The Preface covers numbered sections 1 through Today, a positive start, encouraging parishes to embrace a church building project with their intellects, religious and spiritual heritage, personal taste in art and piety, and with an eye to revitalizing their faith community. By bringing together these personal and ecclesial elements in faith and in charity, parishioners help to build a new structure and to renew their parish community. I would assume such tastes are balanced by other serious considerations. This identity is shaped by the history of the particular parish, by its relationship to other parishes in the local Church known as the diocese, and by its relationship within the communion of local Churches known as the Roman Catholic Church.

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Timothy V. Vaverek, S. The present critique by Fr. Varerek of 'Built of Living Stones' will consider its authority and purpose as a NCCB statement and will then examine its conceptual framework in light of the Catholic tradition.

This analysis will reveal that BLS has no normative force and that it fails to provide a fully adequate expression of the Church's tradition, suggesting therefore that those interested in church art and architecture will need carefully to weigh and supplement BLS in light of the primary sources of the tradition. The document is intended to build on and replace Environment and Art in Catholic Worship EACW, the statement of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy in order to address the needs of the next generation of church building and renovation.

This conflict arose because EACW presented principles and suggestions that had never been advocated by the Church and whose authenticity were questionable. To make matters worse, there was a systematic effort by some liturgical and design experts to foster the impression that the vision of EACW was binding for Catholic church art and architecture in the United States.

Ultimately, it became clear that EACW expressed only the opinion of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, not the legislative intent or architectural vision of the American bishops, and that the time had come for the NCCB to address the issue. If past mistakes are to be avoided and the controversy put to rest, it is imperative that those using BLS accurately assess the authority of its theological, liturgical, and canonical statements.

We simply cannot afford another generation of confusion and bitterness over church art and architecture. The present critique of BLS will consider its authority and purpose as a NCCB statement and will then examine its conceptual framework in light of the Catholic tradition.

Built of Living Stones contains many of the provisions of universal law governing liturgical art and architecture and offers pastoral suggestions based upon the experience of the last thirty-five years. The document presents guidelines that can serve as the basis for diocesan bishops to issue further guidelines and directives for their dioceses. Where the document quotes or reiterates norms from liturgical books and the Code of Canon Law , those prescriptions are binding on local communities and dioceses.

To be more exact, the document was approved by a majority of the bishops in a voice vote. BLS therefore makes no claim to be a general decree having force of law for the dioceses of the United States. Such a decree would have required a two-thirds vote of all the bishops, present or not, and a subsequent recognitio by the Apostolic See.

Therefore, while BLS is weightier than a committee document such as EACW, it has no more authority than the many other statements routinely issued by the NCCB on a wide range of issues pastoral, sociopolitical, environmental, economic, etc. Ultimately, BLS has only the limited authority it claims: to be guidance from a majority of the American bishops offered in the name of the NCCB to help foster a better understanding and implementation of the Church's tradition regarding church art and architecture.

BLS states its rather modest purpose in the Preface: Built of Living Stones: Art, Architecture, and Worship is presented to assist the faithful involved in the building or renovation of churches, chapels, and oratories of the Latin Church in the United States.

The text also may be helpful to those who wish to understand the Catholic Church's tradition regarding church buildings, the arts, and architecture. While the suggestions and guidelines within the document have been carefully prepared, they are not exhaustive of the subject matter. They are intended to serve as the basis for decision making at the local level and also can become the foundation for the development of diocesan guidelines and legislation governing liturgical art and architecture.

BLS makes no effort to offer an exhaustive treatment of art and architecture, but merely to establish a foundation within the tradition for the development of church designs and diocesan norms. BLS can fulfill this purpose only to the degree that its principles reflect those of the Catholic tradition. Even a relatively minor inaccuracy in the statement of principles would result in a distorted presentation of the authentic canonical, liturgical, and theological heritage of the Church.

To borrow an analogy from construction: if a foundation or structural design is defective, then the entire edifice is at risk even if otherwise built of sound material.

The defects might be quite subtle and go unnoticed in an inspection, but if they are not corrected neither the skill of the builder nor the quality of the material can secure the structure. The critique which follows will attempt to show that the principles and schema of BLS do not adequately reflect the Catholic tradition which bases its understanding of church art, architecture, and liturgy on the Paschal Mystery of Christ.

BLS departs from this foundation in two major ways: 1 it relates church art and architecture primarily to the liturgical rites rather than to the Church herself, and 2 it relates the rites primarily to the presence of God and Christ rather than to the Church's participation in the Pasch. These defects in turn give rise to inadequate and mistaken design criteria.

The Preface of BLS provides an unambiguous statement of the principles that will determine the foundation and structure of the document: The document begins with a theological reflection on the liturgy and liturgical art and architecture. Since decisions about church art and architecture should always be based upon the theology of the eucharistic assembly and its liturgical action and the understanding of the Church as the house of God on earth, the first chapter is foundational for the chapters that follow.

The second chapter outlines the liturgical principles for parish communities to apply when building or renovating liturgical space, and it reviews the spatial demands of the major liturgical celebrations during the year. The third chapter offers suggestions for including art in places of worship Notice how often the terms "liturgy" and "liturgical" appear in this passage. Apparently it is axiomatic for BLS that church art and architecture is liturgical art and architecture no citation from Church teaching is offered in defense of this claim.

This leads BLS uncritically to assume in the first chapter that considerations of art and architecture should always be based on the Eucharistic assembly and its liturgical action as well as on the identity of the building as the house of God. This unsubstantiated corollary in turn becomes "foundational for the chapters that follow. The entire development of BLS depends on the integrity of the initial assumption that church art and architecture is first and foremost designed to reflect the liturgical worship occurring in God's house.

But this assumption is defective. According to these authentic and authoritative expressions of the Catholic tradition, the Church herself, the living temple of God, is "symbolized in places of worship built of stone" 7 so that the church building is a "visible sign of the living Church, God's building that is formed of the people themselves. According to Vatican II, the Trinity has chosen to accomplish the saving work of Christ's Pasch in and through the Church, for which reason Christ "always associates the Church with Himself in this great work in which God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified.

It follows that daily life and liturgy are equally real participations in Christ's saving work; they are both genuine priestly offerings of that "rational worship" by which the Christian prophetically lives and witnesses to the Pasch of Christ, thereby advancing the kingdom.

Therefore, it would be an egregious error to limit the realization of the Pasch, the spiritual life of the Christian, or the activity of the Church to liturgical celebrations. It follows from this sacramental understanding of the building and of the Church's participation in the Pasch that church buildings must reflect the identity of the Church as Christus Totus : the entire people of God united to Christ its head accomplishing the Pasch in life and liturgy. To design a building that represents only the ritual worship of the community would therefore run the real risk of distorting the image of the Church and the liturgy by ignoring both the paschal life of the Church outside of public worship and those members not present in the assembly.

Theologically this would reduce the Church to a particular worshipping congregation, the building to a congregational worship space, and the liturgy to a celebration of Christian fellowship.

The relation of the Church, the building, and the liturgy to the Pasch and the kingdom would be obscured or lost. BLS heavily favors such a reductionistic approach by limiting its reflections to liturgical art and architecture rather than beginning with the broader ecclesial and paschal vision of Vatican II. The only way it could avoid becoming trapped in a reductionistic vision would be by considering the liturgy in its fullest sense as a recapitulation of the entire life of the whole Church living and dead participating in the Pasch.

Then the ecclesial and paschal aspects would emerge because the design would reflect the reality encountered in liturgical ritual: the Pasch which lies at the heart of the Church's life and worship. BLS's reliance on a reductionistic concept of the liturgical rites becomes increasingly evident and detrimental throughout the first chapter. It offers no clear statement that the Church participates in Christ's Pasch such that her whole life not just the liturgy is seen to be a priestly, prophetic, and kingly act of worship giving praise to God and advancing the salvation of the world.

Instead, the focus is entirely on the Church's ritual life. For instance, the fourth paragraph states that "every time the Church gathers for prayer, she is joined to Christ's priesthood and made one with the saints and angels, transcending time and space The text makes it appear that communion with God and His people is the source and summit of Christian worship so that the experience of communion in liturgy "is a window to eternity and a glimpse of what God calls us to be.

Therefore, the liturgy cannot be a window to eternity or to what we are called to be unless it is a communion in the Pasch of the Lamb. For Vatican II, continual participation in the Pasch is the basis of Christian daily life and worship.

The Church's liturgical celebrations, the Eucharistic sacrifice, and the Eucharist itself are each rightly called "the source and summit" of Christian and ecclesial life precisely because they are uniquely privileged expressions and realizations of this on-going participation in the Pasch.

As BLS states it, the liturgical rites would appear primarily to be about recognizing our communion with God and His presence to us.

It is difficult to see how an understanding of liturgy based on a theory of divine presence rather than on a sacramental communion in the Pasch could possibly give rise to the full, conscious, and active participation in Christian life and worship sought by Vatican II.

To the extent that a theory of presence permits participation, it would seem to focus on participating in the performance of the rites rather than on celebrating the rites as a means of deepening our participation in the Paschal mystery they signify.

The ritual presence of God and Christ are wonderful realities, but for Vatican II those presences have a specific purpose: to enable our sacramental communion with Christ in the Pasch which we are to live each moment until we come to its fullness in the kingdom.

Participation in the Pasch enables Christian life and liturgy to be distinct foretastes of the communion of heaven. It is precisely this participation which constitutes redeemed humanity as the living church, God's temple built on the cornerstone of Christ. Here the concept of temple or building must be supplemented with that of a body.

The people of God constitute not only a community in which God is present as in a temple , they are a community which He continually enlivens and works through as with a body. The ill effects of the reductionistic approach to the Church and the liturgy are apparent in the second section of Chapter One, entitled "The Church Building.

In suggesting that the church building should be designed to express God's presence and to reflect the worship of the community BLS offers no insights into the most fundamental meaning and purpose of that presence or worship. For Vatican II, churches are designed to express the saving Paschal Mystery of Christ revealed and accomplished in the entire life of the Church.

This architectural proclamation is meant to continue, like the life of the Church, even outside of liturgical events. Because the building is an image of the paschal kingdom present now in mystery, it is necessarily also an expression of God's presence through Christ, suited for liturgical celebration, and reflective of the entire Church not just the worshipping assembly.

Thus, Vatican II can explain why the building should also be useful for liturgy, whereas BLS cannot explain why anything not immediately required for the rites should be included in the building. Vatican II suggests a comprehensive and coherent vision of the church building; the vision in BLS is incomplete and disjointed.

The fourth section of Chapter One seeks to lay the groundwork for moving from a general consideration of church architecture to concrete guidelines for church design. Given the document's reduction of church art and architecture to only liturgical considerations, it is natural that BLS should turn to the Mass for guidance at this step.

After all, the Mass is the supreme expression of the Church's liturgical life and the stereotypical ritual assembly of the faithful. This is so, according to the teaching of the Church, because the Mass is the great sacramental participation in Christ's Pasch.

But, as we have repeatedly observed, BLS does not consider the centrality of participation in the Pasch. Instead, it understands the liturgy as the worship of a particular community in which the presence of God is manifested.

Consequently, BLS claims that church designs must begin with a reflection on the relation of the places where Christ's presence is manifested: altar, ambo, presider's chair, and space for the congregation.

BLS substitutes experiencing God's presence for participation in Christ's Pasch as the basis of liturgy, forgetting that it is only through our share in the Pasch that we have communion with the Father.

Design Criteria: Ritualistic or Ecclesiological? Having reduced the building to an image of the liturgical assembly and the liturgy to the ritual celebration of God's presence, BLS has no choice but to base its design criteria solely on the demands of the rites. Chapter One concludes by offering the following criteria: Liturgical principles for building or renovating churches. These design criteria reflect the rites celebrated at a particular time and place, not the reality of the entire Church participating in the work of the Pasch in time and eternity.

Consider how the same type of criteria might have been expressed if BLS had followed Vatican II's lead by beginning with the ecclesiological identity of the building rooted in the Pasch: Ecclesiological principles for building or renovating churches.

Consequently it accords with liturgical norms. These ecclesiological criteria are holistic in that they consider the entire life of the Church and situate the liturgical rites within the broader context of that life by staying centered on the Pasch of Christ.

According to these criteria the building is suitable for ritual use precisely because it is an adequate image of the Church, not vice-versa. The building expresses the unique and hierarchical relation of the members to Christ their head with an emphasis on their continual participation in His Pasch, not only on encountering His presence as they act out various liturgical roles.

The beauty of the building is not measured simply as worship space, but in relation to how well the design reflects the Church as she is, as she has expressed herself historically including in particular cultures , and as she will appear on the last day when the work of the Pasch is accomplished.

The identity of the Church as Christus Totus , not the structure of the rites alone, is the key to church design. A building built on sound ecclesiological principles is naturally able to take into account the specific needs of the liturgical and devotional worship of the Church because in worship the Church is herself.

But a church designed only for ritual use will not necessarily be able to reflect the complete identity of the Church because her identity is not limited to specific ritual celebrations. By choosing to base designs on ritual criteria, BLS has not only failed to sufficiently ground itself in the ecclesiology and liturgical theology of Vatican II both of which are rooted in the Pasch , it has set for itself an almost impossible task.

Since liturgical and canonical legislation have generally presumed the existence of church buildings, they have not attempted to present a comprehensive architectural plan for churches.


Bishops back "Built of Living Stones"

Online Edition — Vol. VI, No. At their November meeting, the US bishops faced a packed agenda, with issues ranging from restructuring the conference, to the situation in Sudan, to procedures for granting approval to theologians who teach in Catholic colleges and universities. Liturgy items on the agenda included approval of Mexican translations for Spanish-language liturgical texts, an American "implementation" of Canon law concerning the age of Confirmation they approved an age range of from "the age of discretion to about the age of 16" and guidelines for church architecture to replace the controversial statement, Environment and Art in Catholic Worship. The bishops approved the new guidelines, Built of Living Stones , by voice vote, in the final hours of the conference. Although this is not mentioned in the text, the new title is from I Peter







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