Aposteln is one of the 12 Romanesque churches in the old city of Cologne that suffered from the bombings. I always like to look at the photos to appreciate the marvel of what had been undertaken to preserve these churches which are a vital part of our catholic patrimony.
When I look at the photos I think most people would say “bulldoze it down” but I thank the Lord for those talented architects and everyone who made a commitment to preserve our heritage so that the worship of God may continue for years to come.
I am awestruck by the decades of research and patience that went into reconstruction to preserve the original form and salvage as much as possible in the process and then to place the art in such a way that it feeds the spirit.
When I left the Aposteln church, I keep thinking about the canopy above the altar. With the art salvaged from the devastation of the bombing and set so beautifully in an austere setting, this canopy seemed jolting to me. I did not find myself attracted to it however it continued to be fixed in my mind’s imagination.
Later in the evening I attended a concert with a brass ensemble and organ. The church is a wonderful setting for such a concert of works by Purcell, Gabrieli, and Couperin. Since it was New Year’s Eve I was hoping that I would hear the Te Deum, that superb hymn of thanksgiving from the Catholic tradition. I was overjoyed when I saw that Jean Langlais Hymne d’Action de Grace, “Te Deum” would be performed. The image was right in front of me. The music was so powerful that all of a sudden the image appeared to be a powerful living presence. I continued to ponder that image of the Holy Spirit. I have seen so many churches in Cologne that were devastated by the bombings and in those bombings so much human life and priceless artistic treasures perished.
Yet the image above the altar that seemed so alien to me at first captured my imagination and spoke to me: From the rubble, ancient churches arise anew. What an incredible message of hope. Evil cannot diminish the power of God to bring about something new and unexpected snd beautiful. That is a gift for which my soul can sing: Te Deum, We praise you O God!
Saint Agnes is a Neo-Gothic church in Cologne. This is the Saint Agnes website.
O Magnum Mysterium
During the 12 days of Christmas, we commemorate the great mystery, the Magnum Mysterium. The O Magnum Mysterium is a sublime chant that through the centuries many composers have set to music because indeed it speaks about the the mystery of the Incarnation. The unity of the seasons is spoken of so beautifully in this sublime text.
|O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
|O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.