The core of the RDCA treats the dedication of a church. Chapter Two includes an introduction of 27 numbered sections, followed by the rite itself (28-85). We’ll take a few weeks to get through it.
1. Through his death and resurrection, Christ became the true and perfect temple (Cf John 2:21) of the New Covenant and gathered together a people to be his own.
This holy people, made one as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one, is the Church (Cf. St Cyrpian, The Lord’s Prayer, 23; Sacrosanctum Concilium 4) that is, the temple of God built of living stones, where the Father is worshiped in spirit and in truth. (Cf. John 4:23)
Rightly, then, from early times ‘church’ has also been the name given to the building in which the Christian community gathers to hear the word of God, to pray together, to receive the sacraments, and to celebrate the eucharist.
2. Because the church is a visible building, it stands as a special sign of the pilgrim Church on earth and reflects the Church dwelling in heaven.
When a church is erected as a building destined solely and permanently for assembling the people of God and for carrying out sacred functions, it is fitting that it be dedicated to God with a solemn rite, in accordance with the ancient custom of the Church.
3. The very nature of a church demands that it be suited to sacred celebrations, dignified, evincing a noble beauty, not mere costly display, and it should stand as a sign and symbol of heavenly realities. ‘The general plan of the sacred edifice should be such that in some way it conveys the image of the gathered assembly. It should also allow the participants to take the place most appropriate to them and assist all to carry out their individual functions properly.’ Moreover, in what concerns the sanctuary, the altar, the chair, the lectern, and the place for the reservation of the blessed sacrament, the norms of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal are to be followed. (Cf. also HCWEOM 6, 9-11)
Also, the norms must be observed that concern things and places destined for the celebration of other sacraments, especially baptism and penance. (Cf. Rite of Baptism for children 25; Rite of Penance, 12)
The Scriptural metaphors linking believers, Christ, and the building (temple or church) are many–these notes give just a portion.
With number 2, it’s clear that a temporary or non-exclusive structure is less than ideal. In the US, dating from 1978′s Environment and Art in Catholic worship, we were already starting to see a bit less of that. And yet I’ve visited a number of parishes where the school building was a priority and worship consigned to a space utilized for school functions.
With number 3, do you find it interesting that representing the image of a gathered assembly is emphasized? What does that mean? A care given to the seating arrangement, accessibility, spirituality, and religious identity of a community?
Obviously the celebration of the Eucharist is a prime concern, but also the other sacraments of the Church.