RDCA I, 4-6: Participation, Marking an Altar

Let’s continue with chapter one of the RDCA (Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar), Laying the Foundation Stone or Beginning Work on the Building of a Church. Participation of the community is a prime concern. As we read yesterday, this rite should be scheduled at a time when the faithful can celebrate. The bishop and the people should gather together.

We read the importance of advance catechesis on the importance of this first rite:

4. Notice of the date and hour of the celebration should be given to the people in good time. The pastor or others concerned should instruct them in the meaning of the rite and the reverence to be shown toward the church that is to be built for them.

It is also desirable that the people be asked to give their generous and willing support in the building of the church.

As for the actual location, the physical participation of the assembly is vital:

5. Insofar as possible, the area for the erection of the church should be marked out clearly. It should be possible to walk about without difficulty.

This is an important prescription:

6. In the place where the altar will be located, a wooden cross of suitable height is fixed in the ground.

What does this tell us? The altar is not just a locus within a building. The altar has a place in a mortal geography, apart from the walls that surround it and the roof that covers it. We are not afraid to place a large cross to mark our future altar under an open sky, and believers should not be afraid to bring the orientation to Christ–cross, altar, or lifestyle–to places in the world where it may be marked, remarked upon.

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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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