In one of his Easter Homilies, St. John Chrysostom taught that it is not the church building that makes the people holy; it is the people who make the building holy. So often we hear a church or chapel referred to as God’s House. Yet, the very early Christians called it a “house for the church.” In the post-Vatican II age, new chapels and churches are designed primarily to accommodate the communal worship of God according to the rituals of today. Nevertheless, every place of worship is also a place where individuals can come for private prayer. This is the spirit that guided the design of the Chapel at Marian Woods — it is both a place of public worship and private prayer. The principles that shaped the chapel are rooted in scripture, theology, liturgy and mythology. This description may be a helpful guide as you experience this beautiful edifice.
Working with Father Vasko, the Sacred Space Committee selected the subject of Creation. [the theme our Chapel was to symbolize]
The Floor Plan of the Chapel
The chapel is the form of an octagon within a square. In Christian architecture, an eight-sided building was an allusion to Sunday, the eighth day of the week on which Jesus Christ rose from the dead. . . The four corner chapels are conceptual references to the four elements of life: earth, wind, air and fire; and the four directions: north, south, east and west. [These are also the directions the chapel faces.]
The conflux of the square and the octagon is organized around the altar table, which is a symbol of Jesus Christ. The pattern of the floor is laid out in a concentric dance around the altar table. The cross embedded in the floor beneath the table anchors the altar in the center. Thus, in catholic theology all of creation is pointed to Christ; it is Christo-centric. The worship of God is a way for humans to connect with God and to identify with the birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The chapel embodies this paschal mystery and draws all worshipers into it.
Father Richard S. Vasko, Liturgical Design Consultant