Sunday, September 12, 2010

How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place, Lord, God of Hosts!!

This is God's holy temple. 
He lavished care on it; He built it stone by stone.

Today we had the joy and privilege of celebrating the Solemnity of the Consecration of our Chapel.

Each year, on this day before dawn and the start of our Morning Prayer, Sister Maria Christine, our Extern Sister who takes care of the outside Chapel, lights the twelve candles that are placed before the twelve crosses, one at each Station along the two sides of our Chapel. These crosses were impressed on twelve pillars of the Chapel on the day of Consecration. These lighted candles burn throughout the day from dawn until dusk.

In addition to the delight of the celebration, this morning at Mass, our Chaplain, Father Eugene Sousa, O.P. recalled the joy and unforgettable memories of that great day on Saturday, September 12, 1953 when our Chapel was consecrated. Father Sousa was a Novice at the time and enjoyed greatly the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a Dominican Novice with his other seventeen classmates.

The confirmation that a Church or Chapel is consecrated

Fr. Eugene Sousa, O.P. giving the homily
As Father Sousa explained to us in his homily, the definition of a consecration is to dedicate in a special way, a place or a person, to the service of God. A house is made holy through the presence of Jesus. We’re made holy through the presence of Jesus in each one of us for we’ve been consecrated by our baptism. In the early days of the Church, the Eucharist was celebrated in the homes. How was Jesus present there? Jesus said, where two or three gather in my name, there I am. So what makes a home holy? Jesus' presence. When Jesus is present with the people gathered together to pray, the dwelling is made holy.

We still have five Sisters living in our monastery who were present at the Consecration ceremony; and we always take delight in hearing the story retold over and over again each year. Let us now take a peek into the Chronicle of our Monastery to relive this most magnificent moment in the history of our Monastery, of the Order, and that of the Church.

Our Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart was a three-week old postulant when the Consecration took place, and her meditations and comments to the event are given in italics.

The Glorious Celebration of the Consecration of our Chapel
September 12, 1953

About 9 a.m. the ceremony of the Consecration of the Chapel began. Bishop Guilfoyle, attended by Father Bowe and Father Cahil started the august ceremony. Bishop Guilfoyle had prepared for it by a day of fasting, as he was to represent the Eternal Pontiff who opened heaven to us by fasting and suffering.

The sacred relics that were to be placed in the sepulcher had been retained in the sacristy overnight, and were so placed in the little grille opening into our Chapel hall, that we were privileged to venerate them there during the night hours. Two candles burned before them constantly and flowers adorned the aperture.

The ceremony began promptly in the morning. The Bishop, wearing a white cope, and accompanied by the clergy, remaining outside the Chapel, approaches the relics, to implore near them the mercy of God. For this purpose he recites the seven Penitential Psalms. Meanwhile the door of the Chapel is closed. There was no one inside except the Deacon, who was our Chaplain, Father Clark, wearing an alb, girdle and white stole.
(The Chapel had been prepared before the day by removing every movable thing – chairs, tables, flowers, vases, etc. No persons may be inside the Chapel during the first part of the ceremony. All, even the clergy, are outside the door. This is a vivid symbol of how we must empty our hearts of EVERYTHING to consecrate them to the exclusive use of God.)

The Bishop, struck by the greatness of the undertaking, cries out, “O Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, be in the midst of us.” To implore this help, the Litany of the Saints is recited.
(Here we learn how important it is to entreat the Saints to be with us and help us as we consecrate ourselves to God.)

After this, the Bishop blesses salt and water, with the usual exorcisms and prayers. Having made an aspersion on himself and clergy, he goes around the Monastery walls, sprinkling the exterior with holy water, and saying continually, “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy ghost.” During this time, the antiphon is intoned, “The House of the Lord is built upon a mountain, etc.”

Having returned to the front of the monastery, the Bishop recites a prayer, asking God to bless this dwelling and make it a house of holiness and prayer.
(And we ask God to make of our very person a dwelling place for Himself and one that is a house of holiness and prayer.)

Then with his pastoral staff, he strikes the door once, saying, “O princes open your gates; and the King of Glory shall enter in.” 

The Deacon, who is inside, asks, “Who is the King of Glory?” The Bishop answers, “He is the strong and mighty God.” During all this time, the outer door of the Chapel has remained closed. There is no one inside, except the Deacon. (He was Father Clark, our Chaplain.)

The Deacon does not open the door. The Bishop now goes around the Monastery a second time, saying the same words.
(We see from this that it is not easy to prepare our hearts for consecration. It takes persevering effort and repeated pleading to be made worthy to be His own.)

Having returned to the front of the Chapel and asking God’s blessing on all who were assembled, he strikes the door a second time, saying the same prayers as was said the first time. The door of the Chapel is not opened yet. The Bishop goes around the building the third time, sprinkling the walls and blessing them. Meanwhile, the anthem, “O Master of the universe” is intoned.

Returning to the front of the Chapel, the Bishop offers a prayer and strikes the door the third time, making the same invocation. The deacon responds and then opens the door.

“Peace to this house” the Bishop says, as he enters the Chapel. All kneel down in the middle of the Chapel, and the Bishop intones the “Veni Creator.” The Litany of the Saints is again said. Whereupon the Bishop traces, on the floor, with his crosier, on two lines of ashes, the Greek and Latin alphabet.
(The evening before the ceremony, Msgr. Kennedy had come to see that all was in order. But he found that the wax on the Chapel floor did not permit the laying down of the ashes. So he rolled up his sleeves and scrubbed all the wax off the floor and laid down the ashes in the form of an X from one corner of the Chapel to the other.)

After blessing the walls on the inside, he mixes new water putting into it salt, ashes and wine. This is called Gregorian Water.
(And is used for the consecration of the Altar.)

And now, after more prayers, the Bishop goes around the Altar seven times, wearing cope and mitre, sprinkling the Altar and reciting the Miserere.

The moment has now come to place the sacred relics in the sepulcher.
(This is a rectangular hole which has been hollowed out of the center of the Altar which is made of one large slab of stone.)

The Bishop recites a prayer, after which he consecrates the sepulcher with holy chrism and immediately lays the holy relics in it, together with three grains of incense. The relics were as follows: one of St. Fortunatus, one of St. Felicitus, and that of our holy father St. Dominic in which the last one was allowed at the community’s request.
(The relics placed in an Altar must be those of a martyr of the early Church. You request them from the Vatican and take whatever ones they send you. We asked that a relic of St. Dominic also be included and our request was granted.)

Our Altar with the sepulcher containing the relics inside
The Bishop now consecrates the stone that is to close the sepulcher which now contains the relics. He fixes it on the sepulcher with the cement he has made and blessed. Then anointing it again with the holy chrism, he says, “Let this Altar be sealed and sanctified in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and let peace always surround it.”

(Similarly we hope that peace will be sensed when we are present.)

After this, the Bishop incenses the Altar and its pillars; while all this time, a Dominican student continued, without ceasing, to swing the thurible, perfuming the Altar with its fragrant incense.
(We want our prayer to rise before the Lord as sweet incense in His sight.)

Twelve crosses had been impressed on twelve pillars of the Chapel, one at each Station. From the beginning of this great ceremony, lighted candles burned before these crosses.
(It is good that the Bishop was young and athletic because he had to go up a stepladder at each station to anoint the cross.)

While the candles and incense are burning on the Altar, the Bishop and clergy prostrate and sing the anthem, “God be praised,” etc.

During the progress of this long ceremony, besides the Seven Penitential Psalms, seven various Psalms were recited outside the Chapel and sixteen on the inside.

Archbishop Guilfoyle was assisted, throughout, by Father Raymond Cahil and Father Thomas Bowe. Father Meyer and Father Quinn were Masters of Ceremonies.

After further prayers and ceremonies, the Altar was furnished with flowers and candles were lighted, and the august ceremony concluded with Solemn High Mass at the newly consecrated Altar, at which our Provincial, Very Reverend Father Fulton, O.P. was Celebrant, Reverend Father Kelly, O.P. was Deacon, and Reverend Father Ward, O.P. was Subdeacon.

This great ceremony was a foretaste of the joys that await us in the blessed city of Heaven!

This is God’s dwelling place and He has made it holy; it will stand for ever firm.
Deo Gratias!

As we give grateful praise and glory to God this day, we remember all of our dear Sisters who have died offering their lives of sacrifice and prayer in this holy dwelling.

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