Pay to Trespass, According to the Law
My bus, with tire chains for obvious reasons, took me away from my last day of teaching at Tromsdalen VgS. The ride took me past Ishavskatedral, you may know it as “The Arctic Cathedral,” one more time. The #42 bus paused to add three passengers, waiting faithfully, from the church’s stop, and then rumbled across the bridge to the city.
Since it was Ash Wednesday I wanted to at least try to go in a church even if there was not time for a service. The walk from the bus stop to my hotel would take me past the historic Domed Church (Domkirke) in the center of town. For five days I got to see both churches. On Saturday I paid to visit Ishavskatedral. Today I wanted some pious and free moments in the Domed Church. But it was not meant to be.
Taped to the front door was a handmade sign bearing the international symbol for “Stop” and Norwegian words that said stay away, there was an active recording session. That was the first time I have ever been turned away from a church. The temple doors were shut and I couldn’t get in: I accepted that would be my meditation for the day.
As the laws of men struggled with the laws of nature, a common marker laid by men to mark the victory was a church. An outpost like Tromsø was not much different from the far settlements of the Spanish Empire.
Obedience to God’s third law required permanence. A dwelling fit for the Lord, perhaps in defiance to the laws of nature, and according to the abilities of men and their laws to levy taxes towards that end. Maybe the harder to build the church the more glorious an expression?
Most tourists see two of Tromsø’s extant houses for God, Domkirke and Ishavskatedral. They are special but for different reasons. The former reflects and the latter suggests. They guide the contemplative in equal yet opposite intellectual rays.
Ishavskatedral still points to the future despite nearing its fifth decade. The sharp and stark white aluminum skin conjures words like sexy and fantastic. Tourists are expressly lured to the church, more to gawk than to pray. The Arctic Cathedral almost yells from its perch, “Look at me!” A sentiment that has only spread in our culture since its birth. The sleekness of the building foreshadowed wealth years before the discovery of oil riches in the North Sea.
Domkirke rests, perhaps satisfied with its place in history, no more future is needed than its persistence. In the center of Tromsø the church is staid and practical. Instead of yelling it quietly reminds. The church reminds people that, “Of course I am here at the center to town. How could I be anywhere else? How could Tromsø exist without me: I am Tromsø, the people, the place.”
In 1861 the laws of nature yielded iron and lumber. The laws of nature adapted by 1965 to make concrete forms and cheap aluminum. The laws of men in 1861 said Norway had an independent Constitution yet not full freedom. By 1965 the rules of men replaced Sweden with NATO as the arbiter of sovereignty. All this time the laws of God were unchanged.
On Ash Wednesday I attempted to enter a house of The Lord to seek temporary respite from the cold and for my soul. Had I actually went through those doors I would have been trespassing and subject to arrest, according to the law.