In Ampleforth Abbey.

Silence becomes something tangible,
something active,
something real.
The smallest sound cries out in pain
ricocheting off the walls,
demanding attention.

This is a vaulted store of mystery,
a repository of unspoken needs and requests
sent out into the empty air
by those who have come and gone.

Light falls softly on pale stone
shattering coloured glass into action.
The thin sound of a tiny bell
shivers in the air.

The long lines of hard pews
hold the memories of those who sat there,
believing or wondering.
The bored, shuffling, anxious faithful.

Unlit candles,
Empty lecterns
Silent choir stalls,
the veiled dome on the altar,
have time to spare.
They can wait.
Steadily the space breathes out,
heavy with longing.

I breathe in the smell of dust,
burning wax,
heavy fabrics,
old books.
The scent of history.

Solemn faces from the past
people the emptiness.
Questioning, watching, enduring.
I have no answers for them.

Suddenly the organ explodes into swirling cadences.
The walls vibrate, savouring the sound.
The empty space lifts up its head,
remembering,
and the unseen multitude around me
stand to sing.

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The Looking Glass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun is painting with light on pale cold stone,
Using the colours and the designs of the artist craftsman
Who first saw the light spilling out through his work
To make a new window which had its birth
In a far away ball of fire.

Faces stare out silently from the past
So much colour, so much movement, so much hope.
Voices from a world of faith, fear and certainty.
So very human. So very other.
So very distant, yet close at hand.

They speak across the centuries
With the immediacy and force of a present moment.
Made by human hands who feel fear and awe.
Faces in a kaleidoscopic looking glass
Which show us both ourself and a stranger.

While they have waited the world has slipped away from them.
Leaving them only their dignity.
I look into their eyes and wonder,
And find a connection between two minds
Who share everything and nothing.

 

The photographs are my own. They are details of some of the windows in the abbey church of  St Lawrence at Ampleforth, designed by Patrick Reyntiens.