What can I say? A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. Shop till ya’ drop.
We’d dropped a bundle at Chicago’s Christkindlmarket the day before. Today was a new day, our last day in the Windy City, a girls’ weekend away sanctioned by my beloved and embraced enthusiastically by my sister, Lynda, who’d come up for the Thanksgiving holiday (and a little shopping, of course).
We’d cabbed it down to the Drake Hotel for breakfast (wish we could have stayed at the Drake, but that wasn’t in our budget; the Drake is very old money – we’re obviously not that old – offering very decedent and delicious food), then headed out on foot several blocks south along Michigan Avenue to cram in all the shopping and sightseeing we could manage before catching a train home.
In church speak, a century is synonymous with grand and Gothic. I should be so lucky when I turn 100. Fourth Church was indeed grand and Gothic; and an oasis of peace and tranquility in the midst of the chaos and commercialism that comes with most 21st-century cities during the holidays. Although the venerable lady did have a few surprises up her sleeve, too.
I never figured the Gothic gem for something so avant-garde. Then again, what would I know, average, middle-class, Midwest Momma, when it comes to avant-garde?
With the flying buttress to help carry the load the pointed arch went one step beyond the classic Romanesque architectural style, eliminating the need for the massive columns and heralding “the sky is the limit” view when it came to building churches. With the church at the heart of Europe’s population centers during the Middle Ages, even I can connect the dots. Build the biggest and tallest and bestest church (some took decades if not generations to build) and your little population center could boast the most power , claim the best bragging rights, offer the most prosperity, not to mention the most indulgences.
Chicago is a far cry from Europe, as is the 21st century from the Middle Ages. Nonetheless this was the Lord’s house, and no doubt about it the Goths were masters at glorifying God, as was Ralph Adams Cram, the architect of Fourth Church, at the time (the turn of the 20th century) America’s leading Gothic revival architect. Standing inside the towering nave I was gobsmacked with wonder, reveling in the beauty and magnitude of this exquisite space. The sounds of the busy world beyond had receded. This felt like Europe.
I sat down and welcomed the peace and tranquility of this holy place. The aesthetics of the geometry alone – all the symmetry, all the angles, all the arches – conveyed a sense of order to the moment, to my life, and to my Christian faith at the center of it all (remember, in my former life, I was a mathematics teacher; this felt like heaven on some many levels).
True to Gothic architectural form, beautiful stained glass windows throughout provided a profusion of light to literally bring the church and mankind out of the Dark Ages courtesy of the magnificent pointed arches and vaulted columns that rose to dizzying heights.
An invitation we couldn’t refuse.
Alas, not all was lost. Even I, the middle-aged Midwest Momma, having come full circle in Fourth Church’s Buchanan Chapel, came away with a deeper appreciation for the blessed journey we call life and the faith that sustains me.
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