Built of Living Stones 51-53: Nave

I like the term “nave,” but the heading of the these three numbered sections is, “The Congregation’s Area.”

§ 51 § The space within the church building for the faithful other than the priest celebrant and the ministers is sometimes called the nave. This space is critical in the overall plan because it accommodates a variety of ritual actions: processions during the Eucharist, the singing of the prayers, movement during baptismal rites, the sprinkling of the congregation with blessed water, the rites during the wedding and funeral liturgies, and personal devotion. This area is not comparable to the audience’s space in a theater or public arena because in the liturgical assembly, there is no audience. Rather, the entire congregation acts. The ministers of music could also be located in the body of the church since they lead the entire assembly in song as well as by the example of their reverent attention and prayer.

There are important principles in BLS 51 we shouldn’t neglect. First, the nave is the location for a number of important liturgical actions, especially and foremost, the active participation of the worshiping congregation. Note the mention of singing as well as the rejection of the notion of an “audience’s space.” Combining the two, we should be attentive to the nave as a location for musical “performance,” as foreseen in this document and repeatedly in the rites.

Music ministry “could” be located in the nave. The final judgment rests on the perceived role in the faith community, and the need for leadership by example, as BLS 51 suggests.

Two very important principles:

§ 52 § Two principles guide architectural decisions about the form and arrangement of the nave:

  • (1) the community worships as a single body united in faith, not simply as individuals who happen to find themselves in one place, and the nature of the liturgy demands that the congregation as well as the priest celebrant and ministers be able to exercise their roles in a full and active way; and
  • (2) the priest celebrant and ministers together with the congregation form the liturgical assembly, which is the Church gathered for worship.

Unity, again not individuals under a uniformity, is the guiding principle.

Note also how the US bishop define their terms: congregation + ministers + priest = assembly. Those squeamish on the term “assembly” might want to consider this.

§ 53 § The body of the church is not simply a series of unrelated sections. Rather, each part contributes to the unity of the space by proportion, size, and shape. While various rites are celebrated there, the sense of the nave as a unified whole should not be sacrificed to the need for flexibility.

This last point touches in the importance of unity across the various celebrations of the rites. This is where a deisgn consultant may be invaluable to the building process.

All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Built of Living Stones, USCCB documents. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Built of Living Stones 51-53: Nave

  1. Liam says:

    It might help to recall the origin of “nave”: think “naval” – the metaphor is of a ship. It’s how the And not a passenger cruise ship, but a working ship with a hierarchy but where all hands are on deck and at work according to their respective roles. A ship where the crew is not working in unity is a ship heading for disaster. You can draw a lot more metaphors out of this.

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