Does your church have an altar, and do you bring a gift to the altar every week?
I ask this b/c in my Baptist upbringing, we didn’t have an altar. And this passage doesn’t sound like Jesus is suggesting this teaching only lasts until His Resurrection.
21 "You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’
22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,
24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
I’m a Catholic convert, but formerly a Latter-day Saint (Mormon). The LDS churches have altars, but they aren’t adorned the same way Catholic ones are, and unlike Catholic parishes which have the altar as the focal point of the church and the pulpit to the side, the LDS have the pulpit in the center and the altar off to the side. Like in Catholicism, Mormonism uses the altar strictly for the blessing of “the Sacrament” (what we would call the “confecting of the Eucharist”).
I don’t think there’s any rule in the LDS Church which dictates the relative positions of the altar and pulpit, it has simply been my experience in the handful of LDS chapels I’ve been inside that the altar has been off to the side.
Concerning the presentation of gifts, the LDS do not do that. At least, it isn’t publicly displayed as it is in Catholic churches. The monetary gifts (tithing) are presented in envelopes outside of the services, and the bread and water for the Sacrament are brought to the church, similarly, outside of the services. They aren’t exactly “presented as gifts” at that time, rather they are presented during the LDS blessing at which point the LDS priests ask God to sanctify the bread and water.
EDIT: Actually, my grandmother’s Ward in southern Utah, which is a much older LDS church (dates back to the original LDS pioneers) had the altar in the center, and a raised, lateral pulpit much like one would see in High Church Protestant and Catholic churches (this ward chapel actually had stained glass windows too, which isn’t too common in most LDS churches).
At the risk of a thread hijack, do altars have to be made of stone? Seems like modern “table” altars made of wood suggest a table more than an altar and a table holds a meal, not a sacrifice. I don’t know how they secure saints’ relics in a wooden altar. Is there a box under the table? Is that secure from desecration risk?
Can. 1235 §1 The altar or table on which the eucharistic Sacrifice is celebrated is termed fixed if it is so constructed that it is attached to the floor and therefore cannot be moved; it is termed movable, if it can be removed.
§2 It is proper that in every church there should be a fixed altar. In other places which are intended for the celebration of sacred functions, the altar may be either fixed or movable.
Can. 1236 §1 In accordance with the traditional practice of the Church, the table of a fixed altar is to be of stone, indeed of a single natural stone. However, even some other worthy and solid material may be used, if the Episcopal Conference so judges. The support or the base can be made from any material.
§2 A movable altar can be made of any solid material which is suitable for liturgical use.
As for the quote from Matthew 5, it seems Jesus is not forbidding altars. He is forbidding worship at the altar when in an impure state. He said that we should reconcile first, then do our duty to God.
I grew up in a Fundamentalist Baptist church that had many sermons about “laying things on the altar.” There were altar calls. People during the final part of the service, the invitation, were asked to come to the altar. The funny thing was that there was no altar and none of us noticed. Really!
I suppose you could think of the front of the church as the altar, but there really was only the pulpit. In a discussion with a woman one time, I made the comment that we had no altar. She, like me when I first realized that, was surprised. There were so many references to the altar, especially when people were asked to come to the altar, but it wasn’t there.
“First, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart…”
It would be an odd thing for our Lord to fail to teach what he had already preached, I think it is fair to say Dale
To say briefly what I shall follow up with lengthily, the structure of your formula is - perhaps not a not a little too - anthropological (by this I mean man-centered).
Clearly our first duty is to God always, which is of such a nature that it demands we be in a state of Grace with him, and consequently having just relations with our neighbour. Our love for God ought to be so strong that we will be in just relations with our neighbours so as to be sure we are in a state of Grace with Him. It’s not that we should reconcile to our neighbour(s) first, then worry about God (secondly), but for God’s sake be reconciled to our neighbours (in justice, which He demands of us all), which is required for us to be in God’s good graces, as it were. Jesus threatens justice based on how we treat one another here in this life, that whosoever despises or neglects even the least of his people will be considered to have treated Him, the very Son of God, similarly, and thus liable for enternal damnation. Such was our Lord’s perfect act of Solidarity with the poor and suffering in this life - with those he beautifully spoke of in his Beatitudes - that he is essentially one with them. It is God who informs us (by his teaching, the law of the Gospel) as to our duty to Him and neighbour, without which we would not know what constitutes just relations with our neighbours.
Now the Apostles taught that whatever is done as a good work - even if it be a good work - profits us nothing if it is not done for Christ’s sake, that things done for temporal reasons and causes will have temporal rewards and consequences, but only that which is done for Christ’s sake has a heavenly and imperishable reward.
Edit - Added : **P.S **- Congrats for having surpassed the 10,000 post threshmark ! Please bear with us still longer, as I do enjoy your posts and commentary, especially on news items.
Hi Tim, thanks for the correction and for the kind remark.
Perhaps my choice of the word “duty” was poorly chosen. I agree with what you wrote. However, my intent was to point out that Jesus likely was saying in that passage that our duty to physically worship God (as opposed to our continuous love of God) should not proceed if our love of neighbor had been neglected. And I was trying to indicate that the passage wasn’t saying that altars are forbidden, as the OP seemed to suggest.
First, what kind of stone are you talking about? concrete, granite, marble, brick, etc.
Which brings me to the second question… Why has it got to be stone? Can’t a wooden altar hold a sacrifice as well? What we are doing in the liturgy of the eucharist is that we offer bread and wine to God. In return, he turns both of those into the body and blood of Christ.
I am told it was John Calvin who removed the altar from the church and replaced it with the preacher’s pulpit front and center. Calvin believed that the centerpiece of worship was proclamation of the gospel and not the gifts brought to the altar.
Of course most Protestant churches today have no altar. Yet it is quite common for the preacher to say things like, “Come and kneel before the altar,” or “Bring your sins and leave them on the altar.”
Altars must be made of “worthy” materials, which could include wood, or stone, or a combination of the two. You would not make an altar from plywood, or plastic, for instance. As far as an altar, vs. a table, it is both the altar of sacrifice, but also the table of the Lord. I don’t believe that there is any longer a requirement that every altar contain a relic.
Though the LDS do not call them altars, thats what they indeed are, demonstrated by the very purpose for their existence. We’re going to run into a number of semantic arguments here, as I’m sure you well know, given that the LDS have a tendency of using different words for different things than how us Catholics use them.
Alters are found in the temples where men and women kneel across from each other to be “sealed” ie married
And I didn’t feel it necessary to mention the altars in the temple as they aren’t used for the same purpose as Biblical altars were or altars in Apostolic churches.
I grew up Protestant - non-denominational and Free Methodist - and was very familiar with the idea of the altar call. In the non-denominational places I went to, and in the chapel of the college I went to, there was nothing like an altar. They would maybe set up a plain table if they did communion (once a month or less many places). The Free Methodist communities, and the chapel at the Methodist graduate school I went to, had something like a freestanding altar, make of wood. But I always heard those called “communion tables,” not “altars.”
When I was Protestant, and we did “altar calls,” the place we went to was a prayer rail, like the Communion rail in older Catholic Churches. So I was always under the impression that that prayer rail was the “altar.”
I suppose the altar is symbolic in my old church. The pulpit was far more elaborate than the lecterns often seen in the TV church broadcasts. It really did resemble the altar seen in some pictures, but, again, there was no altar.
People responding to the altar call would meet the preacher at the front of the church where they would speak in whispers and would pray. If the preacher went to another person, earlier ones would pray on the steps surrounding the level of the pulpit. Though they were being told to lay their prayers and troubles on the altar, there was no physical altar in the building.
When it came time for communion, typically held once per month, the preacher would do his preaching and his prayers from the pulpit. The trays holding the broken crackers and the grape juice in containers much like shot glasses were on a table in front of the pulpit. There were no prayers suggesting a belief that the items were to become anything other than symbols, so having them on an altar was not necessary.