Catholic Corner
September 17, 2021

Occasionally comments come along about the worship space that characterize it as cold or distant.  Some note that the materials are hard or uninviting (stone, metal, concrete). While others express a sense of the space as feeling incomplete when it is empty.

If it feels incomplete when it is empty, or if the worship space feels cold without a congregation then the design is carrying out its function. The space is supposed to feel empty and unfinished unless the baptized are present because the building is not the Church, the people are!!

The Assembly is the most important element in the space. Of the four recognized sacramental modes of the presence of Christ in the liturgy, one of these is the presence of Christ in the gathered assembly. [1]The design of our space deliberately requires the presence of the congregation in order to feel complete. In other words, the space is unfinished unless the Church is present.  The choice of materials is offset by the warmth of human persons, the life of the people who gather to fully, consciously and actively celebrate. We are the living stones, the community that gathers.

This is not to say the building is unimportant. Far from it, the assembly and the space are a unity. To that end this building “is both the house of God on earth (domus Dei) and a house fit for the prayers of the saints (domus ecclesiae). Such a house of prayer must be expressive of the presence of God and suited for the celebration of the sacrifice of Christ, as well as reflective of the community that celebrates there.” Built of Living Stones #16

As such the space feels whole only when the baptize gather, when as a community the Church of this place and this time is made visible. It is the living place of encounter with God. It is where we are formed and transformed in order to leave through its doors to carry out our mission building the reign of God.  It most fully communicates the vitality of this dynamic when all are gathered as one People, in praise and thanksgiving.

[1] The other three modes of the presence of Christ in the liturgy are: in the word proclaimed, the Presider, and in a special way in the Body and Blood of Christ