This morning, after a glorious night’s sleep (Deo gratias), we had a lovely breakfast of the English variety and after that I ducked out to head to the cathedral early. I did it yesterday as well, and it is a singular experience. The town is quiet as not many people are out and about yet but the real joy is that the cathedral is practically empty as the hoards of tourists have yet to arrive.
The silence was palpable and only broken by the softly spoken words of the Mass being said by one of the cathedral priests in the St. Edmund Chapel. It was nice to see them using an ad orientem altar, meaning the priest was facing the same way as those in attendance, everyone facing God. It is an ancient practice dating back to the Apostles themselves who turned towards the East to pray in expectation of Christ coming again in glory. In the Orthodox Church we have retained this practice and it remains the historical practice of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches. Unfortunately, most Western Christian parishes do not take advantage of this practice, a practice which brings a much greater sense of unity. 😉
I continued wandering reverently (I assure you, it’s possible to wander reverently, although “lurk” might be more appropriate in my case…) through the cathedral taking pictures of particularly beautiful scenes I cam across. I’m hoping to borrow a real camera to do the same thing tomorrow morning to get some really stunning pictures.
I stopped in to say hello to St. Etheldreda in her chapel and light a few candles for those who have requested prayers at her shrine. I will do the same in front of her relics if I ever get to venerate them. Drop me a line if you have a prayer intention you’d like mentioned to the good saint and queen.
I had a conversation with some in the tour group about the veneration of saints and asking their intercessions. The saints are not there for us to simply emulate, although that is a worthy thing to do as well. The saints are very real intercessors before the Lord on our behalf. They love God so much, and love us so much, that they have given up their eternal rest to help us in this life while we struggle to “work out our own salvation” as St. Paul says. The saints are alive in Christ, alive in the Resurrection and are witnesses to the reality of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Their miracles show us this. The reason there is a giant cathedral in Ely is because of St. Etheldreda being known as a miracle working saint. Now, this does not mean she, herself, performed miracles. But rather, she was so holy and close to God spiritually, that God worked miracles through her out of his great mercy. And he continues to do so through his saints to this very day, this very hour, this very second.
I will end with the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Hebrews,
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.