17 January 2016

Selected Articles From PAX Quarterly Magazine

No. 0979 - 31 Jul 2012 - 17:14:47

The Gate of Heaven*
     "The church is a house with a hundred gates 
and no two men enter at exactly the same angle."
                                                                                            -- G.K. Chesterton

      There is a transformative rhythm to the architecture of a church -- from narthex to tower -- that touches the senses from first sight to last sound.  In this sacred space, where deep-lasting spiritual change is an on-going process, my prayer is gratitude.  I bring a camera eye with me whenever I enter through its various gates, never failing to marvel at the physical beauty and emotional calm of the building itself.  Outside may feel like the valley of the shadow of death but inside is the knowing of sanctuary.
     To enter formally, through the front doors of St. James', from the bright light of day on the street corner and into the relative quiet and darkness of the narthex, is to walk immediately into another realm.  The pace slows as ones vision adjusts in the subdued light coming through the leaded windowpanes.

No 1103 - 25 Feb 2014 -m 15:11:14

     In fact the whole interior of the church is bathed in the light coming from its many narrow, arched windows.  It pulls the viewer out of the contained entrance, to the left and into the high, open expanse of the nave.  This is the main body of the church where the parish congregates out of a desire to know the Word of God, and it is from the centre of this space that the Holy Gospel is proclaimed.
     At the easternmost end of the nave, across the transept and up the steps to the chancel bar are the sanctuary and altar where parishioners and clergy give offerings and prayers and where all kneel to receive the Eucharist -- a statement of belief witnessed and shared.
     Overhead, the apse is the barrel-vaulted ceiling that rises up over and around the sacred space in a constructed embrace of acceptance.  It is protective of the altar, the Host and the rite of communion.
      There are, surrounding this procession of architectural details, a series of chapels that heighten the intentions of individual worshippers.  The Blessed Sacrament Chapel behind the ambulatory and the Lady Chapel to the right of the nave, provide more intimate and quiet places for daily prayers and masses while the Baptistry, to the right of the narthex, is an exquisite setting for the rite of baptism especially on a candlelit Holy Night.  And finally, the choir gallery over the west end of the nave is surely a kind of chapel to the choristers and organists whose spiritual offering is music.

No 6372 - 26 May 2014 - 20:39:09

     Under all of this is the crypt, the scene of the action where the work of the parish continues to maintain the edifice and its inhabitants.  Currently it is where the guilds and caretakers store their tools and supplies and where local children (Saint James Music Academy) learn to play classical music; it has also long been a home for festivals, fellowship, and community service.
     Lastly, and overhead all of this, is the bell tower that holds an eight-bell carillon and is the very expression of allowance it its purpose.  Whether calling the faithful to prayer or ringing out the exultation of a festival day, the sound of bells pealing is an invitation to the moment, an opportunity to let go of worry and experience a joyful feeling.
     The journey through a church can reveal the meaningful exchange between the physical, material world and the deeply cherished spiritual values at the crux of faith.
     A more comprehensive exploration of church architecture and the spiritual journey can be found in The Geometry of Love, by Margaret Visser -- a transfiguring study of "space, time, mystery and meaning in an ordinary church."

No. 3219 - 17 Mar 2014 - 18:49:46

*  PAX: No. 27, St. John The Baptist © 2015