Flying Buttresses

Chartres Cathedral closeup detail >>> Closeup of flying butresses

One of history's greatest feats of engineering occurred during the building of the great Gothic cathedrals. Inspired by the Christian Faith, entire generations of builders worked, sometimes for centuries, to build that which would cause the mind to aspire to an other-worldly frame of reference, and the soul to soar to a reverence toward the Holy and Unseen. Lives much like our own, working hard to just survive, took on Heavenward significance as all about them was the transcendent recollection of the Most Blessed Trinity and the Cross. Until the Gothic era of the Middle Ages the great church buildings were rather massive and dreary affairs with enormous columns and arches holding up the massive crush of both walls and ceilings. Windows were sparse and quite small because of the cumbersome masonry therefore entrance into those Romanesque houses of worship would remind one more of some dark, dank cave than it would of the Light of the world.

With the coming of the flying buttress into its own, walls could now climb to unbelievable heights holding enormous vaulted ceilings. These comparatively "thin" walls allowed for a veritable flowering of huge stained glass windows. Entrance into such a place is, to this day, absolutely breath-taking. Heaven seems to have taken up residence in these Gothic cathedrals.

The flying buttress is really an outside "prop" taking the strain and weight of the roof away from the soaring walls. They are rather like a reversed R, the lower part stabilizing the first wall, the upper part stabilizing the next story of wall. To look upon a cathedral trimmed with such beautiful supports was to look upon a gracefulness of architecture that reminded one of flights of angels. Shakespeare's words seem so appropriate here: "Goodnight sweet prince and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"

And it is, therefore, the best of questions to ask: "What are the flying buttresses of our cathedral souls?" "What are these verities that gracefully support the Christian in a world fraught with trouble and violence?" "How is it that we do not cave in for the very weight of living here below?" I propose that all of us have seven mighty buttresses which we can use to be strong and graceful in the Lord.

Another example of flying buttresses

1. Buttress of Christian Reason:

2. Buttress of Prayers:

3. Buttress of Judaeo-Christian morality and civilization:

4. Buttress of Holy Living Tradition:

5. Buttress of the Inspiration of Christian Holy Scripture:

6. Buttress of the Creed:

7. Buttress of The Believing Church:

(End of Flying Buttresses)

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