Thursday, September 25, 2008

In Oakland, Liftoff

Before four cardinals, 40-odd bishops, a very lucky crowd of 1,500 within its walls -- and even more invitees watching on big screens outside -- this afternoon brings the Dedication Mass for Oakland's Cathedral of Christ the Light (photos).

The first permanent seat of the 600,000-member East Bay church, Opening Day's commemorated in a special issue of the diocesan weekly, the Catholic Voice, which includes an explanation of the concept by the $190 million temple's lead architect, Craig Hartman of San Fran's Skidmore, Owings and Merrill:
Genesis recounts how God, the uncreated Light, spoke heaven and earth into being, calling forth light, water, trees, and all living creatures. “It seemed appropriate to reflect on these very beginnings,” said Hartman. “Could we make a cathedral that embodied those most magnificent and elemental qualities of God’s creation?”...

These symbols “became the genesis of our thinking,” said [Craig] Hartman during a recent interview at his Skidmore, Owings and Merrill offices in San Francisco. His design incorporates the same building materials — water, wood and stone —that defined architecture at the time of Moses, Solomon and eventually Jesus. Hartman envisioned a 21st century version of the Ark of the Covenant. “Just as the tent’s veil protected the Ark of the Covenant, a modern veil of glass would protect the sacred space within the cathedral.”

He also looked to the oldest known visual symbol of Christ — the vesica pisces — for the exterior shape. The curvature of the walls would be an overlapping of two circles to form the shape of a fish, harkening back to the Greek word for “fish,” ICTHUS, an anagram for “Jesus Christ, Son of God.” With such sacred geometry, the building’s very shape would speak of Christ.

Quoting his mentor, the late Allan Temko, Pulitzer Prize-winning former Chronicle architecture critic, Hartman said he wanted to create a place of worship “which should prove the existence of God.” The design would also illuminate, inspire and ennoble the human spirit, and serve as a common point of identification for Catholics.

The cathedral would be “a sacred vessel for every Catholic who would walk through the doors of the cathedral — no matter what their cultural upbringing was,” he said.

He interwove these various symbols around the theme of light. “I consider light a visible manifestation of God’s presence,” he said. His vision took in the nuances and poetics of light and space “and the way light can ennoble simple materials and us at the same time.”
...for more, the local Tribune kicks in with some video of its own, as one architecture blog christens it "awe-inspiring"... even as the locals have dubbed it the "Space Egg." Readings will be given in Spanish and Vietnamese at today's 2pm liturgy, and several of the Mass parts will be chanted in Latin.

For a deeper look inside, the cathedral's provost Fr Paul Minnihan provides the voice to a 15-minute video intro/tour (forgive the formatting):

On an in-house note, with Cardinal Adam Maida approaching his 79th birthday early next year (and expected to be in attendance today), there are those who maintain that today's rites won't just open the doors to Oakland's new mother-church... but the long-delayed appointment of Maida's successor as archbishop of Detroit.

Since today's a day to celebrate what already is, though, more on the rest later.

PHOTO: Inhabitat