Reactions to my earlier post on ornament have been mostly positive, however, I do receive an occasional, "I don't need a church to worship God," and "What a waist of money which comes all at the expense of the parishioners who inhabit them." "You do not need ornament." Or the best one yet, "Ornament is a crime."
If all we needed was a mental knowledge of God, then we deny the fullness of the incarnation; God did not need to become man.
A lot of these enlightenment-based, knee-jerk responses stem from the initial argument that in Genesis, God said all of creation is very good. So, would not it result that everything is sacred? Well, yes, to some degree, but the point is, that when humans adore things we can leave a trace image of that adoration process. Likewise, the resulting manifestation of that adornment process is what we call ornament. With this understanding of ornament, we could say that singing, praising, and worshiping in song could be said to be an "ornament," it is a fleeting one, but still an ornamentation of the adorning process. So why sing? After all, I do not need to sing to worship God, right? After all, I do not need to write love songs or write poetry about God to worship Him, correct? Well, in the abstract notion of worshiping God, no, I do not need to do any of these things. However, if I wish to express my unique devotion to God to other people, I do need to communicate this to others by using words, songs, art, and poetry. Guess what, architecture encapsulates ALL of these forms of communication. If we want to communicate how we see, love, and come to know God to other people, and I mean those outside of our immediate family, and out to the future generations, architecture is the means for communication this par excellence.
Fulgentius described this learning process as a three-fold: first, to possess; then to control what you possess; and third, to ornament what you control. Ornamentation is a means to make the adorned object sacramental. That is, we now see it's raw Nature as a real sign of God's grace. All of creation his sacred, but for us to understand it, as impossible as that is with God, we need to see it in a transfigured state. Much like raw gold needs to be purified and beaten with a hammer to achieve its purified, transfigured, perfect, ideal state. Another way to consider this is that ornament is the trace image of us going through the process of understanding, knowing, and coming to know God.
The buildings of earlier generations are signs and symbols, records written in stone, of the family of God adoring God in their during their time and how they came to know God. The churches they build are gifts that reveal to us what they knew about God, , much like books of poetry, theology, philosophy, and literature reveal the infinite facets of our God.
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