The physical presence of the Church proclaims that God is here and here God has chosen to live amongst men (Rev 21:3). God has set up his home with us. Here is the gateway to heaven!
In this article, we cover the architecture of the church and the symbolism behind the various design elements of the Church of St Anthony from its external facade to the details of the Sanctuary after a major renovation that was completed in July 2019. It is based on a brochure created for a presentation by Fr Ignatius Yeo on the same topic on July 13, 2019. A video of this presentation may be found on the Church of St Anthony’s YouTube channel at this link: https://youtu.be/iF7AcRhA-0s
The Twelve Arches
The Arches built into the facade of the Church of St Anthony testify that this Church is built on the faith of the Apostles and in turn proclaims that faith. The 12 lanced arches symbolise the 12 Apostles.
The Oculi of the Arch – is inspired by the rose window of the Cathedral of Lisbon (the birthplace of St Anthony). The Oculi depicts tracery of 12 radiating spokes that form into 6 petals of a Lily. The surrounding imagery above depict the purity of joy that the Gospel proclaimed by the 12 Apostles bring. The circular apex indicates the unity of their message found in the church of Christ.
The Bronze Statue of St Anthony of Padua
As we enter the gates of the Church, we are immediately greeted by Our Patron – St Anthony; he is the first to welcome us into His Church. In His arms he cradles the Infant Jesus, for Christ is the welcome gift He gives to us.
Entering the Church
Entrance to the Church
After our meeting with St Anthony, he invites us to ascend the steps into the House of God “the gateway to Heaven”. Here our gaze is drawn toward the bright warm light emanating from within, illuminating a wooden Cross and two Greek letters of Alpha (A) and Omega (Ω). These are symbols of Jesus Christ who is the Beginning and the End (Revelations 22:13). To enter the Church we open the door by the Wood of the Cross recalling the Gospel of John 10:9 where Jesus says ‘I am the gate’ and we have to enter into Heaven through Him
As we enter through the doors, we are enthralled with the brilliance of light radiating from the ceiling – this light feature gives us the glimpse and impresses on us the fullness of God’s love radiating from His presence in the Sanctuary. The ceiling feature is an ‘upcycle’ from an existing fixture that accentuate the anticipation of what awaits us in the Sanctuary, the central image is of the Blessed Trinity surrounded by images of the witnesses of the light comprising of 12 Apostles, 4 Evangelists, and; 9 Choirs of Angels and 3 Archangels in adoration. They were made by our designer and the Angels and Archangels were painstakingly hand painted by a parishioner.
Statues of Our Lady of Victory and St Joseph
Mary and Joseph greet us. As the Mother and foster-father of Jesus, they stand as two main pillars that form the portal to this House of the Holy Family and welcome us to be part of their household and to meet their Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Both the statues have its provenance from the Old Mandai Church and were fabricated in France.
Walking down the Nave – View of the Altar, Tabernacle and Tabernacle Table
As we approach the Sanctuary, we are immediately drawn to what IT IS (the Essence) that draws us and unites us as one family – The Altar Table- the Table of Sacrifice.
It is here that we gather to eat at the ‘Supper of the Lamb’ with the ‘great multitude’ of saints as described in the Book of Revelations Chapter 19 – this is clearly illustrated on the brass plate embedded in the front of the Table – The image of the Victorious Lamb of God.
Subtly, the Tabernacle (the Throne of the Lamb) where the Real presence of Christ dwells in the Blessed Sacrament) is surrounded with images of all the Apostles- and the centre of the Tabernacle table bears the ancient inscription of the Apostles- Ι Χ Θ Υ Σ (ICTHUS) – meaning ‘Jesus Christ, God, Son, Saviour’ attesting to the Real presence upon the Altar and harkening the Apostolic faith.
Brilliantly carved into the Candlesticks next to the Tabernacle are the images of Jesus, Mary and Joseph highlighting the theme of the Home of the Holy Family.
In the Sanctuary
The Altar Arrangement
There are six candlesticks upon the Altar and six candlesticks surrounding the centralised Tabernacle and Crucifix.
The Altar is designed and arranged according to a ‘modern’ setting in the light of the New Roman Missal and echoed in the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI on ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy’ as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council. The placement of the Candles and centralised Cross on the Altar establishes a clear vertical trajectory of the Eucharist, in contrast to placing it on the floor or by the side – the emphasis is clearly communicated that the Holy Mass, while being a dialogue, is not of a horizontal dimension but has a vertical thrust as an objective of union of Man with God. This is further heightened by the imposing mural
of the image of God the Father and the Holy Spirit united with the Son upon the Altar.
The pulpit symbolizes a mountain. Mountains in Sacred Scripture are places where God communicates with men. Isaiah was instructed to go up to the mountain to proclaim the message of God (Is 40:9), Christ gave the teaching of the Beatitudes by going up a mountain (Mt 5:1). The pulpit is where we receive the message and teaching of God. The monogram signifies that Word of God and the message is centered on the person of Jesus Christ. Thus the monogram Chi and rho (XP)—of the first two Greek letters XPIΣTOΣ (Christos) and the Alpha (A) and Omega (Ω) symbolize the Person of Jesus Christ
In the Old Testament God commanded that lamps should always burn before the Tabernacle (Exodus 27:20, 21). Similarly the Church prescribes that at least one lamp should continually burn before the tabernacle (Rit. Rom. iv, 60). The Lamp serves to remind the faithful of the presence of Christ, and is a profession of their love and affection. Two lamps are installed not only for purpose of symmetry but to advert the serious neglect of leaving the Blessed Sacrament without this light for any protracted length of time.
An original design for the Church of St Anthony in Woodlands – depicts a flowing stream of the waters of Jordan. The design flow is purposefully done so that it depicts the water flowing from the right side of the Altar. The Baptised-to-be enters from the ‘lower end’ of the wave-like design and ascends on the ‘higher’ side so as to depict that after receiving the Waters of Baptism one is ‘raised’ to the dignity of a Child of God.
The Consecration Cross is ‘an indelible mark’ on the building that bears the ‘imprint of Christ’ (St Thomas, II-II:34:3). Stylised after the Roundel Romanesque Cross from the time of Constantine’s reign (after the persecution of Christianity) and done in the medieval tradition, manufactured using an indestructible material and affixed to stone walls.
Holy Pictures or Icons in Churches are windows into the Sacred, they provide us a glimpse into the Sacred dimension through the lives of the Divine persons depicted. Our Lady of Perpetual Succour – is an original reproduction of the Original Icon and procured in Rome. Divine Mercy – is an original reproduction of
the Original Icon in Poland. St Anthony – is an original reproduction of the Original Icon from the Monastery of St Anthony in Lisbon.
These are three kinds of Holy Oils used to signify the work of the Holy Spirit.
- (OC) The Oil of Catechumens used in Baptism (along with water) and sometimes, in the crowning of Catholic kings and queens.
- (SC) The Sacred Chrism (“Oil of Gladness”) used in Confirmation, Baptism, in the consecration of a Bishop, the consecration of various things such as churches, chalices, patens, and bells. The Oil of Chrism is olive oil mixed with a small amount of balm or balsam.
- (OS)The Oil of the Sick used in the Anointing of the Sick.
Stations of the Cross
This olive wood Cross to mark out the 14 Stations of the cross are done by artisans from Bethlehem, wood from Jerusalem and symbolically done in 14 parts. Numbering of the crosses is the handiwork of our own parishioner.
Other Treasures of the Church of St Anthony
First Class Relics of St Anthony
The Church is in possession of the rare First Class Relic of the skin of St Anthony.
The Altar Table and the Chair (Con-Celebrant)
These are from the Mass celebrated by Pope St John Paul II at the National Stadium of Singapore in 1980.
See the section “The Altar Arrangement” above.
The Mural of God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Choirs of Angels was painted by a local artist.
See the section “The Altar Arrangement” above.
The Paschal Candlestick in brass bears the motifs ‘The Lamb upon the Throne (Revelations 5:1-14). Cherubs at the base and the twisted standard is the symbol of the ‘serpent’ upon which Christ (the Paschal Candle) reigns upon. It evokes themes from John 3:14 and Numbers 21:9, has its provenance from the Old Mandai Church and it was fabricated in France.