Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Crown Jewel – Today in The OC, The Church Comes Home

“Holy is the Church,
the chosen vine of the Lord,
whose branches fill the whole world,
and whose tendrils, borne on the wood of the Cross,
reach upward to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessed is the Church,
God’s dwelling-place with the human race, a holy temple built of living stones,
standing upon the foundation of the Apostles with Christ Jesus its chief cornerstone.

Exalted is the Church,
a City set high on a mountain for all to see, resplendent to every eye
with the unfading light of the Lamb,
and resounding with the sweet hymn of the Saints....
CHRIST CATHEDRAL, ORANGE COUNTY – Once upon a time in America, a Catholic bishop and a secular architect joined forces to envision a radical concept in church design: a temple open to the world around it through the use of clear glass.

The materials sent a message – the Church need not shelter itself behind its imported encrustations, keeping the pluralistic, free society outside at bay… If anything, in this unique setting, she came with an open hand to take her place among the community at large, to help build it up and make it thrive. In sum, the place was meant to say in structure that God’s People had nothing to fear from daylight.

In its original sense, this idea doesn’t refer to what’s happening now, but to the Cathedral of the Assumption in Baltimore – built by the founding Bishop John Carroll and the Capitol designer Benjamin Latrobe, the nation’s first diocesan seat, and the one place every American Catholic can genuinely call home. And today, on the eve of the Assumption’s bicentennial, in the heart of the largest province Carroll’s heirs have ever known, his vision has met its match.

Forty-three years ago, when Rome spun off Orange County from the mothership of Los Angeles as its own local church, the one-county see numbered some 350,000 members. Now become the nation’s sixth-largest civic seat, its Catholic population has boomed to almost five times that. Yet even as it erupted into one of the Stateside church’s densest and most diverse outposts – bigger than Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia and Seattle among others – the diocese has been an ecclesial nomad, the downtown parish-turned-bishop’s seat quickly overwhelmed by the rapid growth, its major events subsequently imposing by need on its already hectic larger parishes. But today, at last, they’ve now got a “common home” to call their own – one explicitly intended from its birth to emphasize man’s intrinsic link to the creation around him.

To be sure, Orange’s fire-sale acquisition of the Crystal Cathedral and its 33-acre campus has been a failsafe conversation-starter in US church circles ever since the diocese emerged victorious from the 2011 court-fight over the prime property a mile from Disneyland. Regardless, as the long, sometimes challenging journey to today gradually began to bear fruit – first in giving the diocese a ready-made nerve-center in rapid order, then becoming an ad intra “destination” in ways the previously envisioned built-from-scratch compound in Santa Ana never could’ve dreamt of being, it’s become increasingly clear to the locals that this most unlikely of moves has been, as many here have said through the years, no less than “an act of providence.” (Indeed, on handing his creation over to the Orange church, the Crystal’s builder, Dr. Robert Schuller, told then-Bishop Tod Brown and his priests of his longtime hope “that this place would someday return to the mother church.”)

Given the worldwide outpouring of shock and grief upon the Holy Week fire at Notre-Dame, it’s curious that some folks still wonder why cathedrals are necessary. Clearly, their great-grandparents and beyond who sacrificed their pennies to build them felt rather differently. Here, the folks have waited for this day, they’ve believed in it, and even grown some more along the way – already, the dozen weekend liturgies in the 1,000-seat temporary “parish” invariably swamp the space, and with the 2,100-seat centerpiece now complete (in a place where the average parish comprises ten times that number), it’s a pretty safe bet that the regulars won’t be able to count on too much stretching space for long.

All that said, the decade of planning and renderings has come to an end, and it's time for the "Hour of Power" – the Mass of Dedication of Christ Cathedral begins at 10.30am local (1.30pm Eastern, 1930 Rome) today, and you can find the livefeed here at that hour.

To Bishop Kevin Vann and his top-shelf crew, who’ve devoted untold hours over these many years to reach this moment, kudos on a job well-done – thanks to all of you, today, this “periphery” of the City of Angels is the center of the American Church.

SVILUPPO: Livefeed link, etc.