From medieval times at least, the laity have expressed devotion to God and to the saints outside of liturgy, both within church buildings and elsewhere. Two brief sections in BLS recognize this, and suggest that church buildings provide for this spirituality:
§ 130 § Throughout history and among widely differing cultures, a rich heritage of popular devotions honoring Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints has developed in the Church. Popular devotions “express and nourish the spirit of prayer”(Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops 91) and are to be encouraged when they are in conformity with the norms of the Church and are derived from and lead to the liturgy.(SC 13) Like the liturgy, devotions are rituals. They can involve singing, intercession, thanksgiving, and common postures.
And of course, these social rituals will make similar demands on the seating, leadership, music, decorations, and other aspects of the church building as the Eucharist does.
§ 131 § Devotional prayer is another way for people to bring the very personal concerns of life to God and to ask the intercession of the saints and of other members of the Christian community. Sacred images are important not only in liturgical prayer but also in devotional prayer because they are sacramentals that help the faithful to focus their attention and their prayer. The design of the church building can do much to foster devotions and to insure that they enhance and reinforce rather than compete with the liturgical life of the community.
We’ll get to sacred images in a few days. But as we reach the final ten sections of Chapter Two, the window on commentary on all this might be closing. Any thoughts?
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.