Julie Lyles Carr: Sunday Selah

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday Selah

let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings...
Hebrews 10:22

One week ago, I stepped out of the warm Parisian sunshine and entered the cool duskiness of an almost millennium-old monument to faith.
Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris.

People were entering the doors of the cathedral, some going through a door marked for those attending mass, the others over a threshold designated for 'visitors'.

Read here 'tourists'.

Mass had just begun as 1 of 8 and I quietly moved along with the wave of tourists. Cameras clicking, chatting, strolling, the momentum of the crowd was carrying us rapidly past the first section.

And then sacred music began to pour from ancient organ and human voice, the notes and harmonies blending and wafting off the stone interiors. I pulled 1 of 8 out of the crowd and anchored us on the back side of a massive column. I needed a moment.

To not be a spectator.

But to be quiet and still. And to soak it in.

And to listen to notes resound off of stone carved in devotion almost a thousand years ago.

It was such an odd sensation, to see the waves of tourists moving past the seated congregation. To watch the strollers through the seekers. To see in one glimpse the gawkers, the bored, the devoted, the focused, the wandering, the prayerful, the chatting, the silent. All housed in one moment in a building of worship.

Just like any other church I've been to. Because even when the doors are not designated differently for worshipers and observers, that is how it plays out. Some of us walk fully immersed into a place of faith. And some of us walk the perimeter of it, fascinated but apart, watching, waiting.

After a while, 1 of 8 and I continued to walk along the outskirts of the nave, making our way toward the back of the cathedral, incense swirling, senses piqued. On the one hand, I was startled at how casual the tourists seemed to be taking things, talking and wandering. But on the other hand, there was a machine at the back of the church, spitting out coins stamped with the image of Notre Dame, clanging like a slot machine. Just past a font of holy water was a gift shop kiosk, selling everything from Notre Dame erasers to, inexplicable, toy dinosaurs. And in the mix of it all, ancient sacred music continued to soar, the priest in lilting French continued to remind his congregants to walk in love and compassion in the manner of Christ, people of every nation and tongue were gathered on a Sunday in one place, each with their own motives and schedules, but there. Present.

A little world. A moment.

And then we pushed through the heavy doors into the western sun. Back into the warmth. Under the most stunning stain glass of azure blue skies and white clouds. Back into the cathedral of creation, the music of peoples' voices and traffic and children laughing filling the air.

I see you, Lord. I see you everywhere.

And I worship You.

Selah.
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