Hope in a Bleak Place | Oliver O'Brien
On Good Friday I attended the Celebration of the Passion of our Lord in the Dominican Priory of St Michael the Archangel, Cambridge. A rather odd priory that stands outside of the grandeur of what most know Cambridge to be in a 20th Century concrete building, the chapel itself sits on the second floor in a cramped room flanked by square concrete columns. It would be fair to say that the building stands in contrast to the traditionally minded liturgy and reverence of the Cambridge Dominicans and perfectly symbolises the Catholic Church in the 20th Century. I would also say it symbolises our continent today. Especially our youth.
This Priory, much like Europes youth, looks empty and seems to be void of any hope. This concrete priory replacing what would once of been built over a generation with painstaking detail and care is similar to our cultures current attitude of short termism with no sense of legacy. The decay, the blandness and the desperation of the Priory Chapel is similar to what the European youth now seems to be engulfed by.
The youth find ourselves confused and looking for answers. We seem more lost than ever before despite us apparently being more 'free' and it is in this search for a way out of this predicament that many of our generation find ourselves drawn into cliques and niches of ideological politics. Some of us even find ourselves changing the very fabric that makes us human. The young today so desperate for something to hope in and fight for have created a new religion of 'woke', which recognises the truth as false and falseness as truth. Our generation has piled onto the streets, vandalised our monuments, destroyed peoples livelihoods and have created a new climate of fear of even speaking of any heresy against the new religion. All this has been egged on by a few ageing and previously obsolete politicians and academics.
We have tried to position ourselves as the revolutionary generation, with a revolutionary cry for 'progress'. Yet even after all this our generation feels just as lost. It has become clear that this revolutionary cry is just a cry for help.
The answer to that cry is hidden in the bleakness of that chapel. For it is in this rather drab and architecturally despondent Priory that I found myself stood in a stairwell unable to enter the bounds of the chapel as it was just too busy. It is in this supposedly uninspiring place that I found myself utterly immersed in John's Gospel and sharing with those around me the sorrow, remorse and gratitude that the passion invokes inside all of us. In (well in my case outside) that Chapel we all gathered to hear the story of how Christ was crucified for us, by us. We transported ourselves back two milenia ago and sung centuries old chants in an ancient language. After all this we received God's gift to his Church; the most Blessed Sacrament. We did this all in that drab concrete Priory. It is in this place, just like our beloved civilisation, that we see something wonderful.
We see hope.
We see hope in the Dominicans that are resident, an order who are orthodox, reverent and fully committed to sharing the Gospel and the truth of the Church; just as we see hope in those young people who still believe with all their heart the truths of this world. We see hope in the people who attend that priory, so desperate to just attempt to share in Christs suffering that they spill out into the stairwell and kneel on a cold hard concrete floor, just as we will see hope in the hundreds of thousands of young people cramming the streets of Lisbon in a few short months. We see hope in the young children who even had a young age have begun to understand the significance of Christs sacrifice, just as we see hope in new youth grassroots movements like CYOE. But most of all, we of course, see hope in Christ.
The Easter period allows us to reflect on the most important moment in human history, it allows us to partake in the suffering of Christ and reminds us of our ultimate responsibilities. It illustrates that even in bleakness, sorrow, persecution and death there is always hope. The hope in that Priory chapel today is in Christ just as the hope of the future of our culture, of our continent and ultimately our civilisation is in Christ.
Christus surréxit! - Surréxit vere, allelúja.
All writings reflect the views of the author and not necessarily the views of CYOE.
The Dominican Priory, Cambridge. Credit: Joseph Shaw. http://www.lmschairman.org/2019/07/the-dominican-rite-in-cambridge.html
Licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Blackfriars, Cambridge. Credit: Fr James Bradley.
Licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)