The Protestant Rome

Yesterday, along with awaking at 3:30, working 5hrs serving addictive substances, spending $460 dollars on gorgeous fabrics, and feeding a dead mouse to a fabulous little sniggerdoodle, I visited the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels, in Los Angeles.

It is my conviction that, based off of the architecture and other observable things, the Cathedral of Los Angeles is, at least on one level, a seeker sensitive protestant church.

How can this be?–you ask. Well, I have come to this view because of two major points:
1) The Cathedral is not sacramental,
2) The Cathedral is not apostolic.

This is a rather odd claim, to be made about a Catholic Cathedral. But, let me explain.

1) There is no, beyond the old Alter piece that is in the back corner of the side isle, indication of the Sacramental nature of the Church. I will, for the sake of convenience, limit this to the scope of the main nave of the building–the crypt does though a bit of traditional Catholicity into the mix, which is beautiful. The main nave of the church has a main isle, leading from the baptismal-waterfountain down a slope to the large stone table with an abstract crucifix standing alone in the middle of a collection of chairs, the least of which is the Cathedra–a largely nondescript wooden chair reminiscent of a Lloyd Wright design, though lacking the subtle delicacies of his own work. There is also one (smaller) side isle that runs parallel to the main isle from the back down to a corner of the raised stage area.

The images in the nave include the lamps which are fashioned in the (abstract) likeness of angels, the similarly fashioned angels on the base of the alter/table, and large tapestries that line both the north and south walls of the building as well as the western wall behind the baptismal font/fountain thing. (I use the ‘north’, ‘south’, ‘west’ terms assuming the building to be East-facing as Cathedrals should be/traditionally are. I could not figure out if this was actually the true orientation of the building.) The tapestries on the north and south walls shall be addressed later (perhaps in their own post). The tapestry over the baptismal font shows a man kneeling, with his bare back to view, in front of an other man who is pouring a bowl of water out upon the first man’s head. It is, obviously, suggestive of the Sacrament of Baptism, but there is no indication of a sacramental nature to this action. There is no descending spirit/dove nor other indication that this pouring of water is linked with the Body of Christ, the Christian Church, or the forgiveness of sins. It is, however, a beautiful piece of art. This I will give it credit for.

Against the wall near the font, is a glass case with three large glass jugs of oil. One is unlabeled, one is labeled “For the sick”, and the last is labeled “For catechumens”. It is the oil of Chrismation. But it is not even called this, there is, again, no indication of the Sacrament of Confirmation and the anointing with the oil of Chrism.

Like with the Cruciform at the front, the water fountain and the tapestry in the back, the oil is there to be understood by someone who knows what to look for, but without meaning for those who do not know theology.

2) Apart from the bishops and popes shown in the tapestries along the north and south walls (which can only be identified as bishops and popes if one knows what hats and names to look for), there is no indication in the nave that the church is Apostolic.

The Cathedra sits unmarked as simply a larger wooden chair in the area of the table. It is not marked off (as is often done) as a place deserving respect. There is not even any artistic indication of it being a seat of authority (e.g. eagles, lions, angels, etc). Additionally, with the lack of a true alter, there is no screen for the images of the apostles, or even for the patron of the cathedral–Our Lady of the Angels.

Perchance it is that I am accustomed to the great tradition of expressing theology for illiterate masses in the very architecture of a building. Perchance it is that I believe religious architecture is a direct product of religious belief. Either way, I cannot help but think that the sanctuary of the Cathedral of Los Angeles is not very much different from a large seeker sensitive protestant congregation.

Rome, what have you become?

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~ by jeorgesmith on 11 August 2007.

3 Responses to “The Protestant Rome”

  1. Did you intentionally call it the Cathedral of LOST Angeles? One of my greatest griefs, and one of the reasons that I had to leave the Roman Catholic church, was that it seemed that no one understood the rich symbolism which is connected to Scripture. There were times I wanted to shout “He’s Alive! He is here! Worship HIM!”

  2. Very interesting. We have been attending a Roman Catholic church in our new neighborhood for almost two months. OUr neighbors attend a different one on the other side of the neighborhood. We asked them why they chose THAT particular church over the one we were visiting. “Well, that church is nice and all, but it could be ANY church. It doesn’t lok very Cotholic.”

    They are right, of course. I rather suspect it has something to do with Vatican II- and the individual parish’s response/interpretation of it.

  3. Nope, Mum, I did not intentionally type “Lost Angeles”, though I guess I did it more than once as I remember correcting it in a different place before publishing the post the first time. :) Perchance a jaded emotion of mine showed through.

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