10 January 2007

"In the Cross of Christ I Glory..."

I’ve mentioned our Chapel of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For some reason, it's just about my favorite place to say Mass. There’s something about its proportions, the baldacchino protecting the altar, the deep red ceiling and walls, the dark oak wood, the black granite of the columbarium. I can’t explain it, but I have a special sense of anticipation as I follow the server toward the entrance. Every Mass is a joy to celebrate, of course. It’s not that I think the Mass is somehow more special here. It’s the place. There are certain places that seem to have a particularly good feeling about them, and this is one of those places for me.

The west wall of the chapel is taken up with a huge stained glass window depicting the crucifixion. There is Christ on the cross as the central figure. Our Lady of the Atonement stands beside the cross, along with St. John the Divine and St. Mary Magdalene nearby. Angels suspended mid-air hold chalices to collect the Precious Blood. The background is a swirling mass of color, recalling God’s original creation of the universe and the new creation which flows from the sacrifice taking place. Each time I turn from the altar I see this image. Each time a communicant returns from the communion rail, this is what he sees.

As a stained glass window it is very nice. As a symbol it is overwhelming. It may seem strange for me to say, but I wouldn’t mind it at all if this were the last thing I saw at the end of my life, right after celebrating Mass. Of course, I also wouldn’t mind if several decades went by before that happened!