In a couple of week’s time, Manchester will host the first ever National Cathedrals’ Conference, where we’ll celebrate what cathedrals mean to the nation.
Visitors to Rochester Cathedral can admire the Textus Roffensis, an old book made of vellum. It’s the earliest surviving Anglo-Saxon code of law, and pre-dates by a century the copies of the Magna Carta that belong to the Lincoln, Salisbury, Hereford and Durham Cathedrals. The book’s taken quite a beating over the years. At one point it was thrown into the river for several hours, yet here it still is, neat pages of writing setting out the rules for the handling of property, slaves, murder and disputes. Every cathedral has treasures like these. They act as custodians for the events and the artefacts that are the history of England.
As well as preserving our physical heritage, England’s cathedrals do something infinitely precious. They guard for us the Anglican choral tradition, epitomised through evensong. The ephemeral sound of a cathedral choir can often do more than either stones or words can, to lift our hearts to God, and at no time is this more keenly felt that at Christmas, when cathedral carol services are standing room only. Many of our finest classical singers owe their musical formation to a cathedral choir, and the music that’s been written for England’s cathedrals is justifiably world-famous. In the same vein, the splendour of the arts and crafts inside our cathedrals would outshine the collections of many museums and galleries.
Heavenly Father, thank you for all those who have safeguarded our heritage for us down the years. Grant us the humility to learn from the past; and take better care in the present; so that we might have a strong future.