How lovely is your dwelling place

By Archbishop Julian Porteous

The word ‘cathedral’ comes from the Latin word, ‘cathedra’ which translates as ‘seat’. A cathedral is the seat of the bishop. It symbolises the pastoral and spiritual governance that a bishop exercises over his diocese. A cathedral is the place where the principal liturgies of a diocese are celebrated by bishop, clergy and people.

The great age for the construction of cathedrals across Europe was the twelfth century. Grand and inspiring edifices were erected to the glory of God. Some, like Chartres, taking centuries to be completed as they were works of faith undertaken by generations of the local faithful and skilful artisans.

Our Cathedral is in the Neo-Gothic style and has a cruciform shape. The nave is the main place for the gathering of the people, while the two transepts form the arms of the cross.

The focus of the cathedral is the sanctuary. The word, sanctuary, means ‘holy place’. At the heart of the sanctuary is the altar upon which the sacrifice of Christ is perpetuated. The ambo, or lectionary, is the place from which the Word of God is proclaimed and preached. Apart from the bishop’s chair, or cathedra, the other point of focus is the tabernacle which houses the Blessed Sacrament, where the Lord dwells in the midst of the people.

As in all our churches much care and attention is given to ensure that the cathedral gives testimony to our Catholic faith. This is reflected in the stained glass windows, the statues, the Stations of the Cross and other works of art. Entering St Mary’s Cathedral we are transported into the realm of faith and drawn to contemplate spiritual realities.

I wish to express my admiration and appreciation to all who have worked on the restoration of St Mary’s Cathedral, in particular the project manager Michael McKenna. Advice was sought from many quarters. Attention was given to ensuring that the original architectural vision and patrimony was preserved. We were also assisted by Cumulus Studio on design issues and engaged many craftsmen and women. I wish to acknowledge particularly the restoration of the terrazzo by Refined Floor Care.

The work of restoration owes much to our own building company, St Joseph’s Affordable Homes, and its CEO Ben Wilson and the careful financial stewardship of the Archdiocesan Director of Administration and Finance, Chris Ryan, and Diocesan Finance Council. I am also very grateful for investment in the works provided by the Tasmanian State Government through the Building Projects Support Program, and the various private donations made by parishioners and others.

I am also appreciative of the understanding and support of the parishioners of the Cathedral Parish who have endured significant inconvenience with regard to their usual use of the Cathedral over the last five months as these works have been completed.

The Temple in Jerusalem was a place of pilgrimage for the Jewish people who were encouraged to go to Jerusalem three times a year. People would assemble there for the major feasts. Those who travelled distances, like the Holy Family, would travel in groups.

Among the one hundred and fifty psalms in the Old Testament are a number of ‘Ascent Psalms’ which were sung by the people as they walked along. One such psalm is Ps 84. It begins with the words, “How lovely is your dwelling place Lord, Mighty God”. The psalm expresses the longing of the pilgrim “to dwell in the house of the Lord”. The temple was the place where they encountered God and were able to present their sacrificial offerings expressing their faith and deep gratitude for his provident care for them.

I hope and pray that for many generations to come all those who visit St Mary’s, be they parishioners or visitors, will find in their own spirits a prayer being raised to Almighty God: “How lovely is your dwelling place Lord, Mighty God”.

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