Elements of our Sacred Space
I offer my continued blessings in this Easter season. A time of year that is mixed with celebration of graduations,anniversaries of accomplishments and passings, sacramental conferrals, and planning for summers and futures.
I am currently in Denver at a Diocesan Conference, prior to returning from attending to the final days and passing of my sister, Deirdre, in Seattle, which explains my absence at this weekend’s parish Masses.
Having left directly after our Spring Carnival last weekend, I want to extend my sincere thanks to all who contributed their precious time, talent and energy to this successful “Building Fund” endeavor. Names too numerous to mention here, I would like all to know I am aware and greatly appreciative of all the (some seemingly menial) tasks that were undertaken to assure our success. I find myself literally full of “thank you’s”, as I also add my thanks for the many notes and good wishes received on my 9th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood.
Continuing with the overview of the elements we encounter in the sacred space of our parish church, I’ll begin with the Ambo.
The Ambo – This element is the focal point during the Liturgy of the Word. From this “elevated desk-like structure”, we are to hear the proclamation of…”only the Readings, the Responsorial Psalm and the Easter Proclamation (known as the Exsultet). It may also be used for giving the homily and for announcing the prayers of the faithful” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, or GIRM, No. 309). The common design and proximity of the altar and ambo emphasize the close relationship between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. From the holy altar we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and from the ambo we receive the Holy Doctrine of Christ, making it also, not just an object but a sacred place. The GIRM also explains: “The dignity of the Word of God requires…a place that is suitable for the proclamation…and toward which the attention of the whole congregation…naturally turns during the the Liturgy of the Word.”
The Presider’s or Celebrants Chair – During every Mass the priest acts “In Persona Christi”, representing Our Lord Jesus. Therefore the priest’s chair is always distinguishable from other seats in the church. Ours is just slightly taller than the accompanying two chairs and has arms. It is not, in any way to resemble a throne, but to simply signify and make it recognizable as the place for the one who leads or presides over the congregation, and directs the prayer. Also, it should always be placed so as to be seen from the Nave.
Images and Statues – Statues, stained glass windows, and pictures depicting Jesus, the Blessed Mother, and the saints adorn nearly every church. As we all need to. remember, Catholics do not pray to, or worship statues or images. Rather, we venerate…we admire, respect and seek to imitate the virtue of the individual emulated in the statue or picture. We worship our living Lord Jesus…not His statue! The saints depicted (and those soon to be) all lived lives of heroic virtue and are now in heaven, where they can intercede for us before God. The statues, windows, Stations, and pictures, tell us about Jesus, His Saints, and the Scriptures. These images have long been an important educational tool, especially in the first 1,500 years of Christianity, when very few people were literate.
Relics (we have both a first and second class relic of St. Pope John Paul II in the reliquary in our chapel) are treated in a similar fashion. St. Jerome (340-420) explained relics very well, stating: “We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down before the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyr in order the better to adore Him whose martyrs they are.”
Baptismal Font – Baptism is the door to all the Church’s Sacraments. The Baptismal font is part of every Catholic Church…and located so that the congregation can participate in and witness the Baptismal ceremony. Some fonts are large pools with free-flowing water and they are normally found as you enter the Nave (the main body of the church). Ours is placed there in a smaller configuration.
Early converts to Christianity were baptized in rivers, streams, and public baths (even in the catacombs). For the most part it was not until the 4th century, with the construction of churches, that Baptisms took place indoors. Over the centuries, up until recently, the fonts or receptacles used for Baptisms have been continuously reduced in size, such as ours.
Well that’s all for now as we continue to explain the sacred spaces and elements of our Catholic Church buildings. Please add the repose of my sister Deirdre’s soul to your prayers.
Yours in Our Merciful Savior,