"Table of the Eucharist"

I've gotta blow off a wee bit 'o steam.

The priest at my local parish talks as though we have a table but no alter.

The other day he referred to the "table of the Eucharist" rather than the Alter of Sacrifice.
:mad:

A small thing to most people in the pews but I do think he misses a teaching opportunity. I see enough lack of respect for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. (We've been over this in other threads -- I won't even start.)

*The sacrificial element of the Mass is central!
*

We need to pray for our priests -- it is more important for them to teach the faithful (and those outside the Church who may be present) than to appease protestants.

There. Some steam has been dissipated. :)

Merry Christmas, Reg.

We need to pray for our priests -- it is more important for them to teach the faithful (and those outside the Church who may be present) than to appease protestants.

Agreed, agreed. The Truth is the Truth. If parishioners or protestants who happen to be there don't like it, they don't have to attend. It waters things down and is just downright irreverent to cater to others at Mass. God bless priests, especially the one to whom you refer.

The terms "table" and "altar" are synonymous when talking about the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

The very altar itself is called "mensa"--table--in Latin.

Likewise, it is called "Aghia Trapezi"--Holy Table--in Greek.

[quote="bpbasilphx, post:3, topic:181318"]
The terms "table" and "altar" are synonymous when talking about the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

The very altar itself is called "mensa"--table--in Latin.

Likewise, it is called "Aghia Trapezi"--Holy Table--in Greek.

[/quote]

Thank-you. I've never heard this.

In English, however, don't they have different connotations/meanings?

Eucharist comes from the Greek work meaning thanksgiving or gratitude

[quote="The_Reginator, post:4, topic:181318"]
Thank-you. I've never heard this.

In English, however, don't they have different connotations/meanings?

[/quote]

Not to me in when you're talking about the Eucharist. Context is everything in determining which connotations apply.

It's like the "meal/sacrifice" false dichotomy some people have posited. The Eucharist is BOTH simultaneously, and it's one precisely because it's also the other.

The phrases "table of the Eucharist", "table of the Bread of the Lord", and "table of the Lord" appear (sometimes in a more complete context, e.g. GIRM 296) in several magisterial documents starting with the Second Vatican Council, such as Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium 49 (1963), Paul VI's Mysterium Fidei 29 (1965), Presbyterorum Ordinis 18 (1965), Eucharisticum Mysterium 34a (1967), Inaestimabile Donum 1 (1980), John Paul II's Dominicae Cenae 4, 11 (1980), John Paul II's Vicesimus Quintus Annus 8, John Paul II's Mane Nobiscum Domine 12-13 (2004), Benedict XVI's Sacramentum Caritatis 6, 29, 51, 55 (2007), and the GIRM 296. I have not looked through the Latin of these documents to know whether the word altar or mensa were used in each case.

The use of the word "table" over "altar" is not always cause for alarm, but it is an occasion for a healthy and complete catechesis on the Mass as sacrifice and covenant meal.

The use of the phrase "table of the [Divine] Word" appears in Spiritus Paraclitus 43 of Benedict XV (not XIV):
43. He tells us much the same of Marcella, who also knew the Bible exceedingly well. And none can fail to see what profit and sweet tranquillity must result in well-disposed souls from such devout reading of the Bible. Whosoever comes to it in piety, faith and humility, and with determination to make progress in it, will assuredly find therein and will eat the "Bread that cometh down from heaven" (Jn. 6:33); he will, in his own person, experience the truth of David's words: "The hidden and uncertain things of Thy Wisdom Thou hast made manifest to me!" (Ps. 50:8), for this table of the "Divine Word" does really "contain holy teaching, teach the true faith, and lead us unfalteringly beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies."
Perhaps a desire to use the same terminology in referring to our encounter with the Lord in the Scriptures and our encounter with the Lord in the Eucharist led to an adoption of the "table" connotation growing in popularity. Of course, this must remain balanced with the necessary "altar" connotation! That's where catechesis comes in.

I’ve also seen the word mensa defined classically as “sacrificial table, altar.”

If I recall correctly, in Ecclesiastical Latin, the word mensa is generally used to refer to the top of the altar.

As an aside, the word for “table” is used infrequently in a few Syriac Anaphorae, but the word itself has two meanings. When it does appear, the construction indicates that it is used with its alternate meaning: gift. The word is also used in the pre-prandial blessing, where it can be interpreted as having both meanings.

Agreed, such usage is not always cause for alarm, but it frequently does sound the alarm bell. In main, those who use it (primarily but not uniquely, clergy) are doing so in order to avoid any discussion whatsoever of the sacrificial. The word “altar” rarely if ever crosses their lips in the context of liturgy.

Here are excerpts from the Code of Canon Law (in English and Latin) that refer to "table" or "altar". The word "table" (mensa) is used sparingly.
Can. 276 §1 Clerics have a special obligation to seek holiness in their lives, because they are consecrated to God by a new title through the reception of orders, and are stewards of the mysteries of God in the service of His people.

§2 In order that they can pursue this perfection: ...

2° they are to nourish their spiritual life at the twofold table of the sacred Scripture and the Eucharist; priests are therefore earnestly invited to offer the eucharistic Sacrifice daily, and deacons to participate daily in the offering;

*Can. 276 - § 1. In vita sua ducenda ad sanctitatem persequendam peculiari ratione tenentur clerici, quippe qui, Deo in ordinis receptione novo titulo consecrati, dispensatores sint mysteriorum Dei in servitium Eius populi. *

§ 2. Ut hanc perfectionem persequi valeant: ...

2_ duplici **mensa* sacrae Scripturae et Eucharistiae vitam suam spiritualem nutriant; enixe igitur sacerdotes invitantur ut cotidie Sacrificium eucharisticum offerant, diaconi vero ut eiusdem oblationem cotidie participent; *

932 §2 The eucharistic Sacrifice must be carried out at an altar that is dedicated or blessed. Outside a sacred place an appropriate table may be used, but always with an altar cloth and a corporal.

932 § 2. Sacrificium eucharisticum peragendum est super **altare* dedicatum vel benedictum; extra locum sacrum adhiberi potest mensa conveniens, retentis semper tobalea et corporali.*

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. 1235 - § 1. **Altare, seu **mensa* super quam Sacrificium eucharisticum celebratur, fixum dicitur, si ita exstruatur ut cum pavimento cohaereat ideoque amoveri nequeat; mobile vero, si transferri possit.* [Please note the punctuation of the Latin text of 1235.1 which is not accurately represented in the English text.]

§ 2. Expedit in omni ecclesia altare fixum inesse; ceteris vero in locis, sacris celebrationibus destinatis, altare fixum vel mobile.

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.

Can. 1236 - § 1. Iuxta traditum Ecclesiae morem **mensa altaris* fixi sit lapidea, et quidem ex unico lapide naturali; attamen etiam alia materia digna et solida, de iudicio Episcoporum conferentiae, adhiberi potest. Stipites vero seu basis ex qualibet materia confici possunt. *

§ 2. **Altare* mobile ex qualibet materia solida, usui liturgico congruenti, exstrui potest.*

Can. 1237 §1 Fixed altars are to be dedicated, movable ones either dedicated or blessed, according to the rites prescribed in the liturgical books.

§2 The ancient tradition of placing relics of Martyrs or of other Saints within a fixed altar is to be retained, in accordance with the rites prescribed in the liturgical books.

Can. 1237 - § 1. **Altaria* fixa dedicanda sunt, mobilia vero dedicanda aut benedicenda, iuxta ritus in liturgicis libris praescriptos. *

§ 2. Antiqua traditio Martyrum aliorumve Sanctorum reliquias sub **altari* fixo condendi servetur, iuxta normas in libris liturgicis traditas.*

Can. 1238 §1 An altar loses its dedication or blessing in accordance with Can. 1212.

§2 Altars, whether fixed or movable, do not lose their dedication or blessing as a result of a church or other sacred place being made over to secular usage.

Can. 1238 - § 1. **Altare* dedicationem vel benedictionem amittit ad normam can. 1212. *

§ 2. Per reductionem ecclesiae vel alius loci sacri ad usus profanos, **altaria* sive fixa sive mobilia non amittunt dedicationem vel benedictionem.*

Can. 1239 §1 An altar, whether fixed or movable, is to be reserved for divine worship alone, to the exclusion of any secular usage.

§2 No corpse is to be buried beneath an altar; otherwise, it is not lawful to celebrate Mass at that altar.

Can. 1239 - § 1. **Altare* tum fixum tum mobile divino dumtaxat cultui reservandum est, quolibet profano usu prorsus excluso. *

§ 2. Subtus **altare* nullum sit reconditum cadaver; secus Missam super illud celebrare non licet.*

Can. 1309 Where a fitting reason exists, the authorities mentioned in Can. 1308 have the power to transfer Mass obligations to days, churches or altars other than those determined in the foundation.

Can. 1309 - Iisdem auctoritatibus, de quibus in can. 1308, potestas insuper competit transferendi, congrua de causa, onera Missarum in dies, ecclesias vel **altaria* diversa ab illis, quae in fundationibus sunt statuta.*

Yes, there are certainly many who use the term “table” to the exclusion of the term “altar”, and I would expect some do this because of their personal theology, and others because they don’t know (never learned) better.

Seeing the altar as merely a table reduces (or overlooks) the necessary and primary sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. Seeing the altar as not a table at all (although, to be honest, we do not eat at the altar itself) disconnects the Communion-eating aspect from the Mass. Receiving Communion outside of Mass is certainly fine, but it is not the norm: receiving in the Mass is the norm. The altar is first an altar of sacrifice and then becomes the banquet table for the mystical marriage supper of the Lamb.

[quote="bpbasilphx, post:3, topic:181318"]
The terms "table" and "altar" are synonymous when talking about the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

The very altar itself is called "mensa"--table--in Latin.

Likewise, it is called "Aghia Trapezi"--Holy Table--in Greek.

[/quote]

This is a perfect example of how people can get worked up about a subject when there is an entirely new dimension that we (speaking of myself) are completely ignorant of. It has been my experience that the things that I had trouble understanding about the Church were not about any fault in the Church or its teachings but through my own ignorance or misunderstanding of things that I either did not understand or had/have no knowledge of...and I see it here on these forums when people object so strenuously over things like "table vs. altar," "for all vs. for many," "thee and thou vs. you and your." Also, all too often these misunderstandings are ascribed to protestantizations, modernism, or anti-traditionalism. What I am trying to say is that it has gotten to the point where some of the arguments here have just gotten silly because of the disconnect between those who have an educated opinion on matters and those like myself who have a long, long way to go to truly understand the issues. As a priest once told me, "the Church is only as small as we make it."

So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank people like japhy, malphono and especially bpbasilphx who know so well about the issues and the subjects at hand and who can show people like myself that things can be (and are) much larger than ourselves.

[quote="Timothysis, post:11, topic:181318"]
This is a perfect example of how people can get worked up about a subject when there is an entirely new dimension that we (speaking of myself) are completely ignorant of. It has been my experience that the things that I had trouble understanding about the Church were not about any fault in the Church or its teachings but through my own ignorance or misunderstanding of things that I either did not understand or had/have no knowledge of...and I see it here on these forums when people object so strenuously over things like "table vs. altar," "for all vs. for many," "thee and thou vs. you and your." Also, all too often these misunderstandings are ascribed to protestantizations, modernism, or anti-traditionalism. What I am trying to say is that it has gotten to the point where some of the arguments here have just gotten silly because of the disconnect between those who have an educated opinion on matters and those like myself who have a long, long way to go to truly understand the issues. As a priest once told me, "the Church is only as small as we make it."

So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank people like japhy, malphono and especially bpbasilphx who know so well about the issues and the subjects at hand and who can show people like myself that things can be (and are) much larger than ourselves.

[/quote]

Actually, the "thee and thou vs. you and your" does make a substantive difference. "Thee and thou" was the informal second person singular, whereas "you and your" was the formal or plural. Much like how most Romance languages have the "tu" form, and the "vous," "usted" or "vos" form (depending on the language). In scripture especially, I think it makes some things more clear, as it signifies whether God is speaking to a group or to one apostle or prophet, when it may not be as clear otherwise.

Even though we don't use the "thou" form in contemporary English anymore, everybody knows what "thee" and "thou" mean, and, given the influence the King James Bible and Shakespeare have had on popular culture, people tend to think of it as "religious," "literary," or "high-brow," which is how the Mass and the Bible should be viewed.

When it comes to "altar" vs. "table", regardless of the etymology and linguistics, Priests and theologians who call it a "table" seem to tend to be of a certain mindset, even though they may be technically correct.

Actually, I wrote that specifically in reference to someone who posted here saying that their priest was a “modernist” because, when leading the rosary, he would say “blessed are* you* among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” But, point taken.

I would disagree, in that most people assume that “thou” is the more formal, rather than familiar, second person pronoun. In using the “thou” form, they are thus inverting the actual meaning of the text.

Interesting…
At my local parish the high alter is movable.
A few decades ago I played John the Beloved (I guess that suites me I say humbly) for the passion play right in the church. To do so we simply picked up the alter and moved it. The legs are separate and it is made of wood (I think).
:shrug:

[quote="Timothysis, post:11, topic:181318"]

So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank people like japhy, malphono and especially bpbasilphx who know so well about the issues and the subjects at hand and who can show people like myself that things can be (and are) much larger than ourselves.

[/quote]

:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

Not quite.

The “table top” of the altar is the mensa. A mensa will often times have a relic embedded in it. Sometimes the relic is encapsulated in a small slab of stone (also referred to as a mensa by some) which is then embedded or attached to the mensa. The base/support of the altar (that which keeps the mensa off the floor) is know as the stipes.

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