Chapter Three leads off with a thoughtful meditation on the incarnational genius of the Roman Rite. We experience extraordinary things in very ordinary signs. And it is a sensual thing: we experience God through our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin. How else could it be? It is through these openings into us that our hearts, minds, and guts are engaged by God, and we are urged to change our lives because of the experience of grace, of the Word made sense (or sensible).
§ 140 § When God’s people gather for prayer, the most intimate and all-embracing aspect of their life together occurs: the moment when they touch, taste, smell, hear, see, and share those hidden realities that would otherwise remain imperceptible. Together they adore the holiness of God and give expression to the unceasing life God has given them. God nourishes them as a community and makes them holy through the use of ordinary perceptible signs of water, oil, bread, and wine, transformed by extraordinary grace. The place where God gathers this people powerfully draws them more deeply into communion and expresses in beauty God’s profound holiness. This is the place that prompts them to recognize the divine image in which they have been created, now restored in Christ. “For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.”(Wis 13:5; cf. 13:3)
§ 141 § Throughout the history of the Church, a dynamic tension has existed between the continuity of traditional artistic expression and the need to articulate the faith in ways proper to each age and to diverse cultures. In every age the Church has attempted to engage the best contemporary artists and architects to design places of worship that have sheltered the assembly and disclosed the presence of the living God. In the past, dialogue between the Church and the artist has yielded a marriage of faith and art, producing sublime places of prayer, buildings of awe-inspiring, transcendent beauty, and humble places of worship that, in their simplicity, inspire a sense of the sacred.
“Dynamic tension” probably describes the best of times. That Church-artist dialogue has the potential to be profoundly fruitful. But many on both sides fear it, and often, alas, avoid it.
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.