Catholic Vancouver Dec. 11, 2015

New book to feature stunning icons

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

This panel of icons in the newly renovated Blessed Sacrament Church is a reproduction of works by Kiko Arguello, a Spanish artist and founder of the Neocatechumenal Way. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

VANCOUVER—The new, stunning, floor-to-ceiling panel of icons at a Vancouver church will soon be available to be explored and studied at home.

St-Sacrement (Blessed Sacrament) Parish plans to release a full-colour book of the new gold-laden masterpiece behind the altar.

"When you go to the churches in Italy, in Europe, you can purchase books to do with the history and art in the church," said pastor Father Vittorio Scomparin.

He said increasing numbers of parishioners and guests have been asking him about the religious work since the church was recently renovated.

"It takes time to explain the icon and the meaning. They can have a book, and with the book they can go through" the icons at the church or at home.

The large panel of icons is a reproduction of works by Kiko Arguello, a Spanish artist who founded the Neocatechumenal Way. Each image reveals an event in the life of Christ: His baptism, the Last Supper, the Transfiguration, and the Crucifixion, for example.

"The important thing for me is not making art, although that is appreciable," Arguello is quoted as saying in the new book, titled Corona Misterica (Crown of Mysteries).

"It's more important to do something useful, that announces, that aids, which emotionally moves; that here there is an image of faith, an image of heaven."

The gold-covered work was installed as part of a massive renovation at the church worth $3.5 million.

The church was found seismically unstable after an evaluation five years ago. While planning to make it more resistant to earthquakes, Father Scomparin decided to make it more beautiful, too.

Now exposed beams are connected to 24 thick pillars that are embedded in slabs in the foundation. The church, first built in 1946, got an upgraded sprinkler system, plumbing, and ventilation.

The only parts of the old church that remain are its foundation, the roof, and parts of the walls, the pastor said.

"Since the church is Blessed Sacrament Church, we made a special chapel for the Blessed Sacrament." The church did not have an adoration chapel before.

Other new features includes brand-new stained glass windows by Venetian glassmakers and a huge, white marble altar.

The altar, rather than standing near the far wall, is near the centre of the church and has a few rows of pews around it.

"You see the disposition of the faithful is around the altar. The altar is not in the back," explained Father Scomparin. "There's a huge altar because the altar has two functions. One is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but also the altar is a banquet."

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, rededicated the new church in front of 500 parishioners and guests in October, after renovation was complete.

Parishioner Milton Davis considers the church's beauty a form of evangelization.

"Every painting has a catechesis and tells you something. The empty tomb (shows) death doesn't exist anymore. Death has been defeated. The people enter and can see the colours," he said.

"One parishioner came and said: 'Here it is warm.' And in warm places, you want to stay. You feel loved, you feel rested."

The book, scheduled to be printed before Christmas, will be available at Blessed Sacrament Church.