How Awe-Filled Is This Place
Today Pope Benedict consecrated the church of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Here is part of his homily:
What do we do when we dedicate this church? In the heart of the world, placed before God and mankind, with a humble and joyful act of faith, we raise up this massive material structure, fruit of nature and an immense achievement of human intelligence which gave birth to this work of art. It stands as a visible sign of the invisible God, to whose glory these spires rise like arrows pointing towards absolute light and to the One who is Light, Height and Beauty itself.
In this place, Gaudí desired to unify that inspiration which came to him from the three books which nourished him as a man, as a believer and as an architect: the book of nature, the book of sacred Scripture and the book of the liturgy. In this way he brought together the reality of the world and the history of salvation, as recounted in the Bible and made present in the liturgy. He made stones, trees and human life part of the church so that all creation might come together in praise of God, but at the same time he brought the sacred images outside so as to place before people the mystery of God revealed in the birth, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this way, he brilliantly helped to build our human consciousness, anchored in the world yet open to God, enlightened and sanctified by Christ. In this he accomplished one of the most important tasks of our times: overcoming the division between human consciousness and Christian consciousness, between living in this temporal world and being open to eternal life, between the beauty of things and God as beauty. Antoni Gaudí did this not with words but with stones, lines, planes, and points. Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth. Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness.
I’ve just seen Sandro Magister’s post in which he quotes from a book on La Sagrada Familia. Here is an excerpt:
just as the portal of the Nativity is joyous, exuberant, luminous, so Gaudí wanted the portal of the Passion to be “hard, bald, as if it were made of bone.”
Executed and carved after his death on the basis of his drawings, but also with audacious innovations, the facade of the Passion embodies the vision in which Ezekiel discovers a plain filled with bones that the breath of the Spirit covers with tendons and flesh. To the exiled people, the prophet proclaims: “I will raise you up from your graves. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again.” In fact, the entire Passion concludes at the moment in which Jesus on the cross exhales the Spirit.
At the center of the facade, on top, stands the group of the crucifixion. Christ is naked, as Adam was, because he is the new Adam who on the cross recreates man as he was before sin, on the sixth day of the creation ancient and new, when he can finally say: “It is finished.”
Christ’s body is not resting on the cross, which does not stand vertically behind him. It juts out horizontally from the wall, and is made up of two iron beams. Christ is hanging there as from the hoist of a construction site. Subirachs, the author of the sculpture, took his inspiration from Saint Ignatius of Antioch: “You are stones of the temple prepared for construction by God the Father, raised with the hoist of Jesus Christ which is the cross, using as rope the Holy Spirit” (Letter to the Ephesians 9:1).
The rest is here.