About the Chapel
The Ancient Ark of the Covenant
In the Book of Exodus, the central book of the Old Testament, God commanded Moses to lead the people, newly freed from Egyptian slavery, into the quiet of the desert (Exodus 3,10). There amid the multiple hardships of desert life, the people were gradually weaned away from material comforts to a spiritual union with God. God further ordered Moses to build a Tent of Meeting (Exodus 26), in which Moses would go to God and speak to Him and then carry God's messages back to the people. The Tent of Meeting symbolized the spiritual intimacy and communication between God and His people. Our chapel recalls this ancient Tent of Meeting. We meet Him in this room.
In Exodus, God gave the Ten Commandments (our code of moral conduct) to Moses (Exodus 20, 1-17). By following the commandments, the believer avoids sin as a sign of following the sinless God. This code was the seal of the Covenant, a sworn contract of intimate, permanent union, between God and His people. The two stones on which these commandments were written were enshrined in a mobile chest, the Ark of the Covenant.
God gave Moses detailed instructions as to the structure of this chest (Exodus 25, 10-22). Built of acacia wood and covered with gold, the Ark was carried through the desert during the people's wanderings en route to the Promised Land. Each end of the chest was surmounted by a cherubim angel bowed in adoration with wings extending to the center of the Ark's top. Even though the people believed that God was the only God and present everywhere, they believed Him to be present in a unique way at the center of the Ark's top. This was considered to be the throne of God or His footstool. The Hebrew term, Shekinah, was used to refer to this holy place.
The Symbolism of our Perpetual Adoration Chapel
The Eucharistic Presence of Jesus is truly unique and significant (see John 6, 1 Corinthians, and the Last Supper accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke). Accordingly, the Host is placed in the Shekinah or presence portion of our Ark replica. The Old Testament Presence of God over the Ark foreshadows the New Testament Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist who is Present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
The newly constructed Perpetual Adoration Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament is modeled after a tent. Its round shape symbolizes God's eternity without beginning or end. Its height recalls the prayers of the adorers transcending the earth to God. The monstrance for the Blessed Sacrament is a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark replica is placed on a rough-hewn altar, reminiscent of makeshift desert altars where the Ark rested during the forty years of Jewish sojourning.
The side panels of the Ark replica display twelve Stars of David, symbols of Judaism. Our Faith is the fulfillment of Judaism. Mary is portrayed as the Bride of God surrounded by twelve stars in the book of Revelation (Rev 12, 1). Mary, the Virgin Mother of Jesus, was seen by the early Church Fathers as the Ark of the New Covenant. As the second person of the Triune God, Jesus was present in the Shekinah of the ancient Ark of the Covenant. Through His Incarnation, Jesus became present in Mary's womb, the Ark of the New Covenant.
The limestone pieces on which our Ark replica rests were quarried in Bedford, Indiana, and were to be used on the façade of the Empire State Building in New York City, but were rejected by the builders. These stones, while representing the sacrificial use of stone in Old Testament altars, also represent Christ in the New Testament--the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone (1 Peter 2, 4 - 7). This is one of the ways in which the Adoration Chapel symbols manifest the continuity of the Old Testament in the New Testament.
Sacred spaces in our church are surrounded by terra cotta marble. The marble hexagon around our altar and Ark replica connotes such a holy place-where Jesus' Eucharistic presence can be adored. Inside the marble hexagon, there is a bed of rocks and sand, a portion of which came from the Holy Land. There is also a broken piece of pottery that was found in a cave 10-12 miles west of Jerusalem that dates to the time of Christ.
Instead of pews, the Adoration Chapel has choir stalls for thirty-two adorers. The concept of the choir stall was developed in the medieval period for monks and nuns in monasteries to use during the chanting of the Psalms.
The sanctuary lamps were purchased in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They are antique and were reconditioned for our chapel.
It is the hope of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish Family, that these symbols will assist those who come to this Adoration Chapel for quiet prayer and reflection in Jesus' presence. As our Jewish ancestors carried the Ark through the desert, may our quiet prayer in Jesus' Eucharistic presence transform us into vessels like Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, and prepare us to take Christ into the world.
Hall of American Saints
In the vestibule, outside the Perpetual Adoration chapel, hang beautiful tapestries of American Saints.
Letter to Parishioners
Quite obviously we are moving much closer to the completion of our current church renovation. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to all of you for your patience over the past fifteen months and the generosity which has made these improvements possible.
In the near future we will be completing one of the most significant aspects of the renovation, the Perpetual Adoration Chapel. On our coming Patronal Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16, we will culminate a novena (9 days) of activities by celebrating a 7:00 p.m. evening Mass. After the Mass the Blessed Sacrament will be carried in solemn procession to the Adoration Chapel to open the chapel. From that time on we will have perpetual adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week even though Mass or other ceremonies might be taking place in the assembly area of the church.
The Blessed Sacrament will be exposed in this chapel resting on a replica of the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant. The belief of the ancient Jewish people was that where the wings of the cherubim angels touched on the surface of the Ark, God was present in a unique and special manner. Jesus is God become man. Before He became present in a special manner in this world by taking human nature from the Virgin Mary, the Ark of the New Testament, He had been present in the Old Testament Ark. This symbolism unites the Old and New Testaments in the Person of Jesus Christ.
The Ark replica will be situated on a large piece of roughly hewn Indiana limestone as it once was situated in the Jerusalem Temple on the rock used by Abraham in the near sacrifice of his son, Isaac. Previous to the Temple construction, the Ark was enshrined in a tent, the tent of meeting. Here God met His people, Israel. The new Chapel will be in the form of a tent. There will be choir stalls where several people at a time can be present to worship Jesus in the Eucharist.
Enclosed please find a very beautiful document issued by the Catholic Bishops of the United States regarding our faith in the Eucharistic presence of Jesus. I invite you to read this tract carefully and prayerfully, it is truly spiritually enriching. If you are a catechist or a recent Christ Renews His Parish participant, you may already have received this pamphlet. You may want to pass along this copy to a Catholic friend outside this Parish as an act of evangelization.
You are also invited to complete the enclosed postcard as the first step to signing up for one hour of adoration! This will be your hour, your time with Jesus. He asks us, as He asked the apostles at Gethsemani, "Can you not watch one hour with Me?" Our response can be a resounding faith and love filled YES! Please return your card and drop it in the collection basket or in the "Perpetual Adoration Collection Baskets in the back of the church. You may also mail it to the parish office.
Thank you again, for making all of this possible!
Gratefully in Jesus,
Fr. John Duncan