RDCA V, 20-22: Blessing of the Altar

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?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to RDCA V, 20-22: Blessing of the Altar

  1. Our parish church was dedicated in 1960 but is currently undergoing a major interior renovation. By this I mean, new walls (covered in sheet rock and painted), new floor in nave and sanctuary, new light fixtures and new kneelers, new sanctuary furniture (kneelers presider’s chair, deacon chair, and altar base). The mensa of the old altar was dedicated along with the church, of course, in 1960 but it is being refinished and will be used in the new altar, which will have new column legs. A new baptistery is also being installed.
    Which rite would the bishop use in this case? Would he use the rite for Blessing of a Church and Blessing of an Altar, or could the altar mensa be re-dedicated because it is being refinished? Since the walls are new, would they be sprinkled with holy water? Would the new baptistery be blessed separately? Thanks for clearing up this confusion.

  2. Todd says:

    Your bishop makes the final call. He can do it himself, if he’s coming, or he can delegate your pastor. I checked with a few colleagues. One person said no dedication because it’s the same building. Another person said if you are reconfiguing the pews, yes, because it will be a “different” space.

    New “objects” should, of course, be blessed.

    When my parish renovated in 1996, we had the bishop rededicate, though the walls were just repainted. We also blessed the baptistry and other elements separately at Masses the first month of our return from exile.

  3. Yes, of course. Thank you for the feedback. We are refinishing the original pews and removing a set of side pews because that is where the new baptistery will go. Our pastor will contact the Bishop’s office about his choice.

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