OCTOBER 25, 2011; DEDICATION OF SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL: JOHN 4: 19-24

GOD IS SPIRIT and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth. Today we commemorate the dedication of the Cathedral church of our Rochester diocese. The Gospel we have just read serves to bring to our awareness the deeper meaning of this feast. We do not focus our attention on the Cathedral building but rather on the God in whose honor it has been constructed and continues to stand as a witness to His Person and to his continuing presence in our world.  If we treat the church building with honor it is because it is a special dwelling place of God. We firmly believe and are convinced that God is not in the least limited by place. He is omnipresent in the whole of the vast cosmos. But he has chosen t make certain chosen places to adapt his presence to the needs and capacities of our human nature. We naturally become more responsive to those places and structures where we regularly experience more meaningful, significant encounters. We feel more at ease, more confident and secure when we are in congenial surroundings. We respond to the environment of our home, of our familiar workplace, to the country and city in which we have been formed by so many contacts. So likewise do we find certain places, Churches above all, where the Blessed Sacrament is regularly preserved, as distinctively holy, where we find it helpful to enter into the presence of God and become more conscious of His care for us. And the better we profit from such encounters the more we come to realize the truth of the message of today’s Gospel that declares that GOD IS SPIRIT and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth.

In this life how elusive is reality and truth! Not only Spiritual reality, but the material cosmos as well proves to be more complex and subtle the more it is explored as it yields up increasingly its hidden secrets. In our times nature has shown itself to be astonishingly more subtle and vastly more complicated than had been conceived in earlier generations. To give but one concrete example consider the atom. The particle designated by the word “atom”, which derives from the Greek term atomos, meaning “something that cannot be cut”. Already in the fifth century Democritus had the insight that all matter consists of matter so minute as to be indivisible, which particles he designated as atoma. In 1945, however, some 52 kilos of plutonium was split into still smaller particle and yielded up the energy that had bound them together. In the 64 years since then, by the increasingly powerful and large cyclotrons more than two hundred different kinds of subatomic particles have been shown to be constituents of the now misnamed atom.  That same complexity of inorganic matter, impressive as it is, is but one source of the vastly more complex human body, composed as it is of a trillion and more of cells, each of which is constituted by billions of molecules. Complex as it is the physical and chemical body is but one domain that constitutes the human person.  After centuries of serious exploration, there is as yet no agreement among scientists and philosophers today as to the nature of consciousness, nor any broad consensus as to the nature of the self, nor of free will. Nevertheless, many scientists do not hesitate to pronounce their view on these matters that are beyond their professional competence. Yet the prestige of their achievements invests their materialist faith with a spurious authority that is having much influence on the younger generation. For many persons in our own times the immense increase in knowledge of the constitutive elements of the physical universe has served rather as a screen, hiding the truth of the Spiritual reality that gives it meaning and points to its purpose and goal. But then already in the time of Saint Paul, many persons failed to discern the Creator by means of His works. The apostle obviously views the lack of belief on their part as a moral as well as an intellectual failure. In writing to the Romans he states his conviction in forceful terms:

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their malice suppress the truth. Since what can be known about God is plain to them, for to them God has revealed it.  From the creation of the world His nature, invisible as it is, being his eternal power and divinity, has been understood in those things that are made. (Romans 1: 18-20)  

Our forebears in Christianity, and especially, the early monks had a very different way of viewing creation. They understood that properly to perceive the truth of the created world and to come to a sound view of reality it is necessary to have a pure and humble heart. They learned this fundamental condition for a holy life from the Lord Jesus who taught that God reveals Himself and His truth, not to the wise and prudent of this world but rather to those who trust Him with the ready faith of children. (Matthew 11:25 ff)

 And so, as we honor God today by commemorating the dedication of the Rochester Cathedral, let us express our gratitude for His loving Presence among us at this Eucharist and in our Diocese with renewed faith and that confident trust that is the gift of His Spirit, given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus that we re-enact here at this Eucharist.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger


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