Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vesting the Altar

Let me expound on the subject of altars once again! This is actually a re-post (at least in part) from the other blog I administer for the Society of St. Gregory the Great.

A Catholic church cannot be a church without an altar. This is where the Holy Sacrifice takes place. This is where the host is transubstantiated into the Real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives as Christians, and it is at Mass where we see the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

What then should be the primary visual focal point in the sanctuary?  The altar!

Making the altar a dignified and awe-inspiring element of the sanctuary helps us to achieve a greater sense of reverence concerning the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

How should an altar be decorated? The answer, truly, is not at all. However, an altar may and should be “vested” just as the priest is vested appropriately for Mass. A traditional way of creating a “vestment” for the altar is the antependium or frontal.

For some very good commentary, photos, and explanations, see articles at The New Liturgical Movement blog here, here, here, and here.

Here are a few photos of antependia created by a non-professional:

At Our Lady of the Valley, in La Grande, Oregon:

Too bad we can't see (and use) the old high altar
that's hidden behind the "new" altar.

At St. Anthony's in North Powder, Oregon

Now, if we could just get rid of that gauzy drape on
the crucifix (which a friend has dubbed the "cruci-diaper")

The sanctuary in this little mission church is tiny. Still, it could actually
look like a sanctuary if we could replace the dining room furniture with
something more fitting. The captain's chair just doesn't make it, let alone
the end table with the doily-like cover!

By the way, the people rejected the above antependia, saying “It’s just not us.” And here I thought it was about Him! At any rate, they decided to go back to this type of arrangement:

Below are some further examples of inappropriate "vesting" of the altar.

In the first photo, we see the altar being used primarily as a backdrop for a nice floral arrangement. Which is more important: the altar or the flowers?! This treatment puts the altar in second place. 

This was a misguided attempt to create some sort of shrine for the feast of All Souls. It looks particularly incongruous with the reredoes.

Thankfully, the pastor of the parish was also appalled, and this type of thing is not seen there any longer!

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