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Using architecture as catechesis

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Every part of a well-designed church is deliberately planned to bring glory to God — the shape, the artwork, the liturgical furnishings and everything in between. This series aims to explain the art and architecture of diocesan churches, so the faithful can better appreciate the beauty around them.

During the medieval period, stained glass windows exposed illiterate Christians to stories from the Bible. Even today, decorative windows are a beautiful catechetical tool. Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville uses a variety of mediums to explain visually the church’s belief in a triune God.

Most noticeably, the church features the Trinitarian symbol of three interwoven circles, with a trefoil knot in the center. The sign is visible throughout the space, from a colorful rose window at the front of the church to the side of each pew.

“Our founding pastor, Father (Francis J.) Peffley, used to say, ‘Just like at Disneyland where you have hidden Mickeys, here you have hidden (symbols of the Trinity),’ ” said Michelle Peters, a parishioner.

There are a few instances in the Gospels where the three persons of God revealed their individual selves to Christ’s followers. The sanctuary of Holy Trinity represents one such time: the Transfiguration.

According to Matthew 17, Jesus brought Peter, James and John onto a mountain. Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking to Christ. “Suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ ”

On the baldacchino, or wooden canopy above Holy Trinity’s altar, are white, frosted sheets of glass, representing the cloud of the Holy Spirit. The glass is split into three shapes that form a single triangle, another tribute to the Trinity.

Below, the words of God the Father are painted in gold. Underneath, fully present in the tabernacle, is the body of Jesus Christ. Flanking the altar are two paintings of the prophets Moses and Elijah.

How does your church show architectural reverence to the tabernacle and altar? Let us know at feedback@catholicherald.com or send a tweet to @acatholicherald with the hashtag #catholicart.

Maraist can be reached at zmaraist@catholicherald.com or on Twitter@zoeymaraist.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016