Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Flagships of the Reform of the Reform: The Architecture of the Toronto Oratory

In response to the desire of some of the NLM's readership, and to inspire those "freelance scouts" I have requested aid from, I wanted to start an informal series that looks at some of the different aspects of the flagship parishes out there that might be classified as "reform of the reform".

A picture I recently ran into from the Toronto Oratory, promoting their 40 hours devotion (which starts today incidentally) helped inspire this.

My very brief introduction to the Toronto Oratory today will mainly focus upon the architecture of the Oratory -- with little teasers into their liturgical life. I should hope that, whether I or someone else, we shall be able to present more views of the liturgical life itself of this great parish, and other aspects of their life as well.

I should further hope that we would gain more such views through word and photo of the other flagship parishes I recently mentioned.

The Architecture of the Toronto Oratory

Many previous images available off of the Toronto Oratory site haven't given the same close-up view as one would receive seated in the pews of their delightful parish, whether for the daily celebration of the usus antiquior, for their Sunday morning modern Roman liturgy celebrated with full Gregorian, polyphony, Latin and ad orientem, or for Sunday evening Vespers sung with faux bourdons, polyphony and plainchant.

The parish architecture is one which provides a good template for the building of new Catholic church architecture that is richly influenced by our tradition and the strengths and splendour of that tradition (such as permanence, objectivity, a sense of the sanctuary as the holy of holies, and a strong focal point upon the high altar and Holy Eucharist) while also bearing in mind Conciliar realities such as the deference toward free-standing altars (which, it should be noted, is not to be fundamentally tied to versus populum, which the Council never mandated).

The materials employed are quite substantial and 'real', including beautiful marbles and stonework. The altar is solid and immoveable and ornamented always with beautiful appointments with a traditional ornamental quality, such as Italianate brass candlesticks and the like. The sanctuary too, though not visible here, is raised and surrounded by a dignified and substantial altar rail.

Sitting behind the altar is an iron railing that forms a backdrop to the altar akin to a reredos from a visual standpoint, while also serving as a gate to the substantial tabernacle -- thereby also being mounted with burning vigil candles.

All of this is complimented as well by a wonderful pipe organ, the professional choir that adorns the liturgical rites, and the other beautiful appointments, such as rich brocaded vestments.

Lest anyone think this is a mere aestheticism, it should be noted that this service of the worship of God and the sanctification of mankind is also tied to the Oratory's work of teaching seminarians philosophy, serving the local poor in their needs, and they are enriched by a diverse community from the wealthy to the wanting, scholars to the simple; all who call this parish home.

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