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Divine Intersection

By drawing on an ancient scripture for the series of triptychs that now grace the atrium of the Gehl-Mulva Science Center, the design team was able to meet its charge: to awaken a sense of creative inquiry in all those who would ultimately use the building.

He who sings, prays twice,” said St. Augustine, which must be one reason why canticles and psalms are at the heart of the liturgy. Among these songs of praise is the Canticle of Daniel, sung faithfully as part of the daily office every Sunday and on every major feast of the church.  So when the Rev. Andrew Ciferni, O.Praem., ’64 was pondering a problem both philosophical and aesthetic, it was no surprise that it was the text of the Canticle that would inspire him.

The dialogue between faith and reason: It’s an argument – or, perhaps, no argument at all – that is one of the major components of the Catholic intellectual tradition. And it was on Ciferni’s mind in particular, in his role as one member of the team charged with ensuring that the environmental design of the new science center was sensitive to the very purpose that had brought the building into being. 

Ciferni says: “When I pray the Canticle I try to image those things it mentions – mountains and hills, ice and snow. It’s an expression of Hebrew cosmology, which is incredibly parallel to our understanding of the origins of the universe. You go from fish to birds to mammals … .Then you come to humanity, and humanity, ultimately, is praising God.”

The lofty atrium calls for a piece on a monumental scale that can be read equally by those on its first and second floors. The installation of an ethereal work of art inspired by the Canticle transforms the space into a place of celebration. “Now you have an illustration that says, look up there,” says Drew Van Fossen (Communications). “There you have the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That’s perfect communio. We strive to have that kind of relationship.”

The canticle represents communio from below, rising to the heavenly ideal. “Research is itself is a ministry,” says the Rev. Andrew Ciferni, O.Praem., ’64. “Where our work of science and research goes is eventually to praise – and that’s what the Canticle of Daniel is doing.” 

The steeple of Old St. Joe’s, next-door neighbor to the science center, is a visible presence throughout the atrium, adding to the sense that this is sacred space. 

“One way to imagine the conversation between faith and reason, science and religion,” says the Rev. Jay Fostner, O.Praem., ’84, “is that we’re standing in the church door. And from that spot, we’re called to look both in, and out. The conversation continues.”

The Canticle of Daniel, Daniel 3:56

Bless God beyond the stars.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, heaven and earth.
Give praise and glory forever.

Bless God, angels of God.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, highest heavens.
Give praise and glory.

Bless God, waters above.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, spirits of God.
Give praise and glory.

Bless God, sun and moon.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, stars of heaven.
Give praise and glory forever.

Bless God, rainstorm and dew.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, gales and winds.
Give praise and glory.

Bless God, fire and heat.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, frost and cold.
Give praise and glory.

Bless God, dew and snow.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, ice and cold.
Give praise and glory.

Bless God, frost and sleet.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, night and day.
Give praise and glory.

Bless God, light and darkness.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, lightening and clouds.
Give praise and glory forever.

Bless God, earth and sea.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, mountains and hills.
Give praise and glory.

Bless God, trees and plants.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, fountains and springs.
Give praise and glory.

Bless God, rivers and seas.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, fishes and whales.
Give praise and glory.

Bless God, birds of the air.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, beasts of the earth.
Give praise and glory forever.

Bless God, children of earth.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, Israel.
Give praise and glory.

Bless God, priests of God.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, servants of God.
Give praise and glory.

Bless God, just and faithful souls.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, holy and humble hearts.
Give praise and glory.
Bless God, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael.
Give praise and glory forever.

Let us bless the Father
And the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Let us praise and exalt God?
Above all forever.
Bless God beyond the stars.
Give praise and glory forever.


Nov. 13, 2014