La Bonne Aventure || Part One

I’ve spent the last ten days tramping through Oxford, London, Paris, and Hamburg with my dear sister, Nat. We’ve had quite a few adventures, from desperate train journeys to retrieve absolutely necessary travel documents, to running out of money to pay our hotel bill in Paris. I’m a little surprised we’ve made it back to Durham in one piece.  

During my travels, I’d hoped to discover God in a new way. Sometimes I struggle to connect with the massiveness of divinity. In the midst of routine it’s difficult not to get stuck in the duty of religion. So whether it be in the art of Paris, a cathedral in Durham, or the German countryside—my heart sought beauty like a secret. I would discover it, and I would be awed to tears. 

I cried the first time I saw the Seine. Nat and I had been wandering the avenues of Paris, weaving our way through a myriad of buildings and busy streets. We turned a corner and voila! there she was flowing sweetly past the Louvre, like she’d been doing it for a millions years. A sharp intake of breath and my eyes got blurry. The fleeting sunset accentuated the ancient buildings with a painting of pinks, an original never to be seen again. I could have stood there forever. In that moment I knew there must be a God, and he must be beautiful. I felt very small in comparison.

I knew there must be a God, and he must be beautiful

The next day we went to Notre Dame. One thing I’ve discovered about cathedrals is that they’re a bit ridiculous in presentation. Not in a bad way, it’s just there’s so much sacred that it’s almost frightening. You walk in and feel like you have to appreciate every detail—the high archways, the intricate stain glass, the archaic paintings of saints, it’s a lot too take in. It’s holy, overwhelmingly so. 

I was pondering this while walking around the cathedral when Natalie pointed out a wooden panel that had several important biblical scenes carved into the wood. We tried to identify each one, and when we got to the middle section, we found a depiction of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. For some reason, I couldn’t stop looking at it. 

I am very aware of my inadequacies, especially in contrast to the beauty and holiness encountered over the past few days. I couldn’t shake that feeling of smallness, of weakness, of an inability to love the way I wanted to. Even in simple interactions—I wanted to be kind to Natalie, but when frustrated my remarks were short and harsh. I thought perhaps I just needed to try harder. Excuses are such sweet temptation.

If we allow this grace to sink into our core, I think it can be revolutionary

The wooden block of Jesus brought me back to reality. If God is Notre Dame, he is holy, beautiful, too sacred to touch, too above to be known. God of Notre Dame exposes my weakness. I cannot be like him, be near him, no matter how hard I try. But if God is Jesus, he is humble, accessible, loving. He takes my weakness upon himself, he washes my feet. I think that’s why I was so moved. God is both. Big and beautiful as the magnificent towers of the cathedral, as intricate as the stain glass, and as powerful as the beams and archways. And yet, he is humble, on his knees, washing the dirt off my feet so I can experience and partake in this overwhelming holiness. 

It’s deeply mysterious is it not? But if we grasp it, if we allow this grace to sink into our core, I think it can be revolutionary. That, my friends, is a good adventure. 

 

5 thoughts on “La Bonne Aventure || Part One

  1. Rachel Dennis

    I had a similar reaction when I walked into the Sagrada Familia for the first time — my breath caught for a minute and my arms erupted in goosebumps. More than any other cathedral I visited in Europe, that particular feat of architecture seemed to me an act of worship in and of itself. When you walk in, you can’t help but be stricken with awe by the God who inspired such grandeur. Love love loved it.

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  2. Ruth

    hey Abbey! This is beautiful! Thank you for writing. For some reason I grew up thinking that big churches like cathedrals in Europe or St. Mary’s in downtown Greenville were wasteful, ridiculous structures that kept people from an experience of grace – I’m so thankful that someone introduced me to the idea of church architecture as worship and theology a few years ago because as you perfectly illustrate here, there’s so much of God that we can only experience through beauty and through the senses! I loved this post and am so envious of your awesome trip. 🙂

    -Ruth (Hannah’s friend from Frazee 🙂

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    1. Abby Moore

      Ruth, so glad to hear your thoughts. I used to think they were wasteful too, but now I feel the beauty is under appreciated. Would you be up for dinner or coffee sometime soon? I would love to hear more of your thoughts about this as well as on catholicism. I’ve encountered so much of it on my trip and would like to pick your brain a little. Hope all is well and thanks for commenting!

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