Renovation Notes - PART 1
CATHEDRAL RENOVATION PROJECT NOTES
WHAT IS A CHURCH?
The believing community is the Church. People are the Church. The documents of the Second Vatican Council give special emphasis to this. Particularly and powerfully the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and The Constitution on the Church.
Whenever we look at a physical cathedral or church building we should be reminded that we are the "People of God" and the "Body of Christ." These beliefs give shape to the physical building that houses us as we come together to try to live up to those titles. We are the "living stones" "building the building." The building helps us to localize the believing community so that together it may hear the Word of God, baptize, be fed at the Lord's table and celebrate its various sacred rituals.
The physical building is a metaphor: a tangible symbol to hold the living Church. The building is a kind of clarion call to remember what the believing community really is.
THE BUILDING ITSELF
"How does one construct a building that is a symbol of the redeemed people who are making their pilgrim way to the heavenly Jerusalem, whose splendor is to be discerned even in the earthly Church? And it is just as difficult, if not more, to construct a building that will be a symbol of all the loving service that is of the essence of the Christ life.
"...the question is often raised in a church building about spending considerable sums of money on a building when there are so many human needs today that cry out for justice and compassion... It is the dilemma of the immense inner richness of the Church as opposed to the inadequacy of material things of any kind to symbolize it. It is the tension that always exists between the symbol and the reality symbolized."
That quandary will remain long after the building or rebuilding is complete. And that is good. The physical presence of the building will always call us to consider the dilemma. It is a dilemma that we must never cease from pondering and attempting to express in the different ages of the Church's life.
But there is a third direction: above and below. For so long we have considered God and heaven to be "above" and we are still in the shadows of "below." From "out of the depths" we "lift up our hearts."
And our eyes. The interior of the church space must become visually inviting both to personal serenity and community togetherness...looking for God. In Christ. In this space. No wonder it is called "sacred space."
HOLY WATER FONTS
We enter church and with holy water symbolically remind ourselves that we are beginning life again as a member of Christ. If we bless ourselves with water as we leave it is a symbol that we intend to begin life anew as we step back into our ordinary, daily lives.
Perhaps we would do well to go directly to the baptismal font to enrich the symbol. But if inconvenient to do that, smaller containers of the baptismal water are provided at the doorways.
What will these small "fonts" look like?
Will they remind us of our baptism?
In early days, permanent baptismal fonts were a furnishing for the cathedral only. Today almost every church has one. (Have you noticed that our cathedral does not have one?)
Baptism is one of the most basic actions of the church. Jesus himself was baptized by John. Saint Paul vigorously extols the importance of baptism. Jesus' parting words in the Gospel of Matthew are "Go...baptize!"
How do we point out and emphasize the radical and ongoing nature of this sacrament in our church building? By the location and design of the baptistry. (Did you know that the holy water fonts at the doors of churches are extensions of the baptismal font?) Baptistries are often located near the entry of the church (to symbolize entry into the community of Christ) or near the sanctuary (for greater visibility). Its design should be of noble material and of sufficient size to accommodate the diverse ways of baptizing. It may be round (womb), cruciform or tomb-shaped (death of Christ) or octagonal ("eighth day," i.e. beyond regular time).
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