Wednesday, March 21, 2007

More B16 - Different Topic

After last night's discussion and after the kids went to bed, I read some of Cardinal Ratzinger's writings on Sacred Architecture (in preparation for that Architecture Unit Study I'm working on) from A New Song for the Lord: Faith in Christ and Liturgy Today. It's a lot about "living stones" and how that's is the more primary sense of a church and gives meaning to the physical form as well. Here are a few brief highlights...

As a consequence, Christians are now deriving pleasure from making faith visible, from constructing its symbol in the world of matter. The other basic idea is connected to this: the idea of glorification, the attempt to turn the earth into praise, right down to the stones themselves, and thus to anticipate the world to come. The buildings in which faith is expressed are, as it were, a visualized hope and a confident statement of what can come to be, projected into the present.

The spirit builds the stones, not vice versa. The spirit cannot be replaced with money or with history. Where the spirit does not build, the stones become silent. Where the spirit is not alive, where it is not effective and does not reign, cathedrals become museums, memorials to the past whose beauty makes you sad because it is dead. That is the warning, as it were, which emanates from this cathedral celebration. Our history's greatness and our financial potency do not save us; both can turn into debris that smothers us. If the spirit does not build, money builds in vain. Faith alone can keep cathedrals alive, and the question the one-thousand-year-old cathedral is asking us is whether we have the strength of faith to give it a present and a future. In the end, organizations for the protection of historical monuments do not preserve the cathedral, as important and commendable as they are - only the spirit which created it can do this.

The spirit builds the stones, not vice versa - this also denotes the essential replaceability and the fundamental equivalence of all church buildings whether we like it or not.

In St. Ludger's Church in Munster it has always moved me deeply to know that this was the place where Edith Stein struggled with her vocation. And this is just a tiny excerpt from the history of faith and prayer and the history of sinners and saints preserved in our great old churches. Thus they are also an expression of the identity of faith throughout history, an expression of the faithfulness of God which reveals itself in the unity of the Church. Or should it not move us to know that a thousand years ago the bishop of Mainz spoke the same words of consecration and used basically the same missal in his cathedral as his successors today?

God builds his house; that is, it does not take shape where people only want to plan, achieve, and produce by themselves. It does not appear where only success counts and where all the 'strategies' are measured by success. It does not materialize where people are not prepared to make space and time in their lives for him; it does not get constructed where people only build by themselves and for themselves.

The beauty of the cathedral does not stand in opposition to the theology of the cross, but is its fruit...

'Built from living stones' - if there had not been living stones at the beginning, these stones would not be standing here. Now, however, they speak to us. They call upon us to build the living cathedral, to be the living cathedral so that the cathedral of stone remains a present reality and heralds the future.

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