Impressions from St. John’s The Divine

Today I visited the Cathedral of St. John The Divine for its Sunday organ recital. Here’s what I experienced:

It’s a place where you take your hat off, not only because you have to, but because you want to. Near the entrance are two tables lit with white candles organized in terraces, sad memories or wishes for health written on the glowing glass: “For Kaka, get well and come home soon” or “Mom & Dad, I love and think of you always”. Giant pillars lead you into the church, like a walkway lined with tall trees. Mid-ship is the altar and the main attraction: St. John’s magnificent organ, elevated on both sides of the narrow choir. The sound from the grey-blue organ pipes reverberates all through the church chamber. It is a both solemn and warm tone, mournfully gentle or cascading in violent crescendos.

When you sit down near the altar and the choir, listening, you can see down the road you have traveled from the entrance, and in the bright mid-ship light the rest of the church seems dark and subdued. But above the darkness, above the entrance, is a gigantic, round stained glass window in blues and reds, shaped in almost mandala-like mosaics, with Christ in the middle glowing in the outside sunlight. Even if you do not believe in God, this sight will make you serene for a moment.

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