The chill of a Canterbury Evening is a chill like no other. It really blows my mind, but this is the same chill Thomas Becket must have felt in December 1170, before he met with some knights with a different sense of reverence than he had.
"I'm late for Evensong," I mutter, mad at myself that I can't find the entrance. Didn't the people in the twelfth century have any idea of signage. A simple "Ye Are Getting Hotter," would have been sufficient: but no, I'm left to wander among the cloisters on a moonlit Canterbury evening sans guidance.
I finally find my way into the Cathedral. Once there, I'm pleasantly greeted and directed by an usher to the place where evensong will be conducted.
Inside, I take my seat along with all the other participants. We sit simply and contentedly, listening to the bells ring. I don't know how old the bells are, but with each gong, I feel as if their triumphant heraldings have echoed through the hollows of time.
The bells fall silent; conversations die away among the whispers of the cathedral, and the boy's choir enters.
In the states, I've heard the Philadelphia's boy choir, and they are very good. But the ancient tradition that these boys take part in adds a deeply meditative quality to their high pitched strains. I wonder if these boys appreciate the sacred ritual they're allowed to participate in.
All eyes focus on the choir as they begin to sing. With Psalm book in hand, I think back to the young Israeli King who originally penned these words. I wonder if his spirit is with us now, approving of how his words have survived the ages, to once again be sung by those expressing their love to God.
It was Thanksgiving back in the U.S, so the strange irony that came when the minister approached the pulpit and read from Revelation 16, where 100 pound hailstones fall on people, did not pass me by. I could imagine the joyful hymns and Psalms of praise back home contrasting with this bleak prophecy, and suppressed a sick snicker.
The service broke.
The seats were vacated.
The boys choir made their way to the vestry once again; another days work done.
But I stay behind to ponder a little. I think about all the Kings, Queens and other various rulers who have graced this marvelous hall.
How many souls of historical import have mingled within these beautiful stones.
How lucky I am to be adding my footprints to such a distinguished list of shadows.
Once outside, the wind grows bitterer still, and my coat proves too thin for the brisk, English air. But as I walk away, I witness the moon rise over that mammoth structure.
And the memories of young voices mingling with ancient stone is enough to get me home warm enough.