Architectural Tour of Little Flower Church
The present church, located on our 13-acre campus, was built of steel in what was then a contemporary style rather than a neo-gothic style which was the original plan. The new church was dedicated by Archbishop Patrick A. O'Boyle, the first Archbishop of Washington. A Silver Jubilee Mass was celebrated here by Cardinal Baum in 1973.The semi-hexagonal seating accommodates 800 people and is free of columns, ideal for maximized views and focus on the altar by the whole assembly. The dramatic wood and marble crucifix centered behind the altar reminds the faithful that the Eucharist and the Cross are one and the same sacrifice, Half-inch mosaic tiles in three colors on the wall behind the crucifix symbolize the glory of the resurrection made possible by Christ's redemptive death. The colors of these tiles match the translucent alabaster-style Aztec marble panel doors of the ambulatory. When the ambulatory lights are on, the light from behind reflects the same colors as the crucifix mosaic.
The traditional three steps up to the altar represent the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. The marbles used in the sanctuary are Verdi and white travertine marble; the Verdi (green) and white are colors of hope and holiness respectively. The Angels on the side walls are replacements for the original locations of The Sacred Heart (originally on the left) and St. Therese (originally on the right) statue niches. These profile carvings were sculpted by world-renowned stone carver Constantine Seferlis (1930-2005), a Greek immigrant to the US. His first US carvings were completed in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. He also worked on the National Cathedral.
The altar of repose, with its Tabernacle used for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, has two steps. They remind us of the dual nature of Christ, that He is both truly God and truly a man. The Tabernacle depicts Christian symbols for the Eucharist: stalks of wheat, grapes and water reminding us that the Eucharist is made of "the fruits of the earth and the work of human hands." A river of water reminds us of our common baptism and the humanity of Christ-the water mixed with the wine in the chalice for Mass. A small fish in the river represents the ancient secret symbol of Christianity, the "Icthys," or "fish" in the Greek acronym for "Jesus Christ Son of God, Saviour." On the doors are the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, for "the beginning and the end, "and a red cross. The symbols on the tabernacle can also be seen in the needle points, created by parishioners, on the chairs for the presiding priest and deacons.
To the far left facing the altar, wooden doors for the storage of the Holy Oils show the Latin words Olea Sancta. Here are stored the Oil of Catechumens, Oil of Chrism, and Oil of the Sick.
Statues of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph the Worker are located in inset altars flanking the sanctuary. They also remind us that we are united to the saints and that the Holy Family should be a model of love for each Christian home. St. Joseph, on the right, is depicted as "The Worker." The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker was introduced by Pope Pius XII in 1955 and is still celebrated on May 1st. The Virgin Mary is represented in her posture as" Our Lady of Grace, "her hands held down dispensing favors.
The marble colors of rose and blue represent both her virginity and motherhood.
The baptistery reflects a major focus of post-Vatican II architecture: the emphasis of Baptism as the Sacrament of Initiation into the Church. As members are baptized they become part of the Body of Christ, children of God the Father, and Temples of the Holy Spirit. In ancient times, catechumens preparing to receive sacraments were allowed to enter the Church only after they were baptized. This usually meant the baptistery was in a separate space from the church. Today, Catechumens and inquirers attend Mass, but the ancient placement of the baptistery "outside" of the main space emphasizes Baptism as our gateway into the Church. The octagonal shape of the Baptistery is from ancient Christian symbols taken from scripture of "The Eighth Day" as the day of a new creation. Each Sunday is "the eighth day" because it was the day Jesus rose from the dead.
Our baptistery is dedicated to the memory of the first child baptized here, and a two dimensional carving above it, "Christ Teaching the Children," is mounted above the plaque which bears his name. We encourage you to read the names of benefactors and clergy placed throughout the Church.
Stained Glass Windows
The six stained glass windows in the church were created in Ireland. They were not originally installed in the church during construction but were added at a later date. They are located on the left and right walls and in the choir loft. Four windows depict familiar images: two of the Virgin Mary and two of the Savior. A large representation of St.Therese on two large adjoining windows is the focal point of the choir loft.
On the left there are images of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. The window of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary honors Mary the patroness of the United States. The Solemnity of the Immaculate
Conception (celebrated on December 8th) affirms the Church's timeless teaching that Mary was preserved from the stain of Adam's sin. The familiar posture of Mary standing on the Moon in this image is found in many European masterpieces including one by the Spanish artist Bartolome Murillo.
Opposite from the Immaculate Conception window on the right side is a simple but beautiful image of the Nativity (December 25th). The Virgin Mary and St. Joseph are depicted with great reverence. A small lamb on the lower right corner gazes at the Lamb of God in the manger. The Star of Bethlehem can be seen in the upper right corner. Shepherds from the Judean hillsides kneel in reverence on the left.
The other two windows reflect moments of triumph. On the left we can see the Assumption of Our Lady (Solemnity August 15th) and her Coronation as the Queen of Angels and of Heaven (Revelation 12). Hovering angels above her head prepare to crown her. The Bible tells us Mary is crowned with 12 stars, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The appearance on Mary's face is reverent, more aged than in the other window, as she is "taken home." Mary is now Queen of the Church, Queen of the Angels, and of Heaven itself.
Jesus' triumph can be seen in the Ascension window on the right. This window shows the commissioning of his disciples, bowed in awe, as He is taken up to heaven following the command to "go teach all nations." A cloud of light descends over Christ to take Him home. The angels will address the apostles not to gaze heavenward, because Christ will return in the same manner.
St. Therese Windows
The stained glass windows in the choir loft can be seen from the main altar as well as the loft. They are positioned over the main entrance to the church which also features a 12-foot high exterior stone image of St. Therese over the front doors. Therese's life story is pictured on two sides with parallel images of the saint: on the left Therese the Carmelite nun on earth, and on the right, the Little Flower in heaven showering favors, symbolized by her failings roses.
The windows on the left show the saint's early life. Some events are merged together into one scene (from top to bottom): her leaving home to join the Carmelites and receiving a blessing from her father; Therese reads to her sisters, three of whom became Carmelites, and one sister (standing) who became a Visitation nun; her appeal to Pope Leo XIII who permitted her to enter the Carmelites despite her youth (the Pope is shown wearing a tiara, though he did not wear one at their meeting); and her near death experience, at age seven, when the Virgin Mary appeared to her to comfort her. The apparition was followed by her miraculous recovery. The window depicts her as a Carmelite nun surrounded by her sisters even though it happened when she was a child.
On the right, we see her "little way" of love, doing simple things with love as a path to holiness (from top to bottom): her working as a sacristan, sweeping floors, and her reception of the novice veil. The bottom window shows her anointing on her death bed when she died of tuberculosis in 1897 at the age of 24. Her dying words were "My God, I love you!"