The place of worship is like that. It is indeed an architecture of remembrance, a resonator of memory. It is imprinted with the memory of all that makes us God’s people who gather there to do holy things. It is a tent, a tabernacle, a meeting place for a pilgrim people and their God. § In sum, I have learned that the place of worship truly is a language. It speaks. Not just through its surface adornments. In its very embodiment it tells us again and again about the God we gather to worship and about ourselves as a people, summoned by God and sent to give witness by how we live.
What Does This Mean for the Future? As I noted earlier, multidisciplinary attention to space and place has grown remarkably, similar to what happened with the study of ritual. In his vice-presidential address to the Academy in 1983, Mark Searle argued for inclusion of an empirical step in liturgical studies alongside history and theology. The purpose of that step is to uncover through empirical work what rituals actually mean for people.25 I have no crystal ball to foresee what might develop in the future regarding space and place. My fond hope, however, is that something similar will happen for the place of worship. I hope multidisciplinary scholarship and empirical work on the language of the place of worship will become increasingly prominent in liturgics in general and in the Academy in particular. The seminar on environment and art has pioneered the way for us, and I am happy to honor their work.26 I also hope that we will not constrict what space says to what we can put into words. The place of worship speaks without them. It seems to me that the field of liturgy cannot but profit from a continued and deep probing of the built theology, the built ecclesiology of the place of worship. For that to happen we need to welcome what the social sciences can teach us. Spaces speak; are we listening? Thank you for listening patiently to these reflections. Once again, my heartfelt thanks to the Academy for this award. I will cherish it always. There is yet one more expression of gratitude I need to offer, the most important one of all. To the All Holy One, who graces us with life and calls each of us to be coworkers in the vineyard, be all glory, praise, and thanks. Benedictus Deus in aeternum. Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha’olam. Notes 1 2
Barry Blesser and Linda-Ruth Salter, Space Speaks, Are You Listening? Experience Aural Architecture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007). James F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship, 1st ed. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1980). For a more developed typology of the codes of liturgical language, see Silvano Maggiani, “The Language of Liturgy,” in Handbook for Liturgical Studies, volume 2, Fundamental Liturgy, ed. Anscar J. Chupungco (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1998), 227–261. As director of the Institute for Liturgical Consultants for many years, I was privileged to work with these and many others in the field of liturgical consultancy.
Plenary Sessions 37
Published on Oct 8, 2014
Published on Oct 8, 2014
The North American Academy of Liturgy (NAAL) (http://www.naal-liturgy.org/) is an ecumenical and interreligious association of liturgical sc...