Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar

After a long break from liturgical rites, this site will turn attention to the Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar. We won’t go into minute detail on everything. We’ll cover the introductions, most of the rubrics, and some of the rituals. The RDCA was one of the last rites to get a Vatican II reform; the Latin original being completed in 1977. ICEL’s edition arrived but one year later. Here is the text of the decree from the CDWDS that accompanied promulgation:

The rite for the dedication of a church and an altar is rightly considered among the most solemn liturgical services. A church is the place where the Christian community is gathered to hear the word of God, to offer intercession and praise to him, and above all to celebrate the holy mysteries, and it is the place where the holy sacrament of the eucharist is kept. Thus it stands as a special kind of image of the Church itself, which is God’s temple built from living stones. And the altar of a church, around which the holy people of God gather to take part in the Lord’s sacrifice and to be refreshed at the heavenly meal, stands as a sign of Christ himself, who is the priest, the victim, and the altar of his own sacrifice.

These rites, found in the second book of the Roman Pontifical, were revised and simplified in 1961. Nevertheless it was judged necessary to revise the rites again and to adapt them to contemporary conditions in view of the purpose and the norms of the liturgical reform that Vatican II set in motion and fostered.

Pope Paul VI by his authority has approved the new Ordo dedicationis ecclesiae et altaris prepared by the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship. He has ordered it to be published and prescribed that it replace the rites now in the second book of the Roman Pontifical.

This Congregation, by mandate of the Pope, therefore publishes this Ordo dedicationis ecclesiae et altaris. In the Latin text it will be in effect as soon as it appears; in the vernacular, it will take effect, after the translations have been confirmed and approved by the Apostolic See, on the day determined by the conferences of bishops.

Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.

From the office of the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship, May 29, 1977, Pentecost.

I know the topic pops up frequently in conservative circles, but note the comment from Cardinal Knox in the second paragraph above, referring to “norms of the liturgical reform that Vatican II set in motion and fostered.” The council did not specify every aspect of liturgical reform. And the council itself is not the only source for authoritative developments in the liturgy.

The contents of the RDCA are divided into seven chapters:

  • Laying of a Foundation Stone or Commencement of Work on the Building of a Church
  • Dedication of a Church
  • Dedication of a Church Already in General Use for Sacred Celebrations
  • Dedication of an Altar
  • Blessing of a Church
  • Blessing of an Altar
  • Blessing of a Chalice and Paten

Look for a start in earnest later today, or perhaps Sunday.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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