A friend sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal about a modernist ecclesiastical building planned for East Berlin. The article is here (but behind WSJ’s paywall I’m afraid) The short version is that the “Church of One” is a modernistic, brutalist “worship space” that will provide separate areas–a mosque, a synagogue and a church grouped around a central atrium for practitioners of the three monotheistic faiths to worship–a kind of spiritual shopping mall.
It’s no surprise that such an inane idea comes to us from the center of world apostacy: Germany.
What the architects and inter faith dreamers never stop to realize is that no one who is sincerely devoted to any of those three religions actually wants to turn up to worship in a sterile icebox. Never mind. One defender of the design explains, “East Berlin is a very secular place,” Roland Stolte, a Christian theologian involved in the project, told the Guardian. “Religious institutions have to find new language and ways to be relevant, and to make connections.”
Will we never hear the end of modern people telling us how the church needs to be relevant–usually when they are about to foist on the faithful the latest fad, gimmick or vulgarity?
I’ll tell you what is relevant. Reverence is relevant. Modernity is insane. Sanctity is sanity.
The most relevant Christians in the world are never those who are trying hard to be relevant.
The ones who are most relevant are the saints. Consider any saint who is truly alive in Christ and active in the world and you will find supreme and breathtaking relevance. St Maximillian Kolbe was relevant. Dietrick Bonhoeffer was relevant. Pope St John Paul II was relevant. Padre Pio, Therese of Lisieux, St Benedict–all were relevant.
The saints are relevant because they reveal Christ life in action–connecting the faith to real people in real situations in real time…and isn’t the word “relevance” rooted in the word “reality”?
Their relevance is rooted in their reverence. Their lives were first grounded in prayer and true worship. Because they are rooted in the transcendent they are supremely relevant.
During this Easter season may we be delivered from shallow attempts at relevance–attempts which resemble some sort of fashion show. Instead may we be grounded in all our works and worship in the true reverence that is eternally relevant.
What does the architecture and liturgy of the church have to do with this? Everything. That is where our reverence is expressed and experienced. If you want to see an example of architecture that encourages reverence rather than relevance check out the new online guide to Our Lady of the Rosary Greenville, SC. Go here. To reaed more about the relevance of reverence in liturgy check out my book Letters on Liturgy.