ALTAR 352 ALTAR a grievous offence to celebrate without an altar- cloth, except in case of grave necessity, e. g. of atToriiing to the faithful the opportunity of assisting at Sunday Mass, or of giving Viaticum to a dying person. To celebrate without necessity on two altar-cloths, or on one folded in such manner that it covers the altar twice, would probably constitute a venial sin (St. Lig., bk. VI, n. 375) since the rubric is i)rescriptive. Formerly the altar-cloths were made of gold and silver cloth, inlaid with precious stones, silk, and other material, but at present they must be made of either linen or hemp. No other material may be used, even if it be equivalent to, or better than linen or hemp for cleanUness, whiteness, or firmness (Cong. Sac. Rit., 15 May, 1S19). The two lower cloths must cover the whole surface of the table (mensa) of the altar, in length and width (Ca;rem. Episc I xii 11) whether it be a portable or a con- secrated 'fixed altar (Ephem. Lit., 1893, VII, 234). It is not necessary that there be two distinct pieces. One piece folded in such manner as to cover the altar twice from the epistle to the gospel end will answer (Ruhr. Miss., tit. xx). The top altar-cloth must be single and extend regularly to the predella on both sides (ibid.). If the table of the altar rests on cohmins, or if the altar is made after the fashion of a tomb or sepulchre, and is not ornamented with an antipendiura, the top cloth need only cover the table without extending over the edge at the sides (Ephem. Lit., 1893, VII, 234). The edges at the front and two ends may be ornamented with a border of linen or hempen lace in which figures of the cross, osten- sorium, chalice, and host, and the like may appear (Cong. Sac. Rit., 5 December, 1868), and a piece of coloured material may be placed under the border to set forth these figures. This is deduced from a decree (Cong. Sac. Rit., 12 July, 1892) which allows sucli material to be placed under the lace of the alb's cuff. This border must not rest on the table of the altar. Sometimes, instead of attaching this border to the upper cloth, a piece of lace is fastened to the front edge of the altar. Although this is not prescribed, yet it is not contrary to the rubrics. Great care should be taken that these cloths be scrupulously clean. There should be on hand at least a duplicate of the two lower cloths. The top piece should be changed more frequently according to the solemnity of the feast, and therefore several covers, more or less fine in texture, should be con- stantly kept ready for this purpose. When, during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, candles are placed on the table of the altar, another clean white cloth should be placed over the altar-cloths to prevent their being stained or soiled (De Herdt, I, n. 179). We may note here that the corporal and the cere- cloth cannot take the place of the altar-cloths. The three altar-cloths must be blessed by the bisliop or someone who has the faculty, before they can be used for the celebration of Mass. In the United States the faculty is granted by the ordinary to priests in general (Facultates, Form. I, n. 13). The formula of this blessing is found in the "Rituale Romanum", tit. viii, cap. xxi, and in the " Missale Roinanum" among the " Benedictiones Diverse". Symbolically the altar-cloths signify the members of Clirist, that is, (iod's faithful, by whom the Lord is encompassed (Pontificale Rom., De ordinat. subdia- eoni); or the linens in which the body of Christ was wrapped, when it was laid in the sepulchre; or the purity and the devotion of the faithful: "For the fine linen arc the justifications of saints" (Apoc, xix, 8). Besides the three:dtar cloths there is another linen cloth, waxed on one side, which is called the chriamnle (cere-cloth), and with which the table of the con.secraled altar (even if part of it be made of bricks or other material, and does not form a part of the consecrated altar) should be completely covered (Cnerem. Episc., De altaris consecratione). It must be of the exact size of the table of the altar, and it is placed under the linen cloths, the waxed side being turned towards the table. Its purpose is not only to prevent the altar-cloths from being stained by the oil used at the consecration, but also to keep the cloths dry. Hence it is advisable to have such a wax cloth on all altars in churches which may be accessible to dampness. According to the rubrics, this cloth is removed once a year, that is, during the stripping of the altars on Maundy Thursday; but it may be changed as often as the altar is washed. The cere-cloth is not blessed. It cannot take the place of one of the three rubrical linen cloths. To procure cere-cloths, melt the remnants of wax candles in a small vessel. When the wax is in a boiling condition, skim off the impurities that remain from the soiled stumps of cantlles. Dip into this wax the linen intended for the cere-cloth, and when well saturated hang it on a clothes-line, allowing the surplus wax to drop off. When the wax cloth has hardened, place it Detween two unwaxed sheets of linen of like dimensions. Iron thoroughly witii a well heated flat iron, thus securing three wax cloths. The table on which the cloths are ironed should be covered with an old cloth or thick paper to receive the superfluous wax when melted by the iron. It should be remembered that unwashed linen when dipped in wax shrinks considerably, hence before the cloths are waxed they should be much larger than the size of the altar for which they are intended. Alt.r-Crucifix. — The crucifix is the principal ornament of the altar. It is placed on the altar to recall to the mind of the celebrant, and the people, that the Victim offered on the altar is the same as was offered on the Cross. For this reason the crucifix must be placed on the altar as often as Mass is cele- brated (Constit.,Accepimus of Benedict XIV, 16 July, 1746). The rubric of the Roman Missal (xx) pre- scribes that it be placed at the midtlle of the altar between the candlesticks, and that it be large enough to be conveniently seen by both the celebrant and the people (Cong. Sac. Rit., 17 September, 1822). If for any reason this crucifix is removed, another may take its place in a lower position; but in such cases it must always be visible to all who assist at Mass (ibid.). We remarked above that a crucifix must be placed on the altar during Mass. To this rule there are two exceptions: (1) When the Cruci- fixion is the principal part of the altar-piece or picture behind the altar. (We adviseiUy say the princijial part of the altar-piece or picture, for if the picture represents a saint, e. g. St. Francis Xavier holding a crucifix in his hand, or St. Thomas kneeling before the cross, even if the cross be large, such a picture is not sufficient to take the place of the altar-crucifix.— See Ephem. Lit., 1S93, VII, 4nSV. and (2) when the Most Blessed Sacrament is ex- posed. In both these cases the regidar crucifix may be placed on the altar; in the latter the local custom is to be followed (Cong. Sac. Rit., 2 Septem- ber, 1741), and if the crucifix is kept on the altar it is not incensed (29 November, 1738). From the first Vespers of Passion Sunday to the unveiling of the cross on Good Friday, even if a solemn feast occur during this interval, the altar-crucifix is covered with a violet veil (Cong. Sac. Rit., 16 No- vember, 1649), except during High Mass on the altar at which Mass is celebrated on Holy Thursday, when the veil is of white material (Cong. Sac. Rit., 20 December, 1783), and on Good Friday, at the altar at which the function takes place, when the veil may be of black material. This is the custom in Rome (.Marlinucci, Van der Stappen, and others). From the beginning of the adoration of the Cross, on Good I'richiy, to the hour of None, on Holy Saturday, inclusively, all, even the bishop, the canons and the
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