Ojcowie Kościoła wobec bogactwa kościołów i przepychu liturgii. Zarys problematyki
The Church Fathers’ attitude to the splendour of churches and the pomp of liturgy – an outline of the issues
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Examination of the Church Fathers’ teachings shows up a particular paradox. On the one hand they frequently required their listeners (or readers) to practise austerity, humility and poverty, since, as they explained practising these virtues was the easiest means of gaining the kingdom of heaven. However, on the over hand, they voiced these appeals in richly decorated churches furnished with priceless items, often made of gold or silver and decorated with precious jewels. For this reason, in the following work we undertook to attempt to answer the question as to why the Church Fathers did not condemn the magnificence of churches and expressed approval of the pomp and splendour of liturgy while at the same time decidedly opposing the ostentations excesses of the faithful and appealed for performing acts of charity. The analyses presented show that the Church Fathers simply assumed that there is nothing unworthy in using wealth to praise God. At the root of the views lies theology, which explains that the magnificence of churches will help the faithful to discern the spiritual reality present behind the expensive decorations and show the value of Christian worship and make present the splendour of heavenly liturgy. However, all the expensive decorations were perceived by them as unsuitable for the sinful body since they did not serve the cause of brotherly love but only satisfied one’s own vanity. In the context of widely understood good works, the funding of expensive decorations and valuable equipment for churches always had only a secondary importance for the Church Fathers. For them, the undertaking of charitable deeds, as well as a concern for spiritual good, was more important than the external beauty of the Church, whose essence was not the precious ornaments, but the pure and unblemished soul of its members. The main value of gold, was perceived by the Church Fathers as a means of helping the poor. However, they acknowledged its symbolic meaning and its power to transpose the faithful into the sphere of heavenly reality. Allocating money for decoration of churches and the splendour of liturgy were thus seen as a certain good even if universally it was regarded as a relative good.
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