From the Pastor’s Desk,

I forgot that National Vocations Week was last week and so I wrote about religious vocations along with some thoughts
of my own priesthood. Today I want to continue on how the Catholic Church uses all of our senses to enhance our worship,
even to the design of the “church structure”.
The early church of the first 300 years were what we would call “house churches.” However a house of the Roman
Empire is not what we think of a house today. It was much more than a residence of a family. It was a much larger
building. The home for the extended family, its slaves, and employees, it was also the household’s place of business. The
front door was the public entrance for people who had business dealings with the household. It opened into a very large
rectangular room called the atrium which many times had a well or small pool just inside the entrance. The atrium could
be very ornate, with a colorful mosaic floor and paintings of ancestors on the walls, but very little, if any, furniture. On
the other side of the atrium, opposite the front door, there was a raised platform that served as the household’s dining
room with a chopping block front and center. There was no wall separating the dining room from the atrium.
As the early Christian communities began to grow, the worship service or the “mass,” as it began to be called,
consisted of the community standing in the large public atrium. Worship in the ancient house church was very formal,
much like our mass today.
As the United States was settled and a huge variety of churches sprang up, things had to be improvised, due to the
rustic conditions worship was very simple. At that period of our history there was a simplistic view of the past, especially
of the ancient world. It caused many people to think that Christian worship in the early centuries was plain, spartan, and
simple and that early Christians were uneducated. Nothing could be further from the truth! The apostles did not
evangelize the western frontier of the United States; rather, they began by evangelizing major metropolitan areas in the
Roman Empire, such as Ephesus and Corinth, and set them up to evangelize the small towns nearby. The members of the
congregations were many times sophisticated, educated Jews and God-fearing gentiles who were very well acquainted
with the liturgy of the synagogue. We also tend to think that worship began simple and rustic and later became
elaborate, when in reality, it started very elaborate and was simplified with time by Martin Luther and other reformers
and especially here in the United States.

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