Thursday, June 28, 2012

Looking Upwards

I mentioned last week my enthusiastic interest in architecture, especially church architecture (I guess there’s no surprise about that!). The architecture of our own church at Holy Faith is quite distinctive. It’s construction was completed in 1982. It received awards at the time for its design. I entered seminary in that same year. Since I had gone to school at UF and was working in Gainesville at the time, I remember visiting Holy Faith to see this new building.

As I strain my memory, I cannot remember a great deal of what I thought of the new Holy Faith Church except I was impressed. I most remember the ceiling. I remember admiring the lofty wood ceiling at that time and still I think its one of the most striking features of our church. I have heard the same admiring comment again and again from others. We sometimes forget about the ceiling, it is so familiar, but I recently came across this photo of our church on the Internet that shows the ceiling’s beauty.

A very interesting thing about our interior ceiling is that it forms the shape of a Maltese Cross. You can also see that shape from aerial photos. When it was first pointed out to me this feature of the Maltese Cross, I immediately thought of the Knights Templar, a fascinating subject on its own. I later asked our founding Pastor, Fr. Flannan Walsh, if the architect liked the Templars. He said he actually did.

The Maltese Cross, however, was not the original Cross of the Templars at all. It is actually the cross of the 11century Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and Malta, otherwise known as the Order of Malta. One would expect the Cross of Malta to be Maltese. (Read about the symbolism of the Maltese Cross here)

The Order of Malta’s mission is to help the poor, which is a wonderful link with our particular parish mission "to build a community of compassion in Christ."

Back to our ceiling, one of the enduring architectural features of many churches is a lofty ceiling. The high ceilings of Gothic cathedrals, for example, lift up one’s sight (and mind) to the transcendence of God and our smallness before God. And yet, we humans built such lofty and awesome buildings like those cathedrals, so it is also a tribute to human art and the ability to create high beauty in imitation of God’s creation. (See some examples set to beautiful music here)

I often imagine the presence of the angels and saints at our worship. This is what our Catholic Faith tells us is actually the case when we celebrate the Mass. We are participating also in the Heavenly Liturgy, i.e., all the angels and saints, the blessed deceased and with the Virgin Mother of God in their worship of the Triune God in heaven. (See Catechism#1090)

I sometimes playfully say, our churches must have high ceilings to make room for all these heavenly hosts with whom we worship!

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