Monday, April 18, 2011


(La Cathedrale de Reims, Eugene Galien, undated, Art

Bob and I wander over to St. Andre's Cathedral as the day begins.

Heidi and John have decided to meet us inside the cathedral after they make a stop or two along the way.

Entering this huge church, our eyes are drawn to the vaulted ceiling.

Part of the vaulting - near the altar - is crystal clean and creamy white.

It has just been treated to a sandblasting "bath."

                                                                               (This is the clean part.)
The remainder of the cathedral?

Covered with centuries of soot, dust and dirt.

Bob is off like a gazelle taking pictures.

I decide to sit down on a folding chair in the middle of the nave and enjoy a few minutes of solitude.

(Bob caught me sitting on the right side of the nave while he was shooting pictures of the cathedral.)

My eyes are closed as I feel myself sink into a restful reverie.

I have no inkling of what is about to happen.

Suddenly, the magnificent pipe organ rings out six of the most joyful notes I have ever heard.

My spirit soars.

There are no words to adequately describe what is happening to me.

I can only say that I am magnetized by this music.

Tears pour down my face as I listen.

Then, just as abruptly as it started, the organ falls silent.

I am stunned beyond my imagination.

I sit in complete stillness trying desperately to hold onto the memory of this music.

Seconds later, Bob returns to me.

He wants to show me something.

I stand up and move my legs but my heart isn't in it.

Bob guides me to a pair of knee bowing angels on the cathedral wall.

They are beautiful.

But I stare straight through them.

At any other time I would be transfixed by their heavenly countenances.

But not this time.

God - the master of tender mercies - has touched me with music so sublime I can scarcely take it in.

My mind and my heart are dwelling in the midst of that music.

Nothing else seems to matter.

We turn and see Heidi and John enter the cathedral.

Moments later, the four of us stand under Bob's angels and chat.

I smile as Heidi describes her own excitement.

She and John discovered old-world fairy tale puppets in a small shop around the corner.

A few of these treasures will be lovingly tucked into a suitcase for the journey home.

As we chat, I see a flutter of movement out of the corner of my eye.

(I'll love this gorgeous pipe organ forever!)

A studious-looking man is descending a flight of stairs near the organ.

This has to be the cathedral's organist.

He stops, drops his briefcase to the floor and firmly wraps his trench coat around him.

Then, from across the cathedral, he marches toward us.

My heart races.

I've got to know the name of that piece of music!

And this little man has the key to that knowledge.

My brain revs into gear.

The organist speaks French.

I am instantly sorry that I don't.

But Heidi knows French - enough to converse with this man about my music.

The organist continues to walk in our direction.

I realize that he is going to pass right by us as he leaves the cathedral.

Heidi is willing to speak to the organist.

But I feel it is my place to capture his attention.

This is, after all, my experience.

"It's now or never!" I tell myself.

Just then, the organist passes directly in back of Bob.

I watch him move by us.

It feels like time is standing still.

Incredulously, I do not utter a word!

Then I watch as the massive cathedral door closes behind him.

He is gone.

'What is wrong with you?" I ask myself.

I am totally mystified.

This is so unlike me.

I'll talk to anyone at anytime about anything.

My mind begins reviewing past incidents:

I once went up to a complete stranger at our neighborhood tube station in London.

I complimented her on the stylish dress she was wearing.

She was obviously shocked that I spoke to her.

But then she gathered her senses and thanked me warmly.

I wasn't afraid to enjoy an animated conversation with my romantic mystery man in Edinburgh.

I even cozied up to "Bob" at a crowded exhibit in an art museum in New York.

"Look, honey," I said to him, " isn't that painting gorgeous?"

He whispered to me, "Yes, it is, but I think you've got the wrong "honey."

Not recognizing Bob's voice, I looked up and saw a nice looking man smiling down at me.


I'll admit it.

That one was a close call.

I was definitely mortified.

But the real Bob and I had a good laugh when I finally caught up with him.

So there you have it.

Plenty of evidence that I do indeed talk to strangers.

Why, then, did I completely choke with Monsieur Organist?

Maybe my emotional attachment to this piece of music caused my faulty reaction.

I felt invested, raw, vulnerable.

What if he was bothered by my question?

What if he couldn't understand our not-quite-so-perfect French?
But those negative outcomes didn't make sense to me.

Certainly, an organist of his caliber would be delighted to share any sort of musical information with anyone who wanted it.

If nothing else, our question was a tribute to his elegant command of the organ.

The point is this:

I failed.

I acted the cowardly lion.

I blew it big time.

And I knew with every fiber of my being that I would always be sorry.


Fast forward two years.

Just after Thanksgiving (2010) I find a book called "Echoes of Heaven" in a Christmas catalog.

The subtitle reads: "The Fine Art of Cathedrals and Their Hymns"

Four musical CD's are included inside the book.

I am immediately intrigued.

I think to myself, "Bob and I are going to enjoy this book. Both of us will love the beautiful photos of the cathedrals. And I'll enjoy the sacred music."

And, yes, as I am reviewing the merits of this book, I am hoping that my cathedral music is going to be on one of those four CD's.

But do I believe that it's going to happen?

No, I don't.

Days later, I bite the bullet and order the pricey book.

It's on backorder and probably won't arrive until after Christmas.

Wouldn't you just know it?

Happily, 'Echoes of Heaven" arrives three days before Christmas.

I carefully wrap the book in glitzy paper and lay it under the tree.

Bob opens the gift on Christmas morning.

He looks through the gorgeous pages as I explain that there are music CD's in the back of the book.

Soon, children and grandchildren arrive to celebrate the joys of Christmas with us.

The beautiful cathedral book is forgotten.

Until a cold winter's Sabbath in January.

Bob leaves early to attend to church responsibilities.

I decide to fill the house with music while he's gone.

Remembering the cathedral book, I casually pull it from its shelf.

I fire up the Bose, insert a CD and push "play."

I recognize my music on the second note.

Standing in the middle of our great room, I begin to weep.

The music fills my spirit with unbounded joy all over again.

Through a flood of tears, I thank God for this gift.......

the second of His melodic tender mercies.

1 comment:

  1. Love it, but you didn't say what the organist was playing now that you know. Can't wait to hear.