Photoblog: The Cathedral of Christ the Light

Cathedral of Christ the Light - altar

The recently completed Cathedral of Christ the Light for the diocese of Oakland has attracted some interesting comments and mixed reviews – not too unlike the new construction of any new church these days.

The cathedral is an amazing composition of materials and abundant natural light. But many of the materials are hard and cold, too much concrete (inside and out) that tends to give the structure a harshness that may not be the first impression one should have of a cathedral. The lack of color or warm texture on the inside only adds to this sense of sterility.

Cathedral of Christ the Light - entrance

The structure itself is a bold and soaring marker in the city, overlooking Lake Merritt – a site well suited for the cathedral. The generous outdoor space begs for some landscaping to soften the concrete bunker walls and planters, and hopefully some future artwork that would cause folks to linger and enjoy.

Cathedral of Christ the Light - stairs

The building is impressed with its own architectonics, but I’m not too impressed with its liturgical friendliness – there could have  been a more courageous and imaginative arrangement for the liturgical function – after all this is primarily what a Catholic church serves. Given the rather daring design of the architect — a firm known more for secular commissions than liturgical ones — I expected something more ‘cutting edge’ in 21st century liturgical architecture.

Cathedral of Christ the Light - back

A positive note re. the interior: with all the lack of color and texture, this may be a very good example of how the gathered assembly is truly the most important expression of, and finishing touch upon the architectural canvas.

Phil Horrigan

Fr. J. Philip Horrigan, D. Min, is a Liturgical Design Consultant, based in Chicago.

57 comments

  1. All those stairs at the entrance are a slap in the face to a community which includes the aged and infirm. I suppose there is a back door entrance for those people.

      1. Good to hear – I read the ramp as another staircase. Thanks for the correction.

  2. As a work of architectural modern art for churches, I certainly appreciate it. What strikes me as negative are the wooden slats that let in light. These remind me of wood Venetian blinds. I hope no one gets choked on the strings to manipulate them. The other thing that stands out is what doesn’t really stand out and that’s the altar. I felt the same way about the altar in the newly consecrated Basilica of the Holy Family in Spain. In the Cathedral of Christ the Light, all the wood seating around that altar and even the crucifix placed to the side seem to suggest that the altar is but an afterthought. Maybe in person it doesn’t come off that way.

    1. Now that I’ve clicked twice on the picture to enlarge it, the altar does seem to have more prominence than I thought, but now it looks like the United Nations desk where popes and diplomats have spoken and the leaders sit behind. It just needs the UN symbol on it. But great joy was experienced in seeing the tabernacle and sanctuary lamp dead center.

  3. For an altar, I’d have a massive block of crystal much larger than the one built, or crystal blocks with lights either from within or below giving off different colors of the rainbow. The wood louvered slats soften the massive concrete, but that is about all they do. The interior could use a lot of trees or plants to soften things.

    Maybe the stained glass reredos in the archdiocesan cathedral in Hartford CT would have been a better source of inspiration for the Christ pantocrator window. This one reminds me of a copy taken from a coffee table art book on Romanesque architecture. It’s imposing, but it fails to convey the impression a whole lot of thought went into this particular aspect of the cathedral’s design.

    In a way, the cathedral reflects the culture of San Diego. Where great art is seen as lying somewhere between “Pottery Barn” and “House Beautiful”. I didn’t expect the last word in American church architecture here, and I wasn’t disappointed.

    1. No, trees and plants would make it like a shopping mall. I am so glad they avoided that.

      Good liturgical art will be the work of generations to come, layered over time. Americans, afflicted the gene for instant gratification, assume that a cathedral will be completely decorated upon dedication or consecration. Why is it that the building generation is assumed to have the final say in decoration?

      1. No, trees and plants would make it like a shopping mall. I am so glad they avoided that.
        —————————————

        You mean it isn’t a shopping mall?

    2. The Pantocrator is modeled on the one over the entrance at Chartres (with missing hand replaced). It is aluminum panels with 94000 holes letting in light to create the image, like pointilism or dot matrix printing. It is far from an afterthought.

      My favorite feature is in the crypt, which is set up as a crypt. But at one end the water from the baptismal font flows down the walls of the entrance, and at the other end, light flows down through the crystal block beneath the altar.

      The wood is all local iirc, representing the forests of California that rise so massively in some parts of the state.

      And some of the sterility is to evoke the stone beneath the earth that so shook the previous Cathedral it had to be destroyed. This one was made strong, floating on piers to let it survive another earthquake.

      1. It is aluminum panels with 94000 holes letting in light to create the image, like pointilism or dot matrix printing. It is far from an afterthought.
        —————————————–
        I have no problem with the method employed for
        creating the image. It is very impressive and thank you for the description of it.

        My objection is the origin of the subject.. The church of St. Madeleine at Vezelay,I believe. The cathedral should have made a singular statement and so obviously borrowed one from a 12th century French church.

        I would have designed a huge darkened tomb or sepulchre with a blast of light exploding from it–the “Light” emanating from the darkness of the tomb and from death!

      2. Mr.McKay, You said Chartres was the model for the image of Christ and you’re right. I said St. Madeleine de Vezelay, and that is incorrect. My apologies.

      3. Just a word about the Pantocrator. It’s not possible to appreciate this from a still photograph, but this image is indeed a unique work of art precisely because it changes with the light. The clouds move, the sun moves, and the image is different each time. So while it is drawn from a figure from a medieval cathedral, it has become something unlike anything that existed before due to the way it uses light. Given the theme of Christ the light, this is an elegant and brilliant piece of modern art. Like the vesica picis, it’s cool stuff. There are interesting ideas in this structure.

        That said, I agree with Phil about the unfriendliness of the space. Not by ideas alone do we live… 🙂 I found the quantity of concrete harsh. Also, friends have reported to me some difficulty worshipping there because the louvres actually don’t sheild the assembly enough from the light, which dazzles their eyes, depending on the time of day.

        Still, it’s quite unfair to say, as Dunstan suggests, that the place looks like a mall. Not at all. Perhaps you have to be there. It’s a space with much more pith and substance.

  4. Maybe in person it doesn’t come off that way.

    Precisely, Father Allan.
    Being an expatriate Oaklander, I was less than enthused when I had a cursory look-see at the exterior, and I’m still not sure how to take it (the exterior) all in. Photo stills are never sufficient to provide the multitude of perspectives one needs to form an assessment. But that initial visit did dampen my hopes that the interior would have positive affect.
    I couldn’t have been more incorrect with that prejudice. I’m not championing its aesthetic as some sort of watermark. But it has a coherence, IMHO, that is lacking in Our Lady of Angels.
    As in all things liturgical/ecclesial, I believe that you measure success in time over centuries, not in video bytes of thirty seconds. I hope Oakland benefits by having it grace the edge of Lake Merritt, and that God’s grace flows out of CoL to that beseiged city.

  5. One of the most impressive aspects of this building, I think, is the way in which liturgical symbols are writ large. While I personally prefer the tabernacle to be located in its own chapel, I am impressed with its size and visibility. I, for one, appreciate the simplicity of the altar, ambo, and cathedra — and the massivity of each piece, without their being disproportionate to the space. I am especially fond of the suspended candles marking the points of consecration: if you click on and enlarge the photo above, you can see them to the left and to the right. While you’re at it, note the cruciform stains below them on the concrete: the chrism was applied liberally and directly to the walls. (The video trailer of the dedication liturgy, which can be viewed from here, gives a glimpse of this action.)

  6. I respectfully disagree with the criticisms this blog entry offers. One person’s “sterility” is another person’s “simple and prayerful.” While I have not visited this worship space in person, I have seen photos and videos on the space more than once, and greatly admired the interior for being unfussy, uncluttered, open, peaceful and profoundly prayerful. I feel that the contrast of wood and concrete does, in fact, provide a richness of texture. In my opinion, the austerity and clarity achieved by a lack of multiple images and paint colors lends itself to enhancement during the liturgical seasons while not calling attention away from the primary symbol of the liturgical action at the altar. I would also disagree with the need for “a more courageous and imaginative arrangement for the liturgical function.” What kind of “imaginative arrangement” would the author suggest in place for the needs BLS states? In this cathedral, the baptistery reorients worshippers 45 degrees to the altar (BLS 66, also see the cathedral floorplan), which is centrally located. The altar itself, while “austere,” certainly symbolizes “Christ Jesus, the Living Stone” [BLS 57, cf 1 Pt 2:4], as well as conveying the “nobility, beauty, strength and simplicity of the One it represents” [BLS 56]. The space around the baptistery is large enough to accommodate the Rites of Christian Initiation with ease, and the central aisle is large enough to accommodate a variety of liturgical processions, with the additional usefulness of ancillary aisles. The altar placement, central to the gathered assembly, reinforces the primacy of the Eucharistic action (BLS 49).

    Con’t…

  7. Con’t …
    While Fr. Horrigan feels that “the building is impressed with its own architectonics,” this has been true of cathedrals and basilicas since designers first began to consider the importance of symbolism and structure. The cruciform architectonic, with baptistry located at the right side and cathedra and altar in the apse is no more or less self-impressive than Christ the Light’s multivalent use of the icthus architectonic (not only in the basic floorplan, but in the rising walls, the louvers reminiscent of fish scales, and the building orientation to the river). In my opinion, such a richness of thoughtful design only adds to the beauty of the cathedral, though such richness must be plumbed and revealed to be fully appreciated.

  8. Like too many Post Vatican II churches this looks like a theatre with a stage. An overly large stage for THEM, even though most of the time not many of THEM are around. They look ironically barren. (Awaiting the day when married men and women fill it up?)

    Some better designed Post Vatican II churches are shaped like a Tau. Sometimes the altar table is close to the back of the Tau with a large space at the convergence of the Tau used for ceremonial occasions. Other times the altar table is moved up more toward the center of the convergence and one gets a sense of gathering around the table rather than it being on stage. I like both designs. Usually I sit in one of the arms of the Tau which is usually where the choir is. These Tau designs still give one the impression that an overly large amount of space is being allocated to THEM. When the altar table is toward the back of the Tau it allows part of the large center to be for OUR activity. But then it also makes the altar platform too much like a stage for THEM.

    Several Post Vatican II churches have later added a chapel for weekly Masses, however with very poor relationships to the main church. Some actually have the chapel at the place in the Tau which would complete a cross design but they could not remove the load being wall.

    The best new design IMO would be a cross design in which the Tau part of the church would be separated from the chapel addition part by a glass wall so that at Christmas and Easter the chapel would become part of the main church. Also separate a rather large gathering area with a glass wall so that it similarly can be used for additional space as well as other activities (this was done in one of the Tau churches, I guess that wall was not load bearing). Both spaces at the ends of the cross could be used for parents to take their children, etc. The cross design could be done in a way that eliminates the large vacant on stage THEM/US effect.

      1. Yes the Gesu model of course eliminated the choir because the Jesuits did not say the Office. But as an advocate of the Divine Office, I hope the chapel in my purposed model would be used for that purpose in the future. While I like Ignatius, I am not a fan of the baroque.

    1. The essential from for this church is the fish, not the cross. It is an interesting play on the boat-shape which is the basis for most Churches, and almost seems to leap up from the adjacent waterfront.
      The aerial view on Google maps is distinctive, though a bit odd. (155 Grand Ave 94612) The street level view must be a few years old, since the roof but not the walls are complete. (the whole building is there now)

  9. Fr. Phil Horrigan: A positive note re. the interior: with all the lack of color and texture, this may be a very good example of how the gathered assembly is truly the most important expression of, and finishing touch upon the architectural canvas.

    The “finishing touch” in any church is the abiding presence of Christ in the sacrifice of the altar, monstrance, and tabernacle. The mere suggestion that the “gathered assembly” is a “finishing touch upon the architectural canvas” is not just a perversion of the Mass but also a perversion of the very reason to build a church. Churches should not be idolatrous monuments of narcissism. A church exists solely to adore, exalt, and worship the three persons in one God, not persons in pews.

    A double-sided crucifix with three candlesticks on either side should be placed on the altar. The crucifix and candles should be tall enough to obscure eye contact with the celebrant. This “Benedictine arrangement” would communicate to the congregated worshipers that the focus of Mass is not the “assembly” or “presider”, but the infinite grace of the Eucharist.

    1. A church exists solely to adore, exalt, and worship the three persons in one God, not persons in pews.

      Solely? That’s an awfully Calvinist attitude.

      Does a church not exist to provide a gathering place for God’s people, who in their gathering and worship manifest a real presence of Christ in his saving work? Does it not provide the open forum in which they may hear the word of God proclaimed and preached, and so be stirred to faith and converted to God’s truth? Does it not provide the space in which the sacred mysteries are enacted, in which all the faithful exercise the one priesthood of Christ according to the manner of their participation in it?

      Is not the church the arena of human divinization, the place of their theosis, the foundation from which they are caught up into the mystery of the Trinity whom they adore?

      1. Yes, I agree Fr. Cody about the word “solely”. I must admit that my understanding of worship is heterodox to the point where I have often considered my presence at Mass to be insignificant or even irrelevant to the liturgy. That is not the Catholic way. I attend Mass as a baptized believer who participates tangibly in the liturgy as a member of the common priesthood (even with quiet responses). I would never, however, want to attract attention to myself as a worshiper.

        Another hallmark of Calvinist thought is iconoclasm. The celebration of the Catholic and Orthodox sacred mysteries often involve visual art and iconography. The Byzantine Divine Liturgy cannot be celebrated without at least an icon of Our Lady and an icon of Christ. The Roman liturgy need not be offered in the presence of liturgical art or iconography. Nevertheless, a reredos, stained glass, and icons often constitute a layer of visual symbolism that amplifies the liturgical action. This cathedral is devoid of any iconography save the large pantocrator. Can the physical gestures of the Mass compensate for the lack of images? Is this cathedral merely an example of a new iconoclasm that places undue emphasis on the assembly as an iconic representation of Jesus Christ?

      2. Point taken, and I understand your personal response to the awesome mystery of worship.

        There is more iconography in the space than you might at first think: the statue of Our Lady prominently displayed to the left/south from the assembly viewpoint, the crucifix, the metal work on the tabernacle, the stations of the cross, and various pieces in chapels throughout the building, not to mention the polysemous ichthys that manifests itself in various ways about the building. It is subtle art: modern and understated, but not of a higher quality than much of the “contemporary” junk that comes out of church-goods catalogues.

        I can appreciate how it may not be to your taste, or that of others. I am rather fond of the modern idiom, and I think it has a place when well-done (and whether or not one finds much continuity in it with earlier forms). I would not want to wholly discount what is being attempted here artistically and architecturally, any more than I would want to discount what is artistically and architecturally achieved somewhere like Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, just down the street from Saint Thomas Fifth Avenue, in New York (where I’ve served as a “mass priest” on weekdays). None of the three buildings is wholly to my taste; all of them are places where I can worship — though the pilgrimage/tourist atmosphere of Saint Patrick’s I find distracting.

        Different buildings speak of different times and places, and evoke different responses on different levels. We’re often given to the visceral response, which is often the harshest (and most honest) criticism. I find myself less-and-less inclined to be a critic of style and aesthetic in church architecture. Different communities (however construed) attempt different things with their spaces: when I find them unmoving, I tend to ignore them. In this particular case, I do find myself moved — though I can understand why someone might not be.

        What does provoke critique for me — as might be evident from above — is a certain lack of genius in the arts and especially appointments. I would rather have a well but simply built building, with few if any images, than would I have a building that is full of the latest marble-dust-and-polymer statuary out of the church goods catalogues: let the arts be the arts, whatever style they’re in. Mass produced goods, cheaply made, gaudily colored, and sold for far more than they’re worth appeal because of their familiarity, but they lack the genius of something original — and by original, I do not mean to exclude “traditional”.

      3. Rev U.—“”A church exists solely to adore, exalt, and worship the three persons in one God, not persons in pews.”””

        Solely? That’s an awfully Calvinist attitude.

        Does a church not exist to provide a gathering place for God’s people, who in their gathering and worship manifest a real presence of Christ in his saving work? Does it not provide the open forum in which they may hear the word of God proclaimed and preached, and so be stirred to faith and converted to God’s truth?
        ——

        Hey Rev U!

        Isn’t the ‘Calvinist’ tradition the one of iconoclasm and taking over Catholic Churches and scrubbing them clean of statues, stone altars, and whatnot?

        You seem to be saying that the people they drove out, i.e. medaeval Catholics, are the ‘real’ Calvinists. I’m very confused, as usual!

    2. JZ #19 reads as if all worship is sacerdotal and churches are temples where people come merely to acknowledge the god-display and observe the worship of the sacred, set-aside, living off the wealth of the land, theocrats.

      This comment reads as if JZ has never read Sacrosanctam Concilium with its descriptions of the many purposes of liturgy.

      SC deliberately set up a contrast with such worship by repeatedly call the liturgy a time for the full, conscious, and active participation of all present.

      [“Full” modifies “participation” in the original Latin, an adjective not an adverb modifying “conscious” as in the deliberately misleading English translation on the Vatican web site, just to take our conversation back around to bad translations.]

      That “The “finishing touch” in any church is the abiding presence of Christ in the sacrifice of the altar,” is true, but that sacrament is offered by priest and people, together.

      The retained sacrament was never the original purpose of ecclesia/assembly places. They were gathering places for proclaiming the scriptures and sharing a meal.

      The monstrance is a very late development, promoted at a particular time for a particular need. How can anyone think to comment on liturgy and do not know these things?

      1. I do know that the monstrance and the placement of the tabernacle on the altar are later liturgical accretions. Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, have never had a native tradition of benediction and exposition (although some heavily Latinized Byzantine Catholics once had monstrances specially fitted for the Lamb, believe it or not!). I did my master’s work on the juncture between Mithraism and early Christian piety, so I have a bit of familiarity with notions of assembly in both pagan and pre-Constantinian Christian contexts.

        My spirituality is very different than the spirituality more often encouraged nowadays. I might not say words aloud, but my mind and heart are very alive at Mass. When I attend an EF Low Mass that is not “dialogue”, I will say the responses very quietly along with the server. God hears a whispered confiteor just as well as a over-mic’d confiteor.

        I can only tell when the priest says vobis fratres when he nods his head to the server. When I say tibi Pater along with the server, I am not deferring to the priest as a serf would to a lord. The judica me and the confiteor are prayers for the mutual journey to the sacrifice for layperson and priest alike. The layperson’s activity is not in the tone or volume of voice but in the willingness to prepare to meet the Cross alongside the priest. The layperson’s cross is the willingness to observe the sacrifice of the Son to the Father without the impulsive need to (literally) snatch a ciborium off the altar and stand self-righteously before the congregation. Why do so many Catholics insist on being Marthas when Mary always had the better lot in life?

        As a server, I have seen priests’ faces light up with eager anticipation at the qui pridie. If a man must sacrifice greatly at ordination just for the inexpressible joy of pronouncing the Sacrifice in a whisper, he deserves my greatest admiration and not my deepest envy.

  10. Having been there, in person, I can say that the first cathedral of the 21st century is stunning. It soars. It inivites. The ceiling and end walls are filled with engaging, awe-inspiring works of art, filled with light. The wood is warm and hospitable. The People of God in all their variety are the principle works of art. This cathedral was designed with exceptional thought and discernment. The walls of the columbarium, below the main level, are luminous.

  11. [1] What are the awning and cave thigamajigs above and to both sides of the presbyterium/sanctuary? They are very visually distracting.

    [2] The first picture shows a very impressive architectural display, very visually appealing overall, but all that height and light dwarf the altar. Would it have saved a lot of money to have built a shorter building, less of an architectural monument and more proportional to the human scale of those who will worship here for many generations?

    [3] If you absolutely must have a giant crucifix in the front of your worship space, this is a better place for it, behind the ambo, rather than dead center.

    [4] DH #7 “crystal blocks with lights either from within or below giving off different colors of the rainbow.” Please, do not even think about providing such a visual distraction to the human celebration of the sacraments.
    This plain altar has the advantage of being able to be draped or “vested” with colors of the season and make a strong visual image when ready to be used. For the Eucharist, it should always have a generously full hanging table cloth. The altar is not to draw attention to itself as art or architecture but be capable of being a visual focus for the Eucharist. I’d love to see a photo of the altar dressed and with a vested presider behind it.
    DH, plants? Really? I do not find that compatible with creating a good environment for worship, no matter how good an interior decorating idea it is. And why be so condescending to SD?

    [5] I hope that is not seating for choir or clergy behind the altar which I see. If it is far enough off to the side, it might not make the people there a visual distraction, but even nearly directly behind, any fidgeting draws the eye away. I would hate to preach with such a distraction behind my back, in sight for the congregation.

    [6] JMM #12-13 I generally agree with you. Did I miss a link to the floor plan? I would like to see it.

    More follows.

    1. The “awning” on the left is over the choir area (you can tell by the organ manual box and the piano), so it’s obviously acoustical in nature (and would be necessary for such a space – hallelujah! someone paying at least as much attention to acoustics as to visuals – far far too many Catholic architects, past and present, let the visuals dominate the acoustics). I assume the asninw on the right was mostly for visual symmetry, though it might marginally help with unamplified addresses from the cathedra.

    2. This plain altar has the advantage of being able to be draped or “vested” with colors of the season and make a strong visual image when ready to be used. For the Eucharist, it should always have a generously full hanging table cloth. The altar is not to draw attention to itself as art or architecture but be capable of being a visual focus for the Eucharist. I’d love to see a photo of the altar dressed and with a vested presider behind it.
      ——————————————-
      Draping an altar is old hat and works better in smaller churches than this one. Your solution, some kind of antependium wouldn’t draw attention to the altar? LOL Precisely what they’re designed to do.

      The altar design should draw attention to itself, both during, and, after the liturgy. A simple communion table or block is underwhelming, boring, and lost in the great expanse of the wall and image of Christ behind it. Since the theme of this cathedral is light, the altar should pick up on that more than anything else in the sanctuary. It fails to do that with the present arrangement and your solution is also a non-starter.

      pedestrian. It’s been done time and time again.

  12. [7] JMM #12-13 “While Fr. Horrigan feels that “the building is impressed with its own architectonics,” this has been true of cathedrals and basilicas since designers first began to consider the importance of symbolism and structure. ”

    This is true, but I do not think it is good. Too much money goes into architecture and decorative art in order to impress people with how important a building is, or its builders/designers/artists/et alia.

    I had hoped the church was out of the medieval tourism business of building traffic to relics and their various levels of housing.

    What percentage of the costs would it have taken to have built a worthy, energy efficient, acoustically appropriate, flexible worship space instead of this monument?

    A cathedral needs to be built to follow its function as a worship space for larger groups of people. This building will do that trick, but is way overbuilt for that function.

    I do not want simple Shaker meeting halls, but I do want bishops to question the need for monumentality in their cathedrals.

    I like the idea that the space should have the flexibility and proportions appropriate to be a home for the people of God who will share their prayer there. I like the idea of processing-in the dressings for the day in banners and altar clothes and vestments. I like the idea that it is the entrance of the assembly which turns a room into their place of worship.

    [8] What other facilities are associated with this main cathedral space? Is there a proportionately sized chapel for smaller congregations? Is there a generous gathering space? Is there sufficient space for all the diocesan clergy to gather and vest and enter in procession? Is there a space for the congregation to gather and process? Are there coat rooms and umbrella spaces? Are there ways of getting to the rest rooms without having to go all the way down the main aisle?

    [8[ How are the acoustics? Is amplification assumed for all spoken…

    1. You make a good point regarding overspending on the impressiveness of buildings. There is (and has been) much ink spilled on the question of spending money on church buildings vs spending money on the “living stones,” especially the poorest of the poor.

      For myself, I find that I appreciate both needs. I do think that Christ’s mandate to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked” usually trumps other concerns. But, I also appreciate that the people of God as human creatures have an innate need to visually and viscerally experience the transcendent – not only in the worship EXPERIENCE but also in the worship SPACE. I think, for most parishes, that experience of prayerful transcendence in worship spaces does not have to come with a monumental pricetag. I do think that having the cathedral church of a diocese as representative of that transcendence in a monumental way is not always a bad thing, as cathedrals by their nature are to gather ALL the individuals of a diocese. I really do particularly appreciate the use of grand symbol in the very “bones” of the building, and that kind of creativity takes more time and imagination on the part of designers, which will ultimately take a lot more money. Additionally, there is the issue of interior artwork, as Fr. Cody noted above; there is real benefit and value to the HUMAN element in human artistry, and that human element ALWAYS costs more than something mass-produced in China.

      1. “A church large enough for worship” was ranked #1 in being well done by the Vibrant Parish Life Study; it was ranked #9 in importance among 39 items.

        “Well-maintained parish facilities and grounds” was ranked #2 in being well done, although it was ranked #12 in importance.

        The VPL study shows that the people have their priorities straight with regard to importance:
        #1Masses that are prayerful, reverent and spiritually moving***,
        #2The parish as a supportive, caring community***,
        #3 Promotion of respect for human life,
        #4The parish exhibiting a spirit of warmth and hospitality***
        #5 Religious education for children
        #6New members of the parish are welcomed***
        #7Parish leadership that listens to the concerns of parishioners***
        #8 Support for families who have experienced death***
        #9 A church large enough for worship,
        # 10 Outreach to the poor***

        However, the seven items followed by asterisks received rankings of 15 or below in being well done. This suggests that we should be spending our time if not our money on things other than church buildings. Church buildings may not be a sign that we are doing well. Maybe they are an easy substitute for tacking the more difficult priorities.

        VPL Study was done in the Diocese of Cleveland in April 2003 with 129 participating parishes and 46,241 total survey responses.

  13. I’m impressed by the pics of this new cathedral. I like the height, and the figure of Christ ‘in Ascension mode’, giving a powerful expression of a transcendental ‘beyond’. However, the image does seem to overpower not only the altar but the entire sanctuary area.

    I have some questions. The crucifix dominates the ambo. Why the ambo? It’s almost as if they didn’t know where to put the crucifix. Surely its principal relation should be to the altar. In answer to Mr Zarembo’s assertion of a ‘Benedictine arrangement’, I would point out that the current official papal directions for outside Masses stipulates a crucifix suspended ABOVE the altar and in front of it, presumably double-sided so that when the celebrant raises his eyes before the consecration he has it in view.

    I too prefer a tabernacle NOT behind the altar, so that the priest doesn’t have his back to it when celebrating. Its prime purpose is documented as Holy Communion for the sick and dying, and personal prayer.

    I take it that the dark stone chair at the right-hand side is the bishop’s cathedra. Where is the celebrant’s chair when it is not the bishop celebrating? Is it just some temporary wooden furnishing somewhere else in the sanctuary? This is part of the problem for cathedrals mentioned elsewhere in this thread – how to scale celebration spaces for small as well as great occasions.

    One more thing. What is the liturgical significance of those two great wooden sounding boards on either side of the sanctuary? To project the singing of a double choir? And BTW is there an organ?

    1. One more thing. What is the liturgical significance of those two great wooden sounding boards on either side of the sanctuary? To project the singing of a double choir? And BTW is there an organ?

      The photo above was taken before the organ was installed; its pipes fit above those sounding boards, which seem to serve as much to shield those sitting below the pipework from the sound (it’s hard to hear your choirmates over a roaring tutti) as to project sound from below.

      See the photos here and here.

      1. Haven’t been there so I can’t comment on the quality of this arrangement. Generally, however, this is a prescription for the choir not being able to hear the organ.

  14. CCU #22 “just down the street from Saint Thomas Fifth Avenue, in New York (where I’ve served as a “mass priest” on weekdays). ”

    Is this the Episcopal church with all the beautiful wood carving?

      1. Oh, yes, this is the one I remember thinking how beautiful the interior was compared to St. Patricks when I discovered it by just continuing my walk down the block as a tourist.

        The wood carving of the pulpit and reredos and other places calls out the dedication and skill of the craftsmen.

        I would never ask for such a design now for a liturgical space, but it is a masterpiece of its type.

        I have always since encouraged people on the way to NYC who mention an intention to go see the Episcopal church two blocks down, Saint T-something’s, if they want to see a more beautiful church.

        Thanks for bringing SAINT THOMAS to mind.

      2. What I liked about the Saint Thomas website is that they choral evening prayer even on many weekdays. The one for this evening, March 1,was a little over 50 minutes long, including preludes and postludes, as well as announcements and some commentary on the readings in what was basically a 35 minute service.

        I found in the service the balance among readings, hymns and chants that I particularly admire in the Anglican tradition which I think is superior to both the Roman and Byzantine traditions in this regard. I liked their monophonic chanting of the psalms by two cantors which made them more like a meditative reading and kept an overall balance among the chanted portions of the service and the more polyphonic portions of the service such as the canticles, anthems and hymns.

  15. I personally don’t like the four candle stick configuration that cordons off the altar. I think this is a Rambusch idea from the 1970’s. Neither do I care for a truncated altar. I prefer a more rectangular altar that is longer and not square. On this type of altar a “Benedictine” arrangement could be situated that doesn’t obstruct things so much. If you look at the Basilica of the Holy Family in Spain, they used the Benedictine altar arrangement when Pope Benedict consecrated it, but the candlesticks and middle crucifix are very understated and not over powering, but elegant nonetheless.

      1. The rectangular arguably looks more like a “Protestant” table, after all; no one would confuse the square stone altar for that!

        And we don’t have to get into a discussion of the iconography of an altar of sacrifice vs a triclinium, but….

      2. Have you seen Masses on small square altars where the missal actually hangs off of the altar because there is no room for it? What about the EF Mass with the Epistle and Gospel sides. The square altar is obsolete for that. The longer, more rectangular altar allows for the candles to be on it rather than the floor and not to be so scrunched up on it to make it look cluttered. Floor candlesticks just add more clutter and obstacles in the sanctuary, confining the altar. My preference though for the Benedictine arrangement is for a nice reredos behind the altar for the candles to be placed, along with any floral decorations. A small crucifix could be placed on the altar.

  16. JZ #25 “The layperson’s cross is the willingness to observe the sacrifice of the Son to the Father without the impulsive need to (literally) snatch a ciborium off the altar and stand self-righteously before the congregation. Why do so many Catholics insist on being Marthas when Mary always had the better lot in life?

    As a server, I have seen priests’ faces light up with eager anticipation at the qui pridie. If a man must sacrifice greatly at ordination just for the inexpressible joy of pronouncing the Sacrifice in a whisper, he deserves my greatest admiration and not my deepest envy.”

    Two interesting things here.

    For too long the clergy and clericalized servers took all the people’s parts, or the choir did. No way of participating in the Eucharist should be a cross for anyone to bear. We all pray together, and some serve the community at prayer.

    Yet, the lay desire to self-righteously stand before the congregation is a reflection of the error I call “participatory clericalism,” the desire of the laity to take over presider parts of the liturgy and participate in that unfortunate class structure.

    There are appropriate ministries for laity, especially in this time of insufficient presbyters who are often untrained in public presentation, speaking, movement, gesture, projection, song. These are ministries to the assembly, though, not opportunities for showing off or for giving everybody a turn at doing everything. It is ministry to all, from those with the talents and training and a willingness to serve in a self-effacing manner.

    If the leader of the community banquet is so theologically misinformed as to think that his saying the words is an exercise of power and privilege rather than a narration of what Jesus has already done and which Jesus causes to be replicated, then that young man does not understand his ministry, to lead the assembly in communal prayer.

    1. Fr. Cody’s point about “solely” (March 1, 2011 – 3:37 pm) reminds us that orthodox Catholicism balances theosis and sacrament. Perhaps moderation protects against heterodox extremes.

      Both progressive and traditional Catholics cultivate heterodox views at the periphery of their respective ideologies. I have noticed that traditional Catholicism has yet to shed certain “Jansenistic” notions about the sacraments. I am quite guilty of taking ex opere operato to the extreme conclusion that eucharistic grace is completely independent of the participatory presence of the laity. This viewpoint is dangerously close to Jansenius’ fusion of the doctrines of total depravity and irresistible grace with Catholic sacramentality. The Mass nourishes a balanced cooperation with grace but does not substitute for human participation. I must not only be prepared to receive Christ with a clean soul but also with the willingness to reform and be reformed through cooperation in grace.

      Progressive Catholicism sometimes flirts with a anthropocentric “pelagianism”. Some lay ministers harbor a works-righteous view of the administration of Holy Communion, as if proximity to the altar affords a greater “closeness” to the sacrament. Fr. Horrigan’s stress on the role the cathedral assembly might be misinterpreted as a notion that our cooperation with grace is heavily slanted towards our initiative to worship. This is the mirror image of the “Jansenism” that still pervades some aspects of traditional Catholic piety.

      I am extremely saddened that clericalism overshadows your summary evaluation of priests. The joy of the Mass fuels the self-sacrifice of the great priests that I know. They not only preach the necessity of conversion and God’s mercy, but hear hours of confessions each week. How many priests refuse to hear more than an hour’s worth of confessions a week? Our parish priests will hear every last penitent that arrives, always.

  17. I don’t dislike this church and its (relative) liturgical conservatism is a pleasant surprise.

    One very simple method of warming up the interior would be to clothe the altar, which should have been larger and rectangular to fit the space proportionately; I’m always very curious why in many modern Catholic churches one finds a naked altar? Why no antependia? This is the most effective way of proclaiming the season or day immediately, surely? If no antependium, surely every day is Good Friday; consequently, where is the symbolism on that day itself? No stripping of the altars (Christ). I really do object to this casual symbolical impoverishment.

  18. Bright antependia in seasonal colors would certainly focus more attention on the altar.

    Perhaps some people leave the altars bare because that is appropriate for the building when it is being used for other things than Eucharist.

  19. Having read many of these posts, I appreciate intellectually some of the decisions made; Reading about the light forming the pantocrator makes me wish I could see it in person! But to respond purely emotionally — and God knows why this is what leaps to mind — it makes me think of something that would have been created by the aliens in the miniseries version of Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles.”

    1. I actually like the interior – particularly the surprisingly traditional form it takes. It makes me think of what people in 1960 probably thought churches in 2011 would look like – I can even picture people in those strange form-fitting space suits you see in 1950’s/60’s illustrations attending a Latin Mass there (since someone in 1960 wouldn’t have envisioned anything like the current OF).

      The Jetsons-style churches with traditional layouts built right before the council have always intrigued me, so I consider it a good thing that this reminds me of those. It’d be interesting to see a Latin Mass at the cathedral celebrated with contemporary-looking vestments.

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