On the thread “Getting Anything Out of Liturgy,” Chris offered some commentary, a few points of which deserve highlighting.
There is nothing in this photo which communicates that this is a Catholic church, or a Mass.
Does the church setting bear the brunt of “sacralization” in the Christian liturgy? In other words, is it always preferable to see an image or orient oneself in a church and identify it clearly as a Catholic church or a Catholic Mass? If the photo from my parish wasn’t a Mass, we’re doing really really well stuffing several hundred people into pews and have five priests concelebrate a ritual outside of the Eucharist. Just imagine what happens on weekends.
The image in question is from the south loft, taken at Mass celebrating the departure of our last pastor. I chose it because it captured the most people of any Mass image on our web site’s photo gallery. The thread was, after all, about people at liturgy, and their occasoinal complaint.
The altar is clearly lit the strongest in the building, so that seems pretty clear to me. I also know the building pretty well, so I can see the tabernacle, the credence table, and other familiar things. And unlike Chris or non-parishioners, I also know their context.
In a way Chris makes the point about disengagement from the liturgy Joyce and I see often from the pews. (Though I have to say I’ve seen less of it in my present parish than any other.) There’s no doubt that a worshipper might have to work harder to be engaged in some churches. My new pastor and I have discussed much of this. The task is how we engage new college students: give them enough that is familiar to draw them in; challenge their youthful sensibilities and invite them to a more intentional Catholicism.
Chris suggests this church “offers as little as possible to the people who make the effort to be there.” If this is true, the bright side is that parishioners are self-motivated and engaged by choice. Is it better to have an “easy” space full of what some may cite as distractions? Or should a church assume adults are present who don’t need to be entertained by figures in windows, statues, icons, or architectural finery? Are fancy churches like picture books? Are plain churches like serious novels? I don’t ask these questions to be facetious. I think there are two complementary aspects that architects, designers, and liturgists must address when buiolding new churches or renovating old ones. Beauty and art: are they sufficient to themselves? Or in a church, should they or must they have a reason? A higher purpose? Are they only a means to an end?
Rather than sit from a single perspective, does the building here fare better when empty and when one can move around?