Saturday, April 01, 2006

Grace Under Pressure

Despite overwhelming international opposition, the American leadership bulls ahead. Entreaties to go slow fall on deaf ears. Novel ideas are adopted as policy, and understandings that have developed over the centuries are cast aside like so much excess baggage. The mechanisms of international communication and cooperative action are in tatters and may never be repaired. We are speaking, of course, of the ordination of declared, non-celibate homosexuals to the rank of Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Nearly three years ago Gene Robinson was elevated to Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. And now the sexual orientation of three of the seven candidates to replace retiring California Bishop William Swing raises the possibility that a second non-celibate gay bishop will be elected. The worldwide Anglican Communion faces schism.

Grace Cathedral: Gay Fray Mobs Nob Job

Last week the rain abated, so I walked up Nob Hill, past the diocesan offices, to Grace Cathedral. When one enters the sanctuary, one should put aside all thoughts of controversy and conflict.

A man and a woman, not together, were walking the labyrinth. The man was charging along the path as if he wanted to get it over with quickly. He ignored or was not aware of the labyrinth’s purpose: to assist the traveler in his meditations by imparting a sense of the Divine. Perhaps the man was a tourist and was rushing through the path just to say he did it, a microcosm of how most of us appear to be leading our lives. The woman was lost in thought as she traced the carpeted lines with her bare feet. At least she appeared to get the point.

The organist was practicing for next Sunday and had let out the stops. Strains from the pipe organ reverberated through the cavernous room, and sunlight from the stained glass played across the altar. I felt awe and humility, unfamiliar emotions in an intimate age that converses with a personal deity. Beneath the high arches one’s daily preoccupations are revealed for the trivial distractions that they are.

Exiting into the sunshine, my concerns having been put in perspective,I paused at Ghiberti’s Doors of Paradise. Grace Cathedral’s replica (left) of the Renaissance masterpiece, another gem in this city of under-appreciated jewels, was in better shape than its Florentine counterpart (right)--replicas themselves, the originals having been moved indoors to a museum. [Note: other pictures from my Florence trip last year may be found here.] © 2006 Stephen Yuen

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