Friday, December 22, 2006

Winchester Cathedral Carol Service

Down to Winchester Cathedral last night for the 6.30 p.m. carol service. The mediaeval cathedral looked magnificent, lit up as it was in the freezing, foggy night. After queuing in the cold for about 20 minutes, we entered, looking for seats. Alas, there were so few, and those taken by the early entrants. We were reduced to stone benches in the side chapel, without a view. 2,000 people had crowded in, apparently.

The choir was breathtakingly beautiful - state-of-the-art plainsong. Competing with the soaring harmonies was a crying baby. A random thought came to mind: “tonight, the crying baby Jesus was ejected from Winchester Cathedral for spoiling the performance of the choir.”

Listening to elderly, distinguished and grown men reciting in portentous voice the advent myths of Judean peasants, as embellished in the early gospels (“this is the Word of the Lord”) I was reminded of Edward Wilson’s remarks about the innate propensity of the human mind to sanctify, endowing all kinds of arbitrary stuff with the aura of unchallengeable authority.

‘How can people say this stuff, or believe it?’ is a kind of category error when faced with religious dogma.