Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral of St. Raphael, Dubuque, IA
While all the local parishes will be celebrating this anniversary, we here at New Melleray have some special connections with this event. The bishop consecrating the cathedral was Clement Smythe, one of the first superiors of our community. And the architect who designed the building was John Mullany, the architect of our own monastery.
Most of us have seen the cathedral which sits on Bluff Street, somewhat protected by the bluffs and hills immediately behind it. It does not dominate the landscape, but is certainly a different structure from the homes and shops spread out around it. It is definitely a church and would not be confused with a drug store. This distinctive structure is no longer a modern preference which builds in an anonymous style, one which is adaptable to multi-functions and multi-use. Some buildings are meant to house apartments, offices, and shops all at once. The church has one purpose: the worship of God.
This incongruity in architectural style confronts us with a puzzle and question. It doesn’t totally fit in. We use space to manage and organize the distance between ourselves and others. We fence off our territory. We are ready to stand our ground. But sacred space is created in uniting opposites, the holiness of God and the limitations of humanity. We are enclosed, brought close to the infinite and unknowable holiness of God. Sacred space is created so that we can hear and respond to the Word of God. We are addressed by God. To be addressed is to be summoned out of anonymity, out of the fluidity and multi-tasking of life into an encounter with God who now calls us his Holy People. You are Peter…. I say to you …. You are God’s temple. The word of God dedicates us, reveals itself as our new foundation and builds up our lives (together) into the dwelling place of God.
How awesome is this place. It is the dwelling place of God and the gateway to heaven. To be dedicated is to be given over. We are given over to the work of God in the worship of our lives. Christ gives himself over to the Father in the eucharist, and we share in this giving by offering Him and being offered by Him. We are a work under construction in this one work: being built up in Christ and being that church which grows up through his work. This is the gateway to heaven which prevails over all forms of contradiction, reductionism to the useful and anonymous, or denial of the incarnation and embodiment of the holy and sacred in our lives.