Recently I mentioned to a couple under instruction that I could not teach them catechism nor could I preach at Mass without having had faculties from the archbishop, that is, without having received a mandate from him who alone has the authority to designate me for this ministerial work. Behind this assertion is the fact that no one possesses authority on his own; authority must be lawfully derived from another who himself has legitimate authority. Thus, there is authority that parents naturally have over their children; of a teacher over his students; and of a lawfully designated ruler over the populace. In the Church, no one has any authority unless it has been concretely given by Christ.
Even our Lord Himself, though divine, in His human nature received authority from His Father ("All authority has been given to me, both in heaven and on earth...."). It was said of Him that He had been "appointed," and that He did not take the honor of priesthood upon himself, but was called to it by the Father (cf. Hebrews 5:5). He Himself said that as He had been sent from the Father (in the Incarnation), so it was that He was sending His apostles (the very word means 'those who are sent'). So then, no one in the Church has authoritative position without having divine authority which comes from Christ -- authority that's not merely subjectively felt to have been received, but which was truly, legally, lawfully conferred upon him. (So much then for ministers and self-made reverends who have no apostolic leg to stand on, no matter how much they may feel themselves to have been "called" to ministry, no matter how talented or dedicated to the Gospel they may be. No one can start his own religion, his own church.) A validly ordained and lawfully deputized Catholic priest is one who has been literally called (and not merely subjectively felt to be called) to holy orders by his bishop and who has been given by him the mandate to preach, teach, and to absolve sinners in the sacrament of Confession.
This instruction on the Church authority as derived from Christ and made actual through apostolic succession, Ordination, and through the exercise of juridical power rooted in divine authority, led me to think about the architecture of our parish church. In a tour I gave of it to some visitors I mentioned that ours is a traditional cruciform church, that is, it was made in the form of a cross, a design wherein the most sacred part is the sanctuary -- the place where Christ's head would be on the cross if one could get the aerial view of the church building. This traditional architectural shape of a church contrasts with the modernistic circular design of many churches built since the 1960s, a form which reflects not the hierarchical body of Christ (with Christ at the position of the head and His bodily members in the transept and the nave), but rather an egalitarian assembly of people where there is no head, no position of leadership, but where all are in equal placement, 'in the round.' This model does not reflect the Catholic theology of the Church (Christ being the Head, and His members subordinated to Him) but represents a protestant, individualistic, self-ruling kind of society where there is no true authority but where everyone, including those said to have been "ordained," are of equal position and status.
Needless to point out perhaps, architecture matters. The modern architecture, so prevalent in many Catholic churches, makes the laity feel that they are equal in position and authority to the priest who is merely their "presider" for the liturgy, or the appointed "president." In such case, lay people feel they have been "empowered" (a favorite slice of Saint Suburbanite jargon) to decide for themselves what they will believe and be taught, empowered to fashion their own liturgies, and to rule in areas proper to the ordained priesthood. One then out not to underestimate the power of art (here, of architecture) either to reinforce and sustain true, orthodox faith or else to usurp it.
We are regarded as being a traditional parish by many people, rightly so. Our church's very shape reflects the inherent hierarchical structure the Church, that is, which it has of its very nature, due to the express will of its divine Founder. Your parish priests, however unworthy, have been called by the Church to perform the ministerial service needed for the salvation of your souls. This is not a matter of self-imposed tyranny over you, of an outmoded pre-Vatican II "model" of the Church; it is rather of the very essence of the priesthood. And so, when one walks into our church building for the first time one gets a sense of this theological structure from its very architectural structure. And so it is that those of a modernistic frame of mind rightly feel discomfort upon entering our church. They sense there the majesty of God and His authority looming over them. Our church building itself is a catechetical lesson in Catholicism.
Wednesday, May 04, 2016
Fr. Perrone on the chain of authority from Christ to the priest, how this is mirrored in traditional church architecture, and why modernists are uncomfortable in such churches
Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [temporary link] (Assumption Grotto News, May 1, 2016)