Homily for the Dedication of the Cathedral of St Olav
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear friends, I come here to you as a pilgrim to the city of St. Olav to rejoice with you in the raising of this Cathedral – a visible sign of God’s presence, a building of faith.
I have come from Britain in answer to our Holy Father, Pope Francis’, request that I should represent him at this historic ceremony and warmly express to the people of this Territorial Prelature of Trondheim and to the whole of Norway his affection and prayers for you. He has sent me to follow in the footsteps of those British Bishops and clergy who accompanied your ancient kings as they established the Church in this land. In particular, as the Pope’s Legate at this celebration, I follow in the footsteps of an esteemed English Cardinal, Nicholas Breakspear, sent as Papal Legate to Scandinavia in 1152 by Pope Eugenius III to negotiate a new ecclesiastical organisation of the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, including the founding of the Episcopal See of this city. Cardinal Breakespear’s mission lasted about two years – mine is somewhat shorter – and on his return to Rome he was hailed as the ‘Apostle of the North’ and elected Pope – when I complete my mission, I shall be returning to Westminster and a somewhat quieter life than the only English Pope!
But soon I shall find in the heart of Britain’s capital city a wonderful reminder of this time in Norway when I shall see in the heart of London, in Trafalgar Square, the great Christmas tree that, each year, the people of Norway kindly give the citizens of London in gratitude for Britain’s support during the Second World War. This symbol of joy and hope, lifts the hearts and minds of Londoners, and so many visiting from the nations of the world, to recall with delight the birth of the Prince of Peace and Saviour of the World.
That Square where your gracious gift is displayed is undoubtedly one of London’s most significant meeting places, yet it pales in significance compared to where we are gathered today. This is to be nothing less than the house of God and the gate of heaven. The church is the meeting place par excellence for here the faithful will gather day by day to worship God, and as God is never alone, you will be here with His Saints and Angels, unseen yet real presences around the altar. Here heaven joins with earth, as it did on that first Christmas night, when Christ the Lord became visible and the choirs of heaven were seen and heard. Here God dwells amongst His people.
Here in this place Holy Mother Church will give birth to new children through the waters of the font. Here in this place men and women will be transfigured and strengthened by hearing the word of God in the scriptures and being fed with the Bread of Angels, the very Body of Christ. Here in this place will the sins of the repentant be washed away. Here in this place will Christians be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Here marriages and ordinations will be celebrated and the sick comforted and healed by the laying on of hands and the anointing with sacred oil. Here in this place the daily miracles of the mercies of the Lord in His sacraments will be poured out from heaven and prayers and praise ascend to the Most High.
This is the house of God and the gate of heaven — a place of transfiguring power where the faithful are to be transformed in Christ to be icons of Christ to those whom they meet. Having joyfully received grace, that is the very life of Christ, the faithful become the living stones that build up Christ’s Church by their words and actions, by their very lives.
In the words of St Teresa of Avila,
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ's compassion is to look out to the earth,
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.”
This building of faith is to be a beacon of Christ’s light in this city, a living Gospel of faith, hope and love for the Christian and non-Christian alike, ‘a visible sign of the invisible God’. It is to be the place from where your Bishop will teach, sanctify and govern, feeding Christ’s flock, and proclaiming the Risen Christ to those who have not yet encountered Him. How fitting it is that this Year of Mercy should be crowned here in Trondheim by the dedication of this Cathedral for from this altar, this sign of Christ, the Lord’s mercies are to flow out on this city.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are about to celebrate the Rite of Dedication of this Cathedral and its altar. Together we will profess our faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and call upon the saints, our brothers and sisters in heaven, to join our prayers lifted up to the throne of God; we shall inter relics of the saints in the altar – a witness to the divinizing grace that God bestows on humanity through the sacramental gifts that we receive in the Church; we shall call on the Lord to send His ‘Spirit from heaven to make this church an ever holy place,’ anointing the altar and the walls with the Sacred Oil of Chrism; incense shall be offered and the altar clothed and the cathedral arrayed with lights and then, rejoicing, “I shall go to the altar of God,” (Ps 43) to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, the climax of the rites by which this altar and building becomes sacred (CB 922).
May God abundantly bless all who have made this day possible - those who have prayed, those who have given donations; those who have built this place and those who have designed it; those who have adorned it with art and those who were inspired to commission it. May God bless you and all who will enter within these walls or see its witness in the lives of this city. Let God be forever blessed and praised in this holy place.
May I echo the words of St John Paul II to the people of this city and land during his ecumenical visit to the nearby Cathedral of Nidaros in 1989:
“With confidence in God “who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask” (Eph. 3, 20) let us take up the challenge of a new evangelization. Let us proclaim once more the wisdom of the Beatitudes to a world in need of peace, of love and of brotherhood. Let us proclaim once more the truth of Christ, our Crucified and Risen Saviour. He is the “goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the centre of the human race, the joy of every heart, and the answer to all its yearnings” (Gaudium et Spes. 14). May God be with you all. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Amen.”