Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Consecration of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary Chapel - An Account of the Ceremonies (Part 2)

We continue the description of last week's Consecration of the chapel of the Fraternity of Saint Peter's American seminary in Denton, Nebraska. Part 1 was posted last week. All photos courtesy of the FSSP, except where noted.

* * *

Notwithstanding the radical abbreviation of the ritual in the 1961 revision of the Pontifical, the Consecration the next day took about three hours. Indeed, the older version of the Pontifical contains an admonition that if the bishop should be too fatigued to celebrate Mass at the end of the Consecration ceremony, he may have another person may celebrate the Mass that is to follow in his stead. Shortly before ten-o’clock, all of the persons involved in the ceremony assembled in the chapel of the relics, where they vested in violet copes for the first part of the ceremony. The principal celebrant was His Excellency Fabian Bruskewitz, the current Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska; the co-consecrators were: H.E. James Timlin, Bishop-Emeritus of Scranton, Pennsylvania; H.E. Edward Slattery, Bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma; H.E. Robert Finn, Bishop of Kansas City, Missouri; the Right Rev. Philip Anderson, Abbot of Our Lady of the Annunciation Monastery at Clear Creek, Oklahoma; Fr. John Berg, Superior General of the Fraternity of Saint Peter; Fr. Joseph Bisig, the Rector of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, and a founding member of the Fraternity; and Fr. Charles Van Vliet, F.S.S.P., who was responsible for actually getting the church built. His Eminence William Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the new head of the Ecclesia Dei commission, attended the service in choir, and delivered the homily at the Mass. The procession of servers, consecrators and attending clergy was one of the longest I have ever seen.

When all had assembled in front of the church, the ceremony began with the sprinkling of the exterior walls of the church with the Gregorian water. Hyssop branches bound together are used instead of a regular metal aspergil, in imitation of the words of the penitential psalm par excellence, Psalm 50: “Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be purified,” reminding us again of the church as a place of penance. All of the clergy and faithful present accompanied the bishop around the church; since the chapel is attached to the seminary building, part of the procession went thought the seminary itself.

Blessing of the exterior walls.

A small part of the procession following the bishop.

Having blessed the exterior walls, the bishop the knocked on the door three times with his crozier, saying the words of Psalm 23, “Lift up your gates, o ye princes, and be lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the king of glory shall come in.” From within, the deacon answered from the same psalm, “Who is this king of glory?”, and the bishop replied “the Lord of hosts, he is the king of Glory!” (A very similar ritual is done in the Byzantine Rite on the Easter vigil, with the same words from the Psalm.) A porter then opened the door, and the bishop blessed the threshold, saying “Behold the sign of the Cross, let all phantasms flee.” As he entered, the bishop said “Peace to this house” and the deacon replied “Upon thy entrance. Amen.”

The bishop then lead the entire assembly into the church; when all of the clergy had taken their places in the new choir stalls, which fill a large part of the church, the litany of the Saints was sung, with the names of the Saints added as on the previous night.

The clergy and congregation sing the litany of the Saints

The bishop then sprinkled the interior of the church, and purified the altar with holy water. Each of these rituals is accompanied by antiphons and psalms, and concluded with a prayer by the bishop.

The curious ritual described as the taking possession of the church was then done. To the accompaniment of another antiphon and psalm, ashes are spread on the floor of the church in an X pattern; where feasible, this X is supposed to run from opposite corners of the church, but in this case, the large liturgical choir made it impossible. The ashes were therefore laid down on the floor between the two sides of the choir; the servers of this part of the ritual are especially to be commended for performing these potentially very messy tasks with great dignity. The bishop then writes the Latin alphabet though one of the bars of the X, and the Greek alphabet thought the other; it is tempting to think that this practice goes back to a time when both Greek and Latin were used in the Mass together in the Rome of late antiquity. As in all such major consecrations, there is also a long preface to be sung by the bishop.

For the second part of the ritual, the relics are brought from the chapel to the main church; the ark is placed on a litter carried by four deacons in red dalmatics. When the relics reach the doors of the church, a particularly beautiful antiphon is sung : “Enter, ye Saints of God, for a dwelling place hath been prepared for you by the Lord; and indeed a faithful people follows your path with joy, that ye may pray the majesty of God for us.” The relics are incensed, and each of the boxes brought to its respective altar; they are then sealed into the place prepared for them in the mensa of the altar, known as the sepulcher, the cement to hold them in place being mixed with the Gregorian water.

The clergy assemble in the chapel where the relics are kept, where the bishop dresses in white vestments.

The relics are carried out of the chapel.

The relics, having been brought to the main church, are incensed by the bishop before being carried to their respective altars.

The church itself is then officially consecrated, along with the altars. Twelve Greek-crosses in round medallions are previously painted around the church, each with a bracket for a single candle underneath it. The bishop is accompanied to each of them by the deacon, subdeacon and acolytes; the latter must bring with them not only the incense, the holy oil and the candles, but also the large platform with staircase attached by which by the bishop reaches the crosses several feet above his head. Once again, the most logistically difficult part of the ceremony was brought off without a hitch. Each cross is anointed as the bishop says “May this temple be sanctified and consecrated in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; to the honor of God, and the memory of Saints N. and N.”, in this case, Saints Peter and Paul. A lit candle is placed in the bracket beneath the consecration-cross, and the bishop then incenses it from below.

Every M.C.'s nightmare!

The bishop anoints a consecration-cross, and the candle is placed beneath it. (Both photos by Gregory DiPippo.)

In the midst of this part, half way through, the bishop also anoints the doorposts of the principal door.

When the consecration-crosses are done, the altars are likewise anointed and incensed; grains of incense are then laid over the five crosses on the mensa, and burned with wax on top of them. All of this is followed by a prayer and another preface, with which the consecration ritual is officially concluded.

Bishop James Timlin anoints the altar one of the side-chapels.

Wax and incense are burned over the five crosses in the corners of the altars.

The clergy then exited the church, to return for the Mass, while they were vesting, the altar was beautifully decorated with relics and flowers, and the altar-cross and candles put in their places. The Mass of the Dedication of a Church was sung, with the addition prayers of its titular saints, the Apostles Peter and Paul; the choir sang William Byrd’s Mass for Three Voices for the Ordinary, and did a magnificent job. The following day, Solemn Vespers of the Dedication of Church was sung, with Fr. Berg as the celebrant; for the future, the Dedication of this church will be commemorated on January 22nd, so that the feast does not perpetually occur in Lent. Bishop Bruskewitz did not avail himself of the option to have another say the Mass in his stead, and is to be congratulated not only for his unflagging support of the Fraternity, but also for his stamina; when all was said and done, nearly five hours had passed since the beginning of the ritual in the chapel of the relics. Cardinal Levada did however announce before his homily that a dispensation was granted to all from the recitation of the Divine Office on that day. (Photo right by Gregory DiPippo.)

We will shortly put up another post with photos of the Mass itself.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: