Visitors to our church always remark on how beautiful it is.
They admire the richly colored windows and especially the magnificent carving behind the altar. The official name for that carving is "reredos." A reredos is richly carved ornament, usually made of wood, and placed at the back of an altar. They became common in the 12th century.
Our reredos was carved in Italy. It is in triptych form-three panels joined by hinges. The central panel is the largest and depicts the central important thereof the carving. The side panels portray people related to the central event. In Saint Mary's, during Holy Week, the side panels are closed to bring a more somber atmosphere to the sanctuary. It is opened again for the Easter Vigil.
The central panel depicts the Trinity, the central doctrine of the Christian faith.
Here, the Trinity is represented by the Father as an older man, the Son as a younger man and the Holy Spirit as a dove. The Father and the Son are seated. Between them, they hold a symbol of the world. God the Father, in his left hand, holds a scepter, symbol of power. God the Son has his right hand held in blessing. The Holy Spirit, giver of life, hovers between them.
Photo by Fr. Michael Harrington
On the four corners are the symbols of the authors of the four gospels. Matthew is represented as a divine man because he teaches about the human nature of Christ. mark is portrayed as a lion. His gospel begins with a voice crying in the wilderness, suggesting the roar of a lion, proclaiming the royal dignity of Christ. Luke is portrayed as a winged ox. His gospel deals with the sacrificial aspects of Christ's life. John is represented as a rising eagle. His gospel begins with a lofty prologue.
Melchisedech, priest and king, giving bread and wine to Abraham
King David, an ancestor of Jesus, who wrote many of the psalms. He was a poet and musician, portrayed as holding a harp.
Abraham, about to sacrifice his son. He is our father in faith.
Moses portrayed holding the tablets of the Law: the Commandments.