The splendor of worship
We attribute splendor to that which we worship and over the centuries have constructed fine cathedrals and beautiful statues to do it justice, and to evoke it in the hearts of the faithful. Around the world, millions have repaired to churches, mosques or temples where they huddle together at this very moment in the worship of that which would barely be imaginable to them save for the breath-taking beauty and evocative splendor of the architecture in these places of worship. Elsewhere, in the East as in the West, tourists flock to religious sites, past and present. They crawl like ants over the pyramids in Mexico; or stream dutifully along with open guidebooks on tours of the old cathedrals in Italy. In these places, apparently, it is felt that there is something to see. The tourist industry that has grown up around these religious sites attests to the fact that, at times, in these places one can be overcome with a feeling of splendor.
What is this splendor, though? And do we need to make a pilgrimage to a holy place to experience it? If we ask ourselves these questions honesty, we have to recognize that, whereas we are conditioned to imbue what we worship with splendor, in fact splendor is the central characteristic of that enlightenment which descends upon us unannounced at such times as we are wafted particularly close to a state of worship. It is not an attribute of something else that we worship but is what we worship and it is our worship. The two are not divided with us but one and the same thing. We worship, at the height of our practice, by becoming ourselves that which we worship – one with it, not apart from it. Our worship entails being the thing, not merely reverencing it. We don’t bow down on bended knee to it, as conventional people do to some statue in a church or some high fancily-robed church official. Rather we bend our whole lives into it – yielding every fabric of our being to its current – by becoming it.
This yielding has little to do with blind obedience to the rigid edicts of a church authority in place above us. It has everything to do with the way a man in love will melt so deliciously into the presence of his beloved. It has everything to do with submitting to that which has a greater hold over us.
This submitting is not something we have to make ourselves do. It happens spontaneously, naturally. It is not an act of ours – it is not something we can do – but rather is a property of that which we become when we lose ourselves in the splendor. We relinquish ourselves so deliciously to this greater wonder. We throw ourselves headlong into it.
It is perhaps akin to the way a great master abandons himself in the creation of a masterpiece by dissolving before it. The codified belief systems of some church have little to do with any of this. Religion ultimately is a creative function. It is the highest creative function. A woman gives birth to a baby. The religious mystic goes one step further by entering into union with the creative principle itself. Ultimately, anything we can say about it falls short of it – unless that is, we speak out from inside it; unless we become it. And then, at that moment, we lose the need to say anything. Because the splendor of our being is a higher language. Our actions express the unfathomable. There is no higher worship.
© William R. Stimson