Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Some Things Old, Some Things New

Memories like birds, fleeting.  One must grasp and hold with heart's hands.

It says somewhere in scripture that there is nothing new under the sun, and to some extent that is true here at NDA as we look forward to our renovations in 2017 .  Some examples:
Moving inner walls,  Expanding outer walls,  Carpeting,  Moving classrooms, Changing use of other rooms,  Installing an elevator,  Adding computers,  Surprises!
All of these are part of the building’s ongoing history and transformation.
So you can see we’re at it again.  It’s always interesting to know why changes are made, so we look at the usual suspects: new demographics, educational trends, technological advances, cultural shifts (not always negative), all implying new ways of looking at the current reality.  Change can also bring new invigoration and avoidance of the rut.  So, considering the needs and with people’s generosity and creative and imaginative thinking, why not go for it?  So we move from the former to the present to the future.  In this blog we will take a look at the chapel, the heart of the school.  We can show you the distant past (think 5th Street) and the present (Hilton Dr.), but, sorry, you will have to wait for a look at the future.

In case the symbols on either side of the altar piece in the current chapel have ever made you wonder their significance, here it is.  The top roundel shows two peacocks,  symbols of eternal life, drinking from the chalice—a reference to the reception of the Eucharist as a means to eternal life.  The next roundel shows two birds (doves of peace?) feeding on grapes (think Precious Blood) with the wheat stalk (think Sacred Host).  The third roundel shows the mother pelican feeding her young with her own blood, a mythological reference and a symbol of Jesus feeding us with his own blood.  These three symbols of the Eucharist are repeated three times over and adding up to twelve  six on either side of the tabernacle.  The other symbol of the Eucharist is in the diagonals that hold the roundels.  Perhaps more abstract than most people would relate to is the symbol of wheat stalks that these represent.  So we have twelve complete wheat stalks with the roundels as the ears of wheat.  Twelve is, of course, the number of Apostles.
The altar piece has other symbols, notably the three Persons of the Trinity—the “eye of God” above the altar piece represents God the Father.  The dove is, of course, the symbol of the Holy Spirit coming down upon the crucifix, God the Son.  Other symbols are the triangle (the Trinity) and the M for Mary.  Altogether we see lots of images that were intended to bring our thoughts to the Eucharist and to Mary.

Now, will all of this be lost in the renovation?  Perhaps the ideas the symbols carry will be recognized in a more contemporary form.  If all of the above on the symbolism is new to you, you are not alone, and maybe this in itself suggests that we need to re-image the sacred truths of our faith.  We shall see what the architects and the committee of students/faculty/staff behind them come up with.  Maybe some prayers are in order that the finished product will not only please the eye, but inspire the heart.