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Font Altar Ambo Cathedra Blessed Sacrament Chapel Tabernacle

The Font

The font is at the entrance of the cathedral.  This is appropriate because baptism is our entrance into the church:  baptism is what makes us Christians.  It gives us a share in the saving work of Jesus.  It also gives us a responsibility to live as Jesus taught us.

Jesus himself was baptized by John in the Jordan river.  The last thing he told his disciples before he ascended into Heaven was:  "Go and make disciples of all the nations.  Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Each time we enter the church we pause and make the sign of the cross with holy water.  This is a reminder of our baptism.


Here a young girl is baptized in the font by Archbishop Brunett.  He says, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."  After baptism, she will receive the white robe that is a symbol of her new life.

Do you remember the day of your baptism?  If you were baptized as a baby, do you have pictures of that day?

The Altar

In the cathedral, the altar is at the exact center of the building.  The people sit on all four sides of the altar.  We gather around the Lord's table just as we gather around the table at home with our family.  The Eucharist (the Greek word means thanksgiving) is a special meal where Jesus gives us his body and blood--his very self--to be our food.

The altar of St. James has images of wheat and grapes on each side.  During the Mass, the bread and wine brought to the altar become the body and blood of Christ.  We can't see or taste this change, but faith helps us to understand this mystery.

"God's-eye" view!

Above the altar is a circular window called the oculus dei, which is Latin for "eye of God."  This window fills the Cathedral with natural light.  Around the base of the window are written these words from the Gospel of Luke:  "I am in your midst as one who serves."  These are words Jesus spoke to his disciples at the Last Supper.  Why do you think these words were chosen to be painted here? What do they tell you about Jesus?

Here's a view of the altar looking down from above:

The Ambo or Pulpit

The ambo is a different sort of table:  it's the "table" of God's word.  When we hear the readings proclaimed at Mass we are not just listening to old stories.  Through the reader or priest, God speaks to us and teaches us.

The carved front of the ambo shows trees nourished by the rain.  God's word is like the rain that makes good things grow up in our souls.  The artist was inspired by this passage from Isaiah 55:  "For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful... so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."
The Cathedra

St. James Cathedral is a large and beautiful church, but its size and beauty aren't what make it a cathedral.  St. James is nearly 100 years old.  But being old doesn't make it a cathedral, either!  Believe it or not, this chair is what makes it a cathedral!

This is the bishop's chair.  In Latin and Greek, the word chair is "cathedra," and this is where the word "cathedral" comes from.  The cathedra is a special chair, not because it's fancier than all the other chairs, but because it represents how we are all connected to the broader church.  It reminds us that the bishop is the teacher of our local church, which is part of the worldwide church, led by the Pope in Rome.

The cathedral is the bishop's church and the "mother church" of the diocese (the surrounding area).  There is only one cathedral in all of Western Washington, and that's St. James.  And there's one Archbishop, Archbishop Brunett.  St. James is the cathedral and mother Church for all of Western Washington.  This is the church where the archbishop comes on special feasts; this is where priests and bishops are ordained.  At the same time, it's also a parish church, where people come to pray every Sunday, where baptisms and weddings take place, where there are concerts and special events.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel is a very holy place.  In the tabernacle are kept the hosts (the bread) that is consecrated at Mass.  Here ministers come to get hosts to take to sick and homebound people who aren't able to come to Mass.  Here people come to pray in silence in the presence of Jesus.  The large gold lamp (on the left hand side of the picture) has a candle that burns all night and all day.  This candle is a sign to those who enter the church that the Blessed Sacrament--the body of Christ--is present in the tabernacle.  All over the world, if you go into a Catholic church, look for this light burning.  It will tell you where the tabernacle is.

The window shows the crucifixion of Jesus with his mother Mary and Saint John standing at the foot of the cross.
The Tabernacle

The tabernacle is where the consecrated hosts are kept.  The tabernacle of St. James was inspired by the story of the burning bush from the Book of Exodus.  Moses saw a bush that was on fire but was not consumed, and God called to him out of the bush.  This story reminds us of the powerful presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The Crypt

The crypt is a burial place for Archbishops.  Underneath the cross are eight burial chambers.  So far, only one Archbishop has been buried here, Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy who died June 26, 1997.  Whenever there is a funeral in the Cathedral (there are about forty every year), the casket or urn is placed here, over the crypt, and the family gathers around to pray for the person who died.

The crypt is a good place to stop and pray for all those we love who have died.


Continue on to Stained Glass Images



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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303