Sunday, June 29, 2014

Church deconsecration

It sounds bad but deconsecration is not the same as desecration. Before a church building is used as a place of worship, it has to be consecrated. The reverse, i.e deconsecration, happens when the church building is no longer used as a place of worship. As an institution which is almost 2 millenia old, there are some rituals to follow and it will be interesting to witness and experience this.

The first time I went to Church of Sts Peter and Paul was during the pre-Easter churches visitation in 2008 just before my baptism. I was not too impressed with as the building was deteriorating and not air-conditioned. The signs of its grandeur, like the super high arching ceiling and larger-than-life statues of Sts Peter and Paul welcoming the congregation before using the holy water to make the sign of the cross upon entering the church, were overwhelmed by peeling paints on the walls and the ceiling. After another 6 years, it was finally time for it to be renovated. Today also happens to be the Feast Day of Sts Peter and Paul so it is apt to start the renovation work tomorrow.

Frankly, churches with no aircon will never be my choices to attend mass. When the church is full, it is very uncomfortable to sweat in the heat and the sound of the fans are sleep inducing. However, since Sts Peter and Paul has 430pm mass on Sundays, I have been going there for mass this year and not once that I managed to stay awake during the mass. Embarassing, I know.. People are surprisingly sentimental and actually attended the "last" mass. I followed the warden which assigned me to 2nd pew from the front.. So yes, obviously, I did not fall asleep today. Haha.. but perhaps there was another reason.
With a statue of Jesus and His outstretched hands above me, obviously I would stay awake. Haha...
The mass itself was the same like any other mass. The ritual for the decommisioning/deconsecration/closing of the church only happened at the end. And thus I am going to highlight the special things that happened. And before that I have to apologise that I am not familiar with the liturgical terms so my description will be in a very layman language. Even google does not have a lot of information about deconsecration ritual.

Firstly, the pastors had to remove their robe (I don't know what it is called. Basically it is the colourful robe that changes depending on the liturgical season) before the ritual and the main celebrant wore a different robe. It was followed with the reading of the decree from the Archbishop for the deconsecration and the closure of the church building for any worship activities. It is interesting to note that there is actually Canon Law governing this but I can't remember the numbers cited.

At every Catholic church, there is always a light burning next to the Tabernacle to signify the presence of the Lord (in the Eucharist) within the church building. As the building was deconsecrated and the Eucharist would be moved out of the building, the tabernacle lamp had to be extinguished too. There is even this special tool to extinguish the lamp.

The container for consecrated hosts in the tabernacle was removed and put on the altar while the main pastor knelt down and did something beneath the altar. I am not sure if it was just some prayer or he removed the Saint's relic. FYI, in every altar, there will always be a holy relic embedded either on the altar or beneath the altar. After that, the pastor would bring out the container filled with the consecrated hosts out of the church. Here comes the exciting part, when as he was walking (and holding the container), one of the altar boys opened up an umbrella. I find this very fascinating! Haha..
I should not hesitate and snapped a photo when the priest was still near the altar. At least I won't have this random person's head!
The most beautiful thing was that the congregation was expected to follow the priestly procession immediately and exit the church. That is to signify us following the host to its new place of dwelling and after everyone exit the church, the church will be locked.

After following the procession to leave the church, I did not follow all the way to the chapel where the host will be placed. I went back to the church to take a photo of the statue of Jesus (the one shown above) which kept me awake today. Thank you, Jesus!

The priest mentioned that the church building is already 140 years old and the renovation will take about 1.5 years. I can't wait for it to be completed and then to witness the process of consecrating a church. In the mean time, from next week onwards I will experience attending a mass under a tent in the carpark. Haha...

No comments: