A Brief Explanation of the new features of our Sanctuary
The Altar represents Christ. In the new sanctuary the Altar is placed clearly and firmly in the center. It is made of noble materials, and bears the image of the Lamb. On the Altar, the Paschal Meal is celebrated, the meal which is, at the same time, the very Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross made present to us here and now in a way we can understand and share.
The Lamb, shown in mosaic on the face of the Altar, reminds us of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who offered Himself freely and totally for our salvation. The image of the Lamb reminds us of Jesus’ perfect innocence and His humble obedience to the Father’s will. As well, we recall the Chosen People’s perpetual remembrance of God’s saving work, accomplished through the blood of the lamb they shared on the night of the first Passover. He is shown with the Book and the Seven Seals from the Book of Revelation. The flag expresses His victorious Resurrection.
The Saints whose relics were placed in the new altar are Saint Louis, King of France, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Clare of Assisi, Blessed Gabriela Hinojosa and her Six Companions, Martyrs.
Blessed Gabriela and her Six Companion Martyrs were Visitation nuns who died for the Catholic Faith during the Spanish Civil War. Their example and intercession can help us live faithful lives even in the face of opposition and difficulty. It is an ancient custom to place the relics of martyrs in the altar of a church.
The Tabernacle is the place where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved once the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Eucharist, is celebrated. At times other than during the celebration of the Mass itself, the Tabernacle is the focus of the prayers and attention of the Faithful. Within the Tabernacle, Jesus waits for us and calls us to Himself. He is truly present under the appearance of bread—our God, alive in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
Directly beneath the Tabernacle is the mosaic image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is depicted as wounded by the Centurion’s lance and bearing the Crown of Thorns. The flame above it teaches us that the Heart of Jesus remains on fire with love for each of us, the love which led Him to give Himself freely for us on the Cross of Calvary.
The Tabernacle bears the symbol of the Chi-Rho, which is anabbreviation of the word Christ, with theGreek letters X and P- the first two letters of the word when it written in Greek.
The Crucifix can be seen from all over the church. It is placed high above the altar, reminding us of the hill of Calvary, but also helping us to see that He draws all people to Himself in the one Sacrifice He offered for us. His arms remain open to embrace us and to help us bear our own sufferings in union with His. He wears the Crown of Thorns. His side bears the wound of the lance. His wrists and feet bear the wounds of the nails. Above His head we see the letters I.N.R.I, which stand for: Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum or Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.
To the left of the Altar stands the Ambo, from which the Word of God is proclaimed. The Ambo, in its design and size, shows the enduring quality of God’s inspired Word. “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33). The dynamic quality of the Word of God, and its ability to reach and influence any situation for the good, is represented by the traditional symbols of the Four Evangelists, the writers of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The Lion is the symbol of Saint Mark, whose Gospel begins with Saint John the Baptist, “a voice crying in the wilderness.” The lion also symbolizes the power shown in Jesus’ Resurrection.
The Ox is the symbol of Saint Luke. Associated with sacrifices made to atone for sin, the ox links the story of Zechariah’s priestly sacrifice at the beginning of the Gospel to the atonement won by Jesus, Mary’s Son, once and for all on Calvary.
The Eagle is the symbol of Saint John. The Gospel of John begins with his soaring and mystical teaching, from his contemplation and fidelity, about God’s revelation of His love for us by means of His Incarnation.
Evoking the late-Gothic, French Rayonnant style, the Raredos (screen behind the altar) fits a style that was popular around the time of the death of our Parish Patron, St. Louis, King of France, who died in the mid thirteenth century. With gothic arches that elevate the viewers eyes towards Heaven, repetitive decorative elements, and colors drawn from the stained glass windows, this piece draws the attention of the congregation front, center, and Heaven-ward. The simple, understated look and use of wooden elements pays homage to St Louis' Franciscan spirituality.
The fleur de lis, inspired by the lily, is used to symbolize the Blessed Virgin Mary, particularly in the Annunciation. Its three petals also call to mind the Holy Trinity. It is also a French symbol, associated with our patron St. Louis.
The “Cloister Capitals” are found atop the two columns on either side of the Tabernacle. Their carved wood, gold leaf design is intended to call to mind the cloister screen familiar to anyone who prays or attends Mass at the Monastery of the Poor Clares, just down the street from St. Louis Parish. Since their arrival in this Diocese, “our” Poor Clare Nuns have prayed and sacrificed joyfully and faithfully for the needs and intentions of this parish, and this Diocese. May this visual tribute to them, so close to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle, remind us to pray for them each day.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is shown here as Our Lady of Grace, extending her hands toward us, her children, and offering to us all the graces we need to lead holy lives. We recall her words at her appearance in Mexico to Saint Juan Diego: “Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?”
Saint Joseph, Foster Father of Jesus, Guardian of the Redeemer, Patron of the Universal Church. In this image he holds a carpenter’s square as a reminder of his work and of the hidden life he shared with Mary and the young Jesus in their home at Nazareth. The lily he holds is an image of his chaste and virtuous life. A man of silence, prayer, courage, and obedience to God’s will, Saint Joseph is a perfect model for the men and fathers of our day.
The Baptismal Font
The Baptismal Font, to the right of the sanctuary, is the place where the Sacrament of Baptism is celebrated. In Baptism a person shares for the first time in the victory of Jesus over sin and death in His Paschal Mystery. The newly baptized begin their journey as disciples toward the sacraments which complete their initiation, Holy Communion and Confirmation.
The eight mosaic panels on the new Baptismal Font depict for us visually the whole history of salvation, following the prayer used in the celebration of Baptism to bless the water:
- O God, who by invisible power accomplish a wondrous effect through sacramental signs and who in many ways have prepared water, your creation, to show forth the grace of Baptism;
- O God, whose Spirit in the first moments of the world’s creation hovered over the waters, so that the very substance of water would even then take to itself the power to sanctify;
- O God, who by the outpouring of the flood foreshadowed regeneration, so that from the mystery of one and the same element of water would come an end to vice and a new beginning of virtue;
- O God, who caused the children of Abraham to pass dry-shod through the Red Sea, so that the chosen people, set free from slavery to Pharaoh, would prefigure the people of the baptized;
- O God, whose Son, baptized by John in the waters of the Jordan, was anointed with the Holy Spirit, and, as he hung upon the Cross...
- ...gave forth water from his side along with blood,
- ...and after his Resurrection, commanded his disciples: “Go forth, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
- ...look now, we pray upon the face of your Church and graciously unseal for her the fountain of Baptism.