Sunday, April 26, 2009

Theology on a communion rail

communion rail section. p. 1918. Saint Colman, Cleveland, O.
Saint Colman church in Cleveland did not suffer remodeling after Vatican II. It is a magnificent place for a mass. The irish, who had made it off the boat, were expanding in resources and settling in; some had grandchildren born in the new country. In the middle of Cleveland's westside they built a new church for a parish, during the years of the great war, the european war, the war to end all wars.

In the midst of the first generation of the new century, the building went up fast. The parish priest wanted baroque Rome built by irish hands for america. So much excellence of material and detail converged on this particular church. It was going to be more magnificent than the older, of the then, two surviving, westside, irish parishes. It was going to be grander than the yankee, and other protestant neighbors' opinions of the irish would expect, and in this, it followed much catholic building projects throughout the country.

The communion rail is white italian marble, carved in Dublin. There are 30 panels that run from wall to wall. There are twelve bas-relief episodes in vertical oblong, and eighteen carved stone filigree in horizontal oblong twice size, interrupted by colored columns, spanning in front of the sanctuary altars. There is more theology in that stone span of frieze than in some graduate level theology courses. A stunningly, spectacular, artistic craftsmanship of sacred beauty. As central to catholic worship, and of great importance, the liturgy of the Eucharist deserved, in the sentiments of fervid believers, an appropriate locale and atmosphere for Its celebration and reception. To many, nothing was too good for Its regard. This is the main reason for the necessary requirement of beauty to many believers.

Weaved and cut, illustrated, biblical passages that presage the passion, and sacrifice of Christ, and His Sacrament, and his monograms, and continuing Presence in the physical forms of communion are shown. Some of these stone vignettes are immediately recognisable, others may jog or elude the memory, or cognition.
At first, what is this scene; look at the several details: a young (no beard) man kneeling, before what? a fire, a fire with a Hand from above (heaven), God is accepting a burning offering, in the background: another man is watching, he is clutching...a weapon.
Abel also offered of the firstlings of his flock, and of their fat: and the Lord had respect to Abel, and to his offerings. But to Cain and his offerings he had no respect: and Cain was exceeding angry, and his countenance fell. ― Genesis iv. 4-5. DRC

Abel quoque obtulit de primogenitis gregis sui et de adipibus eorum et respexit Dominus ad Abel et ad munera eius ad Cain vero et ad munera illius non respexit iratusque est Cain vehementer et concidit vultus eius.
Here at communion, God the Father, accepts the sacrifice of the Sacrament, as he did of Abel. Abel, like Jesus, would unjustly be killed by his own, a pre-figurement of the Passion. Here when one did kneel while waiting reception, one could be reminded at the meaning and significance of the True and Acceptable Sacrifice and Mystery, a tool for catachesis, for every first communicant, in the theology of the Blessed Sacrament. This rail should be appreciated by all communicants of the diocese, yet this church did not make the bishop's list for saving.*

The bas-reliefs are of :
  • wheat
  • Abel's offering ― Genesis iv. 4-5.
  • gathering manna ― Exodus xvi. 14-18.
  • Jesus knocking ― Apocalypse iii. 20.
  • (2) distributions of the Host (one, St. Colman receiving the Viaticum)
  • Melchísedech and Abram ― Genesis xiv. 18-20.
  • Sacrifice of Isaac ― Genesis xxii. 9-12.
  • Chanaan grapes ― Numbers xiii. 24.
  • Jesus as Good Shepherd ― John x. 1-18.
  • Moses and Brazen serpent ― Numbers xxi. 8.
  • grapes
The marble filigrees are of :
  • (2) chalice and host
  • (2) pelican vulning
  • (2) nails of crucifixion
  • (2) loaves and fishes
  • (2) ΧΡ Chi Rho
  • (3) IHS (appears as $ to some)
  • ΑΩ Alpha Omega
  • the veronica
  • sanctuary lamp ― Exodus xxvii. 20-21.
  • hand of God giving manna
  • monstrance
*postscriptum: shortly after the original writing, Bp. Lennon amended his list. Saint Colman was given a conditional reprieve, a probationary period.

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