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Friday, July 1, 2011

Vertical v. Horizontal Theology

Here's the issue at hand...and it is glaringly obvious. There is a change in theology with regard to architecture and it serves man and not God. It is the theology the move toward horizontal theology as being primary (as promoted in the second photo) and vertical theology as being secondary (as promoted in the first).

Vertical theology = God as focus
Horizontal theology = Man as focus

The inherent issue is that in theology man is never the end, but rather God is. This is one of the hallmark errors of Protestantism. It is a sort of positivism which invaded Catholic thought after Vatican Council II wherein the communal aspect of worship became the central focus whereas the God-centered became a relegation of the past and "old thinking."

When we see our minds and hearts not drawn upward to God, who is the main recipient of the Mass, but rather to the congregation around us, we find there are theological problems which arise. Who is the focus? What is the aim? Are we serving God with this attitude or are we serving ourselves? These questions are bigger than the architecture, but it is through the architecture that these questions become manifest. This is yet another example of poor catehesis of the faithful. This shows a breakdown in very elementary Systematic Theology which everyone can grasp.

When we look at the two pictures, we see can see the obvious divergence of theological thought. In the first, we see our eyes drawn upward in everything that has to do with the sanctuary...

1. The step up into the sanctuary, through the altar rail, which signifies a separation of the world from the otherworldly
2. The canopies over the pulpit and the cathedra immediately draw our eyes upward
3. The three steps which lead up to the altar itself.
4. The vertical nature of the raredos draws our eyes from the mensa and gradine toward the heavens
5. The painting of the sanctuary draws the eyes upward to look at the ceiling which shows a triangle to represent the Trinity.

Whereas when we look at the second we see:

1. A lack of altar rail which immediately opens the space to the congregation, making the steps up an after thought.
2. The white wash of paint brings the sanctuary down and focuses the eyes on the contrasting furniture (music stand, candlesticks on the floor, celebrant's (sic. presider's) chair. This is a style employed by photographers when they want the subject to be the focus and not the surroundings, they will have a white backdrop with a white floor.....thereby causing focus to be leveled on the subject at hand.
3. The altar is white, which washes out the mensa and creates a focus not looking upward, but rather focusing down on mosaics under the mensa.
4. The tabernacle is lost in a sea of white and removes focus even though it is a gilded brass.
5. The movement of the altar rail behind the altar is an afterthought in looking at the photo and completely lost.
6. The contrasting "banners" or "tippets" point downward further focusing the eyes downward.

If the Mass is first a way to worship God, why was the focus moved from looking upward to looking down at man? It is a shift in theology. It is a shift in view of how we are to take the liturgy of the Church. It is part of the hermeneutic of rupture and inconsistent with Catholic thought.

Horizontal theology is man focused.
Vertical theology is God focused.

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