The consecration of an altar is a significant and historic event in the life of a parish community. For it is the altar that is both the sacrificial table and the place where the Paschal Feast of the Holy Eucharist takes place.
Living Stones: Bishop consecrates new altar in St. Dominic Church
So, with a sense of joy and anticipation, parishioners involved in and supporting the project gathered in St. Dominic Church, Brick, for Mass March 30 where a new marble altar was to be consecrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
PHOTO GALLERY: Altar Consecration in St. Dominic Church
The newly-installed altar was created with marble from the sanctuary of the now-closed Holy Spirit Church in Asbury Park. The material was carefully preserved and, through the combined efforts of parishioners, supporters and skilled experts, the altar was reconstructed and brought to St. Dominic Church.
Observing one of the Church’s ancient rituals, Bishop O’Connell consecrated the altar by pouring Sacred Chrism on it and spreading it from corner to corner with his hand. Through this action, he established the sacredness of the fixture set aside solely for the celebration of the Eucharistic banquet.
In his homily, Bishop O’Connell described the ritual’s rich history, noting that while today the altar is immovable and positioned so that the celebrant can face the assembly at Mass, this was not always the case.
“During the first centuries of Christianity, when celebrating the Holy Eucharist was still illegal in many places, Christian altars were constructed from wood for fast and easy movement and often resembled ordinary house tables,” the Bishop said. “As the centuries passed, it became more common that altars should be made of stone – frequently marble -- to signify ‘Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone’ of Catholicism. Venerated relics of martyrs and saints were conserved in cavities in the stone altars of newly built cathedrals, basilicas and churches.”
The initiative to install the altar and refurbish the sanctuary in St. Dominic Church was titled, “A House Built of Living Stones,” reinforcing that it is the communion of faithful -- chosen and precious in God’s eyes -- that are living stones “being built up as a spiritual house.” (1 Peter 2:5). Because of the many generations who have faithfully played a role in the marble and altar’s carving, construction and care, the stones themselves become living.
The entire parish family, including the students of St. Dominic School, were involved. As principal Elizabeth Tonkovich explained, “The children had the opportunity to sign their name on wood used in the construction” of the foundation of the new sanctuary, “so their footprint is there, and they know it. I am humbled by the opportunity for the children to receive First Eucharist at this new altar.”
During the altar consecration, Bishop O’Connell’s words emphasize its central role, saying, “Here the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ will be made present and given to you and those who gather in this church ‘around the altar.’ As I do so, I remember the noble history of this table from its original home and all those who contributed to its construction and who received from it the Holy Eucharist. More importantly today, I consider its present moment, its future promise and all those who will be fed with Christ himself here.”
Father Brian Woodrow, St. Dominic pastor, spoke of the impact of the project, saying, “We’re so blessed to have been able to embark on this real, once-in-a lifetime gift from almighty God.”