To understand the meaning of a church you must understand the meaning of the Eucharist which is the most important event that takes place in a church.. Churches that are built according to Tradition, whether in East or West, show by their very layout that, when the Church, the Christian community, celebrates the Eucharist, it is participating on earth in the liturgy of heaven. The local community at Mass is celebrating with the angels and saints, together with Christ who has entered the heavenly Holy of Holies to plead for us with the Father, who presents his cross to the Father as the means of our salvation. Thus the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II writes:
In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem towards which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle..By sharing in the gifts on the altar on earth, we share in the gifts on the altar in heaven and thus receive the body and blood of Christ, as the Roman Canon puts it
The liturgy as the meeting and joining together of heaven and earth is clearly taught in the Letter to the Hebrews and in the Book of Revelation. So many Protestants spend a lot of time quoting from the Apocalypse; but, because they have no liturgy, they miss the central theme which is the heavenly liturgy. Whenever we celebrate the liturgy, we like John see a door opened and we enter heaven to celebrate with the angels and saints. When the Scripture is read in Church, then the Lamb, slain but standing, who is the only one capable of opening the scroll, uses the voice of the reader, and the Holy Spirit permits us to share in Christ's understanding. Christ is present throughout the celebration without leaving heaven, present where the Church prays, reads and sings, present in the celebrant . Thus we are able to sing"Holy, holy, holy," together with the saints and angels; and, of course, Christ is present in the consecrated elements and in us who receive him, becoming one body with him as we share in the marriage feast of the Lamb..
Ever since Pentecost, the Church exists on earth but has its centre in heaven. Ever since Pentecost, every time the Church celebrates the Eucharist, it becomes itself, the body of Christ. As body of Christ, its origin is in heaven where Christ is; and the more it is open to him and is filled by him, the more it becomes the means by which God lives with humankind..
And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
"See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God: they will be his peoples; and God himself will be with them."...I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the Glory of God is its light and its lamp is the Lamb.
Every time Mass is celebrated, the Holy Spirit comes down and unites heaven and earth in one community in Christ. This is why the mediaeval consecration prayer calls the church building "gate of heaven.", and why traditional church architecture in both East and West aim to.make this clear to worshippers; though they do this in very different ways. In the East they show heaven on earth with icons of Christ, the Virgin, the angels and saints; and these icons cover every available space, leaving no doubt in whose company the Liturgy is celebrated. Gold is a dominant colour because it stands for our sharing in the divine life. In the West, when Catholic architecture was at its zenith, the whole space, statues, paintings, and worshippers are bathed in light, which becomes an icon of God's glory in heaven and on earth. At the head of this blog we see the windows in the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. I know nothing that speaks of the glory of God manifesting his presence on earth better than these windows. This video shows us how the builders shared this vision with us.