As I pass through giant, carved-wood doors and into a cavernous cathedral in southern France, my eyes strain to see through the darkness. I stand still, slowly assessing my surroundings. The massive height and depth of the structure overwhelm me. Peering into one alcove and then another, I wonder what the symbols, statues and paintings are saying to me. A pew bids me sit awhile and contemplate their messages.
The walls around me, massive and thick, stand as a fortress—sober and unshakable. They anchor the cathedral, assuring its foundation and future. Anything less would keep it from soaring so high and wide. The walls both amaze and intimidate me, like so many muscle-bound soldiers protecting the premises.
Places of worship like these demand respect and almost submission. Silence reigns and forbids me to speak, at least not above a whisper. Awestruck, I dare not voice my thoughts, such as, “God? Are you here?” Even a sigh would echo throughout for all to hear.
As darkness slowly retreats, my eyes look up to windows of kaleidoscopic beauty. Delicate and multi-hued, these stained-glass works of art contrast magnificently with the walls that embrace them. These “paintings on light” more than redeem their somber, serious frames. Their color and brightness relieve me and I wonder at the skill and time it took to create such glass mosaics.
They twinkle with the sun as they recount stories of Jesus and others who loved him. Their glorious Gospel light shines forth—a message to all who contemplate them. Like a layman’s Bible, they have been read and understood by people through the centuries.
Sitting and meditating, even as visitors tiptoe about me, I picture my own soul as a cathedral and wonder how it compares with this place. According to 1 Corinthians 3:16, a Christian is God’s temple and His Spirit lives in him or her. In the Middle Ages when many such churches were built, the “seat” of a bishop was called an ecclesia cathedralis, “church of the throne.” Yes, my own soul (or spirit, heart or mind, if you wish) is a cathedral, a throne from which God’s Holy Spirit rules my life.
The walls of my cathedral are anchored in a strong foundation, as for all Christians. Ephesians 2:20-22 says God’s universal church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” It is in Christ that “the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” As Apostle Peter says, I am a “living stone” used, with others, to build a “spiritual house” for the Lord.
But what about the windows which bring light into my cathedral? What do they represent? The Gospel of John says, “whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.” As I read the stories of Jesus and obey the truths of God’s Word, heavenly sunshine filters through the pages, illuminating, cheering and amazing me. The more I receive these truths, the more light and understanding I am given. Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”
My windows need not be unimpressive clerestories catching only a few rays. Rather, my soul hopes for massive windows in the walls of my cathedral—beautiful stained glass paintings made from precious jewels from God’s Word. The exquisite beauty of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, with its glistening Biblical narratives, cannot match the inner beauty God desires to create in the worship center of my being and yours.
Father God, thank you for dwelling in me by your Holy Spirit. Thank you for Christ, the unshakable foundation of my life and your church. Let me find You daily as I contemplate the beautiful messages of your Word. Light up my inner being, my cathedral, by their truth. And let me shout your praises so loud they will echo for all to hear.