Signs and symbols
1145 A sacramental celebration is woven from signs and symbols. In keeping with the divine pedagogy of salvation, their meaning is rooted in the work of creation and in human culture, specified by the events of the Old Covenant and fully revealed in the person and work of Christ.
1146 Signs of the human world. In human life, signs and symbols occupy an important place. As a being at once body and spirit, man expresses and perceives spiritual realities through physical signs and symbols. As a social being, man needs signs and symbols to communicate with others, through language, gestures, and actions. The same holds true for his relationship with God.
1147 God speaks to man through the visible creation. The material cosmos is so presented to man’s intelligence that he can read there traces of its Creator.16 Light and darkness, wind and fire, water and earth, the tree and its fruit speak of God and symbolize both his greatness and his nearness.
1148 Inasmuch as they are creatures, these perceptible realities can become means of expressing the action of God who sanctifies men, and the action of men who offer worship to God. The same is true of signs and symbols taken from the social life of man: washing and anointing, breaking bread and sharing the cup can express the sanctifying presence of God and man’s gratitude toward his Creator.
Excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
1 John 4:20
This passage from the Bible talks about how if we do not love others, we do not love God.
As said in the previous post, altars have relics of saints that remind us of the communion of saints and of God’s love. Based on this passage, the altar’s relics also help us worship God because they help us love God. As alluded to in the last post, because the altar’s relics increase remembrance and devotion to saints, the relics help us to love others, like the saints, more. By loving others, we will love God. And in loving God, we will be able to worship Him in a deeper way. And like this Bible passage said, we cannot love God unless we love others.
“However, in St. Peter’s during the pontificate of St. Gregory the Great (590–604), the altar was moved nearer to the bishop’s chair, probably for the simple reason that he was supposed to stand as much as possible above the tomb of St. Peter. This was an outward and visible expression of the truth that we celebrate the Sacrifice of the Lord in the communion of saints, a communion spanning all times and ages. The custom of erecting an altar above the tombs of the martyrs probably goes back a long way and is an outcome of the same motivation. Throughout history the martyrs continue Christ’s self-oblation; they are like the Church’s living altar, made not of stones but of men, who have become members of the Body of Christ and thus express a new kind of cultus: sacrifice is humanity becoming love with Christ.”
Thoughts: Having relics by and in altars, reminds people that God wants us to not only love Him, but love others as well. The fact that the altar reminds us of our membership in the communion of saints, helps us live out this love more deeply. It increases a feeling of kinship to think of those who have gone before us to God’s heavenly kingdom who are still helping us live our lives according to God’s will through prayer and intercession. Knowing that God loves others so much and wants us to love others too, gives insight into His love. This fact clarifies how all-consuming His love is for everyone, and it reaffirms how He is a community of love. His love for everyone helps to prove how He is Love. By giving us deeper insight into the love of God, altars and their relics help us worship God with more devotion and love.
Excerpt from Sacred Places: The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer from The Spirit of the Liturgy
“… it shall occupy a place in the sacred building which is truly central, so that the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful is spontaneously turned to it.”
Thoughts: This excerpt reveals how important the altar is in a church. It occupies a very prominent place in the church. The only reason a thing would be important in a church is if it greatly reflected God or helped people worship Him. In this case, the altar is the place on which God becomes physically present in the Eucharist. There is no better way to grow in a deeper relationship with God than to be physically with Him. In knowing God better, one realizes more deeply His Goodness, Beauty, and Perfection. This realization leads to more personal and meaningful worship of God.
Excerpt from “The Proper Construction of Churches and Altars in order to Facilitate the Active Participation of the Faithful,” the Instruction for the Proper Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. This excerpt was found in
BAYNE, W. W. “Liturgical Art, History of.” New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., vol. 8, Gale, 2003, pp. 618-638. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.aapld.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/CX3407706766/GVRL?u=algo36745&sid=GVRL&xid=fdd3e383. Accessed 8 Jan. 2019.
In Chapters 25 – 26 of the Bible, the Lord tells Moses to make a “sanctuary” for God so that He can “dwell in their midst.” God then proceeds to tell Moses the specifications for the Ark of the Covenant. Much like the Ark of the Covenant, tabernacles today are made from precious metals such as gold. Some are even veiled in similarity with the Ark of the Covenant.
Thoughts: Therefore, the tabernacle represents something that God wanted to exist, the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant held God’s presence for the Israelites and now the tabernacle holds God’s presence in the Eucharist. By knowing that God desired to have something like a tabernacle to hold Him, we know more about God’s desires and therefore know more about Him as a Being. In addition, the tabernacle’s beauty reflects God’s Beauty. The ornateness reflects God’s immeasurable worth, importance, and supremacy.
“751 The word ‘Church’ (Latin ecclesia, from the Greek ek-ka-lein, to ‘call out of’) means a convocation or an assembly. It designates the assemblies of the people, usually for a religious purpose.139 Ekklesia is used frequently in the Greek Old Testament for the assembly of the Chosen People before God, above all for their assembly on Mount Sinai where Israel received the Law and was established by God as his holy people.140 By calling itself ‘Church,’ the first community of Christian believers recognized itself as heir to that assembly. In the Church, God is ‘calling together’ his people from all the ends of the earth. The equivalent Greek term Kyriake, from which the English word Church and the German Kirche are derived, means ‘what belongs to the Lord.’
752 In Christian usage, the word ‘church’ designates the liturgical assembly,141 but also the local community142 or the whole universal community of believers.143 These three meanings are inseparable. ‘The Church’ is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ’s Body.”
If a church is “the assemblies of the people, usually for a religious purpose,” then a church that raises the mind to the God of that religion and therefore to the religion itself is an effective church. The fact that the word “Kyriake, from which the English word Church and the German Kirche are derived, means ‘what belongs to the Lord,'” shows that a church should center thought on God, His attributes, and what is His.
Excerpt from ARTICLE 9 “I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH”, Paragraph 1. The Church in God’s Plan, I. NAMES AND IMAGES OF THE CHURCH from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Pseudo-Dionysius asserted that all of creation is ordered in a hierarchy where the creation that possesses the most light is at the top. He said that creation is “an act of illumination” (674). Pseudo-Dionysius inspired the renovation plan of the Abbey of Saint-Denis’ chevet to be one that allows a lot of light to enter the abbey. Robert Grosseteste proposed that Aristotle’s concepts of matter and form were brought together in light. He claimed that form “is a perfect unity and is represented by the number one; matter by the number two; the accord of form and matter by the number three; the composite itself by the number four” (674). He said that from these numbers come proportions that bring harmony. “…man may then contemplate God through these harmonies” (674).
Floor Plan of The Abbey of Saint-Denis’ Chevet:
Image from Medieval Art from www2.oberlin.edu
WALL, D. R., et al. “Church Architecture, History of.” New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Gale, 2003, pp. 669-718. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.aapld.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/CX3407702431/GVRL?u=algo36745&sid=GVRL&xid=4d3c5c37. Accessed 30 Nov. 2018.