Teaching takes many forms, whether it is formal teaching or the informal teaching that accompanies our relationships and family moments. The church and parents alike indirectly, if not directly, teach how to pray as they model it in the worship service, the dinner table, and the bedside. Theological teaching is reinforced as we sing our songs of worship. Following a liturgical calendar can informally teach the most memorable moments of Christ’s life. Stain-glassed windows, mostly absent from modern churches, were visual theology for the church to be reminded of as it gathered for worship. And it is amidst these visual forms of teaching that the Gothic Cathedral finds its place.
The first great visionary of the Gothic style . . .wanted the design of his abbey church . . . to depict in material form the spiritual reality of heaven, as if it were a kind of earthly incarnation of the celestial city, a window that opened up into another world. Suger attempted to combine architecture and theology into a seamless whole . . . he was . . . “an architect who built theology.” . . . The Gothic cathedral was therefore more than a symbol; it was a literal representation of the kingdom of God on earth. (141)
For what its worth, I think we are missing out on some of these expressions of worship and visual theology. Of course, the church is the people, but that doesn’t demand that our buildings can’t possess some form of majesty that cries out the truths of God’s character and redemptive story.