Arts / Environment Team

For further information about the Art & Liturgical Environment of Blessed Sacrament, contact Marie Niernberger at (703) 998-6100 or email:


Signs and Symbols of our Parish

“Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes.  They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.”  Acts 2:46-47

The master plan of Blessed Sacrament suggests 2 very traditional models of ancient architecture.   Both the Medieval Monastery & Mediterranean Villa were built based on the classical plan of all rooms opening onto a courtyard.  This offered a place of gathering, ease of access to other parts of the building & protection & privacy from the streets.  The covered walkway lining the central court provides access & acts as an outdoor room.    Even though it is a modern space – built in 1988 & refurbished in 2003 – the building of Blessed Sacrament Church looks to our ancient heritage for continuity & symbolism.

Entrance and Gathering Space –  (also known as the ’narthex’)  In the center of our Gathering Space the square of red carpet & significant doors announce that this is the main entrance to the Worship Space.  To enter the house of God, we must cross a threshold, which symbolizes passing from the world wounded by sin to the world of new Life to which all men are called (CCC 1186).  We gather here before the Rite of Baptism to signify the entrance into a new life in the church.   The alcoves that flank the doors provide opportunities for art & devotion.  The two stained glass windows reflect the colors of the 4 seasons.

Daily Chapel –   This chapel is used for gathering, reconciliation and adoration.  Our Daily Chapel, adjacent to the main Worship space was built on the cloister model – a place for a small number of people to gather for prayer, adoration & Eucharist.  It is simply adorned with a Blessed Mother & St. Joseph statues.  A ‘rose window’ with Celtic knot designs symbolizes the infinity of the life and love of God.  This space also houses the confessionals – an appropriate place to receive penitents eager to renew baptismal life (CCC 1185).

The Tower –  Rising above the entire parish complex is the tower – a herald to the community and to our members – of Christ always in our midst.   Our tower bell, “Emma”, is 90+ years old and came to us from McShane Foundry in Baltimore by way of a closed church in Ohio.  Inside, is a small private devotional chapel with many traditional, “old church” fittings.  A Sacred Heart of Jesus statue & pews from the ‘old church’, a candle stand & stained glass windows allow for intimate reflection & prayer.

The Holy Family Statue –  Inside the main entrance of the church and to the right of the tower, stands a carved statue of The Holy Family.  The figure of Jesus as a young boy is embraced by Saint Joseph as Mary holds them both within her touch. Saint Joseph looks to Mary and she returns his gaze. It is a true reflection of Christ’s humanity as part of a loving home.  It was carved in Ortesei, Italy by Rabanser Studio in 2009.

The Baptistry –   Because the rites of initiation into the Church begin with baptism and are completed by the reception of the Eucharist, the baptismal font & its location reflect the Christian’s journey through the waters of baptism to the altar (BLS 66).  Our octagonal font represents the resurrection – the 8th day, the day after the Sabbath.  St. Augustine says, “This is the 8th day that surpasses description & cannot be foreseen, this day on which God will complete the work of creation.”  The upper font, for infants & blessing, continually flows into the lower, reserved for immersion of adults.  The large stained glass window above the baptistery is a flowing stream, seemingly from heaven down to us.  The baptistery was designed in 1988 by Gretch Raber.

The Ambry –  Also located in the Baptistery is the Ambry – the place reserved for sacred oils.   This is a visible sign to all that the sacraments make us the anointed ones of Christ.

The Congregation’s Area –  (also known as the ‘nave’)   Our church has a face-to-face arrangement.  This is a sacramental expression of our deepest belief that we gather together at the call of Christ who is experienced in our midst>other members of the baptized community at prayer.

The Center Aisle and “Place of Honor” –    As a participatory faith, our liturgies usually require procession to & from various areas of the space.  The “Place of Honor” at the head of the aisle is focal point of blessing & sending & receiving.

The Sanctuary Area –   The sanctuary is the space where the altar and the ambo stand, and “where the priest, deacon and other ministers exercise their offices.” The special character of the sanctuary is emphasized and enhanced by the distinctiveness of its design and furnishings, or by its elevation. (BLS 54)  Our sanctuary is made of Turkish marble, cut in Poland & is accented by gilded wood trim reclaimed from the Sisters of St. Joseph in Pittsburgh, PA.

The Altar –   “At the altar the sacrifice of the cross is made present under sacramental signs. It is also the table of the Lord, and the people of God are called together to share in it.  The altar is, as well, the center of the thanksgiving the Eucharist accomplishes.” (GIRM 296)  Our altar is 4 marble pillars supporting the table & trimmed in wood, follows the square shape of our tower and evokes the 4 Gospel writers, as well as the 4 corners of the world from Revelation 7:1.  It is worthy, solid & properly constructed. (GIRM 301) This new altar was installed in 2003.

The Ambo –  The central focus of the area in which the word of God is proclaimed during the liturgy is the ambo.  The design of the ambo should reflect the dignity & nobility of that saving word & draws the attention of those present to the proclamation of the word. (BLS 61)  Our ambo is a harmonious reflection of the altar  & is easily accessible to lector s & and cantors.

The Chair for the Priest Celebrant –  The chair reflects the dignity of  the one who leads the community in the person of Christ, but is never intended to be remote or grandiose. (BLS 63)  Our chair is a simple form evoking the lines of the reredos  & is upholstered in a fabric of squares interwoven with vines & leaves.  It was constructed & carved in Poland in 2003.

NOTE:  All stained glass was designed & fabricated by Brenda Belfield in 1988.


BLS – Built of Living Stones
CCC – Catechism of the Catholic Church
GIRM – General Instruction on the Roman Missal
SSCA – Signs & Symbols in Christian Art, by George Ferguson, Oxford University Press, New York, 1954. paperback 1961.

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