Years before the construction of the present Church of the Holy Sacrifice was finished in December 20, 1955, there stood an old sawali-bamboo building on its grounds, a chapel of U.S. Army detachment, later turned into a stable. Fr. John Patrick Delaney, S.J., then already U.P. chaplain when the old campus moved from Manila to Diliman in 1949, saw its possibilities and with the help of volunteers, had the crumbling facility repaired and converted into a little brown chapel. To the U.P. Diliman Catholics, it was their house of God and place of worship.
After several years, Fr. Delaney realized that the sawali chapel had served its purpose. It was time for him to plan and build with the community a permanent structure, a church of God which the U.P. Diliman Catholic residents could be proud of.
Fr. Delaney’s concept of the U.P. Church was that of one centered on the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, with the priest close to his parishioners as the Mass is celebrated. It would be a church-in-the-round, with the altar at the center and the communion rail around it.
Throughout the Mass and during the communion, oneness between the celebrating priests, the people and the communicants would be achieved. On the highest spiritual plane, this would then translate into closeness between God and humankind. That was the priest’s vision: a Church that would bring his beloved U.P. community one with God through the fusion of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the place and surrounding of its celebration, of the spiritual with the physical.
It would be also a Church open to anyone, anytime – to hear Mass, to pray, to meditate, to talk to God in the silence of one’s heart. Thus it would be a Church with no doors, only entrances, encouraging people to come in at any given time and commune with God.
Fr. Delaney’s concept and vision materialized with his choice of artists who contributed their talents to the making of the U.P. Church. At that time, not one of those four artists knew that their works would leave an indelible imprint on this Church – because all four, not just one, moved on to become National Artists of the Philippines, thus making the Church a showcase of works of art created by great Filipino Artists. Fr. Delaney probably had an uncanny sense of what those young artists would become and brought their talents together into the making of a beautiful and artistic place of worship and fulfilling his vision.
Today, the U.P. Church of the Holy Sacrifice stands as a permanent tribute to the talents and creativity of four National Artists whose individual works of art remain as a living testimony to their artistic greatness.
Leandro Locsin designed the church-in-the-round, a circular church with a saucer-shaped roof, no doors but with 14 entrances. He also designed the pews encircling the altar on a round dais located in the middle of the Church. To date, the Church remains as one of the finest example of modern architecture in the country.
Napoleon Abueva designed and executed the giant wooden cross dominating the center of the Church, hanging from the center of the dome-roof, right above the altar. The Cross depicts the double figure of Christ – Christ the Victim (Crucified Christ) on the one side and Christ the Priest (Risen Christ) on the other. More than being a magnificent work of art to be viewed in awe it illustrates the unique role of Christ in the Eucharistic celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He also designed and executed the present marble altar in 1979. The Sermon on the Mount is sculpted on one side; the other side depicts a scene of the basic Christian community with a priest standing among his parishioners and a nun teaching small children.
Arturo Luz designed the “River of Life”, a floor mural flowing from the altar dais at the center of the Church down to the sacristy and to three other equidistant church entrances. Done in inlaid mosaic of black, white, and gray marble chips, the river symbolizes life, flowing like a river from its sourcebed which is God. (the source of all life) at the altar.
Vicente Manansala painted the 15 mural-sized Stations of the Cross in oil, each station covering the entire interior area of each of the rectangular walls supporting the lower roof of the Church, between the church entrances. Fourteen panels depict the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross and the fifteenth, added by the painter, the resurrection of Christ. After Vatican II, it is interesting to note that the Stations of the Cross have been revised to include Christ’s Resurrection or “Jesus is Risen”.