Kampungkayell

Food, life, and fun in my "kampung,"(village), KL (Kuala Lumpur). Did I mention "food?"

21 October 2007 Redux

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

The mid morning autumn light fluoresced and glowed through the stained glass windows in the nave. The Saints and Angels looked down at you with that odd, flat, Byzantine lack of perspective which make them no less saintly or angelic. A shaft of sunlight kisses the altar in a way that seems to say that the Lord’s arrival is imminent. In a fit of whimsy I almost fancy it’s his escalator and He is about to descend at any moment.

We are in the typical English Chapel of St John’s College and the pews rise in wooden carved splendour on either side of the wide checkerboard aisle that leads up to the nave. The pews themselves are works of art. Tall, straight backed, and ornately carved with leaves and vines, the small decking that we rest our hymnals on make a little roof that shades each churchgoer of the row below.

The Chapel Clerk, I can’t help but call him Mr Butterball, a round, caricature of a public school boy rushes over rather self importantly just as I’m just about to sneak a photograph. “No photography in here!” He hisses. I apologise rather shame facedly and concentrate on trying to memorise the details and resolve later that if I cannot reproduce it as a picture, I will do my best to paint a portrait here.

At 1030am sharp, Mr Butterball and the Chapel Choir walk down the aisle in a swish of robes and vestments with the President. I believe the word is derived from the meaning, the person who PRESIDES over the service.

The choir files into the first 2 pews on either side of the aisle nearest the altar and the choir master holds up his hand while the discipline and training of the singers take over. Every eye is trained on his upraised hand, with breath drawn, waiting, anticipating that moment when his hand will drop and the the first rush of air is let loose to draw across their respective vocal cords to sing the Introit.

Ethereal, surreal, honeyed, tones issue forth and are carried into the firmament. Each mote of light glitters and glistens with each rising and falling note. The voices swell and reverberate, enveloping each communicant. “Ave Verum Corpus Natum, De Maria Virgine…” And as the harmonies of the tenors and baritones reached out and interlocked with the boy trebles and altos, the hand of God reached out and touched each and everyone one of us there. Beside you, in you, around you, standing next to you, in heaven looking down at you, holding your hand, clasping you to his loving bosom. The tears well up unbidden from such a wellspring of joy that you are suddenly between one second and the next, sitting with God in the place where time stands still.

Throughout the entire service, called the Sung Eucharist, everything was chanted or sung. Even the Gospel. For those who aren’t Christians, the Gospel is usually read and is a passage taken from the New Testament. The Lesson of that Gospel was perserverance. From sweet, impossibly ethereal boy treble solos to the earthier and more powerful voices of the solo tenors and baritones God was worshipped, praised, exalted, in a manner that I believe, fell on very receptive ears. His presence was everywhere. But here, now, Allan and I experience God in a way that is as valid as any other. The astral beauty of that concatenation of sights and sounds allow that, in our hearts, the path to our Lord are as varied as each grain of sand on His good earth. In that intense stillness of that Sung Eucharist roared every possibility of His Love, His compassion, His splendour, and His Majesty. And His Joy was at times overwhelming.

All too soon, Allan and I had to rush off to rejoin the crowd on the cobbled stones of St John’s Street. As we try to walk out quietly, we feel the glow of everything more intensely. The day was beautiful when we walked into the chapel but now it’s just that touch brighter, more scintillating, and for this day at least, there are no doubts that all is well with the world.

5 Comments

Sounded truly amazing, I've been to Cambridge a few times but not as involved as you. If you are going to Paris, do contact me!

Er, after reading that post, you kinda make me miss Cambridge a lot and their blardy Siberian wind!
But like umami said, none of my visits even come close to how you describe it all.

Nigel, apart from your adept descriptions (which,as you well know by now, elicit some fantastic imageries in our minds), you have a wonderful memory sans camera ...

Not bad for an old(ish) fella!

I enjoyed your beautiful and spiritual description, so lovely. Glad you are having a wonderful time and sorry to miss you while you are here...:(

Pey, no worries. Our lives will be long and eventful and there'll be lots of opportunities to meet. We'll be breathing the same air though...sort of. You'll have lovely West Country pure air and I'll be enjoying the best of London Smog. ;-)

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