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The kids and Tina are back home from another big trip, the Texas-South Carolina-Illinois triangle odyssey:
Hart travels

Hart travels

All this summer travel is pinching the old pocketbook and making the adult half of the family look more and more forward to school starting.  Only one more trip to Oregon and another to Paris in the next six weeks, and I think we’ll be about done for the year.  Until Christmas.

After the beach, Tina and the kids flew to St. Louis and spent a few happy days first at one grandparent’s and then another.  Dad unfortunately shared with the kids several examples of the literary genre known as “knee slappers”, which Merriam Webster curiously claims has something to do with humor.  You be the judge.

Mary had a little lamb and the doctor fainted.

Hickory Dickory Dock, two mice ran up the clock.  The clock struck one and the other one got away with minor injuries.

Sigh.

After a visit to see how Peg’s new knee is doing, the three boarded the southbound Amtrak through Missouri and Arkansas and down into Texas.  To my great surprise, their train arrived at Mineola right on time – something I never remember happening.  When I last rode, the on-time percentage was something on the order of 0.5%.  This has increased in recent months to an astonishing 88%, because, according to Gabe, Amtrak sued the rail companies and won the right to priority access of the rails.

And so, after 10 days, the reunion with my family brought my bachelor life to a happy close.  I was eager for Gabe to fire up MarioKart and discover that in his absence I had knocked off all 32 of his record times.  He was dutifully astonished, but proceeded to regain his crown in only about 2 hours, despite the fact that it had taken me about 20 to wrest it away.

But Gabe was “kidnapped” this afternoon by the church youth group to which he, as a new sixth grader, is being conscripted into.  Rachel and a few other middle school thugs came knocking and dragged him away to an evening of mayhem and frivolity – giving me another hour or two to regain MarioKart glory.

Tina is also at church tonight, organizing a silent auction of handmade crosses that the artisans of our congregation are making.  It’s a pretty neat project.  The intent is that the artists (hopefully) derive some personal reward for creating something meaningful both for themselves and the eventual buyer.  You can’t help but be moved just looking at the display that Tina has set up.  And ultimately, these things make a sizeable amount of money for the youth.

When I think of crosses, my mind sometimes wanders to the nails “cross of nails” that was erected in the smoldering ruins of Coventry Cathedral in 1940.  Built in the 13th and 14th century, Coventry was the only cathedral in Britain to be completely destroyed by German bombs.  The iron frame that had been added for extra support in Victorian times actually helped bring the walls down under the rain of incendiary bombs.  As the rods twisted and turned in the heat of the flames, the weakened structure collapsed.

On the morning after the devastating raid,  a workman clearing the rubble tied two burned timbers together, fashioning a sort of cross which he placed where the altar had been.  Someone else fashioned another cross out of three of the many 13th-century nails now lying amidst the debris.  With the nation listening on the wireless, the Provost of the Cathedral came to the microphone and said that, despite the horror and anger of the previous days, the thoughts of the affected people must begin to focus on forgiveness.  This astonishing idea became the new focus of the community.  The rubble and debris were cleared from the cathedral grounds, but the ruined walls have been left standing as a moving memorial.  The charred timber cross still stands on the old altar, with the words FATHER FORGIVE etched in gold letters into the wall behind.  The cross of nails, meanwhile, has become an international symbol of reconciliation. 

Burned Cross

Burned Cross

The Cross of Nails

The Cross of Nails

Churchill visiting the bombed Cathedral

Churchill visiting the bombed Cathedral

After the war, it was decided to build a new, modern cathedral, not on the spot of the old one, but adjacent to it.  The new building it made of stone quarried from the same location that had produced the original cathedral’s stonework some 600 years earlier.  The roof of the new cathedral actually overhangs the ruins of the old.

The old and new Cathedrals

The old and new Cathedrals

As you walk into the new cathedral, you are confronted with some profound text written in large letters clear across the entryway floor: “TO THE GREATER GLORY OF GOD THIS CATHEDRAL BURNT 14 NOVEMBER 1940 AND IS NOW REBUILT”.  That seems such a peculiarly English and beautiful sentiment.  The cathedral was destroyed in order to magnify God’s glory.

On your right is the amazing 70′ tall baptistry window by John Piper.

 

The Piper baptistry window

The Piper baptistry window

When the new cathedral was finally completed in 1962, Benjamin Britten wrote his famous War Requeim for the dedication.  The War Requeim is a weaving of ancient Latin liturgies with the contemporary pacifist poetry of Wilfrid Owen, who was killed in the First World War.  This huge piece calls for large chorus, a boys’ choir, extended orchestra, and three soloists.  In a maneuver that had clear overtones, the soloists chosen for the premier were the Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, the English tenor Peter Pears, and the German baritone Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau.  When the two men reached the searing reconciliation scene at the end of the work, Fischer-Dieskau broke down and could not continue.

Have a nice week.

Mikal

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