Finding God in the Church - Living stones experiment

Mini-experiment
Finding God in the Church Photo by Akira Hojo on Unsplash

Description


Scripture: Gen 28, 10-18

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he had reached a certain place, he stopped there for the night, since the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of that place, he made it his pillow and lay down where he was. He had a dream: there was a ladder, planted on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and God's angels were going up and down on it. And there was Yahweh, standing beside him and saying, 'I, Yahweh, am the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. The ground on which you are lying I shall give to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as plentiful as the dust on the ground; you will spread out to west and east, to north and south, and all clans on earth will bless themselves by you and your descendants. Be sure, I am with you; I shall keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this country, for I shall never desert you until I have done what I have promised you.' Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 'Truly, Yahweh is in this place and I did not know!' He was afraid and said, 'How awe-inspiring this place is! This is nothing less than the abode of God, and this is the gate of heaven!' Early next morning, Jacob took the stone he had used for his pillow, and set it up as a pillar, pouring oil over the top of it.

Focus: Nothing is "by case" in the sacred architecture and in the sacred art. Every piece of Christian art is like a shared prayer. The artist or the community are sharing their experience of God with forms, colours, stones and glasses. The decorations and the structure of a church is a "self-portrait" of the praying community. No correct interpretation of Christian art can be done without the point of view of what really happens in the sacred space: prayer, liturgy, sacraments, encounter with God.

Prayer for the grace of the day: Lord give me the grace I could discover your presence in the Church today.

Exercises:

Go to the church you normally frequent when you participate to the mass. Or go to the cathedral or to the main church in your town. Observe it as if it were the first time. And try to answer to these questions:

1. What is the decoration of the façade and/or of the gate? What is its message? Is it more like an "invitation to enter"? a "solemn gate"? "a message for the city"?

2. After you enter you are in the nave. What is it like? Forest/garden? Or one unique space to listen clearly to the word?

3. Is the space oriented to the east? Is there a sense of a pathway?

4. What is the decoration of the apse, and what does it say about the Eucharist?

5. How are the windows like? How does the building "play" with the light?

Reading: Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentm Caritatis 41

The Space where the believers gather in prayer, - and therefore where the angels, the saints and Christ himself do gather too – this very space provides joy and many gifts (Origenes)

The profound connection between beauty and the liturgy should make us attentive to every work of art placed at the service of the celebration. Certainly an important element of sacred art is church architecture, which should highlight the unity of the furnishings of the sanctuary, such as the altar, the crucifix, the tabernacle, the ambo and the celebrant's chair. Here it is important to remember that the purpose of sacred architecture is to offer the Church a fitting space for the celebration of the mysteries of faith, especially the Eucharist. The very nature of a Christian church is defined by the liturgy, which is an assembly of the faithful (ecclesia) who are the living stones of the Church (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). This same principle holds true for sacred art in general, especially painting and sculpture, where religious iconography should be directed to sacramental mystagogy. (….) Everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty.

More about Living Stones: www.pietre-vive.org

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