The Rood screen of the Cathedral is the wrought iron screen which separates the congregation from the high altar and is so called because the Saxon word for Cross was “rood” and this screen usually held a cross of the crucified Jesus with Mary and John on either side. The screen was removed from many churches in the reformation but remains in Anglican churches. Ours at St. Johns has brass fittings so that the screen sparkles from a distance. Up close, the brass fittings are mostly of the fleur de lis ( a stylized cross) and the cross within a circle. This later symbol comes from celtic symbology and can be seen in the celtic crosses which have a round circle set on the top crossing of the cross. That symbolism comes from the ancient druid experience of the power of the sun as a source of light and life.
And yet when I see this brass celtic cross in our rood screen, as I sit in the church for worship or meditation, my mind sees a steering wheel. I know. Not very spiritual.
The encircled cross in the rood screen reminds me that I am small and that is the great gift of a cathedral. We enter a magnificent building and are a bit relieved and much inspired by its beauty and majesty. The roof soars, the columns stand against time, the glass sparkles and the blues and oranges conspire to create a feminine light which enfolds.
Having these little steering wheels dot the rood screen remind me of the toy car I had a child. That toy car had a wheel like this brass one and it was about the same size. In that car I could pretend to drive like my father did in our real car. But I was pretending to be a man when in fact I was a child with a toy car. And the small wheel (cross) in the rood screen reminds me that in the majesty and glitter of the cathedral and my role in its human fabric as a Canon Steward, I am not God. I am not the driver. I may preside. I may lead. I may even make a few new things happen but I am not God. The story of Adam and Eve is a story about the grief and sadness of realizing not only that we are not God; but that trying to be God is a temptation to dis-order with terrible ramifications of relational destruction. We see it daily in the news.
Life can be so confusing. There is grief and loss, regret and dismay, envy and betrayal. Feeling small and realizing that my driver’s wheel is imaginary is a huge relief. I may take exception to how God runs things, but the Psalms are there to help me work that out. A theologian friend of mine reminds me that God seems to be less interventionist than invitationalist. God invites us along and invites out of us what we can offer. Being along for the ride strikes at our pride. But for me, it is a relief not to be God. It is a relief to be right-sized. It is a relief to say the creeds, say my prayers (even the angry ones) and believe that God is steering the cosmos towards goodness by inviting one good, kind human choice at a time.