Faith Journey | Beauty and Awe

My German grandmother introduced me to beautiful architecture. How I wish I had paid more attention to her attempts to teach me about history and architectural styles, but I did absorb an appreciation for beautiful churches — places that took my breath away and inspired in me a sense of reverence. On one of our visits to Germany, when I was 13 years old, Oma insisted she show us the cathedral in Limburg.

How glad I am that she took us there! I’ll never forget my first glimpse of this magnificent cathedral that dominated the landscape. At the time, they were restoring the exterior, but enough of the work had been completed for me to be stunned by how beautiful it was.

When we entered the building, I was overwhelmed with the sense of sacredness.

We were given an unexpected gift on the day we visited, and I wish we had pictures and recordings of what we experienced. It was a Saturday, and people were readying for Mass the next day. Someone was practicing on the pipe organ while women were decorating an area around the altar with flowers. Over 50 years later, I can still remember how exquisitely and reverently beautiful it all was. I was in awe, and I never wanted to leave.

My grandmother showed and described many more wonderful things over the years, planting deep in me a longing for truth, beauty, and goodness.

We can worship God in many ways and in many places. But not all of those places inspire a sense of awe and reverence, and not all of our attempts at worship are necessarily befitting the One we claim to worship. Sorting that out, for me, has been a lengthy process, involving study, soul-searching, long conversations, and prayer. And, as I have written previously, I’ve learned from experience that I am far more capable of worship when “my soul is fed by beauty in an environment designed for worship rather than vexed by ugly, distracting things scattered across what looks like a concert stage.”

Although I don’t worship in a grand cathedral on Sundays, I do worship in a sacred place that is entirely focused on worship. I am surrounded by truth, beauty, and goodness, and our worship feels timeless to me, with a liturgy that spans the ages and contains the very words that resound and will resound around the Throne of Heaven. Why settle for less?

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