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The Altar

February 16, 2020​

Our Catholic tradition states that Christ is the Priest, the Victim and the Altar of His own self-sacrificial offering. He is the priest because He offers Himself, the Victim, to His heavenly Father. Christ’s body is also an altar, since it is the “place” where His offering is made. For these reasons, the altar, in Catholic churches represents Christ; it is the "place" where Christ’s offering becomes truly present for us. Guidelines recommend that altars be made of beautiful, decorative stone and that they be secured in place. These elements also remind us that Christ is beautiful and the immovable Rock, the Foundation Stone for all our beliefs, and that He is always in our midst, and always will be; unmovable. The altar is also the threshold to heaven. It is the place where heaven and earth meet, where the eternal God becomes present to us in time. For all these reasons, the priest and ministers will bow to, or reverence, the altar before and after Mass. The servers will bow to the altar when they place things on it or remove things from it. The priest will also kiss the altar before and after Mass, symbolizing his love of Christ and in gratitude for Christ’s self-sacrifice which becomes present on the altar. The priest also bows and prays before the altar prior to reading the Gospel, invoking Christ’s blessings.