Each Mosaic Depicts a Virtue
As you can see, our renovation project is really coming together. Over the last few weeks one of the major elements to be completed has been the mosaics in the floor. These mosaics fit into the major narrative of our building, “layers and light”. The narrative illustrates our Christian life as a journey, a pilgrimage that is directed to bring us to Christ and as we enter into communion with Him, we bring His love the world. One can see that from the entrance onto the campus, we are on a journey that takes us through the “layers of trees” the layers of the porticos and the courtyard, and narthex into the church. Once inside the Church proper, the serpentine pattern of the nave made of marble and mosaic medallions leads us to the altar of Christ “the Light of the World”. Each mosaic depicts a virtue. Down the nave are the Cardinal Virtues that lead us to the sanctuary which is surrounded by the Theological Virtues. The word cardinal refers not to either the bird or the ecclesiastic. Rather it means “hinge”. On these cardinal virtues hinge a good and fulfilling life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “a virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good.” (CCC #1803) The virtues are ‘to govern our actions order our passions and guide our conduct according to reason and faith’ (CCC #1804).
The first of the virtues, Prudence, is depicted with a doe and a stag drinking from a living stream. Echoing Psalm 42, “As the deer longs for running streams so my soul longs for you my God”. As St. Thomas Aquinas writes, prudence is right reason in action. The prudent persons look to where they are going and chooses the right way of getting there. In our journey of life, we see God as our destiny and Jesus Christ as “The Way” of how we live our lives. We direct our lives and make our choices to follow not our will but God’s will for us.
The second of the virtues depicted, as we move closer to the altar, is of Justice. This virtue is illustrated as a set of scales reminding us that we are to weigh all things in life prudently, fairly and appropriately. “Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor” (CCC #1807). The just person is the one who is upright in both thinking and conduct.
As one continues the journey down the nave toward the sanctuary is the third mosaic, Temperance. This is the depicted by a boat under sail and moving forward. As all good sailors know, too much or too little slack in the line and the sail collapses missing the wind and progress stops. Temperance is the virtue of moderation. “It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within limits of what is honorable” (CCC #1809). Forward and sustained progress in life requires the practice of the virtue of temperance.
The fourth Cardinal Virtue depicted at the end of the nave is that Fortitude. Here the depiction is taken from Psalm 122 Jerusalem built as a compact city, to it, the tribes go up! The strength of Jerusalem with the holy temple and presence of the Lord reminds us of how to live and to love. Again, as Psalm 18 reminds us I love you, Lord, my strength, Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold! Praised be the Lord, I exclaim! I have been delivered from my enemies. When we practice the virtue of Fortitude, we are able to avoid sin, resist temptation and pursue the good for the Lord, our strength is with us.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately