Monday, September 27, 2010
Montserrat and Deus Absconditus
It was not that we were all overcome by a need to be holy - of that more in a minute - but that the famous boys' choir sings at 1pm daily. And sure enough, after a few prayers in several languages, there they were. Beautiful voices, yes - though nothing that those of us familiar with the English Cathedral tradition wouldn't recognise. The direction, however, left much to be desired, with a slack beat and flaccid rhythm, and the arrangement of the traditional song they performed was wooden and uninspired.
This pause in the church, however, left space for reflection. The original monks who had struggled up here to found their community were presumably seeking God in the solitude and the silence of the peaks, and in the photo I've chosen you can perhaps get some sense of that - I've managed to lose most of the crowds. But nowadays hordes of tourists flock there, as we did, lighting candles, taking photos (with varying degrees of aggression), shuffling, eating and shopping - and I had the distinct impression of a Deus absconditus, a God who wasn't there any more.
It's at moments like these that I think of our own empty mountains, or of the wind howling through the peaks when the tourists have gone, and experience a strong fellow-feeling with those who say they don't need church to find the presence of God. We humans, we have a terrible tendency - do we not? - to crowd God out, to replace the divine with the digital and the spiritual with the sensual.