Jesus, the Eternal High Priest. Jesus is dressed in the High Priest's long white garment (Leviticus 16:4,32) and surrounded by the angels singing "holy, holy, holy." In one hand the chalice ("Do this in memory of Me") and in the other hand the palm branch, the sign of victory. Jesus was not to remain on earth but to return to the right hand of the Father so that He may be our High Priest for eternity. It is Christ Himself, the eternal High Priest of the New Covenant, who acting through the ministry of the priests, offers the Eucharistic sacrifice (the chalice). And it is the same Christ, really present under the species of bread and wine, who is the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice. The Catechesim of the Catholic Church further states: "The liturgy is the work of the whole Christ, head and body. Our High Priest celebrates it unceasingly in the heavenly liturgy, with the angels, the Holy Mother of God, the apostles, all the saints, and the multitude of those who have already entered the kindgom." (1187)
The Letter to the Hebrews (7:25) it says that Jesus is "able, now and always, to save those who come to God through Him, because He lives forever to plead with God for them." When we pray to God, especially in the Mass, we know that our prayers are being taken up by Jesus-and presented by Him to the Father. Because Jesus is the eternal High Priest, we know that even now, Jesus is bringing our needs, or concerns, our cares, our worries before the Father who created us and loves us with an eternal love. So Jesus is our High Priest who intercedes for us. Praise God that we are never without someone praying for us.
The architectural theme of St. Lucy's Church is summed up in the inscriptions found inside the Church. "Awsome is this place! This is nothing else but the abode of God, and the gateway to heaven!" And "How lovely your tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord." The theme of St. Lucy's architecture is the redemptive power of Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Jesus, the victorious and everlasting High Priest unites with His people in every Mass throughout the world to glorify God the Father and bring redemption to His people. The Mass is the "temple of living stones," the people of God worshipping the Father with, in and through Jesus Christ.
The most beautiful Eucharistic Prayer is number three. This ancient prayer brings out the command of Jesus Christ to worship God the Father with Him, through Him, and in Him. Jesus calls us to Himself for He, as High Priest, is the source of all life and holiness. Here the perfect sacrifice (Jesus Christ in the Eucharist) is offered by us to God the Father (Do this in Memory of Me!). The Mass is the "living sacrifice" that has made our peace with God and gathers all God's children together. Through this sacrifice Jesus the High Priest continues the work of redemption within us.
The two statues at the bottom of the steps are called "virtues" and are used to balance off the aesthetic appearance of the facade. We are familiar with the personification of the law using a lady who is blindfolded and holding a scale. the two "virtues" in front of the Church personify the Church as "mother" teaching her young the Word of God (on the left) and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (chalice and bible on the right). They compliment the architectural theme of St. Lucy's Church by bringing out the two parts of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
This magnificent scene above our front doors is the Ascension of Jesus taken from the Acts of the Apostles (1:1-15).
Jesus and the Apostles go outside Jerusalem to Mount Olivet. Here Jesus promises the Apostles that they would not only receive the Holy Spirit but would baptize the world in the Holy Spirit.
"When Jesus had said this, as they were looking on, Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight." (Acts 1:9) Now Jesus ascends triumphantly into heaven. The Ascension of Jesus is the completion of his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. The atonement for our sins is now completed in majesty. The opening prayer for the Mass of Ascension Thursday sums it up, "God our Father, make us joyful in the ascension of your Son Jesus Christ. May we follow him into the new creation, for his ascension is our glory and our hope."
The scene also depicts how the Apostles must have felt, concerned and frightened. The faces of the apostles seem melancholy. They will be without their leader and guide. What will happen to them? They can only return to Jerusalem, trust in Jesus, and await the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit would indeed descend on them and the Church continues to this day baptizing the world.
This sculpture proclaims the awesome power of Jesus and the eternal joy He offers us. As we begin to realize that the end of our pilgrimage on earth is our resurrection and ascension, how beautiful and full of hope this scene becomes. the Church front is designed to give us the feeling that we are ascending toward Jesus, and we truly are. Isn't that why we go to Church? The outstretched arms of Jesus bid us to enter this sacred place and embrace Him in the Eucharist. Now you understand why the inscription around the alter reads, "How lovely your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts! My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord." And the inscription around the organ reads, "Awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but the abode of God, and the gateway to heaven!"
On the left side of the facade is the fallen american soldier. In the upper corners are the stars and stripes, the banner of America. The helmet of the World War I doughboys lies beside him. Mary, our mother, comes to her son on the battlefield, ready to bring him home, long before his time. Again, notice in the lower left corner is a canon wheel. There is a hand reaching for the ammo box. The battle continues, but not for this soldier.
Did you notice the serpent behind Mary? It may remind us of the book of revelation (12:9), "The great dragon was hurled down-that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray." Or perhaps Genesis 3:15, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers: he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." The woman is Mary: the offspring is Jesus. To defeat Satan, Jesus would mount the cross. When his feet were nailed to the cross, his back heel is bruised.
Why does Mary appear with the American soldier? On May 10, 1846, the twenty two bishops of the United States were gathered in the city of Baltimore for the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore. On May 13 the bishops of the United States adopted a decree by which they chose the Blessed Virgin Mary, conceived without sin, the Patroness of the United States. Pope Pius IX approved the choice of Our Lady in her Immaculate Conception as Patroness of the United States on Feb. 7, 1847. That is why Mary is with the American Soldier.
If you guesssed that the fallen Italian soldier is on the right side is correct, you are right. The uniform and the emblem of the House of Savoy in each upper corner give it away. At this time, Victor Emmanuel III was King of Italy (1900-1946). He would be King until 1946 and was responsible for bringing the Fascists and Mussolini into power. But that is another story.
The background depicts the horror of war and its opposite, the love of Christ. The most feared weapon of World War I, the canon is pictured behind Christ. The canon, used by the thousands, pounded the trences and delivered deadly mustard gas. For this soldier the raging battle is over.
The clouds mingled with the smoke of war remind us of the Gospel of Mark 13:26, "At the time men will see the temple of the Holy Spirit (see Corinthians 6:19). Jesus is ready to take this poor soul home, long before his appointed time.
Sometimes we become so use to seeing things that we don't "see" them anymore. The same is true for our facade. We see it but we don't "see" it. We come and go and never really look at the facade.
Our Church was begun in 1913 just befor the war to end all wars, the Great War, World War I (1914-1918). the war slowed down the building process because goods like steel were in short supply for civilian use. The marble for St. Lucy's Church was imported from Italy and had to wait until the end of the war. The Church was finally comleted in 1924.
This war deeply affected the American society. St. Lucy's and all Italian parishes were in two sad ways, a double tragedy. The first tragedy was the many young men of our parish who died or were disabled fighting for America. The second tragedy was the sad news from Italy of relatives who were killed or disabled. This double tragedy lead to the redesign of our facade. Did you ever notice that on each side of the facade there is a fallen soldier? On one side there is a fallen Italian Soldier and on the other side a fallen American Soldier.
Today we name streets and stadiums after famous people. Statues abound to honor military and civil leaders. The Church also remembers her heroes. Here in our midst St. Frances X. Cabrini is remembered by naming a street after her. From Rome to Scilicy the greatest heroes of the infant Church were Peter and Paul. They were the shakers and movers of the infant Catholic Church. Both would be martyred in Rome.
While Matthew was writing his gospel in Palestine, Peter made Rome headquarters of the Catholic Faith. The Greek word Catholic means universal. The Catholic Faith would be for a people of all time. Rome, being the center of the Mediterranean world and the capital of so many different people, was the natural choice for the headquarters of the Catholic Faith. As the saying went. "All roads lead to Rome." Paul was the the great missionary. Through his efforts the Church had unprecedented growth among the gentiles. The Church in Rome had access to Paul's wisdom and guidance while he awaited his trial before the emporer. Thus the greatest leader and greatest missionary of the infant Catholic Faith would guide the Church from the very heart of the Roman Empire.
Emperor Nero martyred both Peter and Paul around 67 A.D. Since the Church was strongest in central and southern Italy, they would take the brunt of Nero's madness. The story is told that St. Peter was leaving Rome during the persecution of Nero and met Jesus walking into the city. Jesus asks Peter, "Where are you going?" Peter returns to his flock and is martyred with many of them. Peter requested that he be crucified upside down for he felt he was unworthy to be crucified like Jesus.
Paul, being a Roman citizen (his father was Roman, his mother Jewish) could not be crucified. Paul was led outside of the city of Rome and beheaded. His firey preaching had converted many to the Church, even among the emporer's servants. Both were prime targets fo the insane Nero who needed scapegoats for the fire he set reducing two-thirds of Rome to ashed. The martyrdom of Peter and Paul did not destroy the Chrurch. Their witness to the Faith gave it courage and inspiration. That is why it is very common to see both Peter and Paul in central and southern Italy.