Nave Gazing

Welcome to our new column, Nave Gazing! We’ll be using this little corner of The Big Red Door to talk about all things liturgical, from the architecture of the church to the words of our services. Just for full disclosure, I stole the title of this article from my friend, Fr. Brooks at St. Thomas’. Just fuller disclosure – he stole it from me when I was in Kingsport!!! And fullest disclosure—the text is mostly his. . . this time.

But before we dive in too deep, let’s talk about that word in the title: “Nave.” It comes from the Latin word for “ship” and shares this origin with words like “navy” and “naval.” The nave of the church is the area where the con-gregation sits between the back doors and the steps leading up to the altar. Look up next time you walk into the nave of your church. The way the rafters arch and the lines of the ceiling converge ought to remind you of the underside of a ship. This is our vessel, and in it, we journey together!

We also ought to look at the word “liturgy” while we’re embarking on this journey. This one’s origins are a little less certain. We know it comes from Greek, and scholars have narrowed it down to two definitions. The first is “the work of the people;” the second is “public works at private ex-pense.” While this distinction often splits liturgy nerds into two deeply divided camps, I think there’s some common ground. What we do in our liturgies is not just about the priest; the priest merely gathers the people and presides while the people celebrate. Every service relies on the work of many people, including those folks whose work is simply to pray from their pews. And that is a good and joyful thing!

At the same time, the second definition is how ancient peoples described great spectacles of celebration, like parades, chariot races, and Olympic Games. Some benefactor or benefactors would foot the bill so that eve-ryone could enjoy the show.

We live into both of those definitions in our own nave. We do the work of the people every Sunday, but we don’t do it solely for ourselves. We do that public work for the benefit of all. We do that work for anyone that comes through our doors. We do that work for Norwich, for South New Berlin, for New Berlin. We do that work for everyone. We do that work for the Kingdom of God.

— Fr. Steve (with lots of help from Fr. Brooks)

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