Article 88 – Catechism of the Catholic Church Series
Paragraphs 1066-1075 Why Liturgy
Among the many interesting tourist attractions in Barcelona, Spain is the architectural marvel Sagrada Familia by architect Antoni Gaudi. Five generations have already viewed this amazing edific e with its 18 towers that reach upward against the city skyline symbolizing elevation toward God. The Sagrada Familia (the Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family) goes back to 1882 when the cornerstone was laid. Gaudí would oversee its construction for more than 40 years until he was tragically killed by a bus in 1926. More than 100 years would then pass before its expected completion in 2026.
Why such a huge undertaking that would span two centuries and fi v e g e n erations? In Gaudí’s own words: “The temple as a whole, as well as being a place of divine worship, will artistically represent the truths of religion and the g l o r i fication of God and His Saints.” Gaudí’s conception of the Sagrada Familia was based on the traditions of Gothic and Byzantine cathedrals. His intention was to express Christian belief through the architecture and the beauty of the building and communicate the longtime message of the four Evange-lists, Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The various architectural elements are imbued with hierarchically organized Christian symbolism. Thus, each of its 18 towers has a special significance. In the middle is the tower dedicated to Jesus Christ, and around it are four towers representing the Gospels, the books containing the life and teachings of Jesus. The tower above the apse, crowned by a star, represents Christ’s mother, the Virgin Mary, while the remaining 12 towers represent the 12 Apostles, witnesses to his words and deeds. From wherever they are seen, these 18 towers, once finished, will be an extraordinary sight and provide a sense of elevation to the central tower dedicated to Our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Antoni Gaudí has become
a universal figure of modern architecture for his contribution to the discipline and as a result of his own unique and unprecedented methodology. Over the years, many have asked, “Why did Gaudí undertake such a huge, monumental task as this temple known as Sagrada Familia?” By analogy, we might also ask, “Why does the Church place such emphasis on the Liturgy?” or “Why the Liturgy?” Whether it is coincidence or providence, Gaudí represents our consistent love for the Liturgy and exemplifies by the glorious temple known as Sagrada Familia why “the Church celebrates in the liturgy above all the Paschal mystery by which Christ accomplished the work of our salvation” (ccc 1067).
Most know that “celebrating the Liturgy” generally refers to participating in holy Mass, but “What does the word liturgy really mean?” The Catechism tells us: “The word ‘liturgy’ originally meant a ‘public work’ or a ‘service in the name of/on behalf of the people’” (ccc 1069). The Catechism continues, “in Christian tradition it means the participation of the People of God in ‘the work of God’” (ccc 1069). Finally, we are told, “through the liturgy Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church” (ccc 1069).
Several New Testament themes are also apparent in Antoni Gaudí’s mag- nificent Sagrada Familia, including the sweeping towers of the Virgin Mary, the four evangelists and Christ himself encompassing worship, proclamation and charity. Curiously, the Catechism explains that “in the New Testament the word ‘liturgy’ refers not only to the celebration of divine worship but also to the proclamation of the Gospel and to active charity” (ccc 1070). In the case of Gaudí’s temple/ cathedral, for more than 135 years, countless liturgies have taken place within its walls, allowing participants to share “in Christ’s priesthood [worship], which is both prophetic [proclamation] and kingly [service of charity]” (ccc 1070). Whether we are participants at holy Mass in our parish church, a convent chapel, at the
Vatican’s Saint Peter’s Basilica, or even in Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, we, too, share in Christ’s Priestly, Prophetic and Kingly life.
What else do we learn about the Liturgy in this section of the Catechism?
Quoting from the Second Vatican Council’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium), the Catechism teaches that the Liturgy: 1. “engages the faithful in the new life of the community involving the ‘conscious, active, and fruitful participation’ of everyone” (ccc 1071).
2. invites us to participate “in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (ccc 1073).
3. “is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power fl ows” (ccc 1074).
As then-Pope, now St. John Paul II later teaches in his 1979 Apostolic Exhortation, “Catechesis in our Time” (Catechesi Tradendae, 23): it is in our participation in liturgical activity, especially in the Eucharist, “that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of human beings” (ccc 1074).
Living in this country of ours that prides itself on the freedom to practice our religion, when we attend Mass or other liturgical event, we are given the opportunity to participate our faith often and fully. Who among us would not want to participate in the Liturgy as often and as fully as possible?
Father Hillier serves as Director of the Offi ce of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Censor Librorum and oversees the Offi ce for Persons with Disabilities