I had a call from Tammie Sutherland of City TV last week hot on the trail of unearthing the story behind the strange cave discovered at York University. She called me in search of 'religious expertise' on the cave that had been discovered at York University. Until police revealed they had the two diggers who had built the underground 'man cave' as nothing but just that, the city was in a bit of a frenzy about terrorists perhaps planning to attack the venue for the upcoming Pan-Am games which was only yards away.
But the theory the day Tammie phoned, demanded a Christian interpretation. It was revealed by police that a rosary had hung in the cave and was adorned with a poppy. Rosaries are used by Roman Catholics and others in the discipline of prayer and meditation. As one moves through the beads they are to recite and repeat the Hail Mary, the Lord's Prayer, the Gloria and the Apostles' Creed. No longer was Tammie looking for a possible terrorist plot, but perhaps an underground monastic community.
I didn't think a rosary was enough to draw any conclusions about the cave. Perhaps the rosary had been uncovered while digging and simply hung on a nearby nail. As for the poppy, poppies fall off so easily it is hard not to imagine at least one blowing into such a cave.
When I seemed unimpressed Tammie played the card the media had not yet reported, "The cave is in the shape of a cross." She picked up on my silence. "So there is something to it, isn't there?" she responded. "Maybe," I said, "After all, Yorkminster Park is in the shape of a cross as are many Gothic churches." She said she would soon be in the neighbourhood of the church and wanted to drop in and talk about it. As if it were some sort of trivia show, I asked if I could call a friend.
Half an hour later, Tammie was speaking to me and my friend, Corey Keeble, Curator Emeritus of the ROM, in the Yorkminster Park sanctuary. She said, "You were right. Yorkminster Park is in the shape of a cross. I Google earthed the building and look at this." With that she showed us an image of the church. "But what about the cave?" we asked. "Do you have an image of it?" She did and had already placed it side by side with the image of Yorkminster Park. Corey Keeble was the first to point out that the image of the cave she showed us was a perfect Latin cross. From above it looked like a miniature Yorkminster Park.
"Why do they build churches in the shape of a cross?" Tammie asked. Corey introduced her in his delightful way to the cruciform design and together we spoke about the 'nave' or ship of the church being like the ark as the place of refuge from the storms of the world and that ultimately the cross of Christ is our refuge that saves us. Churches are built in the shape of a cross because the cross of Christ is meant to shape our life together as followers of Jesus. It calls on us to sacrifice and forgive and love unconditionally.
So," came her question, "Does the cave have religious significance." We were certainly not in a position to comment on that question except to shrug our shoulders and say, "Who knows?" Maybe the builders hadn't finished and had it been complete it would have looked nothing like a cross. Maybe the cross shape and the rosary beads were intended as a distraction. Maybe it was nothing but a coincidence. To know the significance of the design one would need to know the builder of the cave. That of course is a religious observation, but not about the cave so much as about life. To know the purpose of life it is wise to consult the Creator and listen to the wisdom of his Word.
Somewhere in the midst of the conversation Corey and
I also asked Tammie, "Which direction was the cross facing?" The answer was north. "Does that make a difference?" Tammie
asked. Traditionally cruciform churches,
synagogues and mosques are built to face east representing Mecca or Jerusalem
depending on the faith. Christians often
face east in both worship and burial because it is in the east the sun rises
and since our new life is to be found in the Risen Son we journey in life and
death towards the Risen Son in the hope and promise of a new day. East is the direction of the pilgrim. The northerly direction of the man cave was one less reason to conclude it was related in any way to Christian worship.
If anyone got a new day it was the two whom the police discovered had built the cave. They were able to come up into the light of day free from any trouble as the police chose to lay no charges and let them off without anyone learning even their names. The cross gives us all that kind of a new day through the free gift of Christ's forgiveness and grace. As Charles Wesley put it:
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
So was the cave religious? Probably not, but life certainly seems to be in so many ways.
Grace and peace,