Cathedral of Lund (Lunds Domkyrka), Lund, Sweden

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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Cathedral of Lund (Lunds Domkyrka)
Location: Lund, Sweden
Date of visit: Monday, 31 October 2016, 8:00pm

The building

This Romanesque cathedral was begun in the late 11th century and consecrated in 1145. There have been extensive renovations over the centuries: an impressive pulpit was added after the Reformation; there were extensive renovations in the 19th century; additional renovations in 1990 altered the choir area and brought an altar into the transept. There is an impressive mosaic in the apse, added in 1927. Like many Scandinavian churches, there is an astronomical clock dating from the 15th century. Twice each day there is a parade of statues representing the three kings; a small organ built into the clock plays the Christmas chorale ‘In dulci jubilo.’ Several pre-Reformation bishops are buried in the cathedral.

The church

The cathedral has long had a close relationship with Lund University (founded 1668). There is an extensive music program (seven choirs), and concerts are often given here. There are two Sunday services: a Swedish high mass at 11.00am, and an ecumenical service of holy communion in English at 5.00pm. There are several opportunities for worship during the week, including services of lauds and vespers, and a mass using music from the Taizé community.

The neighborhood

Lund is a city of over 90,000 in the south of Sweden. The cathedral is in the center of the city.

The cast

His Holiness Pope Francis, the president of the Lutheran World Federation, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation co-presided, in the presence of His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf. There was a large choir assembled for the occasion, an instrumental ensemble, acolytes, and a host of additional Lutheran and Catholic clerics who took part at some point in the service. I should also mention the five young people who took part in the candle-lighting ceremony near the end of the service.

What was the name of the service?

Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation.

How full was the building?

Full to overflowing.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

I was able to experience this liturgy on YouTube, so no.

Was your pew comfortable?

My living room couch was quite cozy.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet and reverent. I have to assume the presence of both the Pope and the King of Sweden served to encourage good behavior.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

‘In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit’ (in Italian).

What books did the congregation use during the service?

A specially-prepared service leaflet. It drew on ‘From Conflict to Communion,’ a joint publication of the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

What musical instruments were played?

A four-manual pipe organ, the largest in Sweden, and an opus of Marcussen and Son, a Danish firm. It was installed in 1932-34, and extensively renovated in 1992. And, a small instrumental ensemble of piano, guitar, violin, cello, concertina, and (I think) erhu and nyckelharpa.

Did anything distract you?

In the service, no. But I was watching it at rush hour, and there's a bit of traffic noise outside of our home.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Unique, as was appropriate to the occasion. I would describe it as high but not stuffy. A variety of languages were used (largely Italian, English, and Spanish, though six languages were used in the intercessions, only three of which I could identify). Singing was in Latin, Shona (the popular ‘Rea Mo Leboga’), English, and French (and probably a couple more). There was a gospel procession into the nave, accompanied by torches. The four co-presiders shared presiding duties equally. Pope Francis was vested with a white robe and red stole, just like his two Lutheran colleagues. A penitential rite was entirely chanted, without accompaniment, and the singing, congregational and choral, was stunning. There was a fair amount of singing throughout the service that was either a cappella or accompanied only by percussion, but the pitch never wavered. Near the end of the service one Catholic and one Lutheran cleric read five ‘commitments’ (example: ‘Lutherans and Catholics should jointly rediscover the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ for our time’). After reading each commitment, a young person carried a candle from the baptismal font to the high altar and lit a tall candle in front of the altar. The music used to accompany this ceremony was hauntingly beautiful.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

There were two sermons, one by the LWF general secretary, and one by Pope Francis. They were, respectively, 9 and 11 minutes long.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

10 — Both preachers avoided happy talk or feel-good stories. Both sermons were rich in content, effectively delivered, and altogether appropriate to the occasion.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The general secretary (preaching in Spanish) began by referencing the gospel that was read, John 15:1-5 (‘I am the true Vine’). When we've read this gospel, we have unfortunately seen each other as branches separated from the vine. But many men and women have prayed for unity, served the poor and oppressed, and even suffered martyrdom. May God find us building bridges so that we can come closer to each other where we can share bread and wine, the presence of Christ, who calls us to abide in him so that the world may believe. Pope Francis (preaching in Italian) also referred to the gospel, and noted that when Christ said ‘Abide in me as I abide in you,’ we are able to peer into the heart of Christ just before his ultimate sacrifice, and recognize his desire that we be united. He referred to Martin Luther and said we should be grateful for Luther's emphasis on the centrality of scripture, and for his insistence on ‘by grace alone.’ Luther reminds us that God always takes the initiative. As Lutherans and Catholics, we ask God's help, ever in need of his grace, that together we may bring his word to the world.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The unaccompanied singing, the sharing of the peace by all of these Lutheran and Catholics, and the beautiful commitment ceremony near the service's end. And the final petition in the intercessions: ‘God ... bring us together at your eucharistic table; nurture within and among us a communion rooted in your love.’

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

This was a unique event, with the Pope and Lutherans worshipping together in a space that has served both denominations as a cathedral. I hope I can be forgiven for finding nothing ‘hellish’ about this service. As a Lutheran married to a Catholic, I found this to be special.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

Materfamilias said, ‘That was a pretty long service.’

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

I poured a glass of Grenache into a Kentucky Derby glass (Materfamilias and I were married in Louisville).

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

10 — It would make the heart glad if I could attend a service at Lund Cathedral ... with the Pope celebrating. Although I probably won't live long enough to experience such an event, I fervently hope that the young people in the children's choirs that sang at the service do not have to wait half a millennium for Lutherans and Catholics to experience, as one Lutheran speaker put it, ‘the wounds in the Body of Christ to be healed.’

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?


What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The music at this service: both the choices that were made and the beautiful performances

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