Sir James MacMillan’s Masterpiece ‘Fiat Lux’ Finally Takes the Stage in California

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More about Christ Cathedral

As you may know, Christ Cathedral, the formerly named Crystal Cathedral, was designed by post-modern architect Philip Johnson as a kind of religious theater to house the televised preaching services led by possibility Gospel preacher Robert H. Schuller. Schuller wanted the church to be open to the “sky and the surrounding world.”

Sometime around 2010, the power of possibility thinking failed to bring in enough money to pay the bills, and after a bankruptcy filing, the Crystal Cathedral along with the surrounding complex of buildings designed by other world-famous architects was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in 2011.

It was called a cathedral inaccurately, because cathedrals are the home churches of bishops, and evangelical Protestants don’t have bishops. A commentary in National Catholic Register notes “the deep conviction in the diocese that only Providence could explain the highly unusual path that led the bankrupt television ministry to sell its property and buildings to the Catholic diocese.”

“And it is hard to argue. A building called a ‘cathedral’ when it wasn’t one, and couldn’t be one, now is one.” — From “Christ Cathedral’s Transformation Is an Act of Providence

Sir James wrote this about the building in 2020:

“In November last year when no one could foresee what was to happen a few months later, Lynne and I visited California for me to begin research on a large-scale oratorio for the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and their Chorus, Fiat Lux. One of the performances of this new piece will take place in Christ Cathedral in Orange County, a strange, huge, and extraordinary building which has a past life as the Chrystal Cathedral!”  

Strange, new, and extraordinary it is indeed.

More about the Text of Fiat Lux

Dana Gioia’s libretto for Fiat Lux is in five parts:

1.  In the Beginning

2.  Chorus

3.  Litany of Light

4.  Light of the World

5.  Hymn: Cathedral of Light

Here is the text of part 5.

CATHEDRAL OF LIGHT

(Hymn for the Rededication of the Crystal Cathedral as Christ Cathedral)

Upon this rock,

Our cross and spire    

built in a land

of quake and fire.

 

Fragile as glass,

bright as the air,

the angled walls

folded in prayer.

 

Under the sun

of western skies,

we re-enact

the sacrifice.

 

Bread of the earth,

fruit of the vine,

the tortured flesh

revealed divine.

 

The ancient words

fill this new space,

redeeming us

with unearned grace.

 

Rededicate

this crystal spire

built in a land

of quake and fire.

 

The program with the full text of Gioia’s text is here: [https://www.pacificsymphony.org/_px/_pdf/_files/1683926416pdf_22-23_Cathedrals_of_Sound.pdf]





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