An article begins, "At the Bayeux War Cemetery in Normandy there is a Second World War inscription that puts history in perspective: “Nos a Gulielmo victi victoris patriam liberavimus,” (We who were once conquered by William have now liberated the land of the Conqueror.) British soldiers with a classical education knew a paradox when they encountered it.
The William mentioned in this
inscription was the Duke of Normandy who became William I of England in
1066. This was the last conquest of England; the Normans are considered
the progenitors of the dynasty now represented by Queen Elizabeth II. In
the century before 1066 the Normans had been marauding Vikings
(“Norsemen”) with an eye for anything lootable. They settled in
northwestern France, giving their name to the land that featured so
prominently in recent commemorations of the D-Day Normandy invasion."
It suggests that far from the legacy of some rather stark castles, the Normans built some 7,000 churches and these were marked with a graceful line and attention to the Roman arch (perhaps they could be called Romanesque). Here is an interesting slide show of some of those buildings, elegant in their simplicity and serene in their identity as churches.
In the century following 1066, the Normans were an industrialized machine of builders and 15 of England's cathedrals were begun in this period (13 still standing though with alterations that may mask their Norman beginnings). Stone was the medium of choice not only for structure but for decoration and the short slide show attests to the elaborate stonework that not only functions to support the building but as its adornment.
There are those who love to comment on this blog who like to argue about simple worship, simple buildings, and simple music. I put these up to show that simplicity is not barren nor dull but profound. This, in contrast to our modern penchant of warehouse churches replete with all the creature comforts people expect but empty of any adornment, is the point. The Normans found a way to make the structure the art. They would not find the bare steel buildings with exposed HVAC runs and structural supports consistent with their own goal to make the essential also the artistic.
We, however, live at a time when our people have been dulled by raw steel and glass until the only place to seek art and adornment is on screens that project an image that is real but not where it is shown. Music has likewise become the domain of technology with CD and playlists replacing live musicians. In the end, it cannot take long before many will wonder why bother with the assembly at all when the image of the whole experience can be livestreamed or podcasted into their bedrooms where they watch in sleep pants while feasting on breakfast delivered from McDonalds.
Sadly, Lutherans have hidden too much of their theology under one word (adiaphora). They do not see how this is a problem or why we should should not follow the example of the non-denominational leaders whose approach to church is much like retail with the overarching emphasis on satisfying personal preference rather than the mystery of God and the assembly where the stewards of that mystery deliver the gifts of God through the means of grace. Because it can be done, they do it and fail to differentiate between what is good and the minimum that might be done. In this regard it will not be long before we take communion with a pill and worship God in the solitary confinement of our homes, through technological devices that render to us a virtual church in place of a real and dynamic assembly in which the Lord speaks, acts, washes, feeds, and equips a people to be His own and to live under Him in holiness and righteousness.
Okay. . . . rant off. So you who love to comment can ignore what I have said in order to defend your Lutheran lite (if not on theology, on liturgical identity!).