26 May 2008

Here and there, literally this time.

I spent the weekend with Puff and the other two going around Toronto. This weekend was an annual special event in the city, called Doors Open Toronto, or perhaps Open Doors. At any rate, 150 buildings in the city threw open their doors and offered tours, or just let people wander around inside. Many of these buildings are not normally open to the public, or are only open for a price.

On Saturday the family went to Black Creek Pioneer Village. This is a family favourite, and we always make at least one trip every year. This Saturday it was more packed than I have ever seen it before. it was as good as always, although there seemed to be more rude people there than I remember from the past. There was this one little kid I was ready to clock if he shoved me one more time.

On Sunday we headed downtown after Mass to the oldest section of town. There we visited the house of William Lyon McKenzie, the city's first mayor and leader of the 1837 rebellion, which failed. We then went to St Lawrence Hall. The building was beautiful, but it was smaller than I had expected. The Great Hall is a significant place in the history of our city. Important meetings were held there, which decided the course of our city. It was also the city's concert hall, most famously hosting Jenny Lind when she visited the city.

Our last stop was at the city labyrinth, which is laid out after the labyrinth at Chartres. It has become very popular among some designers and renovators to put such labyrinths in modern churches. I admit I don't much care for it in churches, but this was outside and there was a choir singing to us as we walked the maze. It was a good end.

Between the Hall and the Maze we stopped at St James' Cathedral- the Anglican cathedral of Toronto. I had wanted to go to St Michael's and St Paul's Catholic churches as well, but I have been dragging the family to a lot of cemeteries and churches lately, and their patience stretches only so far. St James is another building of great importance to Toronto's history. Most of the great men of our past worshipped there, and the Cathedral wants you to know it. The tombstones of the great were removed from the cemetery when the cemetery was moved elsewhere, and the stones now decorate the entrance with a few extra in the narthex.

The church has the best of everything, from stained glass to bells to pulpits. Having a great love and attachment to music, I was particularly drawn to the organ, which is large and impressive, with a magnificently carved case. The organ provided the highlight for the trip for me. As we were there the organ played a few tentative notes, followed by a few more test notes, then a few moments of silence. Just as the quiet had settled down, the organist ripped out three unmistakable notes, and launched into Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, also known as that Hallowe'en song. It is my belief that a good organ, well played, can carry a kind of thunder in its music, a kind of rumble that feels not quite of this world, and can awaken within a fear of the final judgement, a terror for the fate of your soul. The organ and the organist were both up to the task, and listening to that music echo across the church was the highlight of my day, though not my youngest's. As the climactic last few notes were being poured on, she put her fingers in her ears. "It's! Too! Loud!" she shouted at me, thus answering my unspoken question, of whether or not she would like to come to an organ concert here.

I could easily describe the building as "beautiful," but the word "impressive" seems more appropriate here. Everything in that building was meant to impress, to drive home power and status, if not in the present, then at least from the past. The movers and shakers of Toronto's history worshipped here. The steeple was the tallest building in Toronto for years. The pews had doors which locked on them, with keys. They had to be rented when the Cathedral first opened, with the most expensive pews at the fronts the province of the wealthy. Throughout the building time and time again we saw windows or plaques naming some dedication, all of which began with the words "For the Glory of God..." but those words always seemed secondary to the name of person coming next, as in:

For the Glory of God and
In Memory of Mortimer Q. Snerd....

I was struck that the Glory of God is very much secondary in this place, and what the Anglicans have built is a building for the glory of men, the glory of a past now gone. A shame. It really is a most impressive building, but in the end, a building still. That which could have made it truly beautiful and eternal was lacking here. What a pity.

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