I have marveled at the sizes of some contemporary American churches, especially arena-sized ones built to hold tens of thousands of worshipers at one time in megachurches. As big as they are, they lack the grandeur of the churches in Europe that are centuries old, in terms of the reverence for God and Jesus demonstrated in paintings, frescoes, and sculptures of the biblical stories.
I stood in awe of the beauty of the Basilica de Santa Maria in Elche (Elx) Spain. Much of the art sin this huge cathedral seemed to represent the intensity of the artists’ love for God. Sculptures of three of the disciples and of three of the women that accompanied Jesus in His travels and were at the Cross demonstrate an equality of necessity between genders, and that really touched my heart.
What is amazing is that these churches are still used for daily worship, a true church home, and we were quiet as we examined the wonderful artistic renderings of Jesus’s life and death. I tried to always be mindful that people were praying for situations in their lives, very real instances of a need for God, even as we were visitors to what they consider to be a holy place.
I love to visit the cathedrals of Europe, mainly because of the sheer size of them, but also there is a sense of being connected across centuries with people who have, like myself, come to accept Jesus as the center of their lives and a very present help in times of trouble.
I am reminded that sufferings and trials are but temporary, and that trouble truly don’t last always, as I think of all of the candles lit in times of sorrow for people long since departed from this life. I recognize a common angst regarding the lack of control that we have over life that manifests itself in a dependence of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
There was no charge for entering the cathedral, but there was fee to climb the tower attached, and because it had a lot of steps, Douglas went up, but I remained on the street waiting for him. I did walk up the steps to the roof of one of the homes of some former wealthy family from centuries ago to capture a great picture of the outside of the cathedral. There were not only fewer steps but it did not have that narrowness going up the cathedral steps that causes my claustrophobia to kick in.
Interestingly, the cathedral in Elche was built exactly where the main mosque was located during Muslim times. You can still see elements of the mosque and practically imagine the Muslims who worshiped God as Allah bowing with heads to the floor in reverence. The cathedral reminded me that over the centuries, atrocities have been perpetrated in the name of God, on both sides.
Around the world, people worship God in different ways, some in churches as big as a meadow and some in very small, one-room buildings. But, whether worship is in grandeur or simplicity, a shared faith in God links us across time and space. I love visiting churches in Europe, and just looking up can be a strain on the neck, but that feeling of hearts connected to the Creator of the Universe endows me with peace, love, and joy.