The Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston


The Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston
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St. Paul's Cathedral Pediment Dedication

Remarks by Dean John P. Streit, Jr.

May 8, 2013
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The last book of the Christian Bible is the Revelation of John or the Apocalypse. It is believed to have been written around the end of the first century by a man named John, exiled on the Greek island of Patmos. The author describes visions he has received from God which for the most part are horrifying, a gruesome and bloody cascade of plagues, warfare and eternal punishment.

But at the end of the book the author describes something utterly different, a lovely vision of God’s redemptive presence; God coming down to a broken world, restoring it, making it beautiful so that healing, consolation and mercy have the last word. Listen:

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;' Rev. 21:1,2.

So in the end good triumphs, love overcomes evil. In the words of another Biblical John, 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome the light.'

The Book of Revelation describes these events happening at some undetermined future date and as a result throughout history people have read the signs of their times and periodically pronounce these end times will soon be upon us. 'Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand' goes the familiar refrain.

I believe that John writing his vision from Patmos got it wrong, this is not true, that these events will come to pass at some unknown future time.   God will not bring the holy city, beautiful as a bride, at some far, future date, after some cataclysmic epoch.

God ushers that holy city down every day, in countless small ways. Beauty and holiness are not distant or unrealized but present and unmistakable right now if we open our eyes.

 

·  When St. Paul’s Cathedral formed breadlines during the Great Depression to feed hungry people there was beauty and holiness.

·  When St. Paul’s Cathedral and partner parishes began a weekly meal for homeless people in 1983 we were helping God create a holy city.

·  When the people we formerly welcomed as guests have become members, assuming responsibility and bringing their skills and gifts as leaders in our community, God was bring holiness.

·  In 1985 when St. Paul’s Cathedral held the first healing services for people affected by AIDS/HIV in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts God was ushering in beauty and holiness.

·  In 2000, when Muslims asked if they could hold their Friday prayers in our building and we said yes, we were, all of us, helping create a holy city.

·  All our worship services, whether the large diocesan events or the smaller services on Sunday morning, Thursday evening, weekdays; all these bring beauty and holiness and help create a holy city.

 

It isn’t just us, here at the Cathedral. Everyone here is ushering in God’s holy city, a new Jerusalem, in different churches, temples, mosques. It will happen tomorrow night when our friends at St. John the Evangelist celebrate the Feast of the Ascension. This coming Sunday when people will walk together on Mother's Day as witnesses against violence they will be helping create a holy city.

It happens not just in churches, temples or mosque, in organized walks but every day in the works of compassion and justice that are done, in the witness we make in small, quiet ways that no one but God sees. 

We are doing this, all of us, making a holy city. Much has been made of the fact that Boston is the city where people ran toward the explosions on Marathon Monday. Every single day people in this city selflessly move toward difficult and dangerous situations and problems.

This is ultimately why we are here this evening, not merely to bless an astonishing and beautiful piece of sculpture but to affirm and celebrate what it stands for. 

So whenever you cross the Common, particularly in the evening, glance up at the Nautilus illuminated, cascading it’s light out, and remember what it signifies, this truth that we all affirm:   The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome the light. The sea shells that we are about to give out are reminders of this, the beauty and holiness we all bring and need to keep bringing to the world. Our new nautilus is not an end but a beginning, we are transforming our church to make it as beautiful and welcoming as the people who gather here, as beautiful as everyone here.    So take a shell, which you can either keep to remind yourself of how you are helping usher in a holy city, or give as a kind of blessing to someone else, tokens of small beauty that symbolize what we all do to bring in God’s kingdom, to make the light shine.

 Everyone get a shell and then let’s cross the street to bless our new sculpture and light it!