Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sacred Space and Multipurpose Rooms

Have you noticed that many of our Catholic sanctuaries are being transformed into multipurpose rooms? Today we have projector screens being installed, plays and musicals being performed, and all sorts of mundane activity occurring in places of worship. As our Catholic churches have given more importance to expedience and utility over preserving the sacredness of the sanctuary, people have acted accordingly. They have taken our cue. People are now talking before and after Mass, chewing gum and texting. These are the unintended consequences of having our cake and eating it too.

The sense that the Holy Eucharist deserves even more reverence and awe than Moses’ burning bush has, regrettably, become foreign to many people in the pew. And if they do not give our Eucharistic Lord the solemnity he deserves then I can’t say I blame them. After all, do we not send them mixed signals when we have concerts, show movies and present documentaries in the very same place where the Holy Sacrifice just took place?

The average person does not make the same distinctions that a Catholic who works on behalf of the local parish will make. Those who are active participants in their church know liturgical etiquette. They know that even though a play is being performed in front of the altar or a movie is being projected onto a big screen just above the lectern, it does not give them the license to engage in other mundane activities such as chewing gum. But again, the average person is apt not to make these distinctions. They do not see the same nuances that a well formed Catholic will take note of.

Consecrated places such as the sanctuary in any given church are vitally important for our faith journey. In fact, the mystique of churches should serve as a reminder and foretaste of heaven. Beauty, silence and wonder used to pervade the atmosphere of most, if not all, sanctuaries. Even in rural or inner-city churches, one could not help but sense the God’s presence upon entering.

A return to preserving the otherworldliness of sacred space is in our best interest. Why? Because not only will it remind us of heaven, but it will better prepare us for when the whole universe will be consecrated upon our Lord’s Second Coming. Indeed, earth itself will someday be sacred space. Perhaps this is why transforming consecrated and sacred spaces into multipurpose venues is not such a good idea.