On this Pentecost Sunday, I went to the Mass of Dedication of St Francis Xavier’s Church and the Inauguration of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of Jesus, The Good Shepherd, at Belmont. Hundreds were present at this wonderful celebration with East Lake Macquarie Parish, of Swansea, Belmont and Windale, taking on the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd Parish. Please take the time to go and sit in this beautiful church and be filled with awe and wonder.
As Bishop Bill prayed the following prayer I wondered how reflective this was of our diocesan church and also the movement which Jesus left to be further nourished by the Spirit:
sanctifier and ruler of your Church,
it is right for us to celebrate your name
in joyful proclamation:
for today your faithful people desire
to dedicate to you,
solemnly and for all time,
this house of prayer,
where they worship you devoutly,
are instructed by the Word,
and are nourished by the Sacraments.
This house brings to light the mystery of the Church,
which Christ made holy by his blood,
so that he might present her to himself
as a glorious Bride,
a Virgin resplendent with the integrity of faith,
a Mother made fruitful by the power of the Spirit.
Holy is the Church,
the chosen vine of the Lord,
whose branches fill the whole world,
and whose tendrils, borne on the wood of the Cross,
reach upward to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed is the Church,
God’s dwelling-place with the human race,
a holy temple built of living stones,
standing upon the foundation of the Apostles
with Christ Jesus its chief cornerstone.
Exalted is the Church,
a City set high on a mountain for all to see,
resplendent to every eye
with the unfading light of the Lamb,
and resounding with the sweet hymn of the Saints.
Therefore, O Lord, we beseech you:
graciously pour forth from heaven your sanctifying power
upon this church and upon this altar,
to make this a place sanctified for ever
with a table always set for the Sacrifice of Christ.
Here may the flood of divine grace overwhelm human offenses,
so that your children, Father,
being dead to sin,
may be reborn to heavenly life.
Here may your faithful,
gathered around the table of the altar,
celebrate the memorial of the Passover
and be refreshed by the banquet
of Christ’s Word and his Body.
Here may the joyful offering of praise resound,
with human voices joined to the song of Angels,
and unceasing prayer rise up to you
for the salvation of the world.
Here may the poor find mercy,
the oppressed attain true freedom,
and all people be clothed with the dignity of your children,
until they come exultant
to the Jerusalem which is above.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Our churches are visible buildings, which stand in our neighbourhoods as symbols of the divine mystery, revealed to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Christ became the true and perfect temple of the new Covenant, and gathered a people to be his own. What spoke to me powerfully in this prayer was that the church is called a house, for me a home. It is in this home that we gather to worship and remember our story. It is from this home that we go out, indeed are sent out, into the world. This holy temple is made of living stones with the apostles as the foundations and Jesus as the cornerstone. We are filled with divine grace and refreshed by Christ’s Word and Body to go out so that “the poor may find mercy, the oppressed attain true freedom and all people be clothed with dignity”.
I would also like to share with you the prayers that were prayed for the anointing, incensation, and covering and lighting of the altar. Once again they spoke to me of the significance of church, not only as a building, but as a living witness to our God as captured on the crucifix.
The Anointing with the Oil of Chrism:
May the Lord by his power
sanctify this altar and this house,
which by our ministry we anoint,
so that as visible signs
they may express the mystery of Christ and the Church.
Let our prayer rise, O Lord,
like incense in your sight;
and as this house is filled with a pleasing fragrance,
so let your Church be fragrant with the aroma of Christ.
The Covering and Lighting:
Let the light of Christ shine brightly in the Church,
that all nations may attain the fullness of truth.
I have no doubt that this beautiful church will attain its mission to the surrounding community because it is a home, a place where people will be nourished in relationships, through Word and at the Table. When in this space, the outside is drawn in through clever use of windows and therefore when you are inside, you are called to go out. The use of timber and natural lighting and images creates a simple yet dignified beauty.
Our prayers truly reflect our beliefs. I found these words associated with the dedication of a church to sum up for me our mission:
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a day of rejoicing: we have come together to dedicate this church by offering within it the sacrifice of Christ.
May we open our hearts and minds to receive his word with faith; may our fellowship born in the one font of baptism and sustained at the one table of the Lord, become the one temple of his Spirit, as we gather round his altar in love.
May the word of God always be heard in this place,
as it unfolds the mystery of Christ before you
and achieves your salvation within the Church.
May this building,
which we dedicate to your name,
be a house of salvation and grace
where Christians gathered in fellowship
may worship you in spirit and truth
and grow together in love.
What a wonderful way to complete the Easter Season, by remembering that we gather to be sent forth. And this reminds me of the prayer which is said each week before we greet each other with the sign of peace:
Lord Jesus Christ,
who said to your Apostles:
Peace I leave you, my peace I give you,
look not on our sins,
but on the faith of your Church,
and graciously grant her peace and unity
in accordance with your will.
Who live and reign for ever and ever.
I hope you are seeing signs of peace on our churches and schools as you travel around our diocese during this month of May with the Give Us a Sign campaign. And this week Fr Richard Shortall SJ, our Missionary of Mercy is at Broadmeadow, to be followed by Cooranbong next week.
Peace to you as you go out as disciples.