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Thursday, April 3, 2014

God is in His Holy Dwelling Place

On Monday, March 24, 2014, the parishioners of Laredo's Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church gathered for the celebration of the first Mass in the parish's new chapel.  Dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, the Patroness of both the United States and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (the Order who staffs the parish), the small chapel was filled to capacity.

For the pastor, Rev. Juan Ayala, OMI, the evening served as the culmination of his parish's 15-year journey.  As with any project, there were triumphs and hardships, but, the parish persevered.

To mark the occasion, Fr. Ayala accepted the offer to chant the Propers for the Dedication of a New Church.  These were taken from the Propers for the Solemnity of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica (the Introit is the same as that used for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, as seen in the video above).

"God is in His holy dwelling place, the God who causes us to dwell together; one in heart in His house,  He, Himself, will give power and strength to His people."  The corresponding Psalm verses, taken from  Psalm 68, read, "The just shall rejoice in the presence of God."

Certainly, there was certainly cause for rejoicing.  As the incense wafted through the small chapel accompanied by a chant taken from the offertory for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (the chapel's patron), one could see how the music fit.  Mary was the first sanctuary for her Son.  In her pure womb, she carried the Lord, just as the Tabernacle holds the Real Presence of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

In his homily, Fr. Ayala reminded us that God, indeed, is in his holy dwelling place.  Despite the difficulties of the journey in making the chapel a reality, the parish, like Namaan's servants (the first reading was about Naaman the Syrian who was healed of his leprosy), trusted.  In fact, I would dare to say, that even Namaan understood the meaning of providing a dwelling place for God.  Recall that, after he is cured, he asks Elisha for 10 mule loads of earth so that he can have a place to worship the true God when Namaan returns home.

After the homily, Fr. Ayala blessed the new sacred vessels and then, the Stations of the Cross.  As he sprinkled each station, the Attende Domine was chanted, reminded all of us that even though this was certainly a joyous occasion, the Stations remind us of the penitential nature of the holy season of Lent.  After the Offertory, as Fr. Ayala was incensing the altar, the offertory chant for the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica was used, "O Lord, God, in the simplicity of my heart, I have joyfully offered all things and I have beheld with immense joy your people gathered here.  God of Israel, preserve the good intentions, O Lord God."  This chant, taken from the First Book of Chronicles, is the prayer that Solomon uttered when he presided over the dedication of the Temple that he built for the Lord.  The verses, taken from the same biblical passage, echo the joy of the celebration.  As the chant was being sung, I was reminded of what Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote regarding Solomon and the dedication of the Temple.  Benedict recounted how Solomon knelt down as he dedicated the Temple.

As Fr. Ayala prayed the Eucharistic Prayer, I could sense the deep joy he had.  I knew that this final stretch had been difficult for him; however, as he elevated the Holy Eucharistic species during the Doxology, there was peace, the kind of peace that only the Lord can bring.

For Communion, the chant, taken from the Communion Antiphon for the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, was used. "Jerusalem, built as a city whose parts are bound firmly together!  It is there that the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to give thanks unto your name, O Lord."  The verses, taking from Psalm 122, remind us of the joy of entering into the heavenly Jerusalem. Jerusalem was where the temple was.

After Communion, Fr. Ayala formally blessed the new Tabernacle.  A traditional Spanish hymn was sung, one that is normally used for Benediction.  Fr. Ayala then invited us to spend some moments in silent prayer before the Lord.  He then formally reposed our Lord in the Tabernacle.

After the final blessing, we sang a traditional Spanish hymn of praise, thanking God for the dedication of the new chapel.  It was wonderful to hear everyone singing with joy.

God, indeed, is in his holy dwelling place.

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