Friday, July 24, 2009

Archbishop Lucas- The Installation Part II

"All creatures of our God and King, Lift up your voice and with us sing: Alleluia!"

St. Cecilia Cathedral's eloquence in stone as well as the silvery words of Archbishop Lucas instilled in me (and surely all those assembled Wednesday) a renewed conviction of evangelical enthusiasm. This is not the intellectually bankrupt and trite excitement that characterizes some of the crazier Fundamentalist denominations but the broadest, richest, and most universal sense that is unique to Catholicism. The homily text may be found here: Lucas Homily. For the moment, one may watch the ceremony on-demand here: Lucas Installation.

St. Paul, the first Apostle to the Gentiles, seems a good place to start. Accordingly Archbishop Lucas began his homily reflecting upon the Epistle from 1 Corinthians 12:
St. Paul tells us very clearly that there will be different spiritual gifts, different charisms in the Church. Each gift is truly a manifestation of the One Holy Spirit. The gifts are ordered in their diversity to serve the one Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God that these God-given gifts are so evident as we gather here in this Sacred Liturgy. We are the proof that St. Paul was right about the nature of the Church.
And evident they were! The very ambo from which he preached is carved of South American mahogany and flanked with sculptures of doctors of the church (Peter, Paul, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory the Great). The pulpit itself anticipates the richness of the Word. Czech-born sculptor Albin Polasek created this stunning piece of liturgical furniture as well as the moving crucifix and Stations of the Cross.

Continuing the theme of creativity: Brother William Woeger FSC, Archdiocesan Worship Director designed a Missal specifically for the Installation Mass, never to be used again. The Missal nearly covered the upper torso of the acolyte- it is about two feet tall. Constructed of heavy stock, it was stitched by the Art Department at the University of Nebraska Omaha. The cover is striking: white with a large variant of the Patriarchal Cross in gold with flecks of forest green emblazoned upon it. This is a symbol of the Byzantine Church in the East but also represents the office of Archbishop in the West. I created a horrible replica to give a sense of it. One may catch glimpses of it in the broadcast.

Archbishop Lucas expanded on this concept of diverse gifts as he worked his way through the homily, giving credit to the many people who contributed and attended. He departed from the script a little when he spoke of Music:
I'm just overwhelmed as I think we all are with the gifts of our choir and musicians. You help us long for the heavenly Liturgy as we lift our minds, hearts, and voices to God. You bring honor to St. Cecilia herself and to her Lord and our Lord.
Amen! Countless things about that space proclaim Music as a gateway to heaven. Need I mention the patroness, St. Cecilia in the rose window? First, the building itself sings. When empty the Cathedral has a superb undistorted reverberation of seven seconds which surprisingly helps song blossom and the organ to sing. Sound dances as much as light in this harmonious space. The post-renovation ceiling is full of warm, Mediterranean gold, deep red, and rich star-studded blue. The sun splashes its light as alive as the voice of the Church singing there.

Secondly, the windows. Designed by Charles Connick of Boston, the clerestory windows literally depict the great hymns of the Church: the Magnificat, Te Deum, Gloria, Stabat Mater, Victimae Paschali, Veni Sancte Spiritus, Dies Irae, and Pange Lingua. Thus, the very light which illuminates our worship passes through song!

Thirdly, literally. Text from the Antiphons for the feast of St. Cecilia scroll around the nave high in the entablature at the base of the barrel vaults. Translated it reads:
Alleluia, Alleluia! As dawn was breaking into day, Cecilia cried out saying, "courage, soldiers of Christ. Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light!" While the instruments were playing, Cecilia sang unto the Lord saying, "Let my heart be undefiled that I be not ashamed." Alleluia, Alleluia!
I thought about this as I listened to the choir sing "Greater Love Hath No Man" at the Offertory. Archbishop Lucas emphasized that we did not come here today from nowhere- we come from the labors of those before us. People have been using their gifts since St. Paul. According to tradition, St. Cecilia sang to God as she died. Walking through subterranean Roman tombs in May, I could viscerally contemplate Cecilia and the early martyrs with their pioneer spirit.

These things are so far away in space and time yet they persist in one remarkable continuum. We unite our voices and sing: "Lord, hear our prayer. Deus exaudi nos. Señor escucha nos." When one comes together with a thousand and supplicates these words in song it puts identity and purpose in perspective. It brings us into awareness of the Communion of Saints, the Universal Church. Archbishop Lucas summarized:
Do we need any further evidence then that St. Paul is right? All of these different people whom I have mentioned manifest the actions of the One Holy Spirit. We don't form separate constituencies; We are not partisans. We are members of the body of Christ. It is the living Lord that is present in this Sacred Liturgy...Drinking freely of the One Spirit we come now to offer fitting praise, honor, and glory to our One Father.
Echoing his words from high above the organ, flanking the gallery, John Dryden's (1687) "Song for Saint Cecilia's Day" exclaims:
From Harmony, From Heav'nly Harmony
This Universal Frame Began:
From Harmony to Harmony,
Through all the Compass of Notes it Ran.
The Diapason Closing Full in Man.

But Oh! What Art Can Teach,
What Human Voice Can Reach
The Sacred Organ's Praise?
Notes Inspiring Holy Love,
Notes that Wing Their Heav'nly Ways
to Mend the Choirs Above.

But Bright Cecilia Rais'd the Wonder Higher:
When to Her Organ Vocal Breath Was Given,
An Angel Heard, and Straight Appear'd-
Mistaking Earth for Heaven.
And heavenly it was.

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