For true life – our salvation – can only be found in the reconciliation, freedom and love which are God’s gracious gift.
This is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centeredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people’s hearts. Saint Irenaeus, with great insight, understood that the command which Moses enjoined upon the people of Israel: “Choose life!” (Dt 30:19) was the ultimate reason for our obedience to all God’s commandments (cf. Adv. Haer. IV, 16, 2-5). Perhaps we have lost sight of this: in a society where the Church seems legalistic and “institutional” to many people, our most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God’s love.
I am particularly happy that we have gathered in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Perhaps more than any other church in the United States, this place is known and loved as “a house of prayer for all peoples” (cf. Is 56:7; Mk 11:17). Each day thousands of men, women and children enter its doors and find peace within its walls. Archbishop John Hughes, who – as Cardinal Egan has reminded us – was responsible for building this venerable edifice, wished it to rise in pure Gothic style. He wanted this cathedral to remind the young Church in America of the great spiritual tradition to which it was heir, and to inspire it to bring the best of that heritage to the building up of Christ’s body in this land. I would like to draw your attention to a few aspects of this beautiful structure which I think can serve as a starting point for a reflection on our particular vocations within the unity of the Mystical Body.
The first has to do with the stained glass windows, which flood the interior with mystic light. From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. Many writers – here in America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne – have used the image of stained glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself. It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.
What a beautiful and understandable way to express our faith and our joy to others - through the image of stained glass windows! Later on he uses the form of Gothic architecture itself to help us to see the integrity and continuity that our faith gives to us, the universality of the faith that corresponds to all areas of earthly existence.
The entire homily is itself a model of this integrity, with each piece building upon and complementing the others, a piece that yet has the character of "wholeness", and that is in turn part of a larger whole and ultimately is meant to be united in the One that is the Triune Godhead, Himself a communion of absolute wholeness.
What a marvelous and gentle nudge by our Holy Father to reclaim our Catholic heritage of beauty and integrity, in everything - from architecture to music to art to the very prayer of the Church, her liturgy!
Fr. Z has the rest, including his typically insightful unpacking of the major themes and high notes.