For Sunday, April 29, 2012
Fourth Sunday of Easter
1 John 3:1-2
One of the great discussions through the ages of Christianity is what should the place of worship for God's people look like. After all, the house for the church reflects who the church itself is. ("Church" here being used in its sense as God's people, not in its definition as a building.) Our history tells us that we have gathered around the table of the Lord behind locked doors (as the first disciples did for fear of the Jews), in Roman graveyards (as the first martyrs), in the open air basilicas of the Empire (when Christians finally took over the civil state), in glorious cathedrals constructed for the sole purpose of worship, and in temporary spaces as varied as the battlefield, a jungle village, a Boy Scout campground, or a sports stadium (a particular favorite of recent popes).
The church (meaning the people) can pray any place, and yet we still debate what a "church" (meaning the building) should look like. Good architecture, like any art, has the power to inspire. On the other hand, poor architecture can limit the human imagination and prevent the spirit from soaring to spiritual heights.
One of the great modernist masterpieces of religious architecture is the Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France. Designed by Le Corbusier and completed in 1955, the chapel has become a place of pilgrimage for both religious supplicants and students of architecture. Anyone who has seen an image of the chapel cannot forget its swooping roof lines that mimic a nun's wimple and veil. The simplicity of the inside offers space for contemplation, allowing God to enter into one's heart. As the current abbess, Sister Brigette de Singly, said, "When you are in the chapel there is a warm atmosphere that helps you get inside yourself, whether you are Christian or not."
The chapel is so iconic, that when the Poor Clares sought to add a new convent and visitor's center, the outcry from the architectural world led to an online petition decrying the desecration of a masterpiece. But in a recent review in The New York Times, architecture critic Michael Kimmelman praised the new addition as being a humble addition to the great work on the hill. As he stated in his review of the additions, "Humility is a virtue."
We may still argue about what a church building should look like, but that's not really the architecture we should care about. The real aspect of our faith is not about what pew we fit in on Sunday or even how glorious or humble is the place in which we gather around the Lord's table. It is more important that we discover how we fit into the structure that is Christ.
The divine architecture presented by Peter in this weekend's first reading concerns a stone that is rejected by the builders. This is the stone that becomes the cornerstone, Christ, the foundation of our lives. If we are going to be built up into the beautiful city, then we have to let Christ be the foundation of what we do and who we are. Like the additions to Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut, we have to be humble and allow Christ to be the One who takes first place. We are only part of the structure, not the entire thing. And how we work with others in the community of faith is what builds us up into a church.
We all have our place in the structure.
"By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes."
Creator of the world,
Father of us all,
your Son rose from the tomb
and he gives new life to all who believe in him.
Build up your people in faith
and strengthen us in holiness,
that we may reveal your glory in this world
and rejoice in your presence in heaven.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
ELECTION SEASON GUIDELINES
With primaries winding down and political conventions on the horizon, the USCCB is encouraging pastors and parishes to be aware of the Dos and Don'ts during election season. Failure to observe certain specific guidelines could result in severe penalties to a congregation. For more information, see the guidelines at: http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship/dos-and-donts-guidelines-during-election-season.cfm.
CATHOLIC HOME MISSIONS APPEAL—April 28–29
Many dioceses will take up the annual collection for the Catholic Home Missions the weekend of April 28–29. Resources are available from the USCCB on their website at http://usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/catholic-home-missions-appeal/collection/index.cfm. Parishes which use the publishing services of Liturgical Publications Inc can find these resources on the LPi Art & Media Portal with the key word "Catholic Home Missions Appeal."
2012 CATHOLIC PARISH WEBSITE OF THE YEAR
Would you like $500 for your parish? Is your parish website informative and attractive? Last call to enter the 2012 Catholic Parish Website of the Year Contest sponsored by LPi and the Catholic Tech Talk Blog. Check out the entry details at: http://catholictechtalk.com/contests/. Deadline is April 30, 2012.
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