Let’s wrap up the discussion on altars. First the US bishops advise a careful balance between visibility and perceived remoteness:
§ 59 § During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the altar must be visible from all parts of the church but not so elevated that it causes visual or symbolic division from the liturgical assembly. Methods of elevation can be found that still allow access to the altar by ministers who need wheelchairs or who have other disabilities.
And this discussion on saints’ relics we alreayd had when looking at the dedication rites.
§ 60 § In the Church’s history and tradition, the altar was often placed over the tombs of the saints or the relics of saints were deposited beneath the altar. The presence of relics of saints in the altar provides a witness to the Church’s belief that the Eucharist celebrated on the altar is the source of the grace that won sanctity for the saints.(Cf. RDCA IV, 5) The custom of placing small relics of martyrs or other saints in an altar stone and setting this in the mensa has changed since the Second Vatican Council. Relics of martyrs or other saints may be placed beneath the altar, as long as the relics are of a size sufficient for them to be recognizable as parts of a human body and that they are of undoubted authenticity. Relics are no longer placed on the altar or set into the mensa in an altar stone.(Cf. RDCA IV, 11c)
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.