Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/389

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347

ALTAR 347 ALTAR be able to expose them to view, folding doors were fixed on tlic front. Tlie Liber I'ontificalis states that St. Kelix I decreed that -Mass should be cele- brated on the tombs of martyrs. This no doubt brought about both a change of form, from that of a simple table to that of a chest or tomb, and the rule that every altar must contain the relics of martyrs. Isually the altar was raised on steps, from which the bisliop sometimes preached (see Altar-Steps). Originally it was made in the shape of an ordinary table, but gradually a step was in- troduced behind it and raised slightly above it (see AwAit-LKDiiK). When the tabernacle was intro- duectl the mmiber of these steps was increased. The altar is covered, at least in basilicas and also in large churches, by a canopy supported by col- umns, called the ciborium (see Altau-Canopy), upon which were placed, or from which were suspended, vases, crowns, baskets of silver, as decorations. From the middle of the ciborium, formerly, a gold or silver dove wiis suspended to serve as a pyx in which the Blessed Sacrament was reserved. Veils or curtains were attached to the columns which supported the ciborium. (See Ai.TAii-CinTAiN.) The altar was often encircled by railings of wood, or metal, called caticelli, or by low walls of marble slabs called tnmsenmr. According to the present discipline of the Church, there are two kmds of altars, the fi.xed and the portable. Both these de- nominations have a twofold meaning, i. e. an altar may be fixed or portable cither in a wider sense or in the liturgical meaning. A fixed altar, in a wider sense, is one that is attached to a wall, a floor, or a column, whether it be consecrated or not; in the liturgical sen.'^e it is a permanent structure of stone, consisting of a consecrated table and support, which mu.st be built on a solid foundation. A port- able altar, in a wider sense, is one that may Ix; carried from one place to another; in the liturgical sense it is a consecrated altar-stone, sufhcicntly large to hold the Sacred Host and the greater part of the base of the chalice. It is inserted in the table of an altar which is not a consecrated fixed altar. The component parts of a fixed altar in the liturgical sense are the table (mcnsa), the support (sd'/x'.s) and the sepulchrum. (See ALTAH-CA%nTY.) The table must be a single slab of stone firmly joined by cement to the support, so that the table and sup- port together make one piece. The surface of this table should Ije perfectly smooth and polished. Five Greek crosses are engraved on its surface, one at each of the four corners, about six inches from both edges, but directly above the support, and one in the centre. The support may be either a solid mass or it may consist of four or more columns. These must be of natural stone, firmly joined to the table. The substructure need not, however, consist of one piece, but should in every case be built on a solid foundation so as to make the stnicture permanent. The support may have any of the following forms: (1) at each corner a column of natural stone, and the spaces between the cohmins may be filled with any kind of stone, brick, or cement; (2) the space between the two columns in front may be left ofx;n, so as to place beneath the table (exposed) a reliquary containing the body (or a portion of the body) of a saint; (3) besides the four cohmins, one at each corner, a fifth column may be placed in the centre at the front. In this case the Dack, and if desired the sides also, may be filled with stone, brick, or cement; (4) if the table is small (it should in every case be larger than the stone of a portable altar), four columns are place<l under it, one at each corner, and, to make up the full length renuired, frames of stone or other material may be added to each side. These added portions are not con.sccratcd, and hence may be constructed after the ceremony of conse- cration; (5) if the table is deficient in width, four columns are jjlaced under it, one at each corner, and a frame of stone or other material is added to the back. This addition is not con.secrated, and may be constructed after the consecration of the altar. In the last two cases the spaces between the columns may be filled with stone, brick, or cement, or they may be left oi>en. In every case the substructure may be a solid mass, or the interior may remain hol- low, but this hollow space is not to be used as a closet for storing articles of any kind, even such as belong to the altar. Neither the rubrics nor the Sacred Congregation of Rites prescribe any dimen- sions for an altar. It ought, iiowever, to be large enough to allow a priest conveniently to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice upon it in such a manner that all the ceremonies can be decorously obsered. Hence altars at which solemn services arc celebrated require to be of greater dimensions than other altars. From the words of the Pontifical we infer that the high altar nnist stand free on all sides {Pontijex circuit sejilies Uibulam altuna), but the back part of smaller altars may be built against the wall. Altau-Candles. — For mystical rea.sons the Church f)rescriljes that the candles used at Mass and at other iturgical functions be made of bees-wax (luminaria cerca. — .Missale Rom., De Defectibus, X, 1; Cong. Sac. Rites, 4 September, bSTo). The pure wax extracted by bees from flowers symbolizes the pure flesh of Cnrist received from His Virgin Mother, the wick signifies the soul of Christ, and the flame represents His divinity. Although the two latter properties are found in all kinds of candles, the first is proper of bees-wax candles only (Miiller, Theol. Moralis, bk. Ill, tit. i, § 27). It is, however, not necessary that they be made of bees-wax without any admix- ture. The paschal candle and the two candles used at Mass should be made ex ccrd apum saltern in maximd parte, bvit the other candles in majori vcl nolahili quantitate ex e/iclem cerd (Cong. Sac. Rit., 14 December, 1904). As a rule they should be of white bleached wax, but at funerals, at the office of Tenebne in Holy Week, and at the Mass of the Presanctified, on Good Friday, they should be of yellow unbleached wax (Ca^rem. Kpisc). De Herdt (I, n° 18;j, Resp. 2) says that unbleached wax candles should be used diiring Advent and Lent, except on feasts, solemnities, and especially during the exposition and procession of the Blessed Sacra- ment. Candles made wholly of any other material, such as tallow (Cong. Sac. Rit., 10 December, 1857), stearine (Cong. Sac. Rit., 4 September, 1875), par- affin, etc., are forbidden. The Cong. Sac. Rit. (7 September, 1850) made an exception for the mis- sionaries of Oceanica, who, on account of the im- possiblify of obtaining wax candles, are allowed to use sperm candles. Without an Apostolic indult it is not allowalile, and it constitutes a grievous ofTence to celebrate Mass without any light (Cong. Sac. Rit., 7 September, 1850), even for the purpose of giving Holy Viaticum, or of enabling the people to comply with their duty of assisting at M;uss on Sundays and holydays (St. Lig., bk. Vl, n. 394). In these, and sitnilar cases of necessity it is the common opinion that Mass may be celebrated with tallow candles or oil lamps (ibid.). It is not permitted to begin Mass before the candles are lighted, nor are they to be extinguished imtil the last Gospel has been recited. If the candles go out before the Consecration, and cannot be again lighted, most authors say that Ma.ss should bo discontinued; if this happens after the Consecration, Mass should not be interrupted, al- though some authors s;iy that if they can possibly Ijc lighted again within fifteen minutes the celebrant ought to interrupt Mass for this space of time (ibid.). If only one rubrical candle can Iw had, Mass may be celebrated even ex devolione (ibid.).