Melbourne was dry, dusty and muggy, heading in direction of 32 levels. Trams rumbled down Collins Avenue, clanging their bells as pedestrians strode briskly throughout their lunch break, speaking to colleagues. As they hurried alongside, their conversations halted; they nudged one another and smiled, heads turning to see via the imposing entrance of a metropolis constructing.
Constructed greater than 100 years in the past because the banking chamber for the then affluent Business Financial institution of Australia, 333 Collins Avenue has a hovering Italian baroque dome, inlaid marble floorings, gilt-detailed columns and arches, however that’s not what was slowing down the pedestrian visitors exterior.
Beneath the ceiling decorations that blazed like suns was a powerful Christmas tree, embellished with garlands of what seemed like purple flowers, gold and purple baubles and twinkling golden lights. The shimmering Christmas tree was not, nevertheless, the explanation why metropolis staff turned to stare as they handed the constructing.
Music was floating out into the road. Harmonising voices have been raised in music. They belonged to a college choir, singing well-loved Christmas hymns concerning the beginning of Christ, and so they drew me contained in the constructing as irresistibly as if somebody had known as my title.
In a metropolis of busy, scurrying staff preoccupied with the deadlines that have to be met earlier than the Christmas break, right here was a pocket of magnificence, like a waterfall stumbled upon by likelihood on a sizzling ramble via the bush. The hymns – equivalent to As soon as in Royal David’s Metropolis and O Holy Evening – swept across the lobby, spinning pictures of one thing valuable that’s generally misplaced within the pragmatic calls for of the working day.
The phrases of O Holy Evening, sung in thunderous, electrifying harmonies – “Fall in your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night time divine, O night time when Christ was born …” – resounded like a command or a rebuke, sending chills down my backbone.
The phrases have been truthful; we’d fall on our knees, speechless, within the face of the fact of the extraordinary nature of God, each the creator of life and but seemingly incongruously private in His gentleness in direction of, and love of, the person. The hymns resurrected one other actuality, characterised by a simplicity and charm.
They took the breath away and stuffed the eyes with trembling tears that might not be shed, not there, within the bustling enterprise coronary heart of Melbourne. As a substitute, I studied the shiny, patterned ground of that enchanting previous constructing, mesmerised by the echo of one thing everlasting that had discovered a voice and rung out throughout the town.