THE CHURCH BUILDING
The building is a great symbol of what the church is
all about. The entire building rests on a foundation. It has walls but a
lot of windows to let in the light of the Good News. It has really big
doors to make sure everyone knows that it is a place where they are
welcome. The best part of the church building is the people who gather to
worship together. They come together to remind each other of how great God
is and what great things God has done for us all.
THE CHURCH WINDOWS
Windows let in the light. Traditionally, churches have
been designed so that the light of the rising sun falls on the altar to
remind us of the risen Christ who put an end to darkness. (East -West) The
windows of very old churches, like the great cathedrals of Europe, tell
the story of how God has saved all people. In early times not everyone
learned to read and write. Mass was celebrated in Latin, a language that
not everyone understood. So, in order to make sure that everyone had a
chance to receive God's word, designers made use of the windows. They
designed beautiful scenes from important Bible stories and then had those
pictures formed in multicolored glass called stained glass. When the
sunlight shone through these huge scenic windows it gave the church a
special feeling of holiness. People who could not read or who had trouble
understanding the Latin mass, could look at the windows to see how good
God has been to all people. Today most people can read so the windows are
more commonly decorated with saints who are special to the parish
community or with symbols of our faith. However, when the light shines
through these windows we still get a feeling that we are in a special,
THE ALTAR STONE
In early times an altar was not complete without a
relic or a piece of the remains of a holy person. It is level with the
surface of the altar and is just large enough to hold a paten and chalice.
You may see five crosses engraved on it reminding us of the five wounds of
Christ. The relic sealed in this stone reminds us that we are called to
participate in doing Jesus' work.
The altar is the main symbol of Christ. It recalls the
ancient place of sacrifice where people slaughtered offering animals such
as doves, lambs or cattle to God as a sign they were sorry for their sins.
After Jesus' death and resurrection, we no longer offer animals to God.
Jesus has made the ultimate sacrifice of His life for all of our sins. We
now see the altar as a table—the table of the Lord's supper. It is either
square to symbolize the four corners of the earth where God's people are
found or round to symbolize the equality of all who approach.
The doors of a church are very symbolic. They can
represent the gates of Heaven. They also represent the place of welcome to
all who come to meet the Lord. Many churches have plain wood or glass and
metal doors leading into the church building. Then they have a separate
set of doors leading from the narthex, or gathering space, into the nave,
or worship space. These doors can be very decorative. They might have
panels with scenes from the Bible carved on them or symbols that remind us
of how great God is to us. These doors are usually very tall and wide in
order to allow people to process (or parade) into the worship space with
joy and celebration.
THE LITURGICAL COLORS
Church life is a very rich and colorful experience. We
celebrate with words but also with a variety of sights, smells and sounds
that remind us of the passing of time. One way of marking time is to watch
colors that are displayed in the church.
time of hope, growth, life and fidelity.
is our time of growth after the experiences of
Christmas and Easter. Violet
is a color of sorrow, repentance and
sees a lighter blue-violet shade which
emphasizes preparation. Lent
uses a deeper red purple which indicates
humility, sorrow and need to be forgiven.
is a joyful color! It represents innocence,
purity, victory and joy. We see white in all of our joyful celebrations of
Christmas, Easter, Mary, angels, saints who are not martyrs and even
funerals and weddings. Red
recalls sacrifice (the color of blood),
charity and the Holy Spirit. We see red on
and for celebrations of
Apostles. We also see red during