ALTAR 362 ALTAR Josephus considered it as one of the three master- pieces contained in tlic Temple; it was probably carriuJ ofT by the Konians, tliough no mention of it is made by the Jewish historian among the pieces of the Tenipie furniture carried off by Titus. II. Alt.k in the Nkw Testament. — The word altar is in the New Testament frequently applied either to the altar of holocaust or to the altar of incense. St. Paul, from the part of the sacrifice which the ministers of the altar received, draws an argument to prove that in lilie manner the ministers of the Gospel should live by the Gospel (I Cor., ix, 13-14). In another place, from the participation in the victim offered at the altar, he argues that in the same way as tliose who eat of the sacrifice are par- takers of the altar, so also they that share in the flesli of the pagan victims are partakers of the devils to whom they are offered; hence he concludes that to partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of devils wovild be blasphemy (I Cor., x, 21). In conclusion, a few words about the altar mentioned in the Apocalyiise. Its form resembled that of the altar of incense; like the latter, it was a "golden altar" set up before the throne of God (viii, 3), and adorned with four horns at the angles (ix, 13). By the fire burning upon it stood an angel holding a golden censer, "and there was given to him much incense", a figure of the prayers of the Saints (viii, 3). Under the altar were the " souls of them that were slain for the word of God" (Apoc., vi, 9); they had e-idently taken the place of the blood of the victims, which, in the Old Law, was poured at the foot of the altar, and fulfilled the same office of praise and atone- ment. KiTTO, The Tabernacle arid its Furniture (London, 1849); Lamy, De tabernaculo, de sanctA ciritate et templo (Pari.s, 1720V, LiGHTFOOT, Descriptio templi hierosol, in Op^ comp., I, 549; Cramer, De aril exteriore templi secundi (Lyons, 1697); Well- HAUSEN. Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels (Berlin, 1883), tr. Black and Menzies, Proleg. to the History of Israel (Edin- burg. 1885): Vigouroux, La Bible etles decouvertes modemes (Paris, 1889), II, III; Kennedy in Hast., Diet, of the Bible: Renard in ViG., Diet, de la Bible. Charles L. Souvay. Altax, History of the Christian. — The Chris- tian altar consists of an elevated surface, tabular in form, on which the sacrifice of the Mass is offered. The earliest Scripture reference to the altar is in St. Paul (I Cor. x, 21); the .postle contrasts the "table of the Lord" (rpdireia Kvplov) on which the Eucharist is offered, witli the "table of devils", or pagan altars. Tpdirtfa continued to be the favour- ite term for altar among the Greek Fathers and in Greek liturgies, either used alone or with the addi- tion of such reverential qualifying terms as lepd, li.v(7TiKi). The lipistle to the Hebrews (.xiii, 10) re- fers to the Christian altar as Bva-iaffTTipioi', the word by which the Septuagint alludes to Noah's altar. This term occurs m several of the Epistles of St. Ig- natius (.d Eph. v; Magnes. iv, 7; Philad. 4), as well as in tiie writings of a number of fourth and fifth century Fathers and historians; Eusebius employs it to describe the altar of the great church at Tyre (Hist. Eccl., X, iv, 44). Tpdtrt^a, however, was the tenn most frequently in use. The word ^w^is, to designate an altar, was carefully avoided by the Christians of the first age, because of its pagan as- sociations; it is first used by Synesius, Bishop of Cyrene, a writer of the early fifth century. The terms altare, mensa, ara, altarium, with or without a genitive addition (as mensa Domini), are employed by the Latin Fathers to designate an altar. Ara, however, is more commonly applied to pagan altars, though TertuUian speaks "of the Christian altar as ara Dei. But St. Cyprian makes a sharp distinction between nrn and altare, [jagan altars being aras dia- boli, while the Christian altar is allnre Dei [quasi vast aras dialmli acccdere ad altare Dei fas sit (ICp. Ixv cd Ilarlel, II, T22; P. L., Ep. Ixiv, IV, 389)]. Altare was the word most commonly used for altar, and was equivalent to the Greek rpdve^a. I. AIatehial and Form. — The earliest Christian altars were of wood, and identical in form with the ordinary house tables. The tables represented in the Eucharistic frescoes of the catacombs enable us to obtain an idea of their appearance. The most ancient, as well as the most remarkable, of these frescoes, that of the Fractio Payiis found in the Capella Greca, which dates from the first decades of Fresco of Altar in St. Cl n't's, Rome, XI Century the second century, shows seven persons seated on a semi-circular divan before a table of the same form. Tabular-shaped altars of wood continued in use till well on in the Middle Ages. St. Athanasius speaks of a wooden altar which was burned by the Count Heraclius (Athan. ad Mon., Ivi), and St. Au- gustine relates that the Donatists tore apart a wootlen altar under which the orthodox Bishop Maximiaiius had taken refuge (Ep. clxxxv, ch. vii, P. L., XXXIII, 805). The first legislation against such altars dates from the year 517, when the Council of Epaon, in Gaul, forbade the consecration of any but stone Altars (Mansi, Coll. Cone, VIII, 562). But this pro- hibition concerned only a small part of the Christian world, and for several centuries afterwards altars of wood were used, until the growing preference for altars of more durable material finally supplanted them. The two table altars preserved in the churclies of St. John Lateran and St. Pudentiana are the only ancient altars of wood that have been preserved. According to a local tradition, St. Peter offered the Holy Sacrifice on each, but the evidence for this is not convincing. The earliest stone altars w'cre the tombs of the martyrs interred in the Roman Cata- combs. The practice of celebrating Mass on the tombs of martyrs can be traced with a large degree of probability to the first quarter of the second cen- tury. The Fractio Panis fresco of the Capella Urcca, which belongs to this period is located in the apse directly above a small cavity which Wilpert supposes (Fractio Panis, 18) to have contained the relics of a martyr, and it is highly probable that the stone covering this tomb ser-ed as an altar. But the cele- bration of the Eucharist on the tombs of martyrs in the Catacombs was, even in the first age, the ex- ception rather than the rule. (See Arcosolium.) The regular Sunday services were held in the jirivate houses which were the churches of the period. Nev- ertheless, the idea of the stone altar, the use of which aftenvards became universal in the West, is evidently derived from the custom of celebrating the aniiier- earies and other fea.sts in honour of those who ilied for the I'aith. Probably, the custom itself was sug- gested by the pa.ssage in the Apocalypse (vi, 9) " I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God." With the age of peace.
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