St Finbar's Glenbrook Parish

The Sanctuary

(An Explanation of the Symbols of St Finbar’s Church Glenbrook)

The most fundamental change introduced by the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council of 4 December, 1963 and subsequently formalised by the General Instruction Of The Roman Missal, was that the priest should face the people when celebrating Mass.

The implementation of this decree reversed many hundreds of years of contrary practice. While this meant a return to a more ancient practice of the Church it resulted in a very significant re-ordering of both the interior and exterior of churches especially new ones such as ours. Another significant change introduced by the same Constitution and General instruction was that the Blessed Sacrament was not to be reserved on the principal altar of the church but was to be reserved in a prominent place elsewhere in the church which was accessible and available for private devotion.

The pulpit, which in Roman times meant a stage or scaffold, and which was so formerly prominent in older churches, was designed in an era when there was no electric sound amplification, vast crowds could still be addressed by the unaided human voice. However, very few people could do this.

Again, in Roman times, the Emperors and generals employed a person with a very deep voice, called a 'stentor' to deliver their speeches and announcements. In the middle ages this person was the herald and on the local scene was the town crier. With the introduction of electric sound amplification pulpits are no longer necessary and in contemporary churches have been replaced by the ambo or reading desk and the ministry of proclaiming the scripture in church opened to all, even those with very quiet voices. This development does not mean that those older churches which have elaborate pulpits should discard them. The stone structure which holds the book is neither a lectern nor a pulpit properly so called. It is more correctly called an ambo.

In keeping with the changes mentioned above, which were inspired by a desire to revert to a much earlier form of Christian worship, it was decreed that the area of the church known as the sanctuary where the liturgical action took place, was not to have any physical barriers such as altar rails or rood screens which would obstruct the view and presence of the people. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that there is a place of the people attending and a place of the priest presiding the areas are not so separate as to seem inaccessible or remote from each other. The sanctuary area, so called, is neither to be too high nor too flat as to seem remote or to be obscured.