Amid the frenetic, harried and dust-ridden city streets of Sydney there are still pockets of grace, wonder and delight to be found.
That’s what thousands of people discovered who gathered in the forecourt of St Mary’s Cathedral last night for the opening of the Lights of Christmas at St Mary’s Cathedral on 5 December.
The spectacular and deeply moving light and sound display transformed the cathedral and revealed the beauty of its inspired design by William Wardell in a way that has never been seen before.
Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP and the show’s creative director Anthony Bastic of AGB events say that the free 12-minute Ascension display, created by some of the world’s best animators who also work on Vivid Sydney, is for everyone to enjoy, not only Christians.
But last night those who wanted to see Jesus there truly did, both within the cathedral and without.
As a dazzling display of technical wizardry across the cathedral’s dissolved into luminous Renaissance images of the mother and child, one Italian nonna sitting with her family near this journalist suddenly cried out with all wonder and joy of a child on Christmas morning, “Look at Jesus! Oh, he’s so beautiful!”
Meanwhile, within the cathedral, volunteers welcomed the curious and Christians and invited them to write their prayer intention for their family to be offered at Masses, light a candle and take home a prayer card to use in these days before the great feast of Christmas.
Helen Wagner of the Life, Family and Outreach Office said there were “extraordinary conversations” about life, personal suffering, hope and the love of God.
The opening night was led by news presenter Sandra Sully with music performed by internationally acclaimed artists, singer Franciscan Friar Alessandro Brustenghi from Assisi and Australian pianist Vivian Choi, supported by the Artes Christi choir and orchestra.
With fragments of ashen leaves falling from the sky and a blood orange-hazed moon hanging overhead, thoughts of those fighting the bushfires and drought engulfing the state were never far away.
Archbishop Fisher paid tribute to them while welcoming all to the opening night, which also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the free community event that has evolved into a Sydney tradition.
“To those from our dry and burning parts of our land, you are very much in our hearts and our prayers tonight,” he said.
Donations from a Lights of Christmas appeal will go towards supporting mental health programs at St Vincent’s Hospital, especially targeted at supporting rural communities where the demand is greater than ever during the drought.
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The Lights of Christmas runs every night until Christmas night with carols from 7.30pm and the lights display from 8.30pm-11pm.