I just got home from a splendid Mass on the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, which included the ritual dedication of the new altar at Notre Dame Cathedral.
It was an experiential way to learn a bit more about the dignity of the altar through witnessing the rites associated with the dedication.
After praying the Litany of Saints, relics of four Canadian saints were placed beneath the altar. The four saints whose relics were placed beneath the altar include: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first aboriginal saint; Saint François de Laval, the first North American bishop; Saint Marguerite d’Youville, the first female Canadian saint to be canonized, and Saint André Bessette, the first male Canadian to be canonized. The bishop pointed out that these saints are models of holiness for us, particularly as Canadians seeking to deepen: reconciliation with First Nations, a culture of life and stable families, and greater compassion for the sick and the dying.
Next the new altar was anointed with chrism, which symbolizes Christ, the ‘Anointed One.’
The altar was then incensed to signify Christ’s sacrifice ascending to God as we sang as this verse from a Psalm: “O let my prayer rise before you, like incense in your sight.”
Next, there was the lighting of the altar. The bishop lit the fire at the centre of the altar and then many, many candles were lit to be distributed to representatives of all the parishes within the diocese to symbolize that the Light of Christ is a light to all nations.
All of this led to the Eucharistic celebration, the sine qua non for the dedication of an altar.
“For the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice achieves the end for which the church was built and the altar erected and expresses this end by particularly clear signs.”
How beautiful that the Lord was made present in the temple, in the cathedral, as He is at every Mass, on a new altar on the Feast of His Presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem.
“Might not these words be a distinctive definition of Christ and his Church? ‘The sign of contradiction’… May this light give us strength and make us capable of accepting and loving the whole truth of Christ, of loving it all the more as the world all the more contradicts it.” – John Paul II, Sign of Contradiction