The Church of the Transfiguration is a contemporary expression of fourth-century basilican architecture. The more than 200 photographs in this book reveal the church's extensive art program: a rich blend of mosaics, frescoes, and sculpted bronze, glass, and stone. This building is the liturgical home of the Community of Jesus, an ecumenical Christian community in the Benedictine monastic tradition that has resided on the shores of Cape, Cod, Massachusetts, for over forty years. The church stands as a visible sign of God's saving action in redeeming humanity, points to the coming of Christ in glory, and gives testimony to the power of beauty to heal.
The Church of the Transfiguration is also the story of lives that were shaped by planning and building this church and the rhythm of the daily prayer life that takes place within its walls. The building and people together are one community's attempt to glorify God through worship, hospitality, a common life, and the creative arts.
This is a stunning book with more than 200 impressive photographs printed on high-quality paper. It tells the story of the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Massachusetts, the place of worship for the Community of Jesus, an ecumenical monastic community founded by two Episcopalians more than 60 years ago.
This coffee-table-sized book is intended to be about the beautiful Cape Cod church where the community gathers for worship several times each day. The Romanesque edifice contains breathtaking artwork and offers a peaceful atmosphere for worship. But the story of the community is as impressive as the photographs of the building.
The Living Church: Serving the one Body of Christ
This is a book about BEAUTY. I use capital letters because the book is about a very beautiful new church and also because the book itself is beautiful. It is not, repeat not, something that you can “hold in your hand,” to quote the first sentence. In fact, it weighs about five pounds, and measures 12x14 inches. It is best to read it on a good solid table, and not in bed.
The Community of Jesus, which is a mainly Protestant religious community that includes celibate brothers and sisters as well as married couples, has been in existence for about 50 years. In the 1990s they decided to build a church on their property on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. This was to be a church specifically designed for their community, with the choir stalls facing each other as in classical monastic churches.
But more than that, it was to be a locus of beauty, both aesthetic and spiritual. To achieve that goal, the community hired liturgical artists with specialization in various forms of sculpture and painting. Most of these artists were from Europe, which was not a surprising choice since the style of the church is very much of the Old World. To wit, it is an early-Christian basilica, complete with atrium, apse and side-aisles.
To anybody who has been to Ravenna, on the east coast of Italy it is obvious that the inspiration comes from the churches of that town. This is especially true of the splendor of the mosaic work, which was indeed executed by an artist from Ravenna, Alessandra Caprara. These mosaics are not miniature; they cover the floor of the entire center aisle and the clerestory walls above the pillars. In my estimation, they are stunningly beautiful.
But the whole church is truly exquisite, and to page through this book is to have a pretty fine experience of the building. The photographs are quite magnificent. You feel like you are there. What is more, some of them were taken during ceremonies such as the Easter Vigil, so they give one a feel for the actual liturgical ambience of the church and the community. It is obvious that the whole program was thought through by people with highly developed liturgical sensibilities.
Although the authors are not very prominent in the notes, we read that the basic text was an unpublished manuscript by G. Thomas Ryan and Martin Shannon. I feel that these men should have been given more credit, but it could be that the community style is anonymity. As for the editor, Donna Kehoe, she has done a first- class job. The text is very informative and insightful. It gives readers a good feel for the whole process of creating the church. In the back of the book are some very touching statements by the artists that produced this remarkable building.
To someone who is reluctant to out $69 for another art book, I would say: This is not just another art book! It is a very fine statement by a community that is justifiably proud of their new church. I do not think that there is a more beautiful monastic church in this country, at least in the “old style.” And I agree with those persons who have testified that their visit to this building was a genuine religious experience.
Terrence G. Kardong, O.S.B., Assumption Abbey, Richardton, ND