Dedication of Abbey Church
(1 Kings 8: 22-23, 27-30 1 Peter 2: 4-9 Luke 19:1-10)
Today we recall the solemn dedication of the abbey church where we proclaim the merciful kindness of our God. We gather within walls made up of stones of various shapes and sizes along with the living stone that constitute the Church of Genesee. Today we recall how these stones were anointed with holy oil, likewise, we are reminded how each of us had been anointed when we became members of the Body of Christ, the Church. We call to mind how the brazier was placed on the altar and filled this sacred space with a cloud of aromatic smoke. With the incense, all our prayers ascend before the throne of God as a sacrifice of praise. Dedication candles were affixed to the consecrated stones to remind all of us, who are living stones building up the City of God that we are called to be the light of the world, bringing the Light of Christ to a world wrapped in darkness. Finally, a linen cloth was spread over the altar, preparing it for the Sacred Rites. This act reminded us that we who had put on monastic cowls were to clothe ourselves in garments of righteousness.
It is awe-inspiring and humbling to think that God, whom the heavens cannot contain, has chosen to make his dwelling place in this house of stone. Because of the One who makes this place holy, it stands as a haven of hope for a world that is torn by suffering, confusion, and uncertainty. Br. Patrick had a trove of monastery stories that he took great delight in the retelling. I would like to retell the account he gave of the dedication liturgy. However, I will forego his operettic rendition of the anthem he mentions. As Br. Patrick told it, the contractors had completed the construction of the church in time for the dedication, except for a few details — installing the windows. He recounted how Fr. Marcellus had written special antiphons for the occasion. One being: The sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest in which she puts her young, your altar, O Lord God of hosts.” With great animation, Br. Patrick proceeded to recount, that as the choir sang the anthem, the birds that had entered the church through the window openings put on an aerial performance to the glory of God who made all things small and great.
We gather in this church because we want to be windows through which people can get a glimpse of the glory of God radiating from the face of Christ. This church of stone houses this church of living stones which is the dwelling place where the Most-high dwells. Like the sparrow and the swallow, we long to find a resting place close to the heart of God. We celebrate the dedication of this church because we believe God has chosen it to be a place where people can experience his presence and his grace. Like the beloved in the Song of Songs, we peer through the lattice desiring to see the One ours hearts love and longing for his loving embrace.
Here, in the Valley of Our Lady’s Smile, God inspired the building of this sacred temple as a sign of his desire to see the church reach its fullness in the vision of peace. Each of the stones was carefully fitted into the walls of this church, just as each of us was carefully fitted together by the Holy Spirit to be the Church of Genesee. The cornerstone of this monastic church is Christ who nourishes and sustains us as we journey towards our heavenly home. From this ambo, the message of God’s infinite mercy is proclaimed, and the Word is broken open for our instruction and edification. At this altar, the Bread of Life is broken and distributed to us to draw us into the communion of love of the Trinity. At the Chair, the celebrant, standing in persona Christ, offers our prayers and intercessions to the Father and calls down God’s blessing upon us. The Cross holds aloft the figure of the crucified Christ who is the pledge of the Father’s infinite love that heals the wounds of the human race. All who stand at the foot of the Cross come to share in Christ’s triumph over sin and death.
In this tabernacle, Christ, our true King has pitched his tent of meeting. Seated upon his cherubic throne, he is adored by a great cloud of witnesses who never tire of singing his praises. Together with all the heavenly hosts, we come into the presence of our Lord and God Jesus Christ seven times a day to offer the divine majesty a sacrifice of praise. Here, in the halls of the King, we make God’s “dream” of reconciling and harmonizing everything and everyone in Christ our own. Bound together by the Spirit as the Body of Christ, the Church of Genesee, we become a sign and instrument of the intimate union of God with the whole human race. I will close by repeating a part of the prayer with which we began today’s celebration.
O God, who year by year renew for us the day when this your holy temple was consecrated, hear the prayers of your people and grant that in this place for you there may always be pure worship and for us, the fullness of redemption.