Maggie and I had an amazing time in Europe. Over the course of the next week, I’ll be blogging about the trip and sharing a few pictures. You can see more of our pictures on our Photo Album.
Tuesday, May 15
11:00 AM – Arrive in Canterbury
12:00 PM – Eat at the Thomas Becket Pub (it was about 50 degrees outside, so I had red lentil stew and ale [vacation!])
2:00 PM – Start our tour of Canterbury Cathedral
Walking through the gates of Canterbury is quite an experience. Modern stores are now built right into the old walls and gate. When Maggie and I paid our way and walked onto the cathedral grounds, we felt humbled at the magnificence of the old cathedral. It’s mottled stone means that it’s not the prettiest cathedral around, but there is a sense that the ugliness of it is truthful – like the old place knows what sin and misery are.
To get into the cathedral itself, you have to walk under statues of some of the great archbishops in the past. Walking under Augustine’s and Cranmer’s likeness was spiritually emotional for me. I felt this great blessing to walk in the same place as so many of our my spiritual heroes.
Inside the Cathedral, we were surrounded by tourists and pilgrims alike. And then funny thing is, you could really tell the difference. Tourists were chatting away, looking at one another. But the eyes of the pilgrims were drawn upward, marveling not at the vaulted ceilings or the spectacular stonework, but rather at what these represent: God’s grandness and glory.
Maggie and I meandered for a bit, letting the stew and ale digest, before we started the tour. After some time, we arrived at the very spot where Becket was murdered. (If you haven’t read T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, do it right now.) It was quite moving, and the plaque designating the spot where Archbishop Runcie and Pope John Paul II knelt in prayer together spoke of a greater hope for Christianity. So I knelt there too. I don’t know if I was allowed to, but I did. And it was totally weird, because I could feel the eyes of so many tourists, wandering what I was doing.
But as my mind was on the people I had just left at St. Alban’s and the people I was going to serve at Holy Comforter, I simply had to pray. There was no way around it. So I knelt there among the tourists and pilgrims and offered a brief prayer unto the Almighty. Here is a rough paraphrase of what I said: “O Lord, you gave Thomas Becket courage, strength, and endurance. Grant to me a measure of those same qualities, so that I may preach your gospel, undaunted by the forces of woe that oppose your Kingdom. Amen.”