 2009 5:36 pm

    Man!!! Can’t wait to come and take in all of that -especially the massive cathedrials — no spell check on my bberry – did – spell that right????—-and other old English sites. I will, in March, also fulfill my life long fantasy of lying on Shakespeare burial site. Michelle is already rightfully mortified.

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