Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Altar Consecration

Here is an article I wrote for the BC Catholic. Pictures to follow.

Jesus Christ, the chief corner stone (Eph 2:20)

On Tuesday Dec. 28 2010, His Grace Archbishop J. Michael Miller consecrated the New Altar and Altar Stone at Holy Family Parish in Vancouver. A traditional Altar consecration had not been done in the Archdiocese in over three decades. In 2008 His Grace Archbishop Raymond Roussin established Holy Family as a personal Parish dedicated to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Since then pastor Fr. Deprey with assistant pastor Fr. Geddes as well as the parishners of Holy Family have worked tirelessly to renovate the Church for the glory of God. The newest addition to the sanctuary is the High Altar. A High Altar is venerated because it is the place of sacrifice and the dwelling place of Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle. The consecration of an Altar Stone is a pivotal moment in a Church’s history. It is the foundation for the sacrifice of the Mass, the High Altar is where heaven and earth meet, and time and space are crossed. It is where we receive the body, blood and divinity of our Lord.

At one time most Altars were made of stone, nowadays many are made of wood with a smaller stone interred in it. Before the consecration the priests at Holy Family were using a Greek corporal with relics sewn into it. The altar stone itself symbolizes Christ as the unmovable truth, which is the foundation of our Catholic Faith. Using a stone to symbolize the truth is used throughout the Bible.

“ Therefore thus saith the Lord God: Behold I will lay a stone in the foundations of Sion, a tried stone, a corner stone, a precious stone, founded in the foundation. He that believeth let him not hasten.” (Isaiah 28:16)

The Apostle Peter echoes this verse in his first epistle

“ Wherefore it is said in the scripture: Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious. And he that shall believe in him, shall not be confounded.” (1 Peter 2:6)

The stone that is used at Holy Family is engraved with five crosses to represent the five wounds of Our Lord. There is a cavity carved into the stone for the entombment of sacred relics. Placing relics of Saints within the Altar goes back centuries when Christians had to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass in the catacombs. There, the martyrs who had died for their faith in Jesus Christ surrounded the faithful during the Mass. Holy Family Parish has been blessed with the relics of St. Stephen Protomartyr and St. Sebastian Martyr.

After the procession the Archbishop places the relics with three grains of incense into the sepulcher (cavity). The Archbishop then blesses the Gregorian water, which is composed of holy water, wine, salt and ashes. (The name Gregorian water comes from Pope Gregory I who prescribed its use for consecrations.) The relics of the Saints are mixed with a cement powder and are sealed into the sepulcher of the altar. The Stone is then anointed with Sacred Chrism on all crosses and then the Bishop incenses the Altar. Upon the five crosses on the stone the Bishop forms crosses out of grains of incense and places a small wax cross on top of each one. Following this, Acolytes light the wax crosses on the altar symbolizing the fire of the Holy Spirit that fuels us to love and worship God, as the Bishop intones:

“ Veni Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium: et tui amoris in eis ignem accende”

Translated to English means: “ Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love”

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