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One faith, one people: What you need to know about the Cathedral dedication Mass

02-14-2017

It’s been two years since the faithful broke ground for the new Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh. In that time, parishioners throughout the diocese have given generously with both prayers and monetary gifts. And the construction of the building—from its dome and bell tower to window installation and floors—has been covered by both local and national reporters.

The Diocese of Raleigh is just months away from the dedication Mass, which is planned for July 26. “It’s very rare to dedicate a cathedral. It’s a once in a lifetime event,” Aaron Sanders, director of the Office of Divine Worship, said.

For his part, Mr. Sanders is already making arrangements, including borrowing numerous chasubles (robes) from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., for visiting priests. As the date approaches, there will be more tasks and multiple rehearsals, at least six of them for different groups, such as the choir.   

Because of capacity, seating is limited, and not everyone will be able to attend the dedication Mass at the new cathedral. A livestream broadcast, though, will unite the diocese to the event.

“This is an event for the whole diocese,” Mr. Sanders said. “In order to participate well in a liturgy, people should have an understanding of what’s happening. Not everyone will be able to be there on site, but people may be following along at home. The more we know about what is happening and why, the freer we are to pray along with it instead of wondering, ‘Why are they doing that?’”

NC Catholics recently spoke with Mr. Sanders, who offered Church teaching and his thoughts about the special, once-in-a-lifetime Mass. Learn why the congregation gathers outside before Mass and why there’s no need to kneel toward the altar when entering a pew. 

Catechesis on the Dedication of a church

By Aaron Sanders, director of the Office of Divine Worship

The Second Vatican Council expressed the desire that “through a good understanding of the rites and prayers,” the Christian faithful “should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration.” The following reflections are intended to prepare our diocese to collaborate most fully in the dedication of Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral.

Entrance into the Church

The church and the Church

The building in which the Christian community worships has since ancient times been known as a “church,” but it does not owe that name to anything particular to its physical structure. Rather, the word “church,” in its Greek and Latin origins, means “assembly,” and so most properly identifies the Christian people who gather within the building. Jesus identified Himself as the true Temple (Jn 2:19, 22), and those who are joined to Christ through Baptism become “living stones […] built into a spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:5). This living Church, Christ our Head joined with us His members, is where true worship takes place as Christ’s people gather to hear the word of God, pray together, and celebrate the sacraments. 

This worship might take place in a location used for multiple purposes; early Christians celebrated the Eucharist in cemeteries or private homes. But when buildings could be dedicated exclusively to the sacred rites of Catholic worship, it seemed only fitting that the structures take their name from the reality active within them: a church is a sacred place set apart for those rites whereby Christ acts in, through, and for His Church. 

Ideally, the church building should be more than a roof under which the liturgy takes place. Its design and decoration should be “a special kind of image of the Church itself,” teaching or reminding us of who we are and what we do when gathered in prayer. Accordingly, when the Church sets apart a new building to convey the image of the gathered assembly, she “makes” a church through signs similar to those by which she “makes” new Christians: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. 

Open wide the doors to Christ

This process begins with an empty church. The locked doors and undecorated interior display the condition of human beings after the Fall, when humans closed their hearts to God and so lost the glory of His indwelling presence. From that point on, humanity had to await the coming of its promised Savior, and the new church likewise waits in hope for Christ to come and fill it with His grace. That waiting comes to an end when Christ appears outside, present both in His holy people who have gathered for the occasion and, in a special way, in the bishop, who acts in the person of Christ to shepherd His local flock. 

The bishop greets the people and briefly addresses them concerning the day’s celebration. Then, much as parents and/or godparents present an individual to the Church for Baptism, representatives of those involved in the building process come forward to entrust the building to the bishop. Having received the building, the bishop then turns to the priest into whose pastoral care the church will be placed and calls upon him to unlock the door. It is only fitting that this priest should open the new church because he represents Christ the Door to his people, and it is through his preaching that hearts will be opened to knowledge of the Kingdom. With the way now lying free, the entrance hymn begins and Christ enters in to take up his dwelling within the church.

The King of Glory enters

The full diversity of Christ’s Body is on display in the opening procession as each person present takes up his or her proper place: bishops, priests, deacons, servers and other ministers, and the lay faithful. Since the Blessed Sacrament is not yet present, and the altar has yet to be anointed, no reverence is paid to tabernacle or altar; for now, the people of God entering in are the fullest sign of Christ’s presence.

When all have found their places, the bishop blesses water and proceeds to sprinkle both the people and the church. The people, who are the spiritual temple, are sprinkled first, as a sign of repentance and as a reminder of their Baptism. Then the walls and, last of all, the altar are purified to drive away all evil, give the dwelling to God, and prepare it to receive still further favors. Just as the angels sang out at Jesus’ birth, the assembly now gives “Glory to God in the highest” at the birth of this new church. The Collect (opening prayer) concludes the introductory rites and with them the “baptism” of the building.    

What is catechesis?

Catechesis is the act of handing on the Word of God intended to inform the faith community and candidates for initiation into the Church about the teachings of Christ, transmitted by the Apostles to the Church.

Catechesis also involves the lifelong effort of forming people into witnesses to Christ and opening their hearts to the spiritual transformation given by the Holy Spirit. 

A catechism is the name given to a written work that contains a summary of all the beliefs of the faith that is used as a teaching tool.

Source: USCCB