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The Architectural Spirit Of The Liturgy

Wilfred McClay, in Why Place Matters:

As Winston Churchill famously declared during the Second World War, as an intervention in the debate over whether Britain should rebuild the bombed House of Commons just as it had been before, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” Churchill favored the complete restoration of the initial design, but for reasons that were as much functional as traditional — albeit a kind of mystical functionalism. He believed that the institutions of British parliamentary self-government had been made possible in crucial ways, ways that defied enumeration, by the specific physical structures within which Parliament grew and matured into its present role — even down to the shape and size and seating arrangements of its chambers. The space is ours to shape initially, but once we have filled and shaped it, it begins to take on a life of its own, as a place that molds us in turn. One tinkers with such places only at one’s great peril, particularly when the shaping has been done by many hands over the years. not only does it rattle the bones of the dead, but it may undermine the prospects of those yet unborn, and weaken us by burying memories that deserve to live.

He’s talking about architecture, but reading this passage, I immediately thought of the Roman Catholic liturgy, and why the destruction of the old mass was such a desolation. Reality is liturgical. That is, if you want to maintain a sense of metaphysical realism, you had best tread lightly when tempted to trample on the sacred liturgy.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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