What Is Theology of Place?
What is a theology of place? – The phrase itself should pique our interest, because “theology” means that we are dealing with the study of God. And what does God, our God whom the faith tells us is “Spirit,” (Jn 4:24) have to do with “place” or “space”?
If we reflect further, it seems that Sacred Scripture would indicate that such a title is misplaced. Does not Christ tell the woman at the well, “Believe me,…the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth”? (John 4:21, 23)
And does this not seem to mirror the words of His Heavenly Father in the Hebrew Scriptures:
“The heavens are my throne, the earth, my footstool. What house can you build for me?”
Contradictions That Call Us To Look Into Divine Revelation and Church History
However, whenever there seems to be a contradiction – such as between these declarations in Scripture and the reality that Christians have been creating sacred spaces for almost 2000 years – , our faith calls us to look past the surface and to dive more deeply into divine Revelation.
In this speech, we will begin by re-examining some of the passages of Sacred Scripture that we’ve already mentioned: How does Scripture understand “a sacred space”? Next, we’ll move into the Church’s more explicit treatments of sacred space: How did the Fathers and medieval theologians understand ecclesial buildings and the life of the Church? Finally, we’ll look at the actual practice of the early Church where buildings were concerned: What kind of buildings were used for ecclesial purposes? What were these ecclesial purposes?
This will allow us to finish with some brief questions for your own reflection: by understanding better the Church’s ancient and ever new love of sacred spaces, the possibilities of real estate and the new evangelization should become clearer – and that much more passionate!