Altar and the Body of Christ


#1

I wanted to post a few questions I've had from reading some of the other threads.

1: I heard it said that in the OF, the altar is like the Body of Christ, and that for this reason, as opposed to the EF, it is to be as bare as possible except an altar cross and possibly candles (they can also be off the altar). Is this true? And is the altar cross (I understand to mean a cross physically on the altar as opposed to the crucifix that is behind the altar) necessary? Because if true, then I've seen plenty of churches ignore this rule.

2: What is the prominence of the tabernacle during the Mass? I've also heard that during Mass we pay more attention (as in bowing) to the altar than to the tabernacle, whereas outside of Mass we would pay more attention to the tabernacle. And so, when I'm getting into church before Mass, should I genuflect toward the altar, the crucifix, or the tabernacle, because the tabernacle is sometimes very far away from the altar?


#2

[quote="smndtupidisaftr, post:1, topic:310653"]
I wanted to post a few questions I've had from reading some of the other threads.

1: I heard it said that in the OF, the altar is like the Body of Christ, and that for this reason, as opposed to the EF, it is to be as bare as possible except an altar cross and possibly candles (they can also be off the altar). Is this true? And is the altar cross (I understand to mean a cross physically on the altar as opposed to the crucifix that is behind the altar) necessary? Because if true, then I've seen plenty of churches ignore this rule.

2: What is the prominence of the tabernacle during the Mass? I've also heard that during Mass we pay more attention (as in bowing) to the altar than to the tabernacle, whereas outside of Mass we would pay more attention to the tabernacle. And so, when I'm getting into church before Mass, should I genuflect toward the altar, the crucifix, or the tabernacle, because the tabernacle is sometimes very far away from the altar?

[/quote]

I can't really answer #1, as I never heard the statement that the altar is like the Body of Christ and that is the reason it is bare. Generally there is an altar cloth and it may be quite elaborate, and the Book of the Gospels. Candles may be on it or on either side of it. An altar cross does not have to be on the altar, but a Crucifix is to be present in the sanctuary, and many times it may just be the processional cross. Many Churches have large crucifixes suspended or erected in the sanctuary, some do not.

If the tabernacle is in the sanctuary or readily visible as one enters the church (such as set off to the side up front), one would genuflect towards the tabernacle before entering the pew. However, in churches like mine, where the tabernacle is kept in a separate chapel or it's own niche and is not readily visible, one bows to the altar before entering the pew. Remember that the Transubstantiation of the Bread and Wine take place during the Mass and the Tabernacle is empty for the distribution of Communion, so that may be where you are getting the idea that more attention is paid to the Tabernacle outside of Mass, because at Mass our attention is to be directed toward the action at the altar.


#3

Hmm, in my case it is quite visible, and quite separate from the altar.

And the question was prompted about lectors, whether they should bow toward the altar or the tabernacle. I would assume that you would bow toward the tabernacle, but apparently the answer was the altar and I was unsure why.


#4

[quote="smndtupidisaftr, post:3, topic:310653"]
Hmm, in my case it is quite visible, and quite separate from the altar.

And the question was prompted about lectors, whether they should bow toward the altar or the tabernacle. I would assume that you would bow toward the tabernacle, but apparently the answer was the altar and I was unsure why.

[/quote]

If it is quite visible, you would genuflect toward it. The Mass has not begun yet. The Readers would bow toward the altar because they are at Mass, and that is where the sacrifice takes place. We are about to be witness to and participate in the great Mystery of our Faith. That is where our attention should be focused when Mass has begun.

Remember that all of Heaven is present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass--all the Saints and Angels and Martyrs are joined together with us in prayer and adoration at the Supper of the Lamb. That is why the altar is the focus.


#5

[quote="smndtupidisaftr, post:1, topic:310653"]
I wanted to post a few questions I've had from reading some of the other threads.

1: I heard it said that in the OF, the altar is like the Body of Christ, and that for this reason, as opposed to the EF, it is to be as bare as possible except an altar cross and possibly candles (they can also be off the altar). Is this true? And is the altar cross (I understand to mean a cross physically on the altar as opposed to the crucifix that is behind the altar) necessary? Because if true, then I've seen plenty of churches ignore this rule.

2: What is the prominence of the tabernacle during the Mass? I've also heard that during Mass we pay more attention (as in bowing) to the altar than to the tabernacle, whereas outside of Mass we would pay more attention to the tabernacle. And so, when I'm getting into church before Mass, should I genuflect toward the altar, the crucifix, or the tabernacle, because the tabernacle is sometimes very far away from the altar?

[/quote]

From the Catechism, regarding the altar as the symbol of Christ himself:

CCC 1383 The altar, around which the Church is gathered in the celebration of the Eucharist, represents the two aspects of the same mystery: the altar of the sacrifice and the table of the Lord. This is all the more so since the Christian altar is the symbol of Christ himself, present in the midst of the assembly of his faithful, both as the victim offered for our reconciliation and as food from heaven who is giving himself to us. "For what is the altar of Christ if not the image of the Body of Christ?" asks St. Ambrose. He says elsewhere, "The altar represents the body [of Christ] and the Body of Christ is on the altar." The liturgy expresses this unity of sacrifice and communion in many prayers. Thus the Roman Church prays in its anaphora:

We entreat you, almighty God,
that by the hands of your holy Angel
this offering may be borne to your altar in heaven
in the sight of your divine majesty,
so that as we receive in communion at this altar
the most holy Body and Blood of your Son,
we may be filled with every heavenly blessing and grace.

From the GIRM, regarding having the altar "clean"

GIRM 306. For only what is required for the celebration of the Mass may be placed on the altar table: namely, from the beginning of the celebration until the proclamation of the Gospels, the Book of the Gospels; then from the Presentation of the Gifts until the purification of the vessels, the chalice with the paten, a ciborium, if necessary, and finally, the corporal, the purificator, the pall, and the Missal.

GIRM 305. ....Floral decoration should always show moderation and be arranged around the altar rather than on the altar table.

So, if something isn't in use, it isn't on the altar. You don't leave the chalice on the altar after purification. You don't put the Missal on the altar until it is to be used, and you remove it when you are done using it. Contrast this with the setup for the EF: you place the altar cards, the burse, the Missal, and the chalice with paten and ciborium and corporal (high Mass) on the altar prior to the Mass, and it all remains on the altar until the conclusion of the Mass.

Entering the church before Mass, genuflect to Christ really present in the tabernacle.

During Mass, ministers bow to the altar (specified in the GIRM).

That's what's published. I'll tell you that my bishop has told me (I'm a sacristan at a cathedral) that the reason for this is that during the Mass, the attention is placed on the altar of sacrifice, where the Eucharist is confected, and not on the tabernacle. We don't forget Christ in the tabernacle, but we are focused on the mystery of Him, right here during this Mass, offering himself to His Father, and to us, on the altar of sacrifice.

So, my quote from the CCC says that the altar represents the Body of Christ, and my quote from the GIRM says that the altar is basically "bare." It's my bishop that connected the two, and I don't have a reference. My rector is teaching a class on liturgy starting next week, and this is one of my questions for him--where is the reference for this theology of the Novus Ordo Mass?


#6

Interesting, so is this interpretation of the altar fundamentally different from the EF?


#7

[quote="smndtupidisaftr, post:6, topic:310653"]
Interesting, so is this interpretation of the altar fundamentally different from the EF?

[/quote]

What do you mean?


#8

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