Our lavishly beautiful churches

HINTS AND TRACES - Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - February 13, 2021 - 12:00am

I am happy to note that we now have many beautiful churches around. In fact, I would say, lavishly beautiful churches, with a lot of gilding nuanced with patina, vibrant colors, beautiful images that sometimes are changed according to the liturgical season. Flowers literally cover the sanctuaries.

They also have incorporated the appropriate modern technologies to facilitate the people’s participation in the liturgical rites. Screens that project the prayers are strategically placed. And the new churches are now built along modern architectural style, though many of the baroque-styled old churches remain and are properly spruced up.

A lot of innovations are taking place. I saw one chapel where the retablo was an inverted tree, with the roots touching the ceiling painted as a sky and the foliage with the fruits hovering on the tabernacle on the altar table. When I asked why it was so designed, they told me that the tree of life has its roots in heaven and its fruits here on earth. I immediately got the idea and I found it beautiful!

To me all this can only mean that the level of the people’s faith and piety has gone up, thanks be to God. I believe that the more intense the people’s faith and piety are, it could not be helped but for this faith and piety to be shown also externally. It has to go aesthetically physical and material, not just spiritual and supernatural.

But there was a time when I felt uncomfortable to be in a church or any edifice, be it a home or an office, that was lavishly decorated. That’s because I belong to that generation that equated lavish decorations with being thoughtless and insensitive to the poor. To be in solidarity with the poor, my generation wanted things to be also in poor conditions.

It took me time to overcome that prejudice. It was only when I realized that if there is genuine love for God and everything that is directly related to him, we should give him the best and everything of ourselves, first our mind and heart, our soul, but all the way to the most material aspect of our life. That’s what true lovers do.

Of course, this love for God and for the things directly related to him should not undermine our love for the others, but should rather enhance that love. That’s because love for God and love for the others are simply inseparable. Otherwise, our love would be fake.

Thus, whenever we give our best to the sacred things that are directly related to God, we should also deeply realize that we too have to give our best to the others. Love for God and love for the others are not meant to compete with each other, but rather to mutually help each other.

It’s really in our purity of intention that we can start to make this love of God and the sacred things directly related him compatible with our love and concern for the others, especially the poor.

So, whenever I find myself in a lavishly beautiful church, I cannot help but feel urged to do something special and even extraordinary for people around. I can always do that first of all through my prayers and some sacrifices, and then through whatever material help I can give to them.

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