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{{vm.product.SpProduct.Article}} Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy

Denis McNamara

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In this unique, richly illustrated and groundbreaking book by one of this generation's finest architectural historians, Dr. Denis McNamara delves into the deep meanings of liturgical art and architecture, and the Sacred Liturgy itself. It will help pastors, architects, artists, members of building committees, seminarians, and everyone interested in liturgical art and architecture come to grips with the many competing themes that are at work in church buildings today.  This is the definitive book for Catholic art and architecture.

“I believe that this book by Denis McNamara is the kind of mystagogy Pope Benedict called for. I believe it is the kind of mystagogy the ancient Fathers would wish for their own churches. Dr. McNamara knows that to contemplate sacred space is not merely to trace influences in an evolutionary diagram back to Vitruvius. To understand a church requires more than a genealogy of tourist postcards. It requires an interior life. It requires a hope of heaven. It requires a revelation. It calls for mystagogy. All of which are evident in the pages of this book ... Dr. McNamara has given us something we desperately need, something rare and great: at once an achievement of scholarship, a work of mystagogy, and an act of piety.”

—Scott Hahn,
Professor of Theology and Scripture,
Franciscan University of Steubenville,
Founder and Director, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

 

“This comprehensive volume answers the two questions that should initiate any discussion about the future of liturgical architecture: Why and How. Why should a church look like a church? How do we ‘read’ a church to know if it does? The answer to these fundamental questions does not come out of ideology or archaism, but from a theological analysis of Beauty and a review of architectural principles. McNamara has the uncommon capacity to speak about both, as he describes the church as a sacramental building. McNamara’s progression from eschatological icon and Beauty to the architectural principles of decoration and ornament to a careful reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium is ingenious. If congregations facing a renovation, priests facing a building committee, and church architects facing a project were to really struggle with the content of this book, it would change the kind of churches that we build. The book has the potential to change the future. What would happen to church architecture for the next fifty years if this book were to be read seriously?”

—David Fagerberg,
Associate Professor of Theology,
University of Notre Dame

 

“Denis McNamara is an amazing teacher. He knows the theology of our liturgy and has a love of the sacraments of the Church and the symbols that express those sacraments. He has an uncanny way of blending all three together while using his understanding of classical architecture so that not only will new churches be beautiful to the eye and understandable to the mind, but most moving to the heart. This unique and fascinating book unites the sacred celebrated in our presence with the heavenly Jerusalem and the Eternal Banquet ... Denis McNamara’s Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy will help those parishes in the process of renovating, planning, or building a church. It is a must-read for anyone interested in being better educated about how liturgical art and architecture help bring souls back to God.”

 —Rev. William Porter,
Pastor, St. Michael the Archangel Church,
Leawood, KS

 

“Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy is an invaluable and easy-to-read theological resource for all pastors, parish liturgy committees, architects, and artists. I was really carried away by this book—could not stop reading it. This is exactly what parishes and offices of worship need as they build or renovate their churches.”

 —Msgr. William McCumber,
Director, Office of Sacred Worship
Archdiocese of St. Louis

 

“Denis McNamara has accomplished something unique and important in this book: he has reflected on church buildings as the built expression of distinctively theological ideas. This analysis has enabled him to specify precisely why certain churches are adequate to their deepest purpose—why others are not … In this lucidly written text, he helps us to see how the Garden of Eden, the Jerusalem Temple, the sacrifice of the cross, the communion of saints, and the song of the angels in heaven all have relevance to the way we think about—and more significantly, the way we build—our churches. It is my hope that this marvelous book will find its way into the hands of pastors, educators, architects, renovators, and worshippers all across the country.”

—Bishop Robert Barron,
Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles
Founder, Word on Fire® Ministries

 

“This wonderful book will lead those who build churches out of the wilderness littered with ugly and misbegotten buildings. Biblical exegesis and patristic, scholastic, and recent theology support McNamara’s convincing rereading of documents of the Second Vatican Council. They sanction no particular style but do demand that churches once again shine forth with the beautiful image of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Everyone involved in church building must read it, and take it to heart.”

—William Westfall,
Frank Montana Professor
School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame

 

“Contrary to the impression given by some, the principles of sacred architecture did not begin in the Middle Ages, or even in earliest Christianity. Instead, they are rooted in the liturgy of ancient Israel, embodied in the Tabernacle of Moses and the glorious Temple of Solomon, and fulfilled in Christ and the Church. In this lucidly written and theologically sophisticated book, Dr. Denis McNamara sheds new light on old debates about church architecture by inserting them into salvation history: the three ages of Shadow, Image, and Reality. By tracing the shape of worship from the paradise of Eden to the heavenly Jerusalem, McNamara has given us something both unique and precious: a biblical theology of church architecture. This book needs to be on the shelf of anyone—pastors, seminarians, or laity—interested in what the written Word of God has to say about the spirit of the liturgy and the splendor of worship.”

 —Brant Pitre,
Professor of Sacred Scripture
Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans
Author of Jesus and the Last Supper: Judaism and the Origins of the Eucharist

 

“Denis McNamara’s authorship and scholarship are a tremendous source of inspiration. In this book he illuminates the way forward for art and architecture in true service of the Church and in full participation in God’s majestic revelation made present in the Mass. McNamara explains to artists, architects, and their clients the very nature of their work. He establishes expectations for those of us who turn our talents to making the image of the Church. He reveals to us how to think of church building anew, and explains why doing so is absolutely vital to our success in her service. In doing so, McNamara guides the work of bishops, pastors, and the architects and artists who serve them to a more beautiful, more truthful, and infinitely more rewarding manner of making churches.”

 —James McCrery,
McCrery Architects
Washington, DC

 

“Dr. Denis McNamara’s Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy is a must-read for parish councils, building committees, liturgists, pastors, and church architects. Dr. McNamara has a beautiful ability to bring together sacred art, architecture, liturgy, and theology and explain it so that it all makes sense. This book makes clear to us that sacred art and architecture can invoke in each of us a sense of the sacred, and reminds us that when we remove beauty and art from inside our churches we really remove an opportunity for human beings to encounter God. This book will guide parishes to construct churches that not only follow the rules of Vatican II, but the spirit behind Vatican II, and help lead the faithful to more fruitful participation in the earthly and heavenly liturgies.”

 —Denise Ogilvie,
Director of Christian Education and Liturgy
Saint Michael the Archangel Church,
Leawood, KS

 

“With his Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy, Dr. Denis McNamara has made a most significant contribution to the theology of the Sacred Liturgy, in the line of the luminous writings on the subject by Pope Benedict XVI, both before and after his election to the See of Peter. Dr. McNamara argues convincingly and well that the lex aedificandi, that is, the norm of building in what pertains to churches and chapels, like the lex orandi or norm of praying, by its very nature, gives expression to the lex credendi or norm of faith itself ... Among the many rich elements of Dr. McNamara’s profound and comprehensive study of Sacred Architecture is his most timely application of the ‘hermeneutic of continuity,’ that is, the interpretation of Sacred Architecture in the light both of the roots of Christian worship in Jewish worship and of the organic development of Sacred Worship down the Christian centuries. Dr. McNamara helps us to understand how a church or chapel is at one and the same time the House of God and the House of the Church ... I wholeheartedly commend the work of Dr. McNamara to all who want to deepen their understanding of Sacred Architecture, who desire to be schooled in the Church’s lex aedificandi. In a particular way, it is my hope that his study will become a standard reference for seminarians and priests, and for all who have responsibility for the building and maintenance of churches and chapels. For every attentive reader, Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy will not fail to offer a most significant contribution to the life of faith and worship.”

—The Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke,
Archbishop Emeritus of St. Louis
Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

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