Thursday, 15 September 2011

A place of reverence or a place of adoration?

A more philosophical/theological question has occurred to me since posting on genuflections and bows.

We often talk about "reverence in Church", perhaps to decry its lack. In practice, this not infrequently (Oh, don't you love a double negative!) is (and an inversion of word order - I am getting the hang of the new translation!) associated with the question of whether or not people should talk in Church or keep silence. OK, here's the sentence again without comments: In practice, this not infrequently is associated with the question of whether or not people should talk in Church or keep silence.

But is the Church primarily a place of "reverence" or is it primarily a place of "adoration"?

Leaving aside the presence in a typical Catholic Church of the Body of the Lord present in the tabernacle and worthy of adoration, is a Church building in itself a place of "adoration" rather than "reverence"? During the celebration of the Liturgy, yes, the Church is clearly a place of "adoration". But, if a Church building is seen as a sign of the presence of God Incarnate in the world, is that not also the case at times outside of Liturgical or devotional celebrations?

There is a practical implication of this for the attitude of the person who enters the Church, since an attitude of adoration is one in which one will enter the Church to enter into the presence of God, and not just in to a holy place (though one is doing that as well).

And there will be a clear implication for the design of Church buildings. The universality of Christian faith means that it can be expressed in a diversity of architectural styles, and no one architectural style rules over another. But underlying the differences of style, the Church building should represent and foster an attitude of adoration. So, for example, the windows of a gothic style draw us to look upwards as does also the image of the Father above the apse of a more Romanesque style. It is possible for this to be achieved in modern Church architecture, too, though in a different way.

Some of this is reflected in Fr Tim's post A sermon on Church architecture, which reflects on the text My house is the house of prayer (Lk 19.46).
Therefore it is right that our buildings should have a human aesthetic, should recognise the distinction between ground and sky, Church and outside Church, holy place and profane place, earth and heaven.
[Though, being mischievous, and not being a great lover of baroque, I was amused by this sentence which I totally admit to taking out of its context: "Building a baroque basilica is simply an extension of the will of the Lord in celebrating the Last Supper with the greatest solemnity and splendour that was available to Him".]

The question is also one that has an implication for inter-religious dialogue. The Jewish synagogue, with its enshrining of the Torah scrolls, might readily be seen by both the Jewish community and the Christian community as a place of the presence of God and therefore a place of adoration. But what of the mosque? The Muslim community are unlikely to be happy with seeing the mosque as a place of the presence of God, so should the mosque be seen as a place of adoration or more as the place of gathering which, for Christian or Jewish architecture would be an inadequate understanding but which for Islamic architecture might well be a correct understanding?

No comments: