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Why Church Buildings?
Catholic Exchange ^ | November 10, 2003 | Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.

Posted on 11/10/2003 6:45:20 PM PST by Desdemona

Why Church Buildings?


As a rebellious teenager, I thought the Catholic church should stop wasting its money on expensive churches. We ought to sell them all and buy food for the poor, I argued.

Funny thing. Jesus, who cared much for the poor, did not have this attitude. As an adolescent he yearned to spend time in Herod’s sumptuous Temple (Lk 2). As an adult, he defended its integrity against the moneychangers (Jn 2). Francis of Assisi, who gave away all his possessions, begged for money to buy materials to restore ruined churches which he rebuilt with his own hands.

Why this high regard for church buildings? Ezekiel 47 gives us one important reason. Because the liturgical worship that goes on inside, most especially the Eucharist, is the “source and summit” of our entire Christian life.

The world is a dusty, tiring place that often beats us down. The Church building is a haven, a quiet refuge, a place to encounter God. Here we drink deeply of the life-giving waters of word and sacrament that revive our drooping spirits (Ps 23). The grace that flows from the altar bears us back into the world, changed, and able to change others, bringing healing and bearing fruit.

Paul, in I Corinthians 3, gives us another reason to honor Churches. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, concluded from this passage that if we Christians are the Church, we should call our places of worship “steeple-houses.” To call buildings “churches” obscures the fact that we are the Church.

The Judeo-Christian Tradition see it differently. The Church building is a mirror that, held up before us, reminds us of who we are. The world tells us that we are consumers, employees and voters, and flashes a constant stream of icons at us every day to remind us of this. The Church building is an icon that reminds us of our deepest identity. As we gather for Sunday worship, we who were scattered by diverse loyalties, professions, and life-styles, are now united as the Body of Christ and dwelling place of the Spirit.

How does a person enter the Church? Through the cleansing waters of baptism. Maybe that’s why there are holy water fonts at the doors of most Catholic churches. Maybe those statues of saints are there to remind us that we are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the family of God” (Eph 2:19f).

So what about all the expensive treasures of architecture, painting, sculpture, and stained glass? Sell them all and use the proceeds to by food for the poor? What then would the poor have?

In Texas, we have a homestead law that seeks to guarantee that no matter what financial misfortunes might befall people, they will not lose their homes. The loss of one’s home is a loss of one’s dignity. Our churches, from the local chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica, belong not to the hierarchy, but to the whole family. They’ve been given to us by the hard work and contributions of our forebears to remind us of our dignity as sons and daughters of the living God.

The Lateran Basilica, whose dedication we celebrate every November, was donated to the Church by Constantine soon after he legalized Christianity in 313AD. Ever since it has been, as the official cathedral of the Pope, the mother church of all Christendom, the cathedral of the world.

It is there that the most powerful pope of the middle ages, Innocent III, had a dream of a magnificent church breaking apart only to be shored up by a poor man in a beggar's robe. Soon afterwards, a group of beggars from Assisi arrived, led by a man named Francis, asking for his approval for their lifestyle and work. Prepared by his dream, he recognized the hand of God, and encouraged a movement that renewed the Church.

As we meditate on this feast, let us allow zeal for his house to consume us as it did Jesus and Francis, that we may embrace the task of purification, renewal and rebuilding given us by the Council that met in another great Roman basilica some forty years ago.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Current Events; General Discusssion; History; Prayer; Religion & Culture; Theology; Worship

1 posted on 11/10/2003 6:45:20 PM PST by Desdemona
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To: Desdemona
Good stuff.

Have to tuck that one away, for the next time the subject comes up.
2 posted on 11/10/2003 8:09:19 PM PST by dsc
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To: dsc
Have to tuck that one away, for the next time the subject comes up.


It's one of those things. I don't know anymore that people see a church as a place of beauty so much as a functional building and it should be more of a place of beauty - what God inspires.
3 posted on 11/10/2003 8:49:18 PM PST by Desdemona (Kempis' Imitation of Christ online!
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To: Desdemona
Acts 7:48-53 "However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: 'Heaven is My throne, and earth is the footstool of My feet; what kind of house will you build for me?' says the Lord; 'or what place is there for My repose? 'Was it not My hand which made all these things?'

The early "churches" were homes. Rome kept building cathedrals that were built according to the bishop's ego. Protestants treated the church building as not only a place for Sunday worship, but also as a school and a venue for townhall meetings. The American Religion now build them to accomodate gyms, bowling alleys, food courts, multi-media presentation halls and concert arenas, and other trappings of secular society.

The church building usually devolves into some anthropocentric object of worship.

4 posted on 11/11/2003 5:37:13 AM PST by Dr Warmoose
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To: Desdemona
Good article. I used to think the same thing. I was agnostic for many years, and although I turned around, I am non-sectarian. HOwever, it is the images from the Catholic church that came to mind when I was suffering the consequences of being agnostic. Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that although he was a communist when he was young, he remembered fondly the pictures and icons his grandmother had in her house when he was very young and when he was imprisoned the memory of those physical things were a solice to him and an inspiration.
5 posted on 11/11/2003 9:01:51 AM PST by abigail2 (SCAM-Now #47on!!)
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To: Desdemona
Spot on, Des.

The Church Building is an icon... The Taj Mahoney is a Church Building ... What Values, what Truths does it image for us? What message does it preach by the mute testimony of its existence?

Anyone? Bueller?

Mark Loizeaux, we have a job for you... ;'}

6 posted on 11/11/2003 9:13:42 AM PST by ArrogantBustard
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To: Desdemona
As an adolescent he yearned to spend time in Herod’s sumptuous Temple (Lk 2).

That certainly seems like a stretch.

What, in that particular verse, indicates to you that the he 'yearned' to spend time in the 'sumptuous' temple?

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?

Seems to me that the temple had zero to do with this other than that's where the 'doctors' were, such that he could engage in debate/discussion/etc with them. What he was doing was the important part, not where he was.

7 posted on 11/11/2003 9:54:23 AM PST by Pahuanui (When a foolish man hears of the Tao, he laughs out loud)
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To: Desdemona
Our pastor's homily last Sunday was about the church building (I suppose it was inspired by the day's Gospel reading), and included information about the Lateran Basilica.

The point Fr. Clements made was that a church building is not just something IN which we worship, but something WITH with we worship.
8 posted on 11/11/2003 11:50:31 PM PST by Jeff Chandler ("You're it!")
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To: Dr Warmoose
In ages of Great Faith, men realise spiritual realities in stone - thus the Great Cathedrals.

In ages of weak Faith great works of art are denigrated and one builds a castle in his own mind.

The Incarnation continues to scandalise some.

9 posted on 11/12/2003 10:19:32 AM PST by Catholicguy (MT1618 Church of Peter remains pure and spotless from all leading into error, or heretical fraud)
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