Tabernacle & Mosaic

The theme of “God’s plan not ours” expressed in our first reading from Paul, Corinthians lll, 10:17; on this anniversary occasion in which we reflect and look back at the history which formed us as the Basilica parish and Cathedral Church of our Archdiocese; could also be expressed as “in God’s own time not ours.”

Presenter: Paul Hastings

Throughout the history, God has guided us—you and me—in the design and development of symbols and structures to give us focal points to help us feel His presence in a real and tangible way.

Those designs and developments have rarely, if ever, been in an instant but in weeks, months, years and, more often, in decades and centuries. This very church bears witness to this.

Our current Basilica structure did not arrive overnight. It happened in God’s own time starting as a crypt church and growing into the wonderful structure we have today. And so too, other parts of the church--the tabernacle and the newly added mosaic which adorns it—that I will talk about this evening.

The tabernacle; which resides on the Altar of Repose in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the upper south nave and contains the real presence of our Lord reserved for adoration and the needs of the sick; was designed by the architect who designed our Basilica.

It was made in Ireland, weighs many hundreds of pounds, is constructed of bronze with gold plating, has a cruciform shape roof with gable ends containing the triskelion symbol [representing the Trinity and God’s eternal presence] found in our main altar, and with 2 entry doors one of which is enameled and shows 2 angles guarding the entry.

The resolution of its design took some time and the making of the tabernacle took even longer—it was expected to arrive before Christmas of 1961 and arrived the following year.

Mounted on the wall behind the tabernacle is the most recent addition to our Basilica the beautiful mosaic depicting the Victorious Lamb of God. The idea of a mosaic in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is not new. It began some 43 years ago—almost half a century.

From the inception of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel [a Vatican 2 renewal directive], it was felt necessary that the chapel should draw our attention to the presence of our Lord in the tabernacle. For a variety of reasons it took the passage of time and the efforts of three rectors of the Basilica, Frs. McNeil, Hesse and Lech, to bring the mosaic to fruition—God’s own time!

The mosaic is composed of 1000’s of pieces of tessari [small pieces of opaque glass made. in this case, in Mexico]. It is framed in a large wooden frame in the form of a gothic arch [which reflect the gothic form of the arches in the Basilica] with a central mandalia, containing the primary image of the Lamb, below which are shown the 4 evangelists who brought us the Good News of our Salvation.

In sum, we have a rich history and much to be thankful for. God, in His own time, shows us the path to follow and helps us every step along the way.

Witness: Anne Givens

In his presentation, Paul Hastings reminded us about the two sacred purposes of the tabernacle. These purposes are central to the pastoral care ministry.

The tabernacle is where a pastoral visit often begins, where the Blessed Sacrament waits to be taken to the sick and the dying. Before leaving with the Blessed Sacrament, I spend time in the true presence of Jesus Christ preparing for my visit and trying to be open to what it is that God wants of me. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that there are many ways that the true presence of Christ is with us. It is one such experience that I want to share with you.

My story begins on a snowy December afternoon. I was meeting with Monsignor Bill Irwin to finalize arrangements for the Christmas Vigil Mass that he was to celebrate at the Rosedale facility where he lived.

Our rector, Fr. Len Gartner, and Msg. Bill had decided to schedule the Mass. My job was to assist Monsignor Bill and make sure he had everything he needed.

So, it was late in the afternoon of December 22nd when Msgr. and I reviewed the Order of Service for Christmas Vigil Mass. Everything was finalized - or at least, so I thought. I was about to leave when Msgr. Bill said gently, “Oh, just one more thing, could you possibly find some musicians?”

Given the demands on musicians at Christmas, I felt the tension rise in me. I headed over to the Basilica in time for evening Mass hoping that perhaps there was an outside chance that someone could help. But Msgr. Bill’s request seemed like an impossible task. And, to compound matters I had no time. I was committed to visit a parishioner in the University Hospital after the Mass.

The parishioner, Therese, had called me to receive communion at home. We set a date but before we could meet she was admitted to hospital. The hospital contacted me to let me know she was having major surgery. I asked them to let her know I would visit her before Christmas. It was now two days before Christmas. I had a dilemma. Do I work on finding musicians or do I keep my promise and make a pastoral visit? I found it difficult – I had never met Therese. On the other hand, I did not want to disappoint Msgr. Bill or to fail Fr. Len who trusted me to make sure that everything went as planned. There simply was not enough time for both.

During Mass I was repeatedly distracted by my urgent task to find musicians. However, by the time Mass was over I knew what I had to do. I totally surrendered my problem of the musicians to God and I went to the hospital.

In the course of our visit, Therese and I spoke of the Christmas preparations at the Basilica. I also mentioned the Mass at Rosedale. She asked if we were having music at Rosedale; if we needed a singer or an organist. Her question hit me like a thunderbolt. I suspected immediately that God had a hand in this. I no longer felt that we were alone in the room but in God’s presence and he had brought us together. Therese persisted with her question, “Do you want someone?” I finally replied,” Yes, but who can do it?” I felt her answer before she replied, ”I can”.

I had not met Therese until that evening. She was blind; she had a complex medical condition; and, she had just had major surgery. I had no idea about her musical background; no idea about her experience as leader of song; and no idea how her doctor would respond to her request for a leave from hospital on Christmas Eve.

Finding a musician lying in a hospital bed who offered to play an organ that she was unfamiliar with and be leader of song in less than 48 hours defied all logic and reason. The words of the Gospel came to mind: “for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”(Matt. 6:8.) Something beautiful had happened.

There was no doubt in my mind that God was present in that hospital room, present in Therese’s words. The situation seemed impossible on a human level. But, since God works on a divine level I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that everything worked out perfectly; and, for many months following Therese was our musician at the Rosedale liturgies.

That Christmas Eve, 10 years ago, was the last time that Msgr. Bill would celebrate Christmas on earth. He died the following August. I will be forever grateful to him; to Fr. Len and to Therese for their roles in strengthening my faith; and, I’m thankful to God for gathering us together in his name; and, in His presence.