As you enter the building from one of our two parking lots, you enter our newly constructed Gathering Area that serves as our “concourse” leading either to our parish center and offices, or to the worship space. Accessible from the Gathering Area is the place to hang coats and hats, the restrooms, babysitting room, and a multi-purpose room.
As you enter the worship space from the gathering area, your spirit will immediately be lifted up as the roof above your head rises to 19 feet at its lowest point. Above the room a peaked roof, reaching a height of 28 feet, forms the shape of an enormous cross over the entire assembly. Both small and large windows bring the beauty of God’s creation into the worship area. Grand windows raised high above you allow you to see not only the treetops but also the movement of the clouds and birds through the sky. The porcelain tile floor beneath your feet creates the look of natural stone of varied shape and hues.
When you enter the worship area, you immediately encounter the Baptismal Font. The font is in reality a pool that accommodates immersion baptism for adults as well as for infants. It is located at the entrance to the worship space because it is through baptism that we enter the Church. The shape of the font is an octagon. The octagon was a symbol used in the early Church for the Resurrection. Its eight sides symbolize the first seven days of the creation of the world as recorded in the Book of Genesis plus the first day of the New Creation, which is Easter. The shape of the octagon is found in several places in the worship space, including the altar and the shape of the building itself.
The basin of the font is covered with a beautiful glass mosaic created by Helen McLean which runs up the inside walls and spills over the outside onto the floor, much like water. The mosaic represents the swirling energy that is Baptism combined with the elements of water and fire. In Baptism, the creative energy of the Spirit transforms and fills the newly baptized soul and sends it forth to shower goodness and light and energy into the world. It is at this font that new members are initiated and where we draw water to bless ourselves as a reminder of our common baptism.
When you look from the baptismal font toward the north wall of the building your eyes are drawn to the altar. As you move up the center of the space toward the altar you pass the Ambo, from which the Scriptures are proclaimed. It is constructed of black walnut by furniture maker Martin Ratermann, and is placed on a platform of light, natural oak for visibility. The baptismal font, the ambo, and the altar are all located on a central axis that is identified by the pattern in the floor tile that runs through the center of the room.
On either side of the central axis are Seating Sections For The Assembly. The decision was reached to provide a chair for each participant, rather than benches, to acknowledge the dignity of each individual in the assembly to be aware of each other when they gather for prayer. In this way, the Body of Christ present in the assembly is visually present to the worshiper along with the Body of Christ present in the priest, the Word, and the sacrament of the altar.
As you move toward the Altar you become aware that it occupies the place of greatest prominence in the room. The altar has been handcrafted by Martin Ratermann of solid black walnut. Although stone is a common material from which altars are constructed, our art and furnishings committee purposely chose wood so that our altar would more readily be associated with the Emmaus table of Luke’s Gospel, at which the two disciples recognized the risen Christ in the breaking of the bread.
Standing in front of the altar platform, you can raise your eyes to see the golden pipes of our new Organ, built by Wicks Pipe Organ Company of St. Louis. These pipes are not merely decorative but are fully operative as well. The limited number of ranks of pipe is assisted by state of the art digital equipment, offering a full sound in the tradition of the pipe organ. Below the pipes you find the organ console, the piano, and the risers for the choir.
When you stand in front of the altar platform you are standing in the center of the room. Facing the altar from this point, turn clockwise until you are facing the first grand window with its accompanying oculus window above. Here you find the bronze sculpture entitled “Christ Rising” by Fredrick Hart. It is not apparent whether the figure of Christ in this sculpture is being raised from the cross or if he is rising from the grave. In this work we simultaneously experience the anguish of Christ’s sacrifice and the power of his resurrection. Thus, it becomes an image of the Paschal Mystery. During the liturgy, our Processional Cross will stand behind the sculpture. It is also made of black walnut and crafted by Martin Ratermann in such a way that its organic shape stands in harmony with the trees outside the window behind it.
Facing the “Christ Rising” sculpture, continue clockwise until you face the second oculus window, below which is the Entrance To The Eucharistic Reservation Chapel. This entry, created by Michael Ratermann is organic with much of the movement found in nature. The black walnut in the door included diverse grain patterns and colors – the perfect and the imperfect – intended be the artist to be quite representative of the community as a whole.
Hanging just above the center of the entrance is the Lamp designed and created by Helen McLean of Wexford, Ireland. This lamp burns perpetually above the entrance to the chapel in keeping with our Catholic tradition of marking the place where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved with a vigil lamp.
Continue to turn clockwise until you are facing the ambo and baptismal font. Raise your eyes above the font and you see the brilliant colors of the third Oculus window and its two accompanying side windows located above the entrance to the worship space. These windows have been designed but Helen McLean in the oldest stain glass studio in Germany. Their design and color symbolize the four elements: earth, fire, water and wind. In the center the flames of fire descend on the font, the circle of the earth has the energy of the wave moving around the window and the wind across it. The following quote inspired Helen:
“The trinity can also be compared to a torch or taper, which consists of wax and wick entwined together and a flame that flares from them both. Just as this wax, wick, and flame are used to light a fire so the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit kindle among the Christian people a fire of love and of faith which cleanses them from their sins.” Piers Ploughman by J.F. Goodridge
Look now at the wall to the right of the entrance and you see a black walnut cabinet with glass shelves. This is our “Ambry”, the container for the holy oils, crafted by Michael Ratermann. On each of its three shelves sit one glass vessel filled with the oil that is blessed by the bishop during Holy Week for the use of the faithful. These oils are the Oil of Chrism (used for Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination), the Oil of Catechumens (used to anoint those preparing for Baptism), and the Oil of the Sick (used to anoint the sick and infirm).
Facing the baptismal font from the center of the room, continue to move clockwise until you face the fourth oculus window. Beneath the window stands the sculpture entitled “Witness” by Mary Jo Anderson of Portland, OR. The sculpture is carved from six tons of white marble, quarried in Carrara, Italy. This sculpture is in fact a diptych, which can be defined as a piece of art composed of two separate pieces or panels that are meant to stand together to form a whole. The sculpture honors the first witnesses to the Resurrection. The images of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who went to the tomb on Easter morning are depicted on one section of the sculpture. The mother of Jesus will be depicted on the other section. Although Scripture does not record the event, it is a pious legend, popularized by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, that the first person to see Jesus visited after his resurrection was his mother. The images of these three women witnesses to the Resurrection stand in the midst of our worship space to remind us that we have come there in order that we may be sent away witness to the good news of Christ’s resurrection. We are also happy to continue the tradition of honoring the Mother of God in a special way in our place of worship. In this work, she stands as “Mary of the Resurrection.”
Facing the “Witness” sculpture, turn clockwise to the fifth and final oculus window. Beneath this set of windows is a Devotional Alcove that changes with the seasons. Located here is our parish book of intentions and a place where votive candles gently flicker representing the prayers of those who have lighted them. In this alcove might be located the Book of the Dead during November, or the Christmas Crèche during the Christmas Season. Here the spirituality and the creativity of the community can merge and find expression.
Now that you have toured the assembly space, face the entrance to the worship space and return to the baptismal font. Notice that all along the walls of the space, separated by thirty-six brick and stone pillars, is a processional pathway called the Ambulatory. Enter the ambulatory from the side of the entrance near the ambry. As you walk along, you encounter fourteen mosaic scenes created by mosaic artist Helen McLean and representing fourteen post-resurrection narratives from the Scriptures. These “Stations Of The Resurrection” are made of colored glass called “smalti” obtained from Venice, Italy. In designing the Stations of the Resurrection, Helen created images that attempt to give a sense of the meaning and spirituality energy of each station by capturing a moment or event in a simple and sometimes abstract manner. Color, form and shape are used to convey the energy or mood of the encounter.
The figure of Christ is always represented in gold and in many forms, from a silhouetted figure to a spiritual light, reflecting the various ways in which He appeared to the disciples and the women.
Some images appear in the manner of a close-up from a camera lens, as in the case of Christ’s encounter with Thomas. Others are like a view overhead, from above, as in the Road to Emmaus. Always, it is as if we are peering through a window, a hole in the sky, watching the encounter close up and the far away, peering at the details and then seeing the larger picture. Each station offers an opportunity to ponder the essence of encounters with Christ after His Resurrection.
As you travel the ambulatory, you see in four separate places where a cross has been carved into the stone walls. This marks the place where the walls were anointed with Chrism on Dedication Day.
It is possible to walk the complete circumference of the worship space through the ambulatory. This can serve as a place to pray the stations, to pray the rosary, or to reflect or meditate in a tranquil and beautiful setting. During liturgy, it may also serve as a path for processions on various occasions.
Toward the end of your journey through the ambulatory, you reach the entrance to the Eucharistic Reservation Chapel, marked by the hanging vigil lamp. Enter through the chapel through the black walnut door which has been beautifully carved to reflect the shape of the trees that surround our building. Once inside the chapel, you will immediately see the Tabernacle which contains the Blessed Sacrament. This is our original tabernacle. The bas relief that used to decorate the doors of this tabernacle has been removed and placed on the wall to the left of the door leading into the worship space. Added to the tabernacle are several copper panels by enamalist Margaret Fischer. The circular design on the front of the tabernacle relates to the sun, commonly used as a symbol for the Resurrection since a circle is the shape best considered to represent the divine. The innermost shapes are circles of various flesh tones representing humanity, the body of Christ. Extending outward from them are rays and gold elements symbolizing the Resurrection. The people of God with the blood of Christ bring about resurrection in our world. Ms. Fischer is the artist who originally designed and created our communion vessels.
Along the circular wall are five large and eight smaller Windows filled with the brightly colored art glass of Helen McLean. The windows depict the Seraphim of the Hebrew scriptures and streams of flickering candles, all symbolizing that this is a place of prayerful encounter with the Divine.
As you leave the chapel and continue in the ambulatory toward the baptismal font, you encounter the door to the Reconciliation Chapel. To the left of the door is a glass window designed and created by Poremba Studios which continues the theme of tree branches. The window is opaque, allowing privacy for those inside while allowing light to pass through. This sound-proofed room serves as a place to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation and contains a place for face-to-face encounters between priest and penitent as well as a screen and kneeler for those who prefer anonymity.