In a way that seems to be more and more crucial to the modern quest for the spiritual, cathedrals can offer a transforming experience. If religion appeals to duty, it seems spirituality must deliver a tangible personal intuition – ‘the tug of silver’.Cathedrals welcome the visitor, whether as worshipper, wanderer or the indifferent perplexed, and they deliver an experience. That experience may be about height, depth, colour, sound, scale, space, history or story. The sheer scale of things, the beauty of holiness, the rumour of faith, the drifting tones of evensong from remote choir stalls scarcely discernible, all allow the skirts of mystery to be touched. For a moment, people for whom too close a definition of what is happening would turn their wonderment to ashes may know the spiritual.
All this has been captured by Ronald Blythe when he refers to cathedrals and the old-new numinosity’. Les grands projets are part of that mission and that order of thinking.
Cathedrals also witness to something beyond our experience and place us in a greater context. It is not fanciful to sense in the multilingual literature at the cathedral door, in the exhibition about Fair Trade, in the prayers which gather concerns from across the globe left by the candle stand, in the resonances of regional celebrations and in the scale of the building – in all this it is not fanciful to sense the call of the universal creator.
The God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ finds witness in the hewn stone, in the smell of the herbs in the monks’ garden, in the play of light in the cloister, in the record of the generations and the word of greeting at the threshold. Doors of wonder are opened by walking into a cathedral. That is the ultimate justification for these great projects.