Ceremonial Consecration


Saturday 30th May 2009

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a day of rejoicing: we have come together to dedicate this altar by offering the sacrifice of Christ. May we respond to these holy rites, receive God’s word with faith, share at the Lord’s table with joy, and raise our hearts in hope. Gathered around this one altar we draw near to Christ, the living stone, in whom we become God’s holy temple.”
With these words, Bishop David Cremin welcomed and introduced all who gathered for the Eucharist and the liturgy of the Dedication of the new Altar at St Peter Julian’s Church in Sydney on Saturday, May 30. The assembly comprised the Sydney-based Communities (Priests, Brothers & the Sisters) of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation of the Australian Province, together with their Province Leadership Team, a large number of local diocesan priests and religious, together with representatives from neighbouring Christian Churches and a large number of the worshipping community from St Peter Julian’s. With festive music, song, word and human gestures the richness of the Church’s liturgical life as expressed in the ceremony of “Dedication” was celebrated in an atmosphere of prayer and festive joy. For many Catholic (and non-Catholic) people, such a ceremony is a rare experience and therefore all the more memorable.
 
The liturgy of dedication takes places within the celebration of the Eucharist, at which the Bishop presides. Bishop David is a long-standing friend of our Blessed Sacrament Community in Sydney and lays claim to having ordained a number of our religious as Deacons and later as Priests, as well as numerous occasions at which he has come to the church for his own personal prayer time and to celebrate with the Chinese and Indonesian communities and the youth.
 
Following the initial greeting, Bishop David took his place at the baptismal font and invoked God’s blessing on the water. He then passed through the entire assembly sprinkling them with water. The liturgy of the Word provided the opportunity to listen to Scripture readings (Genesis 28:11-18; Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47, and the gospel of John 4:19-24). In his homily, Bishop David highlighted some elements of the history (which began with the first foundation in 1953) of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation’s presence in Sydney and its remarkable contribution to the fostering of the liturgical, sacramental, and spiritual life of the “church” of Sydney and other dioceses. “Located on George Street, the Community is at the hub of the City’s commercial, cultural, social, entertainment and university life … always interacting as well as with business people, the aged, city workers, shoppers, and those who really are ‘searching’ in their life.” The more formal part of the Dedication ritual began with the singing of the ‘Litany of the Saints’ and then the ‘Prayer of Dedication’ which traced in part the stories of the ‘altars’ erected by some of our ‘ancestors in faith’, Noah, Abraham and Moses, leading on to the offering of Christ himself on the ‘altar of the cross’. The great prayer includes these lines: “...Bless this altar in the house of the Church, that it may ever be reserved for the sacrifice of Christ, and stand for ever as the Lord’s Table, where your people will find nourishment and strength. Make this altar a sign of Christ … a table of joy, where the friends of Christ may hasten to cast upon you their burdens and cares and take up their journey restored. Make it a place of communion and peace … make it a source of unity and friendship … make it the centre of our praise and thanksgiving…” Such powerful words, such rich images surely would call us to pause prayerfully every time we come before the Lord’s Table and ‘feast’ on all that it stands for in our life and faith.
Following the great prayer of dedication, the bishop poured the Sacred Chrism on the middle of the altar and on each corner, with these words: “We now anoint this altar. May God in his power make it holy, a visible sign of the mystery of Christ, who offered himself for the life of the world.” He then gently rubbed (dare I say ‘massaged’) the Chrism over the complete surface of the altar. A brazier with burning charcoals was then placed on the altar. The bishop then added incense and said: “Lord, may our prayers ascend like incense in your sight. As this building is filled with fragrance so may your Church fill the world with the fragrance of Christ.” The altar was then graciously incensed, after which the bishop himself, the assembled clergy and the entire assembly was incensed. The altar was then ‘clothed’ for the celebration of the Eucharist. The altar cloth was unfolded and placed, after which the candles used for the celebration were put into place. Light was taken from the Paschal Candle and brought to the bishop who upon receiving it said: “Light of Christ, shine on this altar and be reflected by those who share at this table.” The candles at the altar were then lit and the full interior of the worship space was flooded with the full range of interior lighting.
 
The liturgy of the Eucharist then continued with the presentation and preparation of the gifts of bread and wine. Bishop David then led the assembly in the Eucharistic Prayer, the Preface of which included these words: “… We do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord. ...He offered himself to you on the altar of the cross and commanded us to celebrate that same sacrifice until he comes again. Therefore your people have built this altar and have dedicated it to your name with grateful hearts. This is truly a sacred place… Here is prepared the Lord’s table, at which your children nourished by the body of Christ, are gathered into a Church, one and holy. Here your people drink of the Spirit, the stream of living water, flowing from the rock of Christ. They will become, in him, a worthy offering and a living altar.”
 
In preparation for holy communion, the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer for peace and the greeting of peace were prayed and shared joyously and warmly. The distribution and partaking of holy communion was a rich and lovely sign of a community drawn deeply together in and by the love of God, who was graciously nourishing his people to prepare them for their ongoing mission beyond this place and time.
 
The concluding rite of the liturgy provided an opportunity for Fr Graeme Duro SSS (Province Leader) to share a few words which included expressions of thanks to Bishop David, to the gifted professionals and tradespeople who participated in the church and monastery refurbishment project. The Construction company, the Firm of Architects, and the company who crafted and provided the liturgical furnishings were expressly noted; so too the outstanding work of project leader (Mr Jason Williams) and the principal designer (architecture an architecture and liturgical furnishings), Mr Randall Lindstrom
 
Fr Graeme also thanked the religious of the Sydney Community and the members of the Province Leadership Team for their courage in undertaking the project and commitment to its completion. Finally, he noted that St Peter Julian’s is the church of and for all people; it is not simply the possession of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation. The very best of our skills, the creativity of the best artisans, the finance of the Province, and the mission of the Congregation have combined to provide Sydney with this oasis of prayer and such a remarkable and beautiful place for prayer and worship. A final word of thanks was also given to all who were engaged in the preparation of the liturgy and the music.
 
Bishop David then invoked the blessing of God upon the assembly and gave the dismissal after which the assembly sang with full voice the hymn “The voice of God goes out through all the world.”
 
The Community offered its hospitality to all who shared the liturgy by way of refreshments and the opportunity for special guests and all involved to mix and meet in the ‘gathering space’.

An extract from the June St. Peter Julian's June Newsletter written by Fr Peter Collins.