he Cathedral is the seat or “throne” or “cathedra” of the Bishop. The word cathedral is derived from the term “cathedra”. Cathedra is the Latin word for a chair with armrests, and it appears in early Christian literature in the phrase “cathedrae apostolorum” indicating authority derived directly from the apostles. The cathedra is thus a symbol of the bishop’s teaching authority in the Catholic Church. The traditional position of the cathedra is in the apse, behind the altar.
DESIGN OF THE CATHEDRAL
The Cathedral is in the shape of the ark of the people of God in the desert where God met Moses and the people, and where God said to him, “There I will meet you” (Exodus 25:22) and “I will set my tabernacle in your midst” (Leviticus 26:11).
Furthermore, the Cathedral and its dome have an octagonal form. This form is highly symbolic, for in Judeo-Christian thought the number eight frequently represents beginnings, resurrection, salvation, super-abundance, and eternity. The Fathers of the Church (theologians and spiritual Fathers who lived until the fifth century) also called Sunday as the “Eighth Day,” for they counted Sunday as the first day of the week, then the six days, to which the added Sunday again, thus making it the eighth day. In counting Sunday twice, at the beginning and end of the week, the Fathers of the Church had wanted to say that Sunday, as the eighth day, is beyond the natural system of our universe and beyond our natural life. It was meant as a reminder that we have been created to live forever and for eternity!
The octagonal form of the Cathedral and its dome signify that those who enter are, for a time, entering into eternity, for they do so to meet God.
Likewise, the octagonal form is a reminder of the eight persons who were saved in Noah’s Ark, which is another Old Testament parallel of baptism, “God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.” (1 Peter 3:20-21)
The seating capacity of the Cathedral is for 2,300 people. The octagonal floor plan enhances the placement of the pews around the sanctuary and altar to bring the people of God closer as a community. The altar and the lectern are the focal point with an unobstructed view and all the pews converging towards it. This facilitates the active participation of the congregation.
In the four corners of the Cathedral, there are the following four Chapels: the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (for 160 people), the Chapel of Our Lady of Arabia (also for 160 people), and the Chapel of the Confessionals. The fourth corner is an access area for elevators to and from the Cathedral and the underground parking zone. The access to the Chapels of the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Arabia is either from inside or directly outside of the Cathedral.
ICONS IN APSE OF THE CATHEDRAL
There are sixteen icons, with the icon of Jesus Pantocrator (Lord of the world) in the middle that decorate the interior of the Cathedral and (are) placed in front of the assembly, to help people meditate and pray. The icons show the main mysteries of the Catholic faith: the Holy Trinity, the Annunciation, the Nativity of Jesus Christ, His baptism, the Transfiguration, the entry to Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the entombment of Jesus, His descent to the inferno, the Resurrection, the apparition to the Apostles, the Ascension, the Pentecost, and the death of the Virgin Mary.
Though our community is multilingual, the icons present in one unified visual language the history of salvation.
THE BAPTISMAL FONT
In the Cathedral, the baptismal font is placed in front of the altar, some steps below ground level. We read in the letter of St. Paul to the Romans, “We were indeed buried with him (Jesus Christ) through baptism into death, so that, as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (6:4).
Baptism is a death to sin, a burial, and a resurrection to a new life. That is why the baptismal font is some steps under the ground of the Cathedral, to symbolize a burial. Then, as the newly baptized comes up to the ground level of the Cathedral, it symbolizes his resurrection with Jesus. The ceiling over the baptismal font is glass-covered and can be walked over when not used for baptisms.
Likewise, it is over that baptismal font that the faithful receive Holy Communion during the celebration of the Eucharist, as the consequence of their belonging to the new people of God.
It is there also that couples are to be united in the Sacrament of Matrimony. That sacrament is linked with baptism as it requires a new death to the personal life in order to belong to another and form together, a new life, a new family.
Finally, it is there that the coffin is placed for the funeral rites, for the transition from baptism to eternal life. For baptism, the base of all the sacraments, is the entry door to the community of Jesus Christ.