Friday, 17 July 2009

Candles, cathedrals and dreams

It must be a mark of how shattered I am that if I'm home before 6, like as not, I'll tumble into bed for a 45-60 min nap. And that in that short period, I dream. Vividly. And I'll still sleep like a baby at night. Well, maybe not my friends' babies, but...

This evening was no exception. I arrived home at 5.55 pm, went upstairs and fell into bed, falling asleep almost immediately. And suddenly, I was in a huge cathedral.

It reminded me very much of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Confection Conception in Washington, but without the angry Zeus Jesus on the ceiling and the pastiche of styles that make it truly ugly. High, white ceilings, HUGE, open, basilica - and it was a sunny day. I was standing at the back whilst a number of my clerical friends milled about and mixed further into the cathedral, grinning with pleasure watching them, but remaining behind the last row of pews, near a large pillar candle.

Suddenly, they decided to play around and have a mock procession through the cathedral, with Robert OP leading. It was a huge procession, and with the exception of my friends, the figures were shadowy. I thought, 'that looks like fun', and suddenly Krzysztof, hands shaking, came out of the procession and wordlessly handed me what looked like a menorah, but far more rectangular/angular than the ones that I'm used to (and fond of: I tend to prefer the classically round shape or some of the more antique looking ones).

It looked a lot like this, but gold, and I think there was only ONE branch downwards to the base:

For those of you who know the Oratory, it looked a lot like one of the rows at the candelabrum of Our Lady of Oxford.

There was only one white candle lit, and as I started to move to join the procession it blew out because of a strong wind from behind me that I had just noticed.

"Damn," I thought, "I'll light it again from the pillar and shield it, then I'll be able to keep it lit and get it out of the wind." No chance. That time or the several that followed it.

Finally, Robert and Nick came out of the procession to find out what was going on and why I hadn't joined them. As the others gathered, I explained and they tried, Nick reaching over to straighten the candle in its holder, whilst Robert took over trying to light it. But the wind at my back grew ever more insistent, and suddenly I looked down at the menorah/candelabrum and there were four white candles tumbled onto the base, slightly melted with the black residue that was the result of repeated attempted lighting.

At this point we paused briefly, as Robert talked out what might work and Nick stood back, brow furrowed, chin on hand, looking at me and the candelabra thoughtfully, trying to work out what was going on. And then it struck me. Not a breeze ruffled their hair or their cassock/habit. The pillar candle burned cheerfully, unwavering. The back doors weren't open.

I was the only one affected by the zephyr at my back that I now realised felt sentient.

I tuned back into Robert, who was saying, "We could do what we do with the Easter vigil candles and put plastic cups over them - you know, with the holes cut out of the bottom."

The words tumbled out of my mouth: "No, Robert, you can't. It'll keep them lit, but it'll shelter them too much - they're not meant to be sheltered, closed in like that."

I sensed the agreement as the wind blew harder at my back whispering, "No, no, no."

I woke, my eyes falling on the clock - 6.55.

My first thought was, "You can never light a menorah in a cathedral. It doesn't belong there."

Over to you - all thoughts welcome.

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