It is all too easy to be an armchair critic. I know. I am presently sitting in an armchair.
We are surrounded by ugliness and distress. It is easy to become resentful and attack, (from the armchair of course) all that is ugly.
It is an acknowledgment that the material and spiritual worlds are intimately connected, and that sacred art and architecture are vehicles for divine truth.
Saint Thomas Aquinas noted three conditions that lead to beauty (Summa Theologica, I, 39, 8). These apply equally to both the Via Positiva and Via Negativa, the most complex Baroque cathedral and the simplest country chapel (see previous post, “What Are the Two Ways to Beauty?” July 2016). Simply put, if these “conditions for beauty” are met, the church in which you stand will be beautiful. If you can locate which of the conditions are lacking, you may know where to start your renovation.
The “first way” is the way of abundance in sacred architecture, the Via Positiva. This way may be best understood as an attempt to foreshadow our participation in the glories of Heaven. It is architecture that overwhelms our senses, so that we are lifted and immersed in the presence of an unfathomable God. The glorious churches of the Baroque exemplify the Via Positiva.