Reflection on the Vigil of the Feast of the Dedication of Consecrated Churches

Judith Sutera, OSB | October 24, 2021

John 4:19-24

I’m thinking that you might be hard pressed to find anyone here for whom the Dedication of Consecrated Churches is their favorite liturgical feast. Nevertheless, we celebrate it just as we do the feasts of important saints or events in the life of Jesus. Buildings matter. Sometimes they matter too much. While every “church” with a small “c” is symbolic of “Church” with a capital “C”, we can become quite attached to our version of that.

Even Jesus was not immune to this kind of partisanship, getting into a debate with the Samaritan woman about whose place of worship was in the right place. After a couple of rounds of “we’re righter than you are,” he arrives at the argument to end all arguments: that everyone who worships in spirit and in truth is the true worshipper who will be heir to the kingdom of God.

Today, as every year, we celebrate that we have the privilege of worshipping daily in a beautiful consecrated chapel, but it was not our first chapel. Our foremothers walked away from beloved worship spaces, humble as they were, in St. Marys, Erie and St. Cloud, from their chapels on 2nd Street, in St. Cecilia’s, and in the previous building where St. Scholastica Chapel is now. Each old space marked a letting go and each new space marked an unknown future. This chapel has housed a century of inspiring worship and music, its famous windows gracing cards and books, but has our community actually been any more a beloved people of God than they were the day before in some other space? Wherever we are is to be a place of spirit and truth.

We are in our buildings for as long as they serve us well. We are of our buildings because architecture shapes our interactions and sensory perceptions. But we never are our buildings. We are those people of the promise, called to worship in spirit and in truth and that is what makes our buildings something worth celebrating, even when we gather to celebrate letting any of them go.