Perspectives from Paris

Just returned from two days in Paris with its many places of worship. Everywhere you look across the cityscape they thrust boldly into the sky, like so many architectural ‘voices’ raised heavenward.  Below is one of these places of worship. Just look at the rich colours and the intricate details. Doesn’t it lift your heart just to look at it? Click on the picture, though, and you will find a rather different story. Look at the writing in the bottom left hand corner of the photograph and you will see what I mean.

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The photographs were taken in Galeries Lafayette – one of the most exclusive shopping establishments in Paris’ First arrondissement. The whole place feels like a temple to consumerism – with its soaring dome, its high priests and priestesses in their monogrammed uniforms, its branded saints, and the willing acolytes buzzing to and fro laden with their bags or staring in wonder and desire. If I’m honest I found the whole thing slightly sickening, reeking as it did of money, show and longing.

The next day, however, was entirely different. After many years of waiting, I at last found the opportunity to enter into the cavernous marvel of the Orsay Museum. There I gazed in wonder at the vast sweeping architecture and looked on in silent admiration at the works of the masters. Pissaro’s dancing brush strokes, Monet’s delicate studies in light and Cezanne’s gorgeous colours all took my breath away. To see these things with my own eyes was a moment of almost sacred wonder.

Ooops.

There are perhaps many things which we worship by another name. Maybe, as C S Lewis put it, the problem is not that we love those things so much…but that we ‘love God so little’.

Happy Sunday, everyone, and may your worship be heartfelt.

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