Kissing the altar

Why does the priest kiss the altar at the begining of the Mass? I know that in the EF he does it in veneration of the relics present in the altar, but given that the OF altars don’t have relics, what is the reason?

The altar is reverenced (relic or not) because that is the place that the sacrifice of the Eucharist takes place, I would think that this would be of more importance than the mere container of a relic.

Really? Do you have some reference for that?

I don’t know that an absolute generalization can be made, but most altars, at least, do contain relics. The GIRM states:
302. The practice of placing relics of Saints, even those not Martyrs, under the altar to be dedicated is fittingly retained. Care should be taken, however, to ensure the authenticity of such relics.

Thanks. I was interested in his assertion that OF altars do NOT have relics. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

Evry Cathloic church that I have been to has a relic in the Altar. All but 2 of these are churches that no longer have the High Alters, so I have to ask are sure your in a catholic church?

I don’t think that you can make a general assertion that OF altars do not contain relics. As quoted in post #4 Canon Law states that relics are still placed in altars. The current rites for dedicating a new church or a new altar contain the rites for placing relics in the altar.

Anyway, the altar signifies Christ. I think this is why the sacred ministers kiss the altar rather than because of the presence of any relics.

I was going to say that our local OF parish Altar has a relic imbedded in the Altar stone. I’ve seen it because I dress the Altar for our Dominican low Mass. Seems most folks don’t know how to dress an Altar for the older Masses.

My appologies, then. I was wrongly informed about the relics.

Its all good. :thumbsup:

Then the priest ascends to the altar and kisses it before going to his chair; the deacon kisses the altar as well. On particularly solemn occasions, the priest may even bless the altar with incense. Why is all this attention paid to the altar? Because the altar is a sign of Christ; according to one of the prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayer during the Easter season, Christ is the “sacerdos, altare et agnus” (“priest, altar, and lamb”) of His sacrifice.

In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, two prayers accompany the approaching and kissing of the altar. As he ascends the steps to the altar, the priest prays that the Lord remove our iniquity so that we might enter the Sancta Sanctorum (“Holy of Holies”) worthily, with pure minds. This prayer is not present in the Ordinary Form, but the priest should still be aware of its sentiment as he approaches the altar of sacrifice. In the prayer that accompanies the kissing of the altar, the priest asks God pardon for his sins, by the merits of His “saints whose relics are here” and of all the saints. While this prayer is not found in the Ordinary Form, the Church has retained the ancient tradition of placing relics of saints within the altar stone. (cf. GIRM 302) This practice calls to mind the early history of the Church, when persecuted Christians used martyrs’ tombs for altars. (cf. Baltimore Catechism III 937) By kissing the altar above the place where the relics are reserved, the priest silently declares his union with and affection for the saints who have gone before him. This kiss is a “holy kiss” (Rom. 16:16), a “kiss of love” (1 Pet. 5:14), for Christ and for His Church and her members. It is a kiss by which we begin to learn that the liturgy is “the purest and most sublime school of love.” (The Splendour of the Liturgy, p. 38)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit