Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Consecration of Old St. Patrick's Oratory

Lost Lambs has some photographs up of the consecration of Old St. Patrick's Oratory in Kansas City, Mo. that took place yesterday. The parish is an apostolate of the Institute of Christ the King.

Here are a few images from this relatively rare ceremony with some brief explanation of what is being pictured -- though I should note that this is not intended to be a full commentary upon the entire ceremonial surrounding the consecration of a church.

In the iniital parts of the ceremony, purple vestments are used. Later in the ceremony of consecration, these will be switched to white/gold.

Here the bishop sprinkles the interior of the church with "Gregorian water" as is used in the consecration of a church. Gregorian water is different from typical holy water, being water that contains wine, salt, and ashes and uses a special formula for its blessing. The name comes from the fact that its use was prescribed by St. Gregory the Great.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
The ingredients of this water are to recall to our mind the legal purifications and the sacrifices of the Jewish people, the wine taking the place of the blood... The bishop...traces, with the Gregorian water, five crosses on the altar and then sprinkles the support and tables of the altar... He then sprinkles the walls in the interior of the church... after which he sprinkles the floor of the church...

In one of the most intriguing aspects of the consecration rites, the bishop inscribes the Greek and Latin alphabets into sand put into the form of a cross upon the floor of the church. Apparently early sermons make reference to this practice, speaking to its antiquity.

(This particular image courtesy of another Kansas City blogger: Kansas Catholic)

Here is the form:

As for the meaning of this, the Catholic Encyclopedia suggests the following:

The "Liber Sacramentorum" of St. Gregory I and the "Pontifical" of Egbert, Archbishop of York, attest the antiquity of this ceremony, which symbolized the instruction given to the newly baptized in the elements of faith and piety. The crossing of the two lines points to the cross, that is Christ crucified, as the principal dogma of the Christian religion. The Greek and Latin languages represent the Jews and Gentiles respectively. The Greek alphabet is written first because the Jews were first called to the Christian Faith.

Reference is made elsewhere to the symbolism of this in relation to the Word of God and to the Gospel.

The photos now pick up upon the consecration of the building itself. Not pictured in Lost Lamb's photos is the solemn procession of the relics into the church and the corresponding ceremonial surrounding the altars. We continue with the anointing of the consecration crosses.

The bishop anoints twelve crosses on the interior walls of the church with Holy Chrism. These are then incensed and a lit candle is placed before each. If you go to many churches in Europe, particularly Rome, you will see these consecration crosses and candles upon the walls.

After the consecration rites are completed, Solemn Pontifical Mass is celebrated:

As I noted, this post is not intended to take one systematically through the consecration ceremonies of a church in its entirety.

Those interested in looking at some of the fuller ceremonial may want to consider this online text: Consecranda: Rites and Ceremonies Observed at the Consecration of Churches, Altars, Altar-Stones, Chalices and Patens by Rev. A.J. Schulte.

You may also wish to consult this article in the Catholic Encyclopedia: Consecration

Finally, you may wish to acquire the DVD of the consecration of St. Mary's, Wausau from their online store.

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