Today is the anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and for those of us blessed to belong to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, it is a feast day for us. We started celebrating this morning in true Carmelite style: singing the Divine Office, hymns for Mass in three part harmony, and recreation (conversation) at meals. Knowing that all this festivity would take place today, I used my morning mediation time to reflect on the basis of the celebration.
Our Cathedral is truly grace-full, that is, full of many graces. As I prayed this morning, four specific graces came to mind and I will share them with you now.
Preeminently, every Cathedral is for the members of its diocese a connection to Rome, to Peter, to Christ. We are not alone. We belong to the Church which has weathered every storm through the past twenty centuries and has the assurance that the gates of hell will not prevail against her. We know this but we are body and soul people so we need physical reminders of it. The actual structural existence of the cathedral provides that. There is a place that I can go, a building within which I can stand, an altar before which I may kneel, and know that in communion with the Church, I will not be overcome. What a grace!
No, we are not alone. And there is another concrete reminder in our Cathedral: the crypt. The existing Cathedral is actually the second for the Archdiocese. The first , St. Vibianna’s, was condemned after an earthquake many years ago. Additionally, it had for a long time been too small to serve the needs of the faithful, whose numbers have continued to grow exponentially. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and in the Cathedral this is an actual, visible fact. Many of the stained glass windows and other art pieces from St. Vibianna’s have been placed beautifully in the crypt. The layout and arrangement recalls the days of the early Church when the Liturgy was celebrated on the tombs of the martyrs. We continue in the footsteps of those who have forged the way before us. What a grace!
“We believe in the communion of saints.” How could you not when you see the massive tapestries lining the walls of the Cathedral?!?! (I hope it is not bragging, simply pointing out an objective fact, but you might be interested in knowing there are three Carmelites among the saints pictured: St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and Bl. Mary Jesus Crucified, all on the Northeast wall, if you want to check it out.) Looking so real that at any moment they may step down from the tapestry, they call us on to be what we are supposed to be: saints. The only difference between them and us? They have their gaze always fixed on Christ Our Lord. And they are interceding for us that we may do the same. What a grace!
The Cathedral is under the patronage of Our Lady Queen of the Angels. Mary’s response to any praise given her is to direct it back to God. We see this in her Magnificat. The Cathedral houses one of the largest, most beautiful organs in the United States. It is for me a sort of icon of Our Lady. Its grace and beauty are directed entirely back to God. From the tiny whispering sounds of its reeds, to the earth moving vibrations of its massive pipes, it proclaims the greatness of the Lord. It moves the hearts of worshipers to rejoice in God our Savior. Wood and metal, inanimate creation, combine with man’s talent and skill, all gifts from God, to produce the sound beyond sounds we call music. What a grace!
So even if you are miles from Los Angeles and today is just another Thursday for you, we Angelinos are happy to share the graces of today’s anniversary with you. After all, our Cathedral is full of them!