Reflection for the Dedication of All Churches
Marcia Ziska, OSB | October 24, 2022
As we gather this evening to celebrate the consecration of this choir chapel, let us be mindful that this feast is proclaiming to us that we are church. We, the sisters of Mount St. Scholastica are the body of Christ. We Benedictine women are a believing community who gathers in this chapel for the praise of God, as described in the back of our feast day book. We come together each day – morning, noon, and night – to praise God. It is a rhythm that has seeped into our bones like clockwork.
The description for this feast continues, and gives three important convictions as to why the dedication of churches is celebrated.
The first point: We are a community of the altar. Our monastic commitment is centered around the altar. Our profession documents are signed and then placed on the altar as we offer our lives to Christ. As we all know, the altar symbolizes Christ, which is why the priest kisses it, all of us genuflect or bow to it. Sometimes, incense is used out of reverence, and lighted candles are placed on or around it to honor Christ. In other words, we are a community of the altar – that is, Christ.
The second point: our community built this chapel, and it is sacred space. None of us would quarrel with that conviction. Sisters have been praying in this space for over 120 years, and guests tell us they feel peace upon entering the doors. Perhaps you do, as well. Tears, joy, comfort, solace have been experienced by many over the years. This space is indeed holy and sacred.
The third point: the place where we pray is the threshold of heaven, which is our ultimate goal in the monastic life; henceforth, the practice of keeping death daily before our eyes. In this chapel we can encounter Christ in the Word and in each other. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes intention, dedication, perseverance from each of us, and the support of one another as we journey individually and together to God and our heavenly home.
John’s Gospel speaks about “authentic worshipers who worship God in spirit and truth.” First of all, what makes an authentic worshipper? One commentator spoke of “wonderment” and “transformative” as two elements of genuine worship. He described wonderment as being awestruck by God’s holiness, God’s beauty and majesty. I am in awe, year after year, at the beauty of the changing landscape with each passing season, at the magnificence of the moon growing and waning each month. The word transformative means recognizing the reality of God’s love at the core of my being. Aware of being loved and enjoying the world around me can help me worship in spirit and truth. Tonight’s antiphons invite us to rejoice as we enter God’s house and resound with songs of praise.
I believe that Pope Francis’ concept of a synodal church is one grounded in spirit and truth, moving from an ecclesial church to one like what Jesus and his disciples experienced. The vision of Vatican II was also centered in spirit and truth. As a community continuing to mature in Christ, we are empowered by the Spirit of God to give witness to Jesus’ message in all that we do. Living in spirit and truth for me is being mindful of “putting on the mind and heart of Christ,” day after day. When we are faithful to that challenge, we will hear God saying to us as in our Magnificat antiphon: I will be your God and you shall be my people.