"My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer for All the Nations": Liturgy, Architecture and Ethics

“My House Shall Be Called a House of Prayer for All the Nations”:
Liturgy, Architecture and Ethics

Bernard WONG and TUNG Kwok Wah

This article examines the relationship between liturgy, architecture and moral formation. The statement “lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi” (how we pray is how we believe and is how we live) affirms that a person's morality can be formed through partaking in liturgy. Since the formative power of liturgy is derived not merely from the occasion when one is hearing the words spoken at worship but also from the whole worship experience, the spatial arrangements and architecture of the church building also contribute to the moral formation of Christians. Along this vein, the liturgies of “gathering” and “sending forth” can offer suggestions on the spatial and architectural arrangements of church buildings for congenial Christian moral formation. The discipline of architectural aesthetics, on the other hand, affirms that architectural beauty — defined as the fitful arrangements between the parts and the whole—reflects God's creation order. Beauty is thus ontological and not subjective. As buildings are “public objects”, living in and deliberating on the architecture of the built environment is a process of “self-knowledge” as well as community formation. It is through coordinating among one another in the creation of a common aesthetic order, and participating in it that members of a society express their views on community, unity and humanity. Participating in this coordination process involves a sense of civility and hence is in itself a “liturgy” of moral formation. Although liturgy and architectural aesthetics approach the subject of moral formation differently, what is common between the two disciplines is a concern over relationship: architecture should foster harmonious and genuine relationship between different parts and the whole, between God and humans, among Christians, and between the church and its neighbors.

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