This weekend is a significant weekend for the Wellington Catholic Archdiocese in that it marks the reopening of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Hill St Wellington. Six years ago, it closed after being classified as earthquake prone and work began to strengthen and restore the historic building. In reading this I thought about St Andrews building and its heritage  and I thought about the place buildings have in our faith journeys and one of the common threads is that people often say it is the beauty of a place that endears it to them but what is beauty? Is it just what it looks like? Is it more than that and if so, what is it?

We can choose to see beauty in the most simple and common things around us. Yet it is always more than that because the beauty can become a source of unending joy for us. We acknowledge that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so there is something about beauty that cannot be contained in one concept or definition. What we might agree is that all conceptions of beauty aim to capture what is essential to all beautiful things but that is never one thing. Classical conceptions define beauty in terms of the relation between the beautiful object as a whole and its parts: the parts should stand in the right proportion to each other and thus compose an integrated harmonious whole. Think about this in terms of the ruined and the restored Cathedral or St Andrew’s building. There is something more to the beauty than just what it looks like even though what we do is material restoration. Just like the Ancient Hebrew nomad who piled stones at the end of the day for their headrest as symbol of the God-given place of safety and rest our buildings become symbols of the sacred place od sanctuary, safety, rest, and reconciliation and thus places of beauty. And all this is without going into the heritage it represents for us today.

Dana McLean Greeley wrote a hymn that seemed to speak to the wholistic nature of beauty; that which is greater than its parts and more than just a thing. She wrote”

Let all beauty we have known
illuminate our hearts and minds.
Rejoice in wonders daily shown,
in faith and joy, and love that bind.

We celebrate with singing hearts
the loveliness of sky and earth,
the inspiration of the arts,
the miracle of ev’ry birth.

Life’s music and its poetry
surround and bless us through our days.
For these we sing in harmony,
together giving thanks and praise.

Let all beauty we have known suggests that beauty is an unending universal encounter. Illuminate our hearts and minds suggests that it breaks in upon a resident darkness and that its encounter is with both emotional intelligence and cognitive intelligence. Rejoice in wonders daily shown, suggests that beauty is akin to the moment of awe and wonder and that it can be encountered in the mundane and the ordinary. in faith and joy, and love that bind. suggests that the source of beauty is in values such as trust, happiness, and the primary value of love. The remaining two verses continue to add to the nature of beauty and liken it to harmony utility and imagination.

Quite a bit to put upon a building but it is the symbolic link between the material and the Meta-physical, I think. We celebrate with singing hearts every Sunday the loveliness of sky and earth, as the inspiration of the arts, the miracle of every birth and the beauty of our sacred buildings.

Doug Lendrum

Read the rest of the e-news here: https://mailchi.mp/d8fde9cc7d80/this-weeks-newsletter-from-st-andrews-on-the-terrace-9448676?e=[UNIQID]

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