As we end our exploratory journey into the essential components of the church, we examine one final piece: images of St. Mary. These images have their own unique way of pervading the church’s sacred confines and reminding us of our ever-present Savior.
Because Mary gave birth to Jesus, she is venerated for all-time as the Blessed Virgin, the Mother to Christ, and to all. Mary is not only represented by solemn, welcoming statues, but many other symbols. Among these are the initial M, the fleur-de-lis, lily, rose (sometimes called the mystic rose), and even simply the color blue. All of these serve as reminders of Mary’s presence, and, thus, the presence of Jesus.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our exploration of the church and hold a new appreciation for your place of worship. For more information on the architectural church, and the importance these features have in the spiritual Church, check out The Church: Unlocking the Secrets to the Places Catholics Call Home by Donald Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina today! The Church is available wherever books and ebooks are sold.
When we think of the ornate artwork that goes into a beautiful cathedral, the gem-like colors of an elaborate stained-glass window are often the first images that come to mind. Stained glass windows, as we’ll see, have an important part to play in the church.
In their book, The Church, Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina call stained glass window-makers “the earliest precursors of motion picture photographers.” It is strange to think of these solemn, glittering windows as films, and yet they performed more or less the same function. Stained glass windows were especially popular, and most necessary, during the Middle Ages, a time of great illiteracy. The windows featured the lives of saints or Biblical tales that allowed uneducated churchgoers to see and experience their favorite stories. They are not only informative, monumental works of art, but spiritual aids.
Does your church have beautiful stained glass? Take a picture and share it on our Facebook site!
Join us next week for the conclusion of Church 101: Images of Mary. Remember to get your copy of The Church—available wherever books and eBooks are sold.
This section of Church 101 will focus on one beautiful aspect of the church which represents a long-standing tradition: church bells.
In the days before the legalization of Christianity, the beautiful and insistent peal of a bell was not associated with the then secret church. However, after 313 AD, bells became known for keeping track of time and calling clergy and laymen alike to prayer. By the Middle Ages, bells “were a city’s pride and joy,” according to Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina, and would not only have their own names, but their own coat of arms. Bells have all sorts of functions, but their most common use is to peal out a last call, a friendly reminder that the mass will soon begin.
Does your church ring bells before or after Mass?
Come back next week, same time, same place, for a look at stained glass windows. Purchase your copy of The Church by Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina today!
CHURCH 101 PART 3: Quiz
This week we’d like to see how much you know about your church. Check out our Church 101 Quiz to test your knowledge, and don’t forget to like our Facebook page for news on The Church.
1. On what does the laity sit during mass?
2. What is the table portion of the altar called?
a. The marble
3. Many cathedrals are laid out in the shape of a cross. What is the proper name for the “arms” of that cross?
4. Most Catholic churches face which direction?
5. What do you call the small, cushioned slats used for kneeling during the mass?
6. What is the name of the long, middle aisle in the church?
a. The main aisle
b. High road
7. What is the largest Catholic Church in the world?
a. Saint-Chapelle, Paris
b. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, New York
c. Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome
Come back next week when we explore the history of church bells! Remember to get your copy of The Church, available now.
Answers: 1-b, 2-c, 3-c, 4-a, 5-b, 6-c, 7-c
The church was not always made up of the high ceilings and grand stained glass windows we imagine today. During the early years of Christianity, members of the church would gather in congregants’ homes to commune with each other. The ancient and mysterious rite of the Eucharist would occur in someone’s living room. However, after the legalization of Christianity in 313 AD and throughout the next 17 centuries, cathedrals and churches, among some of the most beautiful buildings ever constructed.
It’s not only the exteriors of churches that inspire awe, but also what lies within. The altar, nave, pews, icons of Mary and other saints, the crucifix, and even the doors are all made with great care and often show a mastery of artistic skill. Despite that, “a Church does not need to be a great work of art in order to be a sacred place,” the authors of The Church write. The most important part of the church is not its artwork, however appreciated, but the consecration of that holy place of worship.
A church doesn’t have to be a certain shape or height, as the importance and purpose of the church is to allow for worship and house the altar. Most of us, however, imagine a church with the same sort of layout. Most churches conform to the shape of a cross to remind us of a loving God who became flesh only to die for us. This basic layout applies to Romanesque, Gothic, and even modern-day cathedrals.
Check out New York’s Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and take a virtual tour courtesy of the amazing St. Patrick’s website.
Join us next week for a post of a different kind. The Church by Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina is now available wherever books and eBooks are sold—get your copy today.