In recognition of an event that has not happened in more than half a millennium, the Bishop of Rome abdicating, here is a piece of music composed by Bach and played on a cathedral organ.
I am not a religious person in any traditional sense. However, I do recognize history. As much harm has been done in the name of God, so too has much benefit come.
Cathedral organs were, for centuries, the pinnacle of human technological achievement. The complexity, scale, craftsmanship, art and engineering was a major milestone. Cathedrals themselves are astonishing achievements.
While browsing through YouTube for a good video example, I ran across several submissions where the person taking the video within the cathedral could not help but continue panning around the vista continuously. Even today these structures manage to fill us with a sense of awe, whether we believe in any god or not.
The West has Christianity because of the Catholic Church. They brought education. And even today the Catholic Church strongly advocates academic achievement, even in deference to science, particularly amongst the Jesuit order.
I have never been Catholic. But if you are aware of our history in the West, you realize the significance – the impact the Catholic Church has had upon our most fundamental thought processes. It is our legacy, in many ways.
It was the first multinational organization, at a time, much like today, when all people were ruled by a very few individuals who held nearly all the resources and power. The Catholic Church brought a common sense of ethics and morality, and a respect for written law, that all Western nations, despite language differences, share in common. They became a force that dictators and rulers had to heed. And this helped bind Europe with a common identity that eventually transcended the notion of earthly rulers.
And that’s the key here. Transcendence. Moving beyond where we find ourselves. And this can be sad, painful and exhilarating. We look for a rebirth into something new. As individuals, and as nations. A rebirth into something kinder. Something better. Something wiser.
The Pontiff has abdicated his position, calling for someone who will be, perhaps, more open. But perhaps not caught up so much as us in all the fast-paced, momentary and superficial trappings we lap up. Perhaps while even being more open, he will still remind us of the importance – to look within ourselves.
God knows we need some good and big changes for the better. Or perhaps there is no being to know this. Perhaps we have to do this on our own. The harder route. The route where we must take responsibility for all that we say and do. And all that we do not say – and all that we do not do.
It is worth a prayer to something larger than ourselves. If only to our better selves that we aspire. May we all make wise choices in the time to come. And may we find peace and comfort in that.