St. Michael parishioner explores meaning of Mass vessels, furnishings in new book

| May 2, 2019 | 0 Comments

It was a friend’s search for a resource to teach her child, who was preparing for first Communion, about the church environment that inspired Andrea Zachman to write “The Sacred That Surrounds Us,” published in March by Ascension Press.

The Sacred That Surrounds Us“You see, I love to gather information,” explained Zachman, a parishioner of St. Michael in St. Michael. With the subtitle “How Everything in a Catholic Church Points to Heaven,” the book explores the meaning behind the chalice, paten, credence table and other objects used during Catholic liturgies. Zachman, 36, answered questions about the book, her first, by email. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Q. What is “The Sacred That Surrounds Us” about?

A. This is a resource, as well as a book of beauty, that allows you to see that the environment around you matters. It explains, as you are sitting in church, what everything is: the altar, tabernacle, stained glass windows, candles, even the pews you’re sitting in. You see it is all there for a particular reason, most of which has been in our church since the very beginning, and is found also in the catacombs and home churches in the apostolic times. Not only is it there for a particular reason, but most objects serve a very beautiful function — and the symbolism is amazing. Holy Mother Church has prepared an environment for us that allows us to enter into the divine, into heaven on earth. This resource helps people to see all the beauty, symbolism and history of each holy item.

Q. Who is your main audience?

A. My audience started out as first communicants, but when Ascension accepted my proposal it quickly turned into a book that offered more rich information, making it more suitable for teens and adults — although the information could easily still be read and delivered to first communicants by their parents or older siblings. This would be great for RCIA candidates and catechumens, teens preparing for confirmation, Bible study groups and other faith formation classes. I am reading this with my son Joshua, who is making his first holy Communion soon. He can understand some of the information very well, and his questions regarding the environment at church are easily explained using this book. He can even read most of it. So it is simple for him, yet it is rich for me, an adult.

Q. What do you hope is the book’s main takeaway?

A. The environment at a Catholic Church is unlike anything else people will find. We cannot get any closer to God than we do at Mass, and there is no greater relationship than that of holy Communion. Heaven meets earth in our church, and everything is there to point us to God in heaven and help us fall in love with him who loves us.

Q. What surprised you in your research for the book?

A. That most of these sacred items have ancient roots in Christianity. I love the early Church, and I was able to find biblical and early Church quotes for most of the book. It was like I was taken back in time to experience the Mass and the sacraments with the early Church, yet I was still in 2019. Our Catholic faith unites 2,000 years so seamlessly.

Q. What might surprise your readers?

A. That there is symbolism in everything around them. These items are not just pretty or functional, but they are rich in history and symbolic beauty that anyone is capable of understanding.

Q. Do you have a favorite sacred vessel or liturgical object? If so, what is it and why?

A. I enjoy the parts of the church such as the nave and confessional, as they allow me to see that even the specific rooms and areas within the church are there for a reason. I also truly enjoy the credence table — the symbolism is amazing. I also love the history of the nave and tabernacle.

Q. How has writing this book affected your own prayer and participation in the Mass?

A. I will find myself in Mass thinking of the information and appreciating this environment more and more. I find myself able to explain things to my children when they ask. I also find myself approaching the Eucharist differently. I walk down the nave towards the sanctuary, towards heaven, to approach the ciborium that holds the divine, Jesus my savior, to the Communion cup that holds the divine, the merciful Jesus, to then kneel in humility and adoration after consuming the heavenly food. It all means more than just a walk up to eat bread, and it has meant more for 2,000 years.

Q. What else would you like to add?

A. I pray each reader takes what they learn in “The Sacred That Surrounds Us” into his or her own church. We all have these sacred items in our churches, and I pray this book helps readers to fall in love with their environment. Take time to walk around, outside of Mass, in your church and truly get to know your sacred space.

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