The volume Come Into the Light: Church interiors for the celebration of liturgy considers the ritual experiences of liturgy and how these experiences are interpreted by the artistic narrative of a church and how these are supported by the architectural design of a church. The volume comprises 22 articles published by Fr James Leachman OSB and Fr Daniel McCarthy OSB in The Tablet of London.
Come Into the Light
Church interiors for the celebration of liturgy
As a child, my Father, George, used to prepare for the Sunday Eucharist first on Saturday evening when his Sunday-best clothes were laid out for him at their home high on the bluffs of the Missouri River. This simple gesture claimed his night’s rest and morning routine as part of his preparation. In the morning the family used to walk downhill a couple of blocks to the church and enter through its doors, opening between twin towers. There they always paused for a moment to remember their baptism by crossing themselves with its water and by renewing their profession of faith in the Trine God, ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Their procession to church would continue as they walked up the nave until they found a pew. There they would pray and listen to the Scripture proclaimed and explained. Finally they would resume their procession towards communion shared at the altar railing. Then they would turn around and begin their journey homeward, pausing along the way first in their pews for a final prayer and a blessing before continuing on their way back home further up the bluff in St. Joseph, Missouri.
This simple pattern, ingrained in the weekly actions of people going to church, sharing communion and returning home again, is brought to its completion by another pattern, that of Christ who comes to meet his people. His drawing near is seen when the book of the Gospels is carried in procession from the altar into the assembly where the Gospel passage is proclaimed as Christ present in the midst of all who hear. Christ draws near once again when the bread and wine of the Lord’s supper are brought from the altar to those who come forward and present themselves for sharing communion in the body and blood of Christ.
This double procession of the people toward Christ, who is ever coming toward his people, leads to an encounter in Christ, the Church’s bond of unity. Next Christ’s people turn around and begin their journey homeward so that they themselves might bring Christ’s presence coming into the world.
Well-designed Church buildings
Well-designed church buildings support this double procession and provide for the pauses along this journey, first a pause at the baptismal water to renew one’s baptismal commitment, second a rest for hearing the Word of God proclaimed and explained before the journey continues with gifts of bread and wine along with gifts for people in their need, all of which culminates as people present themselves to share in communion. Refreshed by the banquet they return as Christ’s presence in their daily lives.
The meaning of the celebration is illustrated by the artistic narrative and architectural design of churches, such that both art and architecture support and interpret the meaning of these simple human actions along the processional way….
Arrangement of the book
The custom of my father’s family and that of church-goers all over the world is reflected in the arrangement of this book.
Illumination in the baptistery
As the procession into church first stops at the baptismal waters, so the first five chapters of this book consider the experience of coming to personal enlightenment: coming to awareness and greater insight at different stages of one’s life. Thus, the title of this book is Come in the Light. The cover image shows the baptismal waters just inside St. Michael’s Abbey Church, Farnborough, Hampshire, and beyond the baptismal waters is the glorious light illuminating the processional way….
Maturation at the Word of God
The procession continues within this light, and pauses in the pews where people are refreshed by the Word of God, which is the subject of the next five chapters. This contribution draws upon the anthropological research of Prof. Crispino Valenziano of Cefalù, Scilly, into the history, ritual and liturgical development of the ambo, the place from which the scriptures are proclaimed. His research has reclaimed an ancient and common tradition from the first Christian millennium and made it viable once again, especially for the liturgical rites renewed in the past half-century….
Consummation at the wedding banquet
The procession culminates in the experience of consummation, when believers consume the banquet of the Lord and so are drawn into a nuptial union, an intimate sharing in divine life and union with one another. While only chapter 11 is dedicated to this divine encounter around the Lord’s table, its primacy ensures that consummation is integrated into many of the chapters.
[end of excerpt from the introduction]
The introduction of the book continues to describe five dimensions of a church building, each presented in an article in this volume.
Five ways to arrange a church
The above material is more or less expressed in five different ways of arranging churches prevalent today. The strengths of each of these is considered along with the limitations of each.
Ritual model. The principles underlying the three primary experiences, places, monuments mentioned above along with the five dimensions of a church designed for the celebraiton of liturgy are synthesized in what I call the “Ritual model”. This model may be used in designing new churches, renovating old ones and coming to a fuller appreciation of the strengths and limitations of any church you may visit.
Table of Contents
I have adapted the following table of contents by integrating the bibliographical references to each of these articles that appear in the volume.
Preface by Richard Giles
Foreword by Bishop Alan Hopes
I. Primary places – elements – monuments
Illumination in the baptistery
- Becoming light, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (7 April 2012) 22.
- Towards the enduring city, by J. Leachman, The Tablet (12 January 2013) 17.
Baptismal font, memorial of illumination
- A Time to be born, by J. Leachman, The Tablet (15 March 2008) 19.
- Water for ‘new plants’, by J. Leachman, The Tablet (5 April 2008) 17.
- Church of the senses, by J. Leachman, The Tablet (20 April 2013) 12.
Maturation at the Word proclaimed in the assembly
- Mix and Match, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (5 May 2012) 16.
- Assembled as one, by J. Leachman, The Tablet (5 September 2009) 17.
- Make a gift of your ministry, by J. Leachman, The Tablet (2 January 2010) 18.
Ambo, monument of the resurrection
- Discoveries at an empty tomb, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (3 March 2012) 16.
- Raise up the word, by J. Leachman, The Tablet (20 February 2010) 19.
Consummation at the wedding banquet
- To and from the living waters, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (16 June 2012) 12.
II. Five dimensions
Double procession toward encounter
- Intimate encounters, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (17/24 December 2011) 29.
Axis of the world
- Caught between heaven and earth, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (14 January 2012) 15.
Façade inside and out
- From there to eternity, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (10 November 2012), 16.
- Be guided by the light, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (27 April 2013) 13.
Ministry of presiding from the chair
- It’s the taking part, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (6 October 2012) 16.
Sacramental nature of liturgy
- Threshold of transcendence, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (7 September 2013) 16.
III. Five ways to arrange a church
Table of the Word – table of the Eucharist
- Table of good contents, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (29 June 2013) 16.
Standing around the altar
- Gather them in, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (25 May 2013) 13.
Two-part structure of the Eucharist
- Stand up for the Lord, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (25 August 2012) 13.
- A place for everyone, by D. McCarthy, The Tablet (27 July 2013) 14.
IV. The Ritual Model
Font – ambo – altar
- Becoming Christians, by D. McCarthy; originally ‘Home from home’, The Tablet (28 July 2012) 15.
About the authors
Fr Daniel McCarthy, OSB, SLD, is a monk of St Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, Kansas. He studied under Prof. Valenziano and wrote his doctoral thesis on liturgical architecture at the Pontifical Liturgy Institute, Rome, where he now teaches on the faculty, offering courses on the Latin expression and theological meaning of short prayers of the liturgy. He also serves as an advisor to the Vox clara committee of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He is a guest professor of Liturgy at the Catholic University Leuven, Belgium. He has served as liturgical consultant to the sisters of Stanbrook Abbey, Wass in Yorkshire for the building of their new chapel, and to the sisters of the Mater Ecclesiae Congregation, Street Ashton in Warwickshire for the rearrangement of their chapel. He used this material as the basis of a preached retreat given at Mount St Scholastica Monastery, Atchison in 2014. He is the author of five series of commentaries on the prayers of the Sunday liturgy published in The Tablet from 2006–2011; the first series was published in book form as Listen to the Word. He founded the Latin Summer School at Ealing Abbey, London in 2005 and co-founded the project Appreciating the Liturgy. He is a founding member of the Institutum Liturgicum London and serves on the editorial board of Questions Liturgiques/ Studies in Liturgy. He has also published in Ecclesia Orans.
Fr James Leachman, OSB, SLD, is a monk of Ealing Abbey, London, and recently emeritus associate tenured professor of liturgical spirituality and of liturgy and ecumenism at the Pontifical Liturgy Institute, Rome and guest professor at the Catholic University Leuven, Belgium. He is assistant editor of Ecclesia Orans, and on the editorial board of Questions Liturgiques/ Studies in Liturgy. He is co-founder of the project Appreciating the Liturgy and a founding member of the Institutum Liturgicum London. He has written articles on the liturgy of the Church of England in Ecclesia Orans, on the sources and theology of the RCIA in Studia Liturgica, and most recently in New Blackfriars, in Sewanee Theological Review and in Questions Liturgiques. He has written about way the celebration of liturgy contributes to the human maturation of individual participants and communities as part of the Generative Communities conversation on the vitality of communal life.
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What others say about our work
The book will be featured on a forthcoming edition of EWTN Bookmark. More information will appear when the show airs during the Auitumn of 2107.
The book was mentioned during a segment of EWTN Live with Fr. Mitch Packwa. It can be viewed at this YouTube link, or in the following video beginning at minute 41:20.
William Whyte, “Finding sermons in the stones”, Church Times, posted 30 September 2016 at 12:02. Link here for subscribers.
Excerpts: “each of these short chapters, with their helpful examples, interesting reflections, and questions for discussion, should serve to provoke parishes into taking their worship, and the buildings with which they worship, more seriously than perhaps they do at present”.
“it is a book that deserves reading. It is ful lof interest and insights into the purpose of church buildings, and how best they might be used”.
“the belief that well-appointed, well-organised sacred space can draw worshippers into a transformative encounter with God, do need addressing, especially now, when so many congregations are reordering their churches”.
“Come into the Light seeks to show that buildings are more than just containers for worship; that they have an active part to play in communicating spiritual truth, and mediating human perceptions of the Divine. Its publication is thus heartening, for it speaks of a renewed attempt to make more sense of the places in which we worship. That can only be a good thing”.
“Places of prayer can inspire our worship, in themselves, William Whyte learns”.
Book review, Bishop’s Hull Parish Magazine 31:05 (October 2016) 34. The Church of England Parish of St Peter and St Paul, Bishop’s Hull, Taunton, Somerset. Read the book review here in pdf format. Download full pdf at this link.
“It offers great practical wisdom to allChristian communities as they reflect on their liturgy and on the buildings in which God is made present daily in ritual and symbol.”
“The book aims to build an understanding of the constituent features of church buildings, the role they have in worship and the spirit with which they are imbued, so that all who enter today’s sacred spaces may find the authentic presence of the living God. Those who read, preach, preside or in any way take part in worship will find great practical inspiration here”.
The CRAA, Contemporary Religious Arts Association has this to say about the volume Come into the Light, in which the following appears:
“It offers great practical wisdom to all Christian communities as they reflect on their liturgy and on the buildings in which God is made present daily in ritual and symbol.This book aims to build an understanding of the constituent features of church buildings, the role they have in worship and the spirit with which they are imbued, so that all who enter today’s sacred spaces may find the authentic presence of the living God.
“Those who read, preach, preside or in any way take part in worship will find great practical inspiration here. This volume includes articles that have appeared over the last five years in the regular Parish Practice feature in ‘The Tablet’ magazine. Click here to learn more and purchase!”
The Benefice of Berthersden with High Halden and Woodchurch gave the following review in this their book-club.
“This is an illustrated handbook for understanding the architecture of a church and the arrangement of its interior for the celebration of the liturgy. It offers great practical wisdom to all Christian communities as they reflect on their liturgy and on the buildings in which God is made present daily in ritual and symbol.
“The book aims to build an understanding of the constituent features of church buildings, the role they have in worship and the spirit with which they are imbued, so that all who enter today’s sacred spaces may find the authentic presence of the living God. Those who read, preach, preside or in any way take part in worship will find great practical inspiration here.”