The priest as alter christus: Ontology and Sacramentality

the priest as alter christus:Ontology and Sacramentality

The priest, often known as “Alter Christus” or “Another Christ,” is the most important figure in the Church. Throughout the years, Christ’s mission of redemption has been unceasingly extended throughout the entire planet via the priest, who leaves all to benefit all. Thus, for Satan and his adherents, the Catholic priest continues to be God’s counsellor inside the world, and as such, he’s reviled, despised, and tormented by them like the Divine Master on the palms of the Pharisees. From the moment the priest consecrates the holy body and blood of Christ, he shares, in a small measure, the infinite grandeur of the Redeemer. The lips that utters the enigmatic words: “This is My frame, this is My blood.”The mouth that proclaims the mysterious words: This is My frame, that is My blood, the palms that contact the host beneathneath which God Himself is hidden, that reveal it to the adoration of the devoted and deliver it to the dying – aren’t the mouth or palms of a easy man. They are the mouth and palms of 1 with whom Jesus Christ has deigned to pick out Himself. Sacerdos, regulate Christus.

Last week I wrote approximately how each Marriage and the Priesthood are calls to service, however what sort of service? What does the priesthood of Jesus Christ appearance like? The priest is ordained to be regulate Christus, “some other Christ,” each in celebrating the sacraments and withinside the manner He lives His lifestyles. He is known as to function Christ served, via way of means of laying down His lifestyles for the flock.

If a priest is’ a few different Christs’ in a distinct method, it’s no longer due to a simple felony delegation, but to the father of Christ the Priest and Shepherd placed in His soul, “writes Fr. Jean Galot, S.J. in his e-book on the priesthood. During his ordination, the priest is conformed to Christ as priest and shepherd, which is why he is capable of providing the Mass, forgiving sins, blessing, and making Christ a gift to humanity. The process of the priest is to be a central man, or move between, carrying the humans to God and carrying God to the humans. It isn’t always the priest who forgives sins; it’s God who forgives sins through the priest.

It turned into a historical heresy that only a holy priest is capable of providing the sacraments. Can you imagine if that turned out to be true? You could wonder all the time, “Is this priest actually holy?” Is my baptism valid? Was that mass legal? No, it’s no longer the priest’s holiness that allows him to administer the sacraments; it’s instead his ordination and the fact that God acts through the priest.

This is a common misunderstanding.

But the priest isn’t best known for providing the sacraments; he is likewise known for administering them. After the gifts for the Mass are counted, the bishop hands them to the new clerics and says, “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be delivered to God.” Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your lifestyles to the thriller of the Lord’s cross. ” “The priesthood isn’t necessarily about power, authority, and privilege.” However, by God’s grace, we can get closer to it every day.

Catechesis Mystagogical

This intensely theological description of the altar may also in the beginning sound daunting, however the questions on the character of an altar from the factor of view of being itself—referred to as its ontological reality— show relevant now no longer simplest to selection making withinside the layout of recent altars, however in getting into the mysteries celebrated there. A easy timber altar, for instance, through its nature shows the concept of a desk. A marble altar nicely ornamented with quality stonework and glittering mosaic, however, shows now no longer simplest a desk, however additionally a desk converted to heavenly glory. Similarly, a mensa, the pinnacle slab of an altar, may be left undeniable or it is able to be incised with 5 crosses to symbolize the 5 wounds of Christ and the 5 marks of its anointing. In the primary case, the viewer is given a naked minimal of signal value. In the latter, some thing greater of the deep, indoors which means of the altar is given. The architect’s choices, then, both assist or preclude the procedure of being led from the outside symptoms and symptoms to the deep sacramental which means that the altar is supposed to convey. Here in a nutshell is the idea of “mystagogical catechesis”: a Christian is supposed to stumble upon the realities of God through seeing earthly “symptoms and symptoms” and be lead via them to stumble upon the heavenly realties which destroy via them.3

Mystagogical catechesis lies on the coronary heart of each Christian existence due to the fact it’s miles greater than a human pedagogical technique; it’s miles the privileged technique mounted for communique among heaven and earth. The God who’s outdoor of time and area created humans who gather know-how via the senses inside time and area. Therefore, Christ took on count number withinside the Incarnation in order that he can be seen, heard and touched, and his presence keeps withinside the international in a comparable manner. A character who learns to peer past the appearances of a chunk of bread and spot the Presence of God withinside the Eucharist has skilled mystagogical catechesis.

But this motion from seen symptoms and symptoms to invisible non secular realties does now no longer constantly come easily. It calls for bringing a receptive thoughts and coronary heart to a foundational literacy of what outside symptoms and symptoms suggest and the way they’re fulfilled in salvation history. But even the maximum exceedingly knowledgeable character can not stumble upon what isn’t present, and so theological know-how topics whilst making any selections approximately celebrating the sacred liturgy. If a worshipper is to be caused the mysteries, the symptoms and symptoms important to stumble upon the ones mysteries need to be there to be perceived. And right here is why ontology topics in knowledge the altar: simplest if the character of the altar is thought can it’s designed in an effort to explicit that nature in a manner perceivable through others.

The Altar’s Characteristics

Because Christ sums up all matters in himself (Eph 1:10), the altar in flip indicates lots of Christ’s attributes. In The Spirit of the Liturgy, Cardinal Ratzinger stated that Christian worship is essentially unique from different non secular sacrifices thru history. In many religions, a human priest is exact to area items upon an altar, hoping they may be customary with the aid of using the deity. In Catholic liturgy, however, the priest and those collectively sacramentalize Christ’s Mystical Body, rendering found in outside symptoms and symptoms what’s already true: Christ himself imparting the sacrifice to the Father. “The real ‘movement’ of the liturgy wherein we’re prepurported to participate,” he says, “is the movement of God himself.”four Since the liturgy is Christ’s movement expressed withinside the image gadget of the rite, the altar is Christ rendered in architectonic shape which rightly takes at the attributes of Christ himself. Four of those attributes are highlighted here.

Christ is represented by the Altar.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states it seems that that the “Christian altar is the image of Christ himself, gift withinside the midst of the meeting of his trustworthy” (1383). The altar is consequently now no longer a far off and remoted photo of Christ, however one status withinside the midst of his people. For this cause the altar is given the maximum distinguished vicinity in a church, occupying an area which is “surely the middle towards which the eye of the complete congregation of the trustworthy certainly turns.”five For comparable reasons, the Church’s regulation strongly encourages that altars be constant to the ground to signify Christ’s eternity and endless dedication to his people.6 Moreover, at the least its mensa is to be made from stone, echoing the scriptures which again and again name Christ a rock and cornerstone (see 1 Pt 2:4, 1 Cor 10:4, Eph 2:20). Although exceptions are allowed particularly instances for wood or transportable altars, stone is supposed to signify Christ’s energy and permanence.

When an altar is dedicated, it’s far anointed and incensed. These liturgical movements display the sacramental fact of the altar as sacrament of Christ.7At the Prayer of Dedication, an altar is anointed with sacred chrism exactly due to the fact Christ is the One anointed through the Father with the Holy Spirit, making him “excessive priest, who at the altar of his Body, might provide the sacrifice of his existence for the salvation of all.”eight Incense is burned to suggest that the proper sacrifice of Christ ascends to God “as an scent of sweetness.” Thomas Aquinas stated withinside the Summa that now no longer most effective does the altar itself represent Christ, however the consecration “indicates Christ’s holiness.”9

The lights of candles at the altar follows, now no longer most effective indicating that festive nature of the event, however to suggest Christ as the “mild to enlighten the nations.” 10 The rites of the Church, then, lead the viewer from the outside signal to the sacramental thriller it makes gift: in searching at a mundane item made from stone, even Christ’s holiness may be encountered.

Practically speaking, any enrichment given to an altar have to growth the revelation that the altar itself is Christ; it have to now no longer be a signboard for an unrelated pious photo or devotional slogan. The 5 consecration crosses at the mensa of the altar, for instance, display that the altar is Christ due to the fact they imply his 5 wounds. They belong to the character of Christ himself, and consequently to the character of the altar itself. Inset regions of gold mosaic or multicolored stone, similarly, explicit in architectural phrases the gem-like radiance of heaven which corresponds to Christ’s very own glory.

The Altar is a Sacrifice Site

Any altar, through definition, is a shape on which sacrifice is provided.eleven Sacrosanctum Concilium again and again speaks of the Mass as a sacrifice, noting that on the Last Supper, Christ instituted “the Eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood” so as to “perpetuate the sacrifice of the move thru the centuries” (47). The very identical sacrifice that Christ provided to the Father at the move become instituted “withinside the shape of a sacrificial banquet.”12 The Christian altar, then, is essentially special from different altars thru records as it isn’t clearly a devoted desk upon which presents are provided to a god. It is Christ gift amongst his people, who then acquire the sacrifice that he offers “on” his very person. This sacrificial exceptional is in addition expressed through the inclusion of relics below the altar. Traditional causes declare that the liturgy become celebrated upon the tombs of martyrs withinside the catacombs of early Christian Rome. Today’s liturgical instructions, however, deliver primacy to the altar because the item which renders honor to the burial vicinity of martyrs, and so the presence of relics suggests now no longer the sacrifice of the martyrs alone, however greater exactly their proportion withinside the sacrifice of Christ. The Order of the Dedication of an Altar notes that it’s far becoming for saints’ relics to be positioned below altars so that “the effective sufferers come to their relaxation withinside the vicinity wherein Christ is victim” (5).

In designing a brand new altar, its sacrificial individual ought to be expressed. One of the simplest approaches to perform that is to make the mensa out of stone of giant thickness, possibly 3 inches or greater. A colourful stone given a excessive polish will suggest a glorified altar, one which has taken on gem-like features that characterize heavenly conditions (Rv 21:19). Relics are not positioned withinside the mensa itself as they as soon as were, wherein a chunk become eliminated from the pinnacle slab to insert the relics. According to today’s liturgical instructions, relics are positioned below in preference to in the altar slab itself. This preserves the integrity of the mensa as an picture of Christ, and reinforces the vicinity of relics below, and now no longer in, the altar. In this way, the signal cost of the altar as an picture of the martyrs taking part in Christ’s personal sacrifice will become clear, assisting the symptoms and symptoms result in revelation of the mysteries.

The Altar serves as a table

In the years for the reason that Second Vatican Council, the desk-ness of the altar has possibly been emphasised mainly different attributes. While an altar is certainly a desk, it indicates plenty extra than home furniture. The Order of the Dedication of an Altar calls the altar a “desk of sacrifice and of the paschal dinner party” (4). “Paschal dinner party” refers to the Last Supper, whilst Christ will become the brand new Passover victim. The altar suggests consequently the success of the sacred meal of the Last Supper in carrier of the network, seeing that “Christ made holy the desk wherein the network could come to have fun their Passover.”thirteen So the altar is a desk of the Christian network, wherein the “Church’s kids accumulate to provide way to God and acquire the frame and blood of Christ”14 because the apostles did. But this desk became exactly the location wherein Christ initiated the sacrifice of the Eucharist, as a result the term “desk of sacrifice.”

The altar now no longer best indicates the desk of the Last Supper fulfilled, however prefigures the desk of the heavenly dinner party, the everlasting heavenly ceremonial dinner which celebrates the whole reunification of God and creation.15 Sacrosanctum Concilium makes it clean that “withinside the earthly liturgy we participate in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is well known withinside the holy town of Jerusalem” (8), and the Catechism notes that withinside the Eucharistic celebration “we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and expect everlasting life” (CCC 1326). For this reason, the Church makes use of the satisfactory arts to render this found in our personal time and space, as Sacrosanctum Concilium notes: “all matters set aside for divine worship ought to be composed of symptoms and symptoms and logos of heavenly realities” (122). An altar, then, offers a foretaste of the desk of heaven due to the fact Christ is “the dwelling altar withinside the heavenly Temple”sixteen who serves the “heavenly meal.”17

It follows certainly that the altar is an area of joyful celebration seeing that it’s far the locus of the completely happy paintings of salvation and a actual anticipation of the heavenly delight. Similarly, the rites of the Church aren’t a lot carried out as celebrated, and the altar is the location of that completely happy celebration. When a brand new church is dedicated, the altar is included with a white cloth, indicating that it is ready for a sacrificial dinner party and “decorated as for a ceremonial dinner.”18 The Order of the Dedication of a Church states that the dressing of the altar “really means that it’s far the Lord’s desk at which all God’s human beings joyously meet to be refreshed with divine food.”19

In designing new altars, the tableness of the altar may be introduced ahead thru the usage of leg-like vertical helps which want now no longer take away the solidity afforded via way of means of enclosing the altar’s helps with inset panels. As already noted, heavenliness, in Biblical terms, is often related to gem-like colour and reflectivity, and even as highly little ought to be executed to enhance the mensa itself, the assisting shape underneath can encompass carved or inset decorative motifs that carry ahead the character of the altar as festive sacrificial desk. Similarly, richly coloured marbles and inset gold or coloured mosaic can suggest the altar’s eschatological popularity as heavenly dinner party desk.

The Altar is a Holy Place

It is really well worth noting that an altar is an area wherein sacred moves arise in what the Church time and again calls “sacred buildings.” Sacrosanctum Concilium even speaks of “sacred furnishings.” 20 To be made sacred is to be set aside from different things, and the Rite of Blessing of a Church notes that when you consider that churches “are completely set apart for the birthday party of the divine mysteries, it’s miles proper for them to acquire a willpower to God” (1). Thomas Aquinas writes withinside the Summa that altars aren’t consecrated “due to the fact they’re able to receiving grace, however due to the fact they gather unique non secular distinctive feature from the consecration, wherein they’re rendered healthy for the Divine worship.”21 While the altar does acquire unique remedy in its anointing, incensing, masking and lighting, The Order of the Dedication of an Altar suggests that “the altar turns into sacred mainly through the birthday party of the Eucharist” (13).


In the segment entitled “Art on the Service of the Liturgy” in Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “Everything associated with the Eucharist must be marked with the aid of using beauty” (41). Beauty, theologically understood, outcomes whilst a element well-knownshows its very nature— its ontological reality—to the viewer. And an altar turns into knowable, and consequently beautiful, whilst its “altar-ness” is found out withinside the very be counted of which it’s miles made. A theologically knowledgeable architect makes choices concerning the layout of an altar—material, size, form and stage of enrichment— and those choices are then made into constructed form. All of those picks withinside the thoughts of an architect be a part of with the craftsman’s talent to come to be outward symptoms and symptoms for others to see. Such symptoms and symptoms lead the viewer to recognise what an altar is on the very stage of its reality. In doing so, the altar participates withinside the manner of mystagogical catechesis and performs its element withinside the “sanctification of man [which] is signified with the aid of using symptoms and symptoms perceptible to the senses” (SC, 7). Then an altar will “appearance like” an altar exactly due to the fact it’s miles an altar on the ontological stage: a sacred desk for a sacrificial heavenly dinner party that is an photo of Christ himself.

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