Wednesday, 7 March 2007

The Gate of Glory

Before Christmas, discussing the origins of a 'Baldacchino' (the marble structure over the High Altar) I noted some theories as to the symbolism of such a structure (cf Of Baldock and Baghdad) - that it recalled the tent wherein Moses met the Lord, and the Tent of Presence in the wilderness. A tent was a sacred place - last Sunday's Gospel records Peter offering to make three tents for the Transfigured Lord, Moses and Elijah. This symbol is also clearly present in a Tabernacle.

The Baldacchino also recalls the Temple in Jerusalem, which was itself realisation in marble, gold and other precious materials of the Tent of Presence.

Last week, walking through a gallery on holiday, a note on a picture referred to a baldacchino in another sense - as a triumphal arch. The Baldacchino is the gateway to glory, referred to in Psalm 24: "Lift up your heads, O ye Gates!" This is a strong image, which recalls the Lord's entry into his glory, and promises the same future to us. As such, it marks the spot in the Cathedral where we glimpse Paradise, the threshold of a life that takes us beyond this world to the glory eternal.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

When can we hope for the post on the high altar you mentioned? Could you also give your view on possible future ad orientem celebrations?

orielensis said...

"As such, it marks the spot in the Cathedral where we glimpse Paradise..."

Yes, indeed it does. But in my opinion it would do so even more if the High Altar beneath the baldachino were more often used for Mass.
Perhaps with the gradual reappearance of Ad Orientem celebration, we might see the great Triumphal Arch of our Cathedral's baldachino, with all its spledour, once again used for its intended purpose: providing a focal point for the clearest glimpse of paradise we have on this earth, ie. the celebration of Holy Mass.

Is this possible, monsignor?

I have always admired not just the Baldachino but also the marvellous crucifix and candlesticks on the High Altar. It has such dignity and beauty, and the five steps up to the Altar give it a remarkable splendour. Thank God it was not destroyed or altered in any way, such as has happened in many other Cathedrals throughout the world in recent decades.

John the organist said...

Clifton Cathedral last year had a crib in a tent and I am told the tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament chapel at Lourdes is like a tent. Mary is often likened to a tent for the Ark of the Lord.

Recusant said...

I couldn't agree more with the first two posts. It would be wonderful to have more Ad Orientem celebrations at the cathedral: where we can all face and worship the risen and sacrificial Christ.

Ray said...

John the organist,
Tent: isn't that another name for tabernacle?
Isn't the tent allusion why a tabernacle should be veiled?

Visiting Yanks said...

Monsignor,
Our family will be in London over the Easter weekend. I cannot find any specific times for Good Friday services or Easter Sunday masses on the Cathedral website. Should I assume that the Easter masses will follow the same Sunday schedule? Also, will you have Good Friday observances at 3:00pm or 7:30PM or both?
Looking forward to visiting you.

Administrator said...

Dear visiting Yanks
Sorry - the Holy Week times are not yet up on the website. Here's a preview:

Maundy Thursday 6.00pm Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

Good Friday 10.00am Office of Readings
3.00pm Solemn Commemoration of the Lord's Passion
7.00pm Prayer at the Foot of the Cross

Holy Saturday 10.00am Office of Readings
8.30pm Easter Vigil

Easter Sunday Masses at 8.00am, 9.00am, 10.30am (Pontifical High Mass), 12.00, 5.30pm, 7.00pm

Look forward to seeing you there! Arrive early - it gets crowded!!

Administrator said...

Orielensis - as to the use of the High Altar, we shall have to wait and see. It is a very complex, and sensitive issue.

But, like you, I am very glad that no destruction took place, and that we have the sanctuary fittings in pristine condition.

Dmitri said...

"It is a very complex and sensitive issue".

Father, please explain why it is so sensitive and complex. By the way, are there supporters of the "reform of the reform" movement at Westminster Cathedral?

justin said...

dmitri - I hope the good Father does not mind me responding to your query. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the Cathedral, but for those of us who live in London, Westminster Cathedral is viewed as a shining example of outstanding liturgy in the Roman Catholic world, and while it may not necessarily be seen in that manner by the chaplains, it is a leader in the so-called 'reform of the reform' movement. More than merely bells, smells, and Latin (though those are in great abundance in the Cathedral's liturgies - including a fair bit of lace, for those so-inclined), the liturgy of the Church, is the central focus of the Cathedral and oozes its way into the lives of those who worship there with an open heart and mind. Through the daily and worth celebration of Mass (of which there is at least one Mass said in Latin, and one Choral Mass daily - the only RC church in the world to do so), and the liturgy of the hours, the building itself has been hallowed to such an extent that one only has to enter the Cathedral to feel the presence of Almighty God.

Fr Mark has my thanks and prayers for the good work he and his brother priests do for the glory of God and the edification of his faithful.

Administrator said...

Just to be fair, I have had a great many comments on this issue. This blog is intended to be a record of life at Westminster Cathedral, and is not the place for theological discussion - there are a plethora of sites offering that opportunity!

Mark said...

Wonderful; thank you!

visiting yanks said...

Thank you Msgr. Mark for the Holy Week information. And, by the way, after reading Justin's post, we are even MORE excited about spending our Easter in your wonderful Cathedral!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to add to this one - you refer to a 'Pontifical High Mass' on Easter Sunday... how does this differ from the usual Solemn Mass on a Sunday (or weekdays for that matter)? Thanks!

Administrator said...

Dear Anonymous

By 'Pontifical' High Mass, we mean one where a Bishop (in our case, the Cardinal) is principal celebrant.