Cathedral, by Auguste Rodin

I absolutely adore this sculpture.  I found this photograph on a beautiful blog called A Year With Rilke.  Every day the blog shares a passage from Rilke, paired with a piece of art.  Rilke’s words alone are bone-chillingly gorgeous, and the juxtapositions with the pieces of art make them even more powerful.

This particular sculpture has been in my head ever since I saw it last week.  There’s something stunning about the angle of the hands, something animate in between them.  The title invokes the holiness manifest in human hands and in the space between.

The most mundane of things, our very own life-scarred hands, are equally as transcendent as the most ornate and soaring cathedral.  There is as much power and as much wonder in the simple human hand as in a grandiose cathedral.  And just as the empty space in a cathedral can be charged with meaning, with import, with grace itself, so can the spaces of our ordinary lives.

Several people have noted that kaleidoscopes are an image I return to, again and again.  It occurs to me as I write this post that cathedrals are, likewise, an important trope for me.  I spent my childhood visiting cathedral upon cathedral with my father, Hilary and I rolling our eyes at ADC (another damn cathedral) as we entered.  Yesterday I re-read Raymond Carver’s ever-powerful short story, Cathedral.  And I have an unpublished blog post from last summer about the light and shadow in the Harvard stadium as I ran up and down it, referring to a personal cathedral.  Cathedrals.  Alternately inspiring and intimidating to me, cathedrals are places where faith, and the willingness to leap into it, is palpable.

This week has felt like an awful lot of hard practice, and less like poetry.  But looking at this image, thinking about the cathedrals, literal and figurative, that I’ve known in my life, I feel chagrined, and ready to recommit to wonder.

May I enter the cathedral of every day with a heart open to awe.

15 thoughts on “Cathedral”

  1. Hi, Lindsey. Ruth and I are so pleased to know you are enjoying the A Year With Rilke blog and appreciate the “shout out” here. The enthusiasm with which you and other readers have embraced the daily project is really inspiring and energizing. The specific post (January 27th — The Solitude We Are)that featured this moving sculpture of Rodin’s was a good example of the lively and stimulating discussion the blog is conjuring up. It is nice to hear it reverbating here in your beautiful reflections.

  2. Beautiful, and so very true. Reminds me of this, by Rilke…

    “I must admit that what I have most wanted in this life has been to discover within myself a temple to earth, and to dwell therein.”

    Thank you..

  3. Wow Lindsey. You really have a way with words. Love this post! And thank you for introducing me to another blog.

  4. Oh Lindsey, how lovely, thank you. I was not aware of Rodin’s range and power until I read Letters to a Young Poet and then visited the Rodin Museum and Sculpture Garden in Paris. I was unaware of the Rilke blog too, thanks for pointing it out. And I’m glad you mentioned Cathedral, it is a powerful story about the blind man and the others drawing the cathedral together, would like to reread along with several others by Carver. You tell a moving story with a few words. May the next days be less trying and full of wonder and joy.

  5. I so relate to your description of your week, and the weird thing is I awoke a few times from sleep last night, not quite remembering my dreams, but feeling like my soul was being healed and given fresh strength through them. I awoke ready to recommit to wonder in a new way. Love the synchronicity (and just plain beauty) in what you’ve written here.

  6. So beautiful, Lindsey. Hardly a cathedral that is achingly empty, devoid of life, heart, and hope. You speak of (and live) one full of all these and more.

    Space in which to worship.

  7. I’ve always found cathedrals to be beautiful yet confusing, largely due to the fact that I was never sure how I fit into the hierarchical world of organized religions. But the symbolic power of cathedrals is inspiring, and I love the idea that our hands and our daily lives can be transcendent, powerful, and healing, just like a sacred religious space. Beautiful image, beautiful post!

  8. I saw this sculpture for the first time on a card, just a couple of weeks ago, and had to buy it — the sacred space between those two hands affected me the same way. And each day this week, as I’ve walked in the snowy woods, I’ve had the sense of entering a place of worship. Spirit is at our fingertips. Thank you for reminding us with your lovely words.

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