RDCA IV, 4: The Altar, Sign of Christ

Mass is not limited to the setting of the Church, but for the regular celebration of the Eucharist, a permanent altar is traditional:

4. The Church’s children have the power to celebrate the memorial of Christ and take their place at the Lord’s table anywhere that circumstances might require. But it is in keeping with the eucharistic mystery that the Christian people erect a permanent altar for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and they have done so from the earliest times.

The Christian altar is by its very nature properly the table of sacrifice and of the paschal banquet. It is:

  • a unique altar on which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated in mystery throughout the ages until Christ comes;
  • a table at which the Church’s children gather to give thanks to God and receive the body and blood of Christ.

In every church, then, the altar ‘is the center of the thanksgiving that the eucharist accomplishes’ (GIRM 259) and around which the Church’s other rites are, in a certain manner, arrayed. (Mediator Dei)

At the altar the memorial of the Lord is celebrated and his body and blood given to the people. Therefore the Church’s writers have seen in the altar a sign of Christ himself. This is the basis for the saying: ‘The altar is Christ.’

Both meal and sacrifice: this is also the Church’s long, traditional teaching. The rite is careful to emphasize the association of Christ himself with the altar, but note it is not the same as it is for the Eucharistic elements. Nevertheless, being a “sign” of Christ is very important, apart from our observation of and reverence for the Real Presence. Comments?

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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.
This entry was posted in Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to RDCA IV, 4: The Altar, Sign of Christ

  1. I am really enjoying the commentary on the dedication of an altar, theology of the altar isn’t present in the dedication of a church (although it was at one time).

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