I absolutely love church buildings all the way from the beautiful protestant “meeting house” buildings we saw in colonial Boston through to the almost grotesque Roman Catholic cathedrals we also visited in the States. Some fill me with great joy (along with sadness at the thought of the heretical nonsense being preached in some of the US’s finest church buildings) and others repulse me with the overt Mariolatry but all of them fascinate and draw me in. Love it all.
York Minster is no different. Full of wonderful objects like the stunning windows, the awesome quire etc. I spent a merry hour educating my kids (well, at least merry for me) on the symbolism of crossed keys and kneeling lambs, the position of the King of Kings over and above the Kings of England at the entry to the quire, the reason why the pulpit is an octagonal shape etc. etc.
But there were also some, well, curiosities.
For example look at this, the “high altar” in the Quire.
Now take a look at that. In particular note the red curtain covering 3 sides of the “altar”.
Now read this from the Communion Service of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the standard for worship in the Church of England:
The Table at the Communion time having a fair white linen cloth upon it, shall stand in the body of the Church, or in the Chancel, where Morning and Evening Prayer are appointed to be said. And the Priest standing at the north side of the Table shall say the Lord’s Prayer with the Collect following, the people kneeling.
The north side of the table (note, a “table” is where you have a meal as opposed to an “altar” where you sacrifice something) is the short edge on the let hand side as you look at it. The priest starts there and stays there. The point, of course, is that the priest stands neither in front of the table so as to mediate between the sacraments and the people nor behind the table so as to mediate between God and the sacrament. He stands on the side since he is a partaker in the meal, not the one upon whom it hinges.
But in York Minster there is literally no place for him to do so.
Read that, then consider this from the 39 Articles, still the official standard of doctrine for the Church of England:
XXVIII. OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.
And all of this in one of our greatest cathedrals.
Here’s hoping Good Friday will be much better.