Wednesday, December 19, 2007


There is an interesting post on Zenit about the de-sacralisation of Churches. Fr McNamara says that there is no liturgical act to "deconsecrate" a church only a canonical statement or document.

Last night I stayed up later than I should and watched a television programme about an eccentric Dane, Mr Vig, who wanted to hand over his rather ramshackle castle to a group of Orthodox nuns, they wanted to turn a room into a "Church", he wanted it "consecrated" temporarily, so they could then build a proper Church. The nun said, "Once a church, a church forever", later she said "It would be a sin to change it".

I suspect this was the Catholic notion, hence an absence for any ritual to de-conscrate, unlike the Anglican, which of course grew out of a period in English history when churches were desecrated wholesale, almost as a national fad.

Personally I find it deeply sad when a church is turned into a museum, or a concert hall, a house, let alone a pub or a night club, casino or bingo hall.

For the Russian nun, I am sure the theology of consecration or blessing, was that once something was given to God it could not be taken back, this notion is found in the Old Testament of declaring something "Corbin". It is linked to sacrifice, sacrifice is not essentially about killing something, but putting it beyond human use. It is also linked in Orthodox thought to Covenant, God giving his promise to man and man giving his promise to God. God cannot take his promise back from man and man cannot therefore take his promise back from God. This is what underpins our theology of marriage, and the indelibillity of certain sacraments, and used to underpin such notions as oaths and solemn vows and promises.
The problem seems to be a loss of the notion of the "Sacred".


On the side of the angels said...

...and our intellectual appreciation of ontology and its transcendence of spatio-temporality.
Our notions of sacramentality and miracles, and indeed the very presence of the single sacrifice on calvary inherant within the mass [and antecedent in the last supper] and the heralding of our redemption in the immaculate conception all require by necessity our belief in the 'Beyond time and space' of the Godhead and its immanent interaction with creation - the ontological difference within the 'priest forever' is all but lost in these days of 'ministries for all' - but all too often this 'transcendence' is the first doctrinal aspect that vanishes from contemporary catechesis.

Anonymous said...

The common practice in Russian Orthodox church is that if something consecrated, it cannot be desecrated. If something goes wrong with the consecrated thing, it must be destroyed, usually burnt in fire. In extreme cases, this may include church buildings. I recall a few years ago there was a scandal when some Russian Orthodox priest married a homosexual pair in a chapel, I heard this small wooden chapel was subsequently destroyed. (Although I very much doubt a bigger or more familiar church could be destroyed in such a case).

Anonymous said...

When Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited he wanted to include a scene describing the ceremony for "deconsecration" of a chapel. He could find no mention of this anywhere and wrote to Mgr. Knox to ask him to describe the ritual which he did in his reply and this found its way into the book. It describes the action of the priest removing the altar stone, burning the wads of wool where the holy oils have been and throwing the ash outside, then emptying the holy water stoop and tabernacle and blowing out the sanctuary lamp. I should imagine this ceremony was performed in a number of Catholic country houses in the 20th Century.

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