The 4th July weekend was a great break from study. A few of us stayed in Chicago city for the two nights enjoying the atmosphere of the city with a good opportunity for long sleep and slow meals. There hasn’t been much chance for novels since I arrived here so I made up for that.
Today we begin two more courses. I am looking forward to them both. One is on Liturgical Art and architecture. I have read a bit on this in the years when we were restoring OLV church. The teacher is Denis McNamara (in the ‘meet one of my teachers’ blog last week you can hear him). In the reading I have done I was reminded that a church building has both a function and a purpose. The function is to keep the rain out, provide some seating, and to have lighting and heating etc. Once parishes add an Altar and Lectern etc they think they have completed the task of building a church. However they may have given no thought at all to the purpose of the church building.
A church building is to be a sign that points us beyond our earthly reality – to the fulness of life eternally with God. This is the whole purpose of having a church. It would be much cheaper for us to rent a school hall each day for Mass. But a church building stands in a community as a sign that points us to heaven.
This was very evident in New Zealand before multi-storey buildings. Back then the Church was the most substantial and tallest building on the skyline of any town. The change to malls being bigger and banks being taller than churches is relatively recent. This is problematic since the people of any age tend to follow the most visible signs in their city.
The Roman Empire began its rapid decline when the central building in Rome was no longer their places of worship but the Colosseum – a place for entertainment and sports.
How close are we to this when the most significant ‘gathering places’ for the people of a city are theatres and stadia. Add to this the introduction of projectors and screens to churches and the pointers become very confusing.