Studying Art history in college, I wondered why we spent a good chunk of the semester concentrating on Catholic church architecture. This was especially puzzling because I was in a State University, and the teacher was outspoken about her own atheism.
In time, I understood. Churches are built to "speak." They are meant (or they were once upon a time) to proclaim the Word of God to all who enter their spaces. They are intended to offer, along with the printed or spoken words uttered within them, a special language of their own. Even the youngest and least educated among us should be able to in some way "get" this language, for in large part it is visual. It communicates to us the Truth that we have entered a sacred space, where we're invited to participate in the life of the world to come. Stained glass windows block distractions from the world outside. Statues help us realize the fact that we live, day to day, surrounded by saints and angels. Paintings remind us of truth we cannot perceive with eyes of flesh.
Heaven knows, we need reminders. In this distracting, hurried, confusing world, we need reminders.
I think of these reminders as "visual lectio."
Not being in a geographical situation where I "see" this visual lectio often anymore, I miss it. But I like knowing that someday, somewhere, I might just walk into a church building and look up at a magnificent window and - lo and behold! - find a subject for meditation. Right before my very eyes.
So true. It is sad that some of the newer Catholic churches have done away with statues of saints and stained glass windows. But the older churches keep them alive and well. I notice that when one walks into such churches a sense of the sacred comes over them. They whisper, walk silently among the aisles and pews, and kneel humbly as they light a candle beneath one of the statues. It is wondrous to watch the soul come forth in such an environment. :).ReplyDelete
I am struck by your use of the word "sense" (of the sacred) because in such an environment our actual senses become engaged. Senses are important in these bodies of ours, so why should they not be used to help us be more aware of God?Delete
Thank you, Linda!