Sitting in St. Patrick's Cathedral

I couldn’t wait to see it. I walked into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, full of awe. Cool, hushed, and soothing, the very air inside this type of church feels holy. The ceiling arches reach hundreds of feet into the air, and the skill of the craftsmen who built them centuries ago is unparalleled. The builders of the great cathedrals went to great lengths (of time and expense) to lift up God. Intricate, elaborate stonework. Innovative engineering and design. They built these monuments to glorify God, and that’s what these buildings do.

I wandered around, looking into the chapels — ornately decorated, wrapped in flowers, gilded with gold. I saw the candles flickering in their amber glass holders, visual remembrances of individual prayers. I read the inscriptions on the plaques, and studied the stone reliefs depicting scenes from the crucifiction and resurrection. I could smell the lilies, left over from Easter, blanketing the altar. Finally, I sat in one of the pews.

I was overcome with a feeling of sadness, and I didn’t know why. Years ago, I would have thought this place felt holy. The cathedral is stunning. God is absolutely, unquestionably deserving of every bit of effort that went into building that place. No amount of glory is too great for Him. Yet tears began to stream down my face. I looked up and realized why: the tall, elegant spires seemed to be stretching to the sky in a vain attempt to reach Him. The carved stone, ceilings, arches, and ornaments appeared to be pushing Him farther away, rather than elevating Him. The magnitude of the decorated ceiling only emphasized the great distance between heaven and earth.

I realized how much my perception of God has changed over the years. Once I prayed to Him in a church slightly reminiscent of this one, knowing that way up high, somewhere, He was watching over me, and He was looking down as I prayed. Suddenly I slid out of my seat to kneel, thanking God for being so personal, so real, so touchable. We are so blessed to know Him, to feel Him, to see Him in our lives. To be certain that He is right here beside us, not some great distance away. Sometimes I think I don’t show Him the reverence that is due Him, and that I am almost too familiar with the King of the Universe. But Jesus came so we could see Him, know Him, touch Him. He came, wanting us to meet with Him face to face. So I bowed in that great stone church, in humble reverence and adoration, whispering words of gratitude and love to the One True God, who sat right there beside me.

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