27 September 2008

The Making of a Cathedral: Dedication of Christ the Light

Well, Oakland's new Cathedral is consecrated and dedicated and it was truly an amazing experience! It began with a long procession up a long ramp called the Pilgrim's Pathway. At this point the diocese's presbyterate followed by Bishops from around the country and then a number of Cardinals, including Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles and William Levada of Rome preceded Bishops Vigneron and Cummins to the plaza in front of the great doors. After some introductory and celebratory speeches, the Bishop was presented with a master key to the complex and a certificate of occupancy. He then moved to the great doors and banged on them several times with his crozier; they were opened towards him and the procession moved inward through those doors for the very first time.

At this point the rest of us who were to be seated inside processed in and found our seats, though we remained standing at this point. The rite continued with the sprinkling of the walls, people and altar with holy water from the baptismal font. I was struck by the swash of water on the wall nearest where I was standing. It formed a large arc across the panel and reminded me of the marking of the doorways with blood in the OT narrative about the passing over of the angel of death. During all of this we sang first an Alleluia from "I saw water" and then the Gloria. At this point we prayed the opening prayer of the Eucharistic liturgy and celebrated the Liturgy of the Word. The responsorial psalm was 95 and the Alleluia was written by Fr Donald Osuna, choir director for the Cathedral of St Francis de Sales which was damaged in the Loma Prieta quake. A homily on Christ the Light by Bp Vigneron and our profession of faith followed.

Then came the official prayer of dedication and the anointings. All the assembly knelt and sang the Litany of the Saints. This was followed by the Prayer of Dedication and then priests went through the building anointing the walls in the sign of the cross with chrism which had been carried in procession to the front of the church from the ambry. The effect was powerful as they used their bare open hands and marked the walls. While the walls seemed to drink the oil in, the crosses remained visible throughout the cermony and thereafter. Then Bishops Vigneron and Cummins anointed the altar itself. Taking the large vessel of chrism they poured it directly on the altar while circum-ambulating it to do so. The oil was then wiped around to allow it to cover the whole altar.


Next came the incensing of the altar beginning first with the incensing of the assembly. In this act we were reminded that we first are the living stones of this new temple, we are each in fact, a living temple in which we ourselves are spiritual altars. In incensing the altar a large especially made censer is set in the center of the altar. The design of this was striking since it was a large bowl with metal ribs reminiscent of the huge wooden ribs of the cathedral itself. (Left click on the picture here and you will see the censer much more clearly in the larger version.) It will only be used this once, for it is brought out only for the incensing of an altar. The smaller censers were equally stunning in their own way (simple, brilliantly finished, fitting the design of the cathedral).

Finally came the lighting of the altar candles and also the lighting of all the wall sconces or candle holders around the cathedral walls. The Feast of Epiphany has been designated as the patronal feast for the new Cathedral of Christ the Light. Especially significant is the antiphon from that day's liturgy: [[Rise up in splendor jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See darkness covers the earth and thick clouds over the peoples, but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.]] (Isaiah 60:1-3)

Only at this point does the Eucharistic liturgy take place. The altar is kissed for the first time by Bishops Vigneron and Cummins and all proceeds normally. At the end of the Mass the Assembly was blessed with an Apostolic Blessing (plenary indulgence) and were sent forth singing "Holy God We Praise thy Name." The sound throughout the liturgy was outstanding, but this particular hymn was doubly so. If we didn't raise the roof with this hymn nothing will do that!!

Bishop Emeritus John Cummins (Making final comments)

One thing that was very special for me personally was that an artist friend of our parish, Marirose Jelicich was responsible for much of the metalwork in the new cathedral including the censers, candlesticks, communion cups and patens (see above. The band in the center of each cup is onyx), the vessels holding the sacred oils, Bishop's coat of arms, etc. Marirose, another parishioner (MJ) and I along with our pastor (John, who had collaborated on some of the liturgies for the dedication)) had lunch and talked about some of this before the dedication so seeing it all and recalling some of the associated stories was especially meaningful.