The following is excerpted from the 1997 Ashe Lecture given by his Grace, the Archbishop of Canterbury. It bespeaks the holy moments when we have our eyes lifted upwards to consider the cross and the Christ who has said, "And I, if I be lifted up will draw all men to Me!"
The Archbishop speaks of the great Christian writer, C. S. Lewis of Oxford and
Cambridge Universities: "This is the bedrock of faith and the inspiration of
Christianity. And it was that thought of the awesomeness of God's love and
its profound effects on people down the centuries that led the youthful C. S.
Lewis to faith. In 1925 he paid a visit to Salisbury Cathedral. Seeing the
slender spire some fifteen miles away and then, a short time later, visiting
the impressive building, Lewis wrote: 'What impressed was the force of mind,
the thousands of tons of masonry held in place by an idea, a religion;
buttress, window, acres of carving, the very lifeblood of man's work, all
piled there, and gloriously useless from the side of base utility for which
we alone build now'".
It was one of those crisp Autumn days of which I have always been so fond. I think the ashen clouds of Fall and the gold and red leaves all around make us poets within. I was just a young seminarian, just married to dear Catherine. As I recall, I thought it would be a good idea to get up from my studies and just walk and let the poetry of the season refresh my exhausted mind.
I lost completely any sense of time as I seemed to be lured on and on, deeper into what I now know to have been Shadyside ... down the quaint brick roads here and there. The Morning Glories were still out for though it was late the dim light from the heavens seemed to call them to a longer morning watch for the Lord. Above there were V formations of all sorts of birds, some of the geese honked loudly through the chambered skies as they flew south away from the encroaching winter. The little birds sang their hearts out to their Creator -- who could blame them, oh how wonderful to be alive on such a day!
But dusk was falling and I began to worry as I went up one street and down another, at times seeming to go in complete circles. It was nearing the hour when the stars would begin to appear behind the heavy sky. What shall I do, where am I, Cathy will be worried. And it was then that I looked up, not at the darkening heavens but toward the cathedral cross atop the majestic East Liberty Presbyterian Church.
Ah, that direction is home ... I must keep my eyes fixed to that cross and
soon I will be with my wife and daughter and sitting at a warm supper at her
parent's home. And I walked with a renewed confidence in my step as closer
and closer the cross came to me.
Soon the full majesty of the cathedral stood towering above me and on to home I went thanking the Lord for bringing me home for, as the old Baptist hymn has it, "The way of the cross leads home!"
And if we look upon the cross and trust the One who died there that we may
not be eternally homeless we shall be Home.
And thus we have always, as a family, bowed our heads in reverence as the
processional cross came down the aisle for Christ has told us that "If I be
lifted up, I will draw all men unto Me! The sign of that cross was placed
upon our foreheads at our baptisms.
To think upon the sacred heart of Jesus, pierced as it was on the cross, is to think of it as the gateway to Heaven itself -- the entrance to that Great Cathedral, for in Gothic times cathedrals were built to symbolize not only the cross but the coming City of God. The Irish poet Joseph Mary Plunkett captures well what all Christians will hopefully come to realize that the cleft in the Rock of Ages wherein we sing: "Let me hide myself in Thee" is the vastness of the Eternal Heart:
I see His blood upon the rose,
Each star the glory of His eyes --
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.
I see His face in every flower,
The thunder and the singing of the birds are but His voice.
And carven by His power,
Rocks are His written words.
All pathways by His feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever beating sea --
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.
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