A Publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland
Catholic Voice Online Edition
Front Page In this Issue Around the Diocese Letters Bishop's Column News in Brief Calendar
Mission Statement
Contact Us
Publication Dates
Back Issues

Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland

El Heraldo

Movie Reviews

Mass Times

Catholic Voice

 October 6, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Dedication homily
New cathedral: a sign that
Christ dwells among us

Bishop Allen Vigneron delivered the following homily at the dedication of the Cathedral of Christ the Light of Nations, Sept. 25.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council began their most important document, the Constitution on the Church, by proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the light of nations. Today, in dedicating this cathedral the whole People of God in the Diocese of Oakland renews that confession.

This cathedral is a sign to our community that Christ the Light dwells in our midst. Christ the Light becomes present here through his Word and his sacraments, above all through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

In consecrating this cathedral to Christ the Light we are also letting him consecrate us once more to our mission of carrying his light, which he has poured into us, in all the places and circumstances that make up the fabric of our daily lives. Christ calls us to be these missionaries. The world needs us to be these missionaries.

On Nov. 21, 1965 Bishop Floyd Begin, the first bishop of the Diocese of Oakland, happened to be in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. But he wasn’t there as a tourist. On that historic day he joined some 2,400 other Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in voting to issue the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church “Lumen gentium.”

For Bishop Begin this was at once a deeply personal and profoundly communal act, as is only right, since a bishop at a council is there as a “testis fidei,” present to witness to the Apostolic faith which is entrusted to him, and which his flock holds in communion with him, their shepherd.

This landmark presentation to our modern age of the faith “once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) begins with a confession which gets its eloquence from its plain unvarnished simplicity: “Christ is Lumen gentium — Christ is the light of nations” (LG, 1)

This profession of faith in Jesus of Nazareth, which the whole Church in the Diocese of Oakland made in the person of her bishop that day, is renewed once more this afternoon. In dedicating this new cathedral, I am leading you in witnessing to our city, to our region, to our world, that Jesus Christ remains and will always be the light of all peoples of every race, language and nation.

Mother church for all

Now, of course, our testimony to Christ the Light in erecting this cathedral is not an isolated episode in the life of our local Church. All of our prayers, both liturgical and private, proclaim him to be the light. All of our efforts to keep his commandments and to grow holy in his Spirit proclaim him to be the light. All of our works of charity and mercy, of solidarity and justice proclaim Christ to be the light.

The establishment of this building as the Mother Church for the whole Catholic community of the East Bay makes it a most visible sign, a very public sacrament as it were of the many ways we confess our belief in Christ, the Light of Nations.

As the home of all of us disciples, it manifests with incomparable beauty and grandeur in wood and glass and concrete and bronze the all-beautiful Lord we strive for in all our acts of faith, hope and love.

Moreover, this cathedral summons us believers to do even more to know Christ the Light and to make him better known. And it invites our neighbors and all who visit it to join us in walking in the light of Christ.

As a building, this cathedral has it own specific way of serving as a sign of Christ the Light and a sign of our belief in him. The prominent 20th century philosopher, Martin Heidegger, says that in constructing a building the builders — whether they know it or not — are answering a question: “How do we live together?” That is: Every building, whether a home or a casino hotel, a convenience store or a mega-mall, a factory or a hospital or a school — each building has a meaning. In the case of those who build a church, the question would, I think, be rightly specified so that it becomes: “How do we live together with God?”

A witness to revelation

The answer this new Cathedral of Christ the Light gives to the question: “How do we live together with God?” comes from God himself. He has spoken, and it is he who interprets for us the sign that this cathedral is.

God has revealed to us that he dwells with us through his only-begotten incarnate Son, Jesus Christ; and through his Church — his Son’s bride and body — for she is the sacrament of Christ’s abiding presence in our midst. This cathedral is a witness to this revelation.

To the pressing question which searching hearts pose about where to look in order to find God dwelling with us, this cathedral answers, and answers eloquently, that God, “who is light” (1 Jn1:5) and from all eternity “dwells in unapproachable light,” (1 Tm 6:16) has approached us in his Word-made-flesh, who dwells among us. He, Jesus, is God from God, Light from Light; and in becoming a man became “the light of the world” (Jn 9:5).

The Catholic Church in the Diocese of Oakland has built this cathedral to testify to this truth, which is for us life itself: That Jesus Christ is the light for all peoples, for all ages — and that he is found in our midst.

Living stones

We find him here in this cathedral, through his Word and through his sacraments.

Christ, God’s Word from all eternity, is the Word through whom in time the Father made light, when he said, “Let there be light.” The great Alpha Window over the entry to this cathedral is a sign of this eruption of light within creation. And rightly, beneath the Alpha window is the baptismal font, the place where the Spirit of the new creation hovers, so that through the waters of Baptism the future generations of God’s sons and daughters will be filled with the light of Christ.

Christ, God’s own Word, enlightens the hearts and minds of all his disciples with heavenly truth, the wisdom from above about the meaning and destiny of every human life. And rightly in this Cathedral of Christ the Light we have both ambo and cathedra, so that from them we can hear that very word given in trust to the twelve apostles and their successors, the bishops.

Christ, the Father’s Word of love and reconciliation, flashed forth in dazzling splendor in the days of his Passover. And rightly at the very head of this temple dedicated to Christ the Light stands the altar of our Eucharistic Sacrifice, for here is the place, the point, at which there breaks into our world the celestial light that beams from the face of Christ in glory — the Lamb once slain, the first born of the new creation.

It is through our communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist that we are drawn on to that day when the Lamb himself will be, as the Omega window proclaims, the light of the city of God.

Here, as we heard St. Peter say in the second reading, the Holy Spirit shapes us into the living stones of that spiritual house, from out of which shines that very light. Here he makes us “a people of his own, [announcing] the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pt. 2, 5, 9).

Light of all nations
When the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council professed before the whole world that Jesus of Nazareth is the light of all nations, that act was not an end itself. It served a further purpose.

In his homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany last year, Pope Benedict XVI, who was himself present at the Council, eloquently identified that purpose. He said, “The whole of the Second Vatican Council was truly stirred by the longing to proclaim Christ, the light of the world, to contemporary humanity. In the heart of the Church, from the summit of her hierarchy, emerged the impelling desire, awakened by the Spirit for a new epiphany of Christ in the world” (Homily, 6 January 2007; cf. LG, 1).

Yes, the Holy Father points out the Council’s confession of faith in Christ the Light was a prelude to a call, a call for the Church to ready herself for a new Pentecost. It was a summons to the People of God to let the Holy Spirit descend once more in power, so that the light on the face of Christ would reflect onto the faces and out of the lives of his disciples, and thus shine out to the world (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18).

Acknowledging that Christ is the world’s light impels us to carry that saving light, no matter the cost, to all the ends of the earth, especially to the very darkest corners of our planet, those that lie shrouded in the shadows of despair, absurdity, violence and death.

The proclamation of Christ as the light of nations is a call to take up the New Evangelization. Christ is the world’s light because he is risen and lives forever in the light of his Father’s loving gaze, a light that no darkness can extinguish. This is the good news, the best of news, and Christ wants us to share it with every creature because his deepest desire is to save us from the dark night of sin.

Mission as evangelists
In recapitulating the Second Vatican Council’s confession of Christ as the light of nations here at our dedication today, we are also hearing, or should be hearing, again the summons to the New Evangelization.

Yes, this church building, this font, this ambo, this cathedra, this altar are all consecrated as signs and instruments of the Christ-Light, but, it is we, too, who are consecrated today, are renewed in our dedication as sacraments of Christ the Light.

This dedication, while it brings to a closure the process of constructing the Cathedral of our Diocese, is really a beginning, a renewed beginning in our mission as apostles, as evangelists, as bearers of the light of Christ.

In that Epiphany homily from which I quoted just above, the Holy Father spoke this plain truth: “[The] new world economic and political order [that is coming into being] cannot work unless there is spiritual renewal, unless we once again draw close to God and find God in our midst” (ibid.).

In fact, in our times, especially through the wars and ideologies of the last 100 years, it is unmistakably clear that all attempts to build that order without the Christ-Light only yields the deepest darkness.

To speak of spreading the light of Christ throughout the new political and economic structures that are coming to be highlights the particular urgency for the Church that lies on the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay to live out our baptismal call as witnesses to Christ, abiding as light in our midst.

In our civic community we take great pride, do we not, in pointing the way to the future. It is our vocation as the Christian people to make the light of Christ, the truth of Christ, part of that future which is even now coming to birth in our midst.

And so, that is why we have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to build this cathedral: so that every time we come here — indeed, every time our thoughts turn to this place — we will remember that it is true, God dwells with us as light and that we are to bear his light wherever he sends us. And in all the places and all the circumstances where our missions are accomplished, there will pour forth once more from the Heart of Jesus the exultant cry: “Today salvation has come to this house” (Lk 19:9)


Previous "In His Light" Columns by Bishop Allen H. Vigneron

back to topup arrow   



Copyright © 2008 The Catholic Voice, All Rights Reserved. Site design by Sarah Kalmon-Bauer.