Since I last posted we have visited two popular places of literary pilgrimage: Oxford and Stratford-Upon- Avon. Many Christians visit Oxford to view the places where C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkein hung out — the Eagle and Child pub, the famous walk along Magdalen College where C.S. Lewis finally agreed to God’s existence, the colleges where they taught and lived. Because of the complications of my surgery, Dan and I were there a very short time and were unable to visit some of the places we would have liked. But I’m grateful we have been there before and may return. We did attend an inspiring worship service at St. Aldate — very vibrant and alive with many young people and families. Unfortunately that is a rare sight in many parts of the U.K.
We then went on to Stratford, of course, the home of Shakespeare, the Bard! We attended two plays, Henry V by Shakespeare and Hecuba by Marina Carr, a modern playwright. I was struck by how many international tourists visit Stratford, especially those whose first language is NOT English. Shakespeare has been translated into ____ languages and apparently well translated, as people come from Japan, China, and all over Europe to see his birthplace, attend a play, or just enjoy this charming town.
The town is picturesque, with many good restaurants and large and small shops. Probably not everyone enjoying an espresso by the River Avon had studied Shakespeare. Maybe the majority had only read a required play back in high school. But they could enjoy the town, the history and the lovely weather we were so blessed with.
I thought of how many people come to see cathedrals in Europe. Interesting parallel. To many, if not most, of these tourists, the cathedral is an interesting historical artifact — beautiful but with no living spiritual significance. They’ve read odds and ends of the Bible and maybe even seen movies and TV shows based on it. But the Christian faith is not a living concern for them — just as for many people in Stratford, Shakespeare is a famous writer with whom they are somewhat acquainted. But anyone can enjoy a historic and picturesque town on a beautiful fall day!
Cathedrals were built to the glory of God by Christians who experienced a living faith. They can now be appreciated by anyone. How do we who believe in the living Lord, help others move beyond an academic, historic, or merely curious interest in the faith that built the cathedrals?