arches

I was born in Sweden 1955, hence I became a member of the Lutheran Church of Sweden ‘automatically’. Up until the end of 1999 church and state were together, and if your parents weren’t of any other persuation, this was what happened. Sweden is a very secularized country but not all that many people have taken time out to fill in a little form and leave the church, me included. I’ve always been a bit of a ‘searcher’ from the time I could begin to think for myself but that’s a whole different story. Thus, I wasn’t much of a church-goer. Like most other  Swedes, I went on 1:st of Advent and Christmas Midnight Mass. All Saints’ Day too.

In my job, I met the person who was currently Dean in the Cathedral parish,to which I belonged. We started talking, and sometimes it so happens that you connect immediately with people … those rare occurrences in life, when you feel a deep mental connection with another person.

I started going to Mass the Sundays when it was he who gave the sermon — I was interested to hear what he was like. Sometimes these sermons can be long and drawn-out, many people even fall asleep, but this certainly kept me awake! His words really hit home with me … touched some inner cord, and I remember thanking him afterwards … telling him how I’d felt about it, as if it had been written for me, personally. He was both glad and thankful to hear this. He meant that writing all these words, he could never really be sure how they would be perceived … if he really conveyed it in a way so that the people would feel the same way.

I remembered him mentioning a name of a poet … who had written something that was the base for this sermon. I forgot the name and was meaning to ask him again who the poet was, but this Dean retired, moved away from my town and died four weeks after his retirement. The last time I heard him was on New Years Eve 1999 at midnight. A Mass was held outside the cathedral, as we entered the new millennium. It was beautiful with all the snow and torches and it was also the night when the church was separated from the state.

Last year, a Swedish poet got the Nobel Prize in litterature…. Tomas Tranströmer. I’d heard his name many times, but never read any of his writings as I’d sort of ‘decided’ that I wasn’t a ‘poetry person’. During my trip home last Fall, I stayed a few days with a former co-worker, she showed me a little poem by Tranströmer that I fell in love with and we talked a lot about it. As I got back here, she’d sent me a book with his collected poems, which was a wonderful surprise. At first, I sat down and browsed a little randomly and the first poem that came up was this:

Tourists have crowded into the half-dark of the enormous Romanesque church.
Vault opening behind vault and no perspective.
A few candle flames flickered.

An angel whose face I couldn’t see embraced me
and his whisper went all through my body:
Don’t be ashamed to be a human beingbe proud!
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
You’ll never be complete, and that’s as it should be.

Tears blinded me
as we were herded out into the fiercely sunlit piazza,
together with Mr and Mrs Jones, Herr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini—
within each of them vault after vault opened endlessly.

It could have been written in fire, because this was what ‘my’ Dean’s sermon was based upon!

14 Replies to “arches”

  1. I understand this and how it would affect you. I believe it. It reminds me of ” when one door closes-another one opens”. There have been times in my life when a sermon touches me in a deep way. Tears can come to my eyes just thinking about it. It’s such a good feeling to make a connection when someone like you did that Dean.. Sometimes it’s like someone turned on a light in your head and heart.

    1. Yes, it’s rare that you connect with someone like that … it hasn’t happened more than four, five times at the most in my life. We have so many layers, or vaults within … some we may not know about until they open up for various reasons…

  2. Where does one start when a post is written so beautifully as well as soulfully?
    First, I was struck by the fact that you were born the year I graduated high school.
    Second, I reflected on the “searching” issues I have had all my life and finally found a Franciscan Friar in the MS Delta that I bonded with. We still keep in touch. I am thankful he is still alive; I will be their guest in May at his invitation to stay at the Friary. I look forward to his sermon for this weekend.
    To have found your Dean and then lost him and the poem only to be recovered in such a fortuitous way is a touching story with all kinds of “vaults” turning in my head.

    1. Linda,
      Now I’m really glad I posted this after all … I read, and re-read several times, which is so unlike me. Yes, the searching went on for the longest time. Deep down, I sort of knew where I ‘belonged’, but never acted upon it.
      That’s wonderful …about your trip in May and that your friend is still alive.
      Thank you 🙂

    1. Thank you, likewise, Cecelia. Like I’ve said in previous replies, this was written and posted with great hesistation, but I wanted to do it … if, for nothing else, so, myself.

  3. Nice poem. I like it. Glad you found it.

    Many people here go to church but they are so self-righteous. Not true Christians. Better to be honest that stay away than try to convince others you are something you are not.

    I do believe to some extent. But I no longer rarely go. Too many sad memories. Plus it is too hard to sit there alone. I did love going to church in Sweden, even if I could not understand. The churches are so beautiful. When I went to church in Bjärred, we sat outside. Then we all stood together in a semi-circle and held hands. Then we all took communion together. I got more from that service than most I have attended here.

    1. Thanks…

      Going to church is very much about recognition for me … hearing the old hymns again, just being inside the building itself, with its impressive interior …the pomp of it all! I know there are some that are trying to ‘modernize’ [in Sweden], like you say, in order to attract more people. It’s very different from diocese to diocese. Most are still formal …more ‘old-school’.

      Having said that, I must add that I’d have just as much of a spiritual experience out on the beach or in the forest.

      1. I agree about finding religion in nature. Sometimes more than sitting in a church with people that are far from being Christian.

        We have some churches that have a modern service but also have a traditional service. I like both. But I really like my traditional service to very high religion with lots of symbolism, etc.

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