The Captivating Power of Your Surroundings
There’s an old saying we easily forget: “We shape our buildings and then they shape us!” It tells us that we unknowingly resemble our environments. Be it beauty or plainness, each is duplicated in those surrounded by them. Carl Jung said, “Every Roman was surrounded by slaves. The slave and his psychology flooded ancient Italy, and every Roman became inwardly, and of course unwittingly, a slave, because living constantly in the atmosphere of slaves, he became infected through the unconscious with the psychology. No one can shield himself from such an influence.” (Italics mine.) Seriously ponder his last sentence!
Those ensnared deeply in poverty typically are accused of being just unwilling to work or lacking initiative. Yet it takes an Olympian effort for those who have grown up in ramshackle, trash-cluttered, dirty surroundings to prevail over the influences of their poverty. How different would be their prospects in life if they had been raised amidst order and the beautiful. Beauty is not a luxury; rather it is essential in every home, school, office and city because of its affect.
To be surrounded by beauty does not require wealth, even the poorest can live in the beauty of creation. I recall years ago visiting a convent of women religious that I found to be bleakly devoid of beauty. Except for a lone crucifix, the severely bare rooms were as desolate as prison cells. I’m sure the sisters who lived there had been indoctrinated to believe their rooms reflected the spirit of poverty. Yet authentic Gospel poverty, like God, is never barren but rather as luxuriously rich as springtime creation.
Whatever the denomination, examine the interior of your church with an honest critical eye to perceive how it shaping you and your religious beliefs. Do the stain glass windows that block any view of the local neighborhood and your environment proclaim your religion has little or nothing to do with the world and its activities?
Most Roman Catholic churches, even brand new ones, have as their main focal point a large, realistic crucifix! For the past five hundred years the belief was that the source of redemption was the death of Jesus on the cross. Fifty years ago the Vatican Council declared that the source of our redemption wasn’t the crucifixion, but the Resurrection of Jesus! Should not the church declare a renovation of every parish church so it expressed and shaped the people in the hopeful, joyous victory of Easter instead of the agonizing and violent death of Good Friday?
Protestant, Catholic or Muslim, we shape our worship spaces and then they shape us!