Skip to comments.One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic: Marks of the Church Building as well as the Church Herself
Posted on 06/08/2010 5:02:05 PM PDT by Desdemona
I have recently struck up a very enjoyable correspondence with Prof. Peter Kwasniewski, of the excellent Wyoming Catholic College, and read with great interest an article he recently wrote for the next edition of Latin Mass Magazine on the philosophy and theology of church architecture. (More information can be found at the magazine's website here.) Particularly interesting for me is his innovative but sound idea of linking the built structure of the church to the four marks of the institutional Church--One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. This is the first time I have seen such an idea advanced and I find it elegant and eloquent. Prof. Kwasniewski has been kind enough to secure permission for us to publish his article at The New Liturgical Movement, and you can find it below. Some highlights, with my comments and expansions:
We identify her four notes or essential characteristics when we say that she is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Almost in the same breath, we then link the Church to her life-giving Sacraments and the ultimate goal to which our membership in her carries us: we acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. An entire understanding of church architecture is sketched out in these few words of the Creed.
[...] One. We are talking about one and the same Church across all the ages. [...] So the church building and its furnishings ought to convey a sense of something one, visibly and tangibly one, that is greater than all of our differences. [One is reminded of Ninian Comper's synthetic unitive eclecticism: "All generations shall call me blessed." I would also remark that the "oneness" of the church building should also be manifest in a clarity of liturgical form and focus. --MGA] We concretely express this mystery by an architecture that remains in continuity with ecclesiastical Tradition. [...]
Apostolic. I jump ahead to this note of the Church because it clarifies that the unity or oneness just spoken of consists in belonging to the Church founded by Christ on the Apostles, especially on Peter, the Rock. Our Lord Jesus gave to the Apostles the Deposit of Faith, what we call Apostolic Tradition. [...] The church building, for its part, passes down that same Tradition in artistic form, in a kind of silent visual preaching.
Holy. This characteristic is arguably the most important of all when it comes to architecture. A church should represent and reflect and remind us of the holiness of God, the holiness to which we have been called and in which we share. Hence, verticalitythe upward thrust of architectural and decorative elementsis crucial in a sanctuary. When we enter a well-designed church, our mind, our feelings, are immediately drawn upwards to God, the Holy One of Israel; to the Divine, the Transcendent, the Infinite.
[I'd also remark that there are various ways of expressing this verticality, this exchange between God and man exemplified in the Incarnation--in Gothic it goes up, while in Byzantine architecture domes recall God's enclosing movement downwards to man while retaining a sense of loftiness. Baroque creates a sort of aerial, spiralling ballet that has elements of both upward and downward verticality to it. --MGA].
Anyway, have a read through the article: it is excellent work, and innovative while being firmly grounded in tradition. It is good to see, in this article, and in other works (like Dr. McNamara's new book) that we are now examining in great detail and with great theological seriousness what a church should look like, as well as what it should not look like. I hope to hear more in this vein from the good professor in the future.
What is a Church Supposed to Look Like? Peter Kwasniewski
So you’re against any church building? Or what is acceptable to you?
you could not be MORE wrong. sadly so.
We do all that AND maintain the beauty in the churches where many people were paid wages for just work. Just think of Judas admonishing Mary Magdalene for washing Christ's feet with perfume that could be sold to feed the poor and Christ admonishes Judas. The poor we will always have. They aren't going away and next week, there will be more. Yes, cash is a means to an end for basic necessities, but those providing the cash need to be inspired just as the poor need hope. The beauty of the art, architecture, music, etc., is there for everyone, regardless of economic circumstances, for the inspiration to be inspired to Heaven. Just look at what beautiful work man can do in the name of God.
I’m saying that I am in the Church, the Body of Christ. It is in me. It is not a building. It is not made with hands.
The Gospel of the Grace of God isn't inspiring enough? That God sent His only begotten Son, to die for our sins, was buried, and resurrected isn't inspiring enough?
Not exactly. I'm INSPIRED by the art to live as a better Christian. It is very soothing, particularly during Eucharistic Adoration, and helps peace settle into the bones. Also, don't forget that far from condemning Thomas, Christ INVITED him to put his hands in the wounds so that he may believe. Paul was struck blind that he may believe. There are other examples from the saints' lives.
Is that cathedral eternal?
Cathedrals are constructed to last 1,000 years. Many are much older than that. If a building is built right, it will last a long time.
Are those man made arts and architecture eternal?
Not exactly man made. As an artist, although in music, artists use God-given gifts and abilities honed. None of this exists without the gift from God. It's not possible. So, in a way, yes it is eternal, passed down from generation to generation, not just the objects, but the knowledge of how to produce them.
Believe me, it’s much more impressive in person.
“that certainly would feed a LOT of hungry people. and clothe them. and give them health. and shelter.”
Well said, Judas. John 12:5.
Now we know who you really serve.
You are really lost.
I’m never going to understand the objection to art in church. Plain churches are just so sterile. There’s nothing sterile about beauty and inspiration from God.
Judas was lost. And you’re saying the exact same thing he did. You serve the same master too.
Actually, come to think of it, when it comes to feeding, clothing and sheltering, as the big churches take years to construct, hundreds of bread-winners are able to provide for their families. These are usually not wealthy people, so that money is put into circulation.
You need to check your master, Vlad. Satan can quote scripture too, you know.
Believe me, its much more impressive in person.I was looking around on the Net for a photograph of your parish, because the ones on the official site were all tightly cropped (that I could find!), but if you see one that shows the full cathedral well, let me know; I'll post it for you if you like ...
I understand. You've lost half the meaning of The Church. And you've lost the nourishment of the Holy Eucharist.
I understand all that, it started with Calvin and mostly Zwingli. But nevertheless, I'm still wondering: Are you against any church building? Or what is acceptable to you?
Many Protestants hate beauty. Ralph Adams Cram, who was an expert in art and architecture, AND A PROTESTANT admitted this himself decades ago.
“From the outbreak of the Protestant revolution, the old kinship between beauty and religion was deprecated and often forgotten. Not only was there, amongst the reformers and their adherents, a definite hatred of beauty and a determination to destroy it when found; there was also a conscientious elimination of everything of the sort from the formularies, services, and structures that applied to their new religion. This unprecedented break between religion and beauty had a good deal to do with that waning interest in religion itself. Protestantism, with its derivative materialistic rationalism, divested religion of its essential elements of mystery and wonder, and worship of its equally essential elements of beauty. Under this powerful combination of destructive influences, it is not to be wondered at that, of the once faithful, many have fallen away. Man is, by instinct, not only a lover of beauty, he is also by nature a ‘ritualist,’ that is to say, he does, when left alone, desire form and ceremony, if significant. If this instinctive craving for ceremonial is denied to man in religion, where it preeminently belongs, he takes it on for himself in secular fields; elaborates ritual in secret societies, in the fashion of his dress, in the details of social custom. He also, in desperation, invents new religions and curious sects working up for them strange rituals . . . extravagant and vulgar devices that are now the sardonic delight of the ungodly. ... If once more beauty can be restored to the offices of religion, many who are now self-excommunicated from their Church will thankfully find their way back to the House they have abandoned. The whole Catholic Faith is shot through and through with this vital and essential quality of beauty. It is this beauty implicit in the Christian revelation and its operative system that was explicit in the material and visible Churches and their art. We must contend against the strongest imaginable combination of prejudices and superstitions. These are of two sorts. There is first, the heritage of ignorance and fear from the dark ages of the sixteenth century. I am speaking of non-Catholic Christianity. Ignorance of authentic history, instigated by protagonists of propaganda; fear of beauty, because all that we now have in Christian art was engendered and formulated by and through Catholicism; fear that the acceptance of beauty means that awful thing’surrender to superstition.’ It is fear that lies at the root of the matter, as it does in so many other fields of mental activity.” (Radio Replies, vol. 2: 1052)
Did you read the Gospel passage? Three people on this thread used the exact same paragraph to respond to you. Just as Judas was admonished for wanting to sell expensive perfume rather than use it as a means of adoration, so do Catholics find it misguided to use the poor as the reason for not investing in inspirational art and architecture. The poor can see and hear and need inspiration just as much as everyone else does. The Church is just as much theirs as everyone else’s. There are theological reasons for why the Church buildings are built the way they are. Read the article.
Let’s see. we meet at houses, Denny’s, picnics, the internet, etc.. does this help? God’s Word can be shared and enjoyed anywhere.