Dedication of an Altar
I am very happy to announce that a new altar top (mensa) has been completed for our altar. The bishop asked me shortly after I became pastor to find a suitable solution so that our parish altar would conform to the requirements. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states, “In keeping with the Church’s traditional practice and the altar’s symbolism, the table of a fixed altar is to be of stone and indeed of natural stone. In the dioceses of the United States of America, however, wood which is worthy, solid, and well-crafted may be used” (para. 301). The new table has been solidly crafted out of mahogany and will replace the glass table that has been in use for nearly 20 years.
During a special Mass on Tuesday, April 27, at 6 p.m., Bishop Jugis will dedicate the new mensa. It is a celebration rich with signs and symbols of our Christian life and the center of Eucharistic worship for our parish. Every altar is dedicated to the one true God to whom alone is the Eucharistic sacrifice offered. As is customary from the ancient church, altars are also dedicated in memory of one or more martyrs who offered their very lives as a living sacrifice to God. To express this in the dedication, an altar stone containing the relics of Sts. Cletus and Vitalis of Milan will be set permanently into the altar. When this is done, the bishop prays the prayer of dedication, consecrating the altar for the Lord and asking for God’s blessing on all who worship and use the altar for the Eucharistic sacrifice.
After the altar has been dedicated, there are rites that are a visible expression of the invisible work that the Lord does whenever the Eucharist is celebrated. The bishop will anoint the altar with chrism oil that he will have blessed at the Chrism Mass next week. This emphasizes that the altar is a sign of Christ, “the Anointed One,” who is the eternal High Priest and who offered the sacrifice of his life for the salvation of all. On top of the altar, incense is burned in a brazier to represent that the holy sacrifice of the Mass and our prayers offered in union with it rise as a sweet fragrance and acceptable offering to God. The altar is then covered with its appropriate cloths, showing that the altar is also a banquet table prepared as for a feast. At the altar, God’s people are refreshed with life-giving nourishment by divine food, the Body and Blood of Christ. Finally, the altar candles are lit. Every altar has lighted candles because there Christ is made present in the Blessed Sacrament. The candles remind us that Christ is the light that enters into darkness to dispel it.
All are welcome and encouraged to attend this special celebration. “The people are to be informed in good time about the dedication of a new altar and they are to be properly prepared to take an active part in the rite. Accordingly, they should be taught what each rite means and how it is carried out. …In this way the people will be imbued with the rightful love that is owed to the altar” (Introduction to the “Rite of Dedication of an Altar”).