Some buildings are like the near empty imaginations of their designers, dead zones bereft of liturgical oxygen where little breathes to offer praise to a God Who, by contrast, sustains us with life-giving grace and lavishes upon His children the beauty of creation.
The idea that our edifices should immerse worshippers in a robust liturgical cosmos that points to the supreme and sublime encounter with the Holy Trinity is lost among those who want to lock God away in a concrete bunker. In a sense, they want to protect their god, their image or theology of God. Such "bunker" thinking is, ironically, very safe and comfortable, which is probably why buildings which are neither psychologically or emotionally safe nor comforting look like bomb shelters.
|Holy Trinity Chapel NY|
A beautiful heart births a beautiful house.
|St Paul the Apostle, SC | designed by D. Stroik|
|St Paul the Apostle, SC|
What is fitting praise? The joy of an effusive beauty pouring forth from a grateful heart, a heart redeemed by love that is oriented to the Triune God Who fuels the imagination with His creative life.
Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.
The worst thing a designer can do is carpet a sanctuary. The living sound of the Liturgy—the various vocal registers which convey nuance (vox secreta, submissa voce, sotto voce, vox medicris, vox clara)—is squelched by an oppressive blanket thrown over the Liturgy. Instead of fostering intimacy, audio technologies employed to overcome the inertia of carpeted rooms can merely dampen people's senses to the melodies of the Holy Spirit expressed in and through the intimate timbres of the Mass that reach out into a reverberant space.
In a compromised room, the highly nuanced Mass becomes subject to and inhibited by human foibles instead of flowing through human personalities to illuminate, edify and orient hearts and minds to God.
Where the nuances of the Mass are suppressed, a cult of personality tends to emerge centred on the priest, or the music ministers who, to add distraction to an already distracted show, are placed in the sanctuary or near to it. Conversely, where a space embodies the Mass—it is said a cathedral "incarnates" the Incarnate Word—worshippers see and hear much more clearly the descent of heaven to earth and the ascent of earth to heaven. Voices placed in a choir loft, for example, have the freedom to accomplish unseen the practical aspects of their role in the Liturgy and, raised, are better "positioned" to act like the angelic voices that they mystically represent.
We, who mystically represent the Cherubim,
And chant the thrice-holy hymn to the Life-giving Trinity,
Let us set aside the cares of life
That we may receive the King of all,
Who comes invisibly escorted by the Divine Hosts.