When faced with such inexplicable splendor, any Christian must stop and ask, “What is this about? Why did someone take such trouble, go to such expense and make such sacrifices to create a temple such as this?”

The simple Protestant may well protest and say, “But this is money that could be spent on the poor. Jesus was a simple carpenter. How does this honor him? Surely the simple worship of one born in a manger should be simple and bare?”

While all this is true, it is also true that Jesus Christ is the Lord of Glory. He reigns now on high above all the cherubim and seraphim as the Master of the Universe, our Cosmic King. The Book of Revelation pulls back the curtain and shows us the worship of heaven, where all fall down before the Lamb, where there is no need of sun or moon for the Lamb himself is the Light.

A church like this takes us there to the very threshold of heaven.

But the beauty of Catholicism is that not every church is so grand. The Mass also takes place in the most humble of circumstances–in a barren chapel in drought stricken Africa, amongst the poorest of the poor in a convent of the Missionaries of Charity, in a prison, in a barn among refugees, in a cell in Auschwitz, and when the Mass is celebrated in these dark places they become as splendid as this glorious temple—if we but had eyes to see.

UPDATE: The church is the Cathedral of St. Vladimir, in Kiev. hat tip to the Roving Medievalist.

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  • hmmmm? 🙂

  • Brian

    Fr. Dwight,This appears to be an Eastern Church. (I see an iconostasis.) Is it Eastern Catholic or Orthodox?

  • It is very true that Mass takes place in the most humble of circumstances and it is indeed the same sacrifice of Calvary that is offered on the high altar of St. Peter’s and the humblest hut Church in Africa. But the question is, if the worshippers in the humble hut Church had the means and could beautify it and make it look like St. Peter’s so that God can be more worthily glorified, would they not? If the early Christians could celebrate the mysteries in beautiful basilicas or even in the Temple, before it’s destruction, wouldn’t they? If the priests in Auschwitz could hie themselves out of their cells and into the nearest Cathedral, would they not? So why then do some of us who could jolly well afford it spend so much money on some buildings so lacking in beauty, nobility and transcendence?I think the deeper malaise is in their conception of God, whether as only and forever ‘merely’ the humble carpenter or humble man and, at the same time the Lord of Glory.

  • Brian I’ve upated the post with the name of the cathedral.Andrew, good point. The Mass is still the Mass–even in a bland modern warehouse church, and you’re right, the crime is that in the most affluent societies we often skimp and save on our new churches, while the banks and insurance companies build offices loaded with marble, gilt and finery.We build splendid building to house our gods.

  • Anonymous

    I know a more excellent beauty for our churches. Parishioners who wore the best clothes they had on Sunday. Who attended mass 20 minutes early to recite the rosary together. To whom no one was stranger. Who came to the table and gave more than from their stores, but from their substance. And of this substance, they learned to sing hymns. Who knew their saints and knew their bible. Notice nothing here is particularly difficult, but through this you will have beautiful churches. Why—because among such interior beauty who would care to count the cost. People thirst for holiness; they want to see it so as to obtain a just idea about it. What makes holiness insurmountable for some people is because they cannot form such ideas about it so as to procure it for themselves. Cost then pales in comparison, you cannot buy holiness.Let me know if this post is too long?

  • Anonymous

    I know little about Protestants or who the antagonist here is. Though, I would guess it has something do to with the pragmatic attitude within our cultures. The attitude that calculates cost, idolizes profit and surrenders to the lowest bidder. It also doesn’t help that Catholics fall short at the collection plate compared to our some of our Protestant neighbors.

  • Anonymous

    St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral is in the possession of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivian Patriarchate.St. Sophia’s Cathedral is in the possession of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ is the new Cathedral that His Beatitude Cardinal Husar is having built for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.So, there are at least 3 Cathedrals in Kyiv.Dr. Eric

  • Rob

    Some of the most beautiful churches in the world have been built by the poor and laborers who wanted to give back something to God… The example I always think of for this is St. Patrick’s in NYC. It was built by the Irish immigrants, who saved literally pennies at a time–during a time of great persecution–to be able to give God greater glory.