Listening to the Stones

Melrose Abbey

When I look at the picture of the church ruins, many things wander through my thoughts. One of them is prayer. It was built to be a place of prayer. It still is. Yet it was abandoned. There are historical records that tell the story. 

Look again at that building. Can you imagine the material splendor? The stained glass windows? Even now, the architecture is magnificent. Note how the arches point upward. On our right as we look at it, there are narrow towers rising toward Heaven. On many of them the remains of carvings and sculptures still proclaim the Christian story. There are gargoyles still attached just below the roof, not many are left, but there are some. I cannot help but think about Ken Follet’s novel, The Pillars of the Earth. That is the fictional story of the building of a church like this. It reveals how much human effort was required. Someone, some many, had to truly believe in something to put forth the effort to build a structure like this. And around 400 years after it was built the last monk passed away, leaving the sturcture first to Nature, then to Oliver Cromwell’s cannons and finally, to preservation by Historic Environment Scotland .

Authority always seems to have problems obeying God. Some of us remember Jonestown, Guyana and the shock at the mass suicide. Some remember Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. The Roman Catholic church has also had some difficulty with straying priests. Over 500 years ago corruption ravaged the priesthood. Hus, Wycliffe and then Luther spoke out. In England, Henry VIII took political advantage of the Reformation in an attempt to make his reign a true absolute monarchy. 200 years later the French engaged in another sort of revolution. Again, because of the abuse of power. Revolution can be very ugly. People die. Marvelous works of men are destroyed or left to decay. 

It’s not so very different these days. We have our factions spouting Opinion as if it were Fact. Christian factions claim their opinion on topics like baptism are facts. They can back up their opinion, they claim. And Pagans, if they bother to listen, see the arguments for what they really are. And they stay away from Christian Churches. The same with political factions. To outsiders, the “liberal” versus “conservative” public debate is quite insane. If we wander around the globe, we find heated arguments between Hindu and Muslim factions. And, if you can’t find anything else to fight about, there’s always ‘Climate Change’ or some other environmental concern. And all of it is really about the attempt to gain power.

These Stone Ruins are a monument to the winner of a power struggle. Henry VIII won. The Pope lost. So Britain became “Anglican” and the king became the head of the Church in Britain. But it did not end there.

Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox and many others have tried to shape these stones to fit their agendas. But the stones endure. These stones are a warning. They have much to share with us. Will we listen?

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