An introduction by the Rt. Revd. Thomas McMahon, Bishop of Brentwood
"Sermons in Stone"
Extracts from the Homily on the Occasion of the Dedication of the Cathedral by Cardinal Basil Hume O.S.B. 31st May 1991.
"Let me speak first in praise of cathedrals. One of the glories of our nation is
that our land is rich in cathedrals, both ancient and modern, each one a song of
praise in stone or in brick to the glory of God, to His magnificence and to His
"Our forefathers, strong in faith, knew instinctively that nothing but the best
would ever be good enough for the adoration and worship of God, that fundamental
duty of every creature. The most noble architecture, the best music, dignified ceremonies,
each would contribute to raising our minds and hearts to God, each one put to the
service of our prayer.
"Whether we frequent churches or not, they are important silent witnesses, sermons
in stone reminding the passer-by of other values, those of the spirit. By their
very presence they put into correct perspective all the human activity that goes
on around them. Moreover, a church, and even more so a cathedral, must, as it were,
be self-consciously proud of its own dignity and beauty, and attract attention.
"I believe that we were right, as we look around and see what has been achieved
by the architect, to sing with the psalmist: "How lovely is your dwelling-place,
Lord God of hosts." I confess that I have allowed my eyes to wander, and that I
did so with deliberation. The eyes, like the ears, are windows that admit shafts
from the glory of God leading us to delight and wonder at that beauty which God
is. I have looked and thanked God for what has been achieved here and for the inspiration
which this cathedral will be for so many. My eyes fell too, "on those living stones
which constitute the spiritual house" of God - all of you - "a chosen race, a royal
priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people ,set apart" to sing the praises of God...
St Peter was not indulging in charming exaggeration when he wrote these lines. He
was just reminding the followers of Christ of their astonishing dignity - reborn
in the waters of baptism, anointed with holy oil and so set apart for a holy purpose,
offered incense out of respect for being temples of the Holy Spirit, much loved
by that consuming love of God, which is for each one of us warm and intimate.
"Yes, we enjoy a great dignity in virtue of our Baptism, but that gift is for a
purpose: first to praise God by all that we do, say and are, and secondly... to
bring all nations to the fullness of truth. There is a job to be done. We are evangelisers,
witnesses to the values of the Gospel, enthusiasts for God.
"When you hear the pealing of your new bell, Gabriel by name, remember that it announces
a message to you and to future generations. "Go out into the world" - it says -
"proclaim the Good News." And may she who heeded that angel's message at the very
dawn of our Christian era intercede for all of you in this diocese of Brentwood
and especially on this special day for you and for her."
If you wish to learn more about the Cathedral, you are invited to visit the