The problem with writing post-sized posts is that I always have essay-sized new ideas while writing them, but I know I would be justly excommunicated from the Internet if I ever took up the habit of extrapolating upon every shiny bit of A.D.D that flutters into my temporal lobe. A Chesterton I’m not. So today my afterthought hearkens back to two days ago, back to Cathedrals.
One of the glories of a big, hulking, Gothic cathedral is that it’s a fantastic metaphor for the similarly hulking Catholic Church, whom I love so darn dearly – in all her hulk. I love this church, I love the Church. Now, there exists a plethora of parallels that can be drawn between the metaphor-church and the Church Herself; the beauty, the firm foundation, the encompassing shape and size, the ever-present swarm of papists, etc.
But the reason I’m falling in love with this Church-as-church concept is because of how one destroys a Cathedral. It’s not that the great basilicas and chapels of our faith our indestructible, as World War Two and the earthquake in Haiti proved…
…it’s that it takes bombs and earthquakes to destroy them.
I hold that the Holy Roman Catholic Church, like its cathedrals, is the only force in the world today to remarkably resist the irresistible power of entropy, that universal depressant that demands everything burn, and Eeyore’s house always fall. True, our cathedrals may crushed in a fit of passion, but they will never be crushed in an equally mad fit of apathy, and therein lies the beauty.
The Catholic Church, since her very conception, has made the radical statement that life is good. “Can we enslave people and have gladiator fights?” Nope. “Can we be Gnostics and spend a lifetime viewing our bodies as evil?” Nope. “Can we kill ourselves?” Nope. “Can we use contraception and avoid the possibility of new life?” Nope. “But it’s really cool, and it-” No, dammit. “Can we get abortions?” Nope. “Can we kill old people who don’t want to live?” Wait, really? No! Goodness, what’s wrong with you guys?
The ever-decaying fads and fashions of today circle and flutter around the Church like blue-bottles around a cow, who – for her part – stoically bats them away, without blinking an eye. (Oh dear, I’ve moved on to cow similes. Let me get back to the point:)
The Catholic Church does not decay. She does not succumb. When the entire world was screaming at her to accept artificial contraception, when virtually every single Christian denomination allowed its use, she alone stood straight, a marble cathedral on a hill, refusing to crumble. We were embarrassed of her boldness then, but we are unspeakably proud of it now, bearing unfortunate witness to the evil contraception has impregnated the world with.
Cathedrals resist entropy. The Catholic Church does the same. As our philosophies devolve slowly into relativism, she contradicts the world by claiming absolutes. As our world gets less and less beautiful, she calmly affirms beauty, in her art and in her teachings. When everything else crumbles she rebuilds. And that’s the other wonderful thing about Cathedrals; if they are poorly built and do begin to crumble and peel, we restore them. St. Francis, St. Dominic; the spirit of the Saints is the spirit of rebellious rebuilding. But it is vital to note that when a cathedral is rebuilt, it is always rebuilt as a cathedral, never as anything less. Likewise, when the Church goes through reform, it is always a reformation against entropy, pulling away the seductions of fashion and bringing the Church back to it’s goal of administering the sacraments and performing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, the monasteries back to their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The Church moves backwards to move forwards, while the world sprints forwards and then looks around, indignant, wondering how on earth they didn’t realize they were moving backwards.
But there is a point where the comparison fails, and it is this: The cathedral is passive. The Roman Catholic Church is not. The cathedral resists entropy. The Church destroys it. The Church defeats heresies, feeds the poor, speaks truth to power and strives to save the rotting world, by defeating those ideas “as killing as the canker to the rose”. The Catholic Church is the cathedral that lifts it’s grotesque, marble feet and, with creaking, entish monstrosity, stamps and obliterates its enemies. But, alas, some obscure writer already wrote about that.
Gotta love being Catholic; it’s all so massively small. Argh, see? I just thought up another post! I didn’t mean to, but now I want to explore the marvelous paradox of the cathedral, that it is simultaneously the most intimidating structure in the world and the most intimate, and how that relates to the teachings and dogmas of the Catholic Church. No, no, no, I will resist. I have to study. Till next time!