|A proposed chancel|
Copyright © Edward Riojas
It is perhaps fitting that this, the second of several related posts, follows on the heal of All Saints Day. But more on that later.
These drawings are of a hypothetical church building. They are not necessarily how a church should look, but rather are meant for the contemplation of any church and the purposes for which that church exists. This week’s installment takes a look at the chancel.
At first glance, the designs may look familiar, and I wouldn’t doubt that a similar structure can be found somewhere in Christendom. Its general shape is a quadrant of a sphere. This gives a nod to an interpretation of Biblical description of heaven as being of equal width, length, and height. Usually this is taken to be a cube, but a sphere could assume the same dimensions, and the sphere – or orb – has always been symbolically associated with the fullness of heaven and the created cosmos.
The meaning behind the design, therefore, is to show that heaven descends here to us. Specifically, this happens in the Lord’s Supper. The idea of descending is further underscored by a figure of the living Christ, in front of an empty cross, and suspended by cables that converge downward toward the altar. The altar itself is in the center of the assumed sphere.
On the wall of the dome-like chancel is a fresco of ranks of angels in adoration. The dome, being devoid of anything besides its two-dimensional fresco, would act as an acoustic amplifier.
|Altar with tiled design|
Obvious omissions are pulpit, lectern, and chairs for clergy and acolytes. This follows an older design of moving the pulpit out into the sanctuary, but it also points to a greater reality: This is where Christ comes to us; this is where His real presence is manifest; this is where He IS. No one presides over the altar, nor do they serve there, but Christ alone comes down to us and serves us. This is the Divine Service.
Seats for clergy and acolytes, simple plinth-like structures just outside of the chancel proper and at the base of the arch, would accommodate seating when necessary. On one side, a simple, bisecting screen would create a confessional space.
A circular Communion rail and raised platform would fit within this sphere quadrant. There would be no carpeting, giving more punch to the acoustics. As if issuing from the altar, a path of blue inlaid tile, edged by red tile, would run the entire length of the sanctuary and into the baptistry opposite the chancel. The patterning would suggest a flood of water and blood, connecting the sacraments of Holy Communion and Holy Baptism with the crucifixion of Christ Jesus. But there is more.
|Transparent memorial blocks|
The Communion rail would be in the round, but only half would be used by congregants. A gated railing would bisect the platform. The “gates” would be intentionally narrow, and would be embellished with Alpha-Omega and Chi-Rho, pointing to Christ as the only gate into heaven.
What lies beyond the gate are those whom we cannot see, but who share in the Lord’s Supper and the foretaste of the feast to come. The floor of that side of the circle would be a memorial to those who have gone before us. Names would be inscribed on transparent acrylic blocks. They would be stacked, layer upon layer, so that they could be read into near infinity. This acrylic assembly would be illuminated from below, giving light not only to those in glory, but also to the entire angelic dome.
The words, “...together with angels, and archangels, and the whole company of heaven” would make much more sense in this sort of chancel, and we would be compelled to confess it – not just verbally, but visually, as Christ descends to His helpless children and feeds them with His own body and blood.