The opening prayer cites, “Lord, bless this church …” and so today’s sections 20-22 address in text the Blessing of the Altar. But also a little bit more.
20. Then the bishop goes to bless the altar. Meanwhile the following antiphon is sung.
May the children of the Church be like olive branches around the table of the Lord (alleluia).
Another appropriate song may be sung.
My sense is that the rite here is a little frayed. The bishop moves to the altar: this is certainly an important “procession” or movement. But even without a psalm (the suggested 128th) it seems like a lot to add. After inviting the people to pray, the blessing is a good bit shorter than what we saw in II, 62 or IV, 48:
Blessed are you, Lord our God,
who accepted the sacrifice of Christ,
offered on the altar of the cross
for the salvation of the world.
Now with a Father’s love,
you call upon your people to celebrate his memory
by coming to gether at his table.
May this altar,
which we have built for your holy mysteries,
be the center of our praise and thanksgiving.
May it be the table
at which we break the bread which gives us life
and drink the cup which makes us one.
May it be the fountain
of the unfailing waters of salvation.
Here may we draw close to Christ,
the living stone,
and, in him, grow into a holy temple.
Here may our lives of holiness
become a pleasing sacrifice to your glory.
R. Blessed be God for ever.
When one looks carefully at these prayers, one understands the preference for stonework in an altar. A stone altar functions as that source of the fountain of life. A temporary, movable table just doesn’t have the gravitas.
Number 21 concludes with the rubric for the bishop to incense the altar, then be incensed at the chair. Following that, “ministers … incense the people and the main body of the church.”
Number 22 indicates that if the altar will be dedicated (IV, 48) the Creed is said, but the general intercessions are not, following RDCA IV, 43-58.
But if the altar is to be neither blessed nor consecrated (for example, because an altar already blessed or dedicated has been transferred to the new church), after the general intercessions the Mass proceeds as in no. 23 below.
Thoughts or comments on any of this?