I love the continuity and stability of routine, mundane family life, but I also really cherish those precious new experiences and firsts together. And this week has seen a few. Our little girl has started saying her first greeting. So everyone we meet is getting a ‘hi’, or more specifically ‘aay-yeeee’. Woe betide them if they don’t realise she is looking for a ‘hi’ back!
This week has also seen her figure out for the first time how to blow kisses. She’s a very social young thing! There’s a tiny wee touch of mother’s bias here of course, but I think it is indescribably cute to watch. It’s only a tiny moment, but adorable all the same and I think it will be an enduring memory for me. Anyway, she’s asleep for the night, having socialised to the point of exhaustion, so I’m seizing the chance to wrap up a lovely week with another first. A blogging first that is – combining two challenges in one post.
As it is a Sunday, this ecclesiastical collection from Lichfield Cathedral seemed appropriate. It is one of the oldest places for Christian worship in England, with the first stone laid in Saxon times. Over the last thousand years, every century has seen new work to the cathedral.
I find the scale and beauty of many religious buildings quite staggering, and this one is no exception. It is not only enormous, but also sumptuous in its architectural grandeur. Stunning glass windows, and so much intricate stone and wood work, the labour of master craftsmen over many, many hours and years.
But when I see religious buildings, it is not only their façade – their outward strength and solidity that speaks to me – but also their enduring importance in people’s lives as a place of sanctity and worship. Lichfield cathedral, like many other churches and cathedrals in the United Kingdom, has survived and adapted through times of intense political, religious and social upheaval. In this case, the English Reformation and Civil War, the Enlightenment period, the moral strictures of Victorian England, and the devastating nationwide air-raids of World War II to name just a few.
In times of trouble and need, all of us have something or someone we turn to. For me, it is and always has been family and friends. But for many people faith and religion have a role. Although it plays no part in my life, I respect their faith, and I am always touched by its evidence. In a physical sense, it is never more obvious than in a really old place of worship. Take this flight of stone steps inside Lichfield cathedral, leading to St Chad’s Chapel. The stone is worn smooth, and bowed in the middle, from centuries of constant footfall.
And the towering wooden doors at the entrance to the cathedral. I wonder how many people have passed through those over the years to light a candle and make a prayer? They are a real testament to the medieval craftsmanship of the carpenters and metalsmiths who created them, as well as the strength of their timber and reinforcing wrought ironwork overlaid across them. I wonder also, how many more people will continue to walk through them before they eventually have to be replaced, having finally given in to the elements causing their gradual decay?
When wandering the chilly, echoing nave at Lichfield Cathedral I found it easy to appreciate the strength and endurance of such a building. But equally significant is the continued care and restoration it has received over the years. It is a monument to the strength and endurance of faith for Christians in Lichfield, Staffordshire and beyond.
These days, alongside the faithful, you are just as likely to find tourists crossing the threshold to explore the cathedral’s magnificent interior. But the rows of flickering candles, lit and said with a prayer, suggest that perhaps there are still many people who come to the cathedral seeking strength and endurance through their faith.
I’ve come to realise that it is the small details of daily life that come together to make up the enduring strength and magical moments in family life. For my little family, at least. And I wonder if perhaps it is the same with religion. Lighting a candle, making a prayer. Just little gestures, day by day. Inconsequential, it might seem, when compared to the size and scale of a cathedral, let alone to the religion that is a symbol of. But then, perhaps Mother Teresa’s words are fitting here:
‘be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies’.