The paintings, the colors, the sounds and aroma… everything plays its role in the harmony of a church, the beautiful and holy place capable of lifting soul and body to worship the true God wholeheartedly.
Who said liturgical beauty belonged to cathedrals of centuries past?
Holy Name’s renovation and dedication of its new altar, at the hand of Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila May 19, has the goal of bringing the faithful to a “glimpse of heaven on earth,” as Pope Benedict XVI insisted, saying that beauty was not “mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation.”
“[The renovation is] first and foremost for the glorification of God,” said Father Daniel Cardó, pastor of Holy Name Parish in Denver and member of the Sodalitium of Christian Life. “The whole idea is about how we can love God more, how we can worship in a better way, how we can adore him with even greater reverence.”
After remodeling the parish hall and offices with the purpose evangelization, formation and spiritual direction, Father Cardó and some parishioners knew that they could do more.
“We were feeling the next step was to beautify our Church, not because it was bad, but because we could benefit from even a better process of beautification and some improvements that ultimately would help us glorify God more and more,” he said.
In gratitude for the abundance of blessings the parish has received through its faithful parishioners in its more than 100 years, the pastor saw this project as a “grace upon grace,” understanding that there is always room for greater love and piety.
“This is possible thanks to the generosity of parishioners,” Father Cardó said. “It was a long process of discernment with [them] and with the architects from Intervention Design Group, who are very, very good.”
Inspired in part by the parish’s existing architectural tradition and the use of colors and patterns by the 19th-century British architect Augustus Pugin, the renovation of the sanctuary, floor, baptistry and other elements at Holy Name Parish serves the purpose of evangelizing through the senses by leading the faithful more deeply into the mystery of the Liturgy – a tradition greatly treasured by the Church.
Knowing about the project, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship, wrote a unique letter to Father Cardó and the parish community saying, “How beautiful [the dedication] must be, knowing your love for the liturgy!… invoking Almighty God’s blessing upon you and the entire community of Holy Name, especially as you worship the Lord with even greater reverence in your remodeled church.”
After months of celebrating Mass at the renewed parish hall, parishioners awaited with “excitement” and “great expectation” the Dedication of the new Altar and the blessing of the renovated church.
Here are some of the church’s remodeled elements and their meaning:
Altar: Made out of marble, the “simple, yet beautiful” altar will contain relics of six great Catholic saints, who will intercede for the parish: St. Augustine, Francis Xavier, Vincent de Paul, Therese of Lisieux, Maria Goretti and Pius X.
Chancel area: The blue and red are taken from the
beautiful Crucifix of Jesus High Priest, which highlights that the sacraments come from the Cross. The background includes the symbols “HIS,” which is the Holy Name of Jesus, along with garden elements, as a reminder that the Liturgy is a renewed Paradise.
Ceiling: The ceiling of the chancel area and the four panels on top of the altar are blue and contain crosses.
This serves as a reminder that a church on earth is the house of God and that through the Liturgy, we are in touch with the heavenly reality, participating in the Liturgy of Heaven. The “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus” also reflects this truth, signaling where Jesus becomes present.
Bricks: This solid material connects the whole church, outlining its unity and the unity of the people of God.
It allows for the sanctuary to feel renovated but not foreign to the structure of the whole church.
Threshold: The threshold from the nave to the sanctuary points to their unity and continuity, but also to the distinction between them. The sanctuary is the Holy of Holy’s, so it is distinguished from the rest of the Church through this symbol and others, such as the marble and tile.
Floor: The new floor contains symbolic elements – crosses and diamonds – which give the Church a sense of direction, pointing to the presence of Christ in the sanctuary. It also gives visual unity to the building, connecting altar, crucifix and tabernacle.
Tiles: Three unique tiles will be placed in the Church: the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the back, the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the middle and the Trinity in the front. This explains that from Mary we go to Jesus and, through Jesus, to the mystery of God.
Steps: The verse “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bend” is divided and painted on the three steps. Although this may not be visible from the back, a church must communicate symbolically, and some elements are meant to reveal themselves the closer a person approaches them.
Baptistery: Positioned in the back and to the side, the new baptistery allows for a procession to the altar.
It has a blue ceiling, because there we become children of God, and octagons and crosses on the floor. The octagon symbolized the eight day, the New Creation through baptism, and the cross stresses the origin of baptism, which is the open side of Jesus.