27 October 2013

Beauty and the House of God

I have been thinking a great deal about the visual component of Christian worship and Christian churches.  Near to me there is an old Episcopalian parish church which speaks from the outside that it is "church".  It looks like a church.  The windows are filled with stained glass, and one can easily discern the outlines of angels in those windows.  And the interior is filled with a restrained Anglican beauty that tells the story of the Scriptures and that points toward heaven.  

Also, nearby is a Catholic Church where the new main church speaks the language of temples and banks from the outside.  The portico is handsome if a bit sterile, but inside there is sheer madness.  At the front of the cavernous room stands a wooden table way off centre apparently intending to be an altar.  The walls are bare except for narrow, long green coloured cloth hangings with occasional stripe of darker green.  The only crucifix is the processional crucifix.  Take it away and it could be almost anything.  Visually, it indicates not so much heaven but a governmental auditorium where the furnishings up front on the stage aren't quite in proper place.  There is no tabernacle.  There is no eternal flame of the Presence.   I avoid entering this building as I would avoid the plague.

Next to this modern monstrosity is the original church used as a Chapel and for daily services.  It is beautiful.  It is clearly a church.  Inside it is a place where heaven invades earth.  God's story and His story in His saints are clearly spelled out all about the Church.  And in the very heart of the Chapel is the Tabernacle where the Living Bread which came down from Heaven abides.  There also that Eternal Flame burning and indicating that the real and true Sacramental Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ is present.  This chapel does not so much point heavenward as Heaven opens up in its midst because the Lord Jesus Christ is present.

There are those whose minds have been schooled by secularists, Modernists, and Marxians who could neither comprehend the beauty of this Catholic Chapel nor what is signified by all of its appointments.  But the average person with limited schooling would recognise clearly that this is a House of God — which reminds me of an Anglican priest who once preached that whatever we preach from the pulpit is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ unless it can be comprehended by and taken to heart by an illiterate mother of seven children living without electricity or running water.  A very provocative thought.  Judging from the homeless women sitting in this Catholic Chapel staring at the Altar or at the statue of an angel or simply looking up... these women know that this is God's House and that the Lord Jesus is present.  They could have walked into the modern church.... but they don't.  They come here.  And they visit with Jesus.

A post worth reading for Catholics and others who think the House of God should be more than a hall or auditorium may be found on another website at the following link: click here.