This special room, at the heart of the school complex, provides a peaceful ambiance and exquisite setting for prayer, adoration, meditation and worship. The message of St. John the Baptist was to call on all people to ‘prepare a way for the Lord’. This venerable and holy sanctuary offers staff, students and visitors both a conducive atmosphere and idyllic environment to prepare within our own hearts, souls and minds a place for God. This oratory is rich in symbolism and, although new, is steeped in historical connotations. To paraphrase the project Isaiah, ‘ it is a sacred and holy place, a gateway to heaven, it is the house of God’.
The circular altar at the centre of the room reminds us that at the table of God, all people are equal. Upon this sacred altar, Mass is celebrated. The bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ; it is the divine food that promises to all God’s family a place in the kingdom of heaven – ‘whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood shall live forever.’ The altar, like much of the furniture in this chapel, is crafted from Irish Ash and Bog Oak (an ancient wood once buried and lost in the bogs of Ireland – dates, one may state with certainty, to the time of Christ himself). The spiral motif on top serves to remind us of our spiritually deep Celtic past; it is a haunting heirloom of our mystic ancestors. Each carved piece is centred by three strands – a shadowed reminder of the Trinity, the three persons of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The word “tabernacle” means “tent” (from the Hebrew). In the Exodus experience, God chose to live among his people and they wandered through the desert for forty years. He instructed Moses to build a tent for Him and anyone who wished to address God was to go to this tent. The Almighty Father still lives among His people in the tent/tabernacle where the Body of His Son is reserved. This piece of art is abundant in meaning and copious in symbolism. We see the truck of the tree of life stretching upwards towards heaven, the top flowers open like the hands of God in which the world He created rests safety. At the heart of this terrestrial globe, the Body of Jesus resides bringing purpose, peace and perpetuity to our earth and existence.
A red light is constantly lit in the oratory, help by a handcrafted bronze holder, to indicate and honour the presence of Christ. The never-ending burning of the lamp illustrates that the light of Christ always burns in a sin-darkened world, a constant feature of steadfast resolve and care in a dynamic and sometimes difficult life.
An angel carries aloft a bowl in which stands a candle, often a red secondary sanctuary candle, proclaims that faith is a source of enlightenment and comfort in our often dark world. It indicates and proclaims the very real presence of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion. The angelic image remains in constant worship of the Eucharist and calls on us to follow its noble example. In the Book of Revelations, by St. John the Apostle, we see how the closing stages of this earthly existence is portrayed by the angels of God descending to earth with gold bowls. The ‘bowl’ which the angel in the oratory bears, reminds us of our final hour; we are human mortals and one day, this world will end for us. Yet, it also indicates that though this world will pass, God and those belonged to Him shall live forever.
The oratory features a unique and very special Crucifixion depiction. This wonderful sculpture, handcrafted from copper wire and natural materials, was created by local artist and school caretaker John Cleary. It illustrates the wealth of skills and talents that exist within the school, from many different sources. Mounted on a simple cross, the model serves a visual representation of the Passion of Christ and the pain he endured to redeem mankind. The Passion of Christ is the story of Jesus Christ’s arrest, trial and suffering. It ends with his execution by crucifixion. It points to obedience; despite initial, and very human, reluctance and fear, Jesus demonstrates his total acquiescence to God’s wishes. The word “Passion” comes from the Latin word for “suffering”. The Passion is a story about injustice, doubt, fear, pain and, ultimately, degrading death, all sad realities of life even today. It tells how God experienced these things in the same way as ordinary human beings. Yet, the stature reminds visitors of incarnation and resilience – the death of Jesus shows humanity that God had become truly human and that he was willing to undergo every human suffering, right up to the final agony of death. Though an image of death, the crucifixion is intricately linked to Christ’s resurrection and victory over death. It is a symbol of hope and perseverance, despite the odds and obstacles that lie ahead.
Four carved bodily forms stand in the oratory depicting one of the four elements of nature – wind (air), fire, water and earth. These essential properties of the cosmos, created by God, are both our source of being and our requirements for living; from the earth, we are created and top which, one day, our bodies are returned. God, in the very act of creation, breathed life into our bodies and this air is essential to our survival. It is like the Holy Spirit – it is unseen but its effects are openly displayed. Fire gives heat and protects us from the ravages of inclement and gelid conditions. Fire also purifies. Gold is tested with fire and we too will be tested by life’s many difficult conditions, while we strive for purity. Finally, water gives life to all things and washes all things clean. In the waters of baptism, we are cleansed and given a new life in God’s family.
The two stained glass windows convey us back to our origins and intricately link us to our Judaic foundations. One depicts the Jewish Star of David with the Cross of Christ – two symbols entwined together by both history and faith. The other shows the tree of life bursting from the earth and reaching heavenward. This tree also reminds us of Calvary where Christ stretched out his arms in an all embracing act of love and sacrifice – ‘by his wounds we are healed and saved’. Indeed, the Bog Oak on the oratory walls reminds us of the thorns and nails. Once again, we encounter an emblematic reference to Judaism: there are seven branches thrusting upward, an evocative reminder of the ‘Menorah’, the seven branched candlestick of the Jews. Solomon had ten such candelabras placed in the Temple of Jerusalem (seven in the Bible is a perfect number).
The Oratory through the Year
The Oratory is the focus for many different ceremonies and displays over the course of the year, beautifully presented by Sr. Brenda in a series of very special and thought provoking services.
A new beginning.
Autumn and change comes to us all.
A time to remember and reflect.
A time to prepare.