About Our Church Building
An encounter with God is not just experienced at church through the liturgy but through the rich symbolism of the building itself. Understanding the architecture can enhance Christians’ life of faith.”
-- Fr Daniel McCarthy OSB, St. Benedict's Abbey Kansas
Our church building is full of rich symbolism. As we enter through the outer doors, into the gathering space, we stand on Italian tiles of pebbles-different colours, shapes and sizes-an indication that we are about to gather with people from many parts of the globe, with unique cultures, gifts and blessings.
It is the Baptismal Font, located just inside the door to the Worship Space, which reminds us of our baptism--the sacrament that unites us as the People of God.
As we bless ourselves with the bubbling water of this Baptismal Font, we know ourselves as a child of God; washed in water and initiated into the Catholic faith community. We know also that in confirmation our baptism is confirmed by the laying on of the hands and the anointing with the oil, which represents a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit like that of Pentecost. This outpouring impresses on the soul an indelible character and produces a growth in the grace of baptism.
The Easter Candle reminds us that Christ will illuminate our life so we can share our faith and nurture our relationship with God.
In our semi-circular Worship Space “the worship of God is proclaimed, and the communal response incorporates Scripture, reflection, song and prayer. The sound echoes in the worship space, and then dissipates; but the word takes lasting root in each person. This Word pierces the heart and moves the community to do the work of God in the world.”
The transition through the Worship Space on the liturgical axis to the eucharistic table “marks passage to greater intimacy in communion around the table of the Lord.”
When parishioners bring bread and wine to the altar, they all the more clearly indicate that they are also presenting themselves with the gifts. The divine gift in response is the Holy Spirit, and it is the Holy Spirit who makes the gifts holy and unites the community as one so that they may accomplish the divine work in the world. Christians share communion with one another in the body and blood of Christ. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) says of communion: ‘You will not change me into you like the food of your flesh, but you will be changed into me.”
Our eight sided altar is the striking symbol of transformation. In Genesis, the first biblical book of the Old Testament, we read the Creation Mythical Universal Stories, where God creates the world and everything in it, in seven days. In the New Testament we read that Christ recreates us in a more wonderful union and communion with Himself. This message is symbolically shown-eight is greater than seven- at our eight sided altar. Christ renews us to greater intimacy with God and with others through communion. Christians then sent out from the Lord’s Table. Within the altar are the relics of Saints Ilarae and Pompeia, both martyrs, both girls, obtained from one of the old altars of St Patrick's Cathedral. With the relics is a note issued by then Melbourne Archbishop James Knox certifying its authenticity.
Above the altar there is a wooden cross, which incorporates the processional cross. This is a reminder to Christians that they are sent in Christ’s name; that on Holy Thursday, Jesus gave us His greatest gift - the eucharist (the gold circular symbol); He gave His life on the cross on Good Friday (the wooden cross) and on Easter Sunday He rose from the dead (Leopoldine Mimovich’s sculptured Risen Christ). The cross also displays the colours of the Church’s Liturgical Seasons-speaking to us of the various seasons and colours of our Life-our daily sufferings, deaths and resurrections-an expectation as followers of Christ.
At the rear of the Worship Space, there is a door marked Reconciliation Chapel. This reminds us that our God is a forgiving, merciful God who is always ready to reconcile our relationship with God, with others, with possessions and with time. All we need to do is cross the threshold of the Reconciliation Chapel and experience God’s love and forgiveness.
Very close to the Reconciliation Chapel is the Italian statue of Our Lady of the Way. Mary, the mother of God, the mother of the church, leads us to Christ the Way.
The way too is depicted in the fourteen stations of the cross-Italian bronze plaques of the Way of Christ. This way is our way too but we know we are not alone.
There is one final reminder of our Sacramental transcendent way of life with God. In the Gathering Space there are three containers of oil in a glass display cabinet. They are:
- The oil of Chrism–for baptism and confirmation
- The oil of Catechumens–for new adult Catholics
- The oil of the sick–for anointing and healing.
The priest uses these holy oils in his pastoral care ministry.
There are parishioners too who have a pastoral care ministry to the sick. They take Holy Communion to those parishioners who are too ill to join the community at the eucharist. The tabernacle is the place where the eucharistic presence of Christ is reserved for the sick. A red light above the tabernacle (our sanctuary lamp came from Spain) reminds us that Christ is always present and longs for our union and communion.
Our marble and gold plated tabernacle was formerly in the Chapel of the Sisters of Charity at St Vincent’s hospital in Fitzroy. This is a unique link with the first religious sisters to come to Australia in 1838.
“The symbolic journey made towards God is now repeated in reverse. We once again cross the threshold, which now opens up to a broader social world.” We are guided by the light above, coming from the sanctuary. “We pass by the font to bless ourselves again with its water as we go out to live our baptismal calling daily.”
As the gate closes behind us we know “an encounter with God is not just experience at church through liturgy but through the rich symbolism of the building itself.”
[Prepared by Sr Denise Hannebery]