Accoutrements of the Altar
Vetting the Vessels and Vestments for the Holy Altar for the Holy Sacrifice has always been steeped in tradition|
Editor's Note: This series is an effort to return to basics since too often we all make the holy Faith complicated, whereas in reality the truths and traditions of the Catholic Faith are quite simple. God doesn't complicate things, man does. Realizing the fact that, for many generations indoctrinated by conciliar ambiguities, it all seems so confusing, we are introducing this series which is an adaptation of an earlier series titled "Appreciating the Precious Gift of the Faith" in utilizing a combination of the excellent compendium of the late Bishop Morrow's pre-Vatican II Manual of Religion My Catholic Faith and Dom Prosper Gueranger's incomparable The Liturgical Year as well as the out-of-print masterpieces The Catholic Church Alone The One True Church(1902) and the Cabinet of Catholic Information (1903). Through prayer and discussions, we've decided to employ this revised series to simplify the tenets of the Faith for those who continue to wallow in what they think is the 'Catholic Church' out of obedience to a man and his hierarchy who long ago betrayed Christ and His flocks. This then, is an affirmation of the basic truths the Spotless Bride of Christ has always taught and cannot change or evolve as "living documents" for truth is truth. As we say every day in the Act of Faith, "We believe these and all the truths which the holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived." If you have been deceived, and the vast majority have been, then realize what you've been indoctrinated with over the past 50 years cannot be from God but from His adversary. Our advice: flee the conciliar confines as well as other man-made religions which do not teach these truths without compromise. Seek out a traditional chapel nearest to you. There is a list of churches you can absolutely trust at Traditional Latin Masses
"Christians who live their Faith realize that the Tabernacle is the heart of the church, for day and night it houses Jesus Himself, the Incarnate Son of God. If we are so eager to give the best we can to our earthly guests, how much more concerned should we be to furnish a suitable dwelling place for our Divine Redeemer, Who comes to live in our midst! The Tabernacle should be as rich as we can afford to furnish, and of an artistic design that focuses all reverence and awe of the Holy of Holies."
This subject may be foreign to many weaned on the Novus Ordo Missae - the New Order of the Mass promulgated by Cardinal Giovanni Montini aka Paul VI and concocted by a known Modernist,Annibale Cardinal Bugnini, also a Mason and admitted marxist who wormed his way in during the pontificate of the the last true Pope His Holiness Pope Pius XII. It is interesting to note that Pius had censored Montini, but when he rose to prominence among the progressives he chose as his chief henchman noneother than the architect of the New 'Mass' Bugnini as Paul's Secretary of State. For those who are content with the auto-demolition of the Church which began
with changing the liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which Pope Saint Pius V commanded could not be altered in any way - as documented in his infallible decree Quo Primum - you may choose to not read any further. For those who are truly concerned with the welfare of Holy Mother Church and care that their Faith be preserved at all costs, you'll want to read further for today's topic deals with the instruments employed to carry out the Holy Sacrifice.
That begins with the sanctuary where the focus is the holy Altar. Today, after the desecration of so many altars, replaced by godforsaken tables of every shape, it lends itself to the Masonic Lodges and their services for the similarities are eery if not diabolic in nature and form. Don't believe it, take a gander at the two images here and you'll see the new 'Mass' in no way simulates the true Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as it was divinely deigned.
In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass perpetuated the infallible dogmatic Council of Trent and codified by Pius V, the altar cards contain some of the Mass prayers of the Ordinary for the priest's convenience. On the Epistle side are the prayers for the Offertory and on the Gospel side is the prayer card for the Last Gospel. In the center the altar card includes the Latin prayers of the Gloria and Credo as well as the Munda Cor and Jube, two prayers said prior to the priest going to the Gospel side for the reading of the holy Gospel Proper for that day. Also on the card are the Offertory Prayers for the Ordinary of the Mass when the priest is preparing the chalice and paten at the center of the altar. The most important prayer on this card are the words of Consecration for only by pronouncing these words exactly as they are over the host and then the chalice does transubstantiation take place and the water and wine are confected into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. These are the only prayers of the Canon on the altar card for the rest is prayed from the Altar Missal. The other prayer on this card is the Placeat just before the final blessing and Last Gospel.
Often flowers may be used to adorn the altar except during the penitential seasons, and at Requiem Masses for the dead. Along the whole front of the altar, when ready for Mass, is hung a rich and ornamental cloth called the antependium, with color, varying according to the liturgical color used for the Mass, in vestments, etc. In the building and furnishing of the altar everything is laid down by law. The greatest exactness is observed. At least it was until after Vatican II. News for those weaned on conciliar ideas, it still is law and still must be observed.
The sacrifice of the Mass is offered on a consecrated altar, not a table. The importance of this is central to see how Protestant and Masonic leaning is the Novus Ordo Missae illigitimately mandated by Paul 6 and his like successors in apostasy.
In the New Testament, there are references to meeting places of worship; churches are as old as the Church. For perhaps the first three centuries, Christians who were constantly persecuted used private homes for their meeting-laces for worship. A table was used for an altar because it was on a table that Jesus Christ instituted the Mass on Holy Thursday. Another reason was that a table could be easily hidden in times of persecution; also because Mass was generally offered in private homes. Therefore the Apostles offered the holy sacrifice on a table in a dwelling-house because they did not have the stability of celebrating Holy Mass in one place. Indeed this did not come to fruition until Constantine the Great declared Christianity the state religion and built cathedrals, basilicas and churches for permancy.
In Rome, during the great persecutions, Mass was celebrated on the tombs of martyrs in the catacombs beneath the city, where the Christians fled for safety. The catacombs were underground galleries, of which it is said Rome had about 400 miles.
This is the origin of the rule of having Mass said over relics of saints. At the beginning of the Mass the priest kisses the altar. By this, too, we, the Church Militant profess our communion with the saints in Heaven - the Church Triumphant. Often times on permanent altars, relics are kept in reliquaries on the altar flanking the candle holders.
The lights which today we burn on the altar during Mass also had their origin during the times of persecution, when the Christians had to hear Mass in dark passages underground. They may be taken to symbolize divine grace.
When the persecutions were over, the Holy Sacrifice was offered in churches upon altars of stone. Stone altars date from the sixth century. The altar, then until shortly after Vatican II, was often erected so that the priest and the faithful faced east, the source of light, as God is the Source. In those days the baptistry used to be a separate building. Today the baptistry has become the main focal point in so many of the modern architectural abberations that pass as churches. Yea, in many the small baptismal font has been replaced by a pool that can even be dangerous to little kids if they wander from their pews. In place of the great altars and sacred communion rails are now organs, banners and what-not with make-shift tables or "platforms" out in the middle and the tabernacle hidden from view as if they are ashamed of the Holy of Holies. But then, because of the lapse of time there are so few true priests left and even those few, for the most part, have apostasized by forsaking the true Mass, that where the tabernacles are kept really doesn't matter since Christ is not present. While many conciliar Catholics may think so, they cannot be faulted if they do not know, but the best they can receive are efficacious graces for there is no sacrament.
Despite the new liturgical norms created after Vatican II, the altar must be made of stone, marble, or wood, and spread with three linen cloths that have been blessed by bishop or priest. The three cloths remind us of the linen cloth in which Our Lord was wrapped for the sepulcher. They are placed on the altar also to absorb any drops of the Precious Blood that may accidentally be spilled from the chalice. The uppermost one must reach to the predella or platform. When the altar is of wood, an oblong slab of stone is set into the top, large enough to hold the chalice and the paten. This altar stone is set in the center of the altar, so that Mass is always offered on stone or marble.
Unfortunately you won't find that today in too many churches. You won't find three linen cloths anymore for they feel one is sufficient. But again, according to conciliar codicils man knows better than God. And if the sacred blood is accidentally spilled or crumbs from the sacred hosts spread on the cloth they'll just be thrown into a regular washer. But then it's not really His Blood so why the uproar? We wouldn't say this of the Lutheran service or the Presbyterian ceremony, so why the hubbub about the conciliar circus? After all, they're all Protestant. That means: Non-Catholic. The abandonment of rituals and practices prove this. For instance, pouring water down a drain that soaks into the earth has been abandoned. No big thing they surmise. Before Vatican II and still today where a true Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated the same rituals and laws remain. Say if a drop of the Sacred Blood was spilled or a host dropped, the priest immediately covered it with a linen cloth called the purificator and then blotted three times, washed three times for it was not just any spill but the remains of the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Soul and Divinity. Today that is so trivialized. But then what hasn't been trivialized by the VaticanTwoArians such as the preponderance of 'eucharistic ministers' of both sexes which has contributed greatly to diminishing the awe and reverence for the Real Presence. No wonder they don't believe. If they only knew they're right when it comes to the Novus Ordo.
On a true altar, the altar stone is marked by crosses at the corners and the center; in it relics of saints are cemented. It signifies that Christ is the foundation and cornerstone on which the Church rests. The altar or altar stone is consecrated by the bishop, with special ceremonies. In cases when permission to have Mass said outside or in a place not consecrated by the Church, a portable altar blessed by the bishop, is used. It is a square stone slab, large enough for chalice and paten. Note this is an exception to the rule, not the rule. Yet today, so often the exception has become the rule where there are few churches left because the conciliar chanceries have confiscated the churches in the same manner Henry VIII raided and wrecked the monasteries where the faithful were driven into the homes, private halls, or catacombs. So also today where many true traditional priests say Mass in homes or halls transformed into chapels or churches.
Sacred Vessels and Sacramentals
No sacred vessels are more important than the sacred chalice which holds the wine to be confected into the true Presence of Christ's Blood through transubstantiation. The chalice should be made of precious metals, either gold or silver and kept polished. It represents the very cup Our Lord used to institute the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the Last Supper. In the past a priest upon his ordination was presented his own chalice and used it as often as possible when saying Holy Mass.
Also of great importance is the paten which should match the chalice. It is a small plate on which the host is laid and which becomes the Body of Christ at the Consecration upon the priest's words, "Hoc est enim Corpus Meum".
The priest goes to great lengths to both assure the chalice, paten and ciborium are purified. The latter is a like chalice with a cover where the remaining consecrated hosts are held. In larger parishes there may be several ciboriums stored in the tabernacle. The paten is also used by the priest to scrape the linen corporal cloth laid out on the altar linens where specs of the sacred species of Our Lord might be scattered. He goes to great lengths to make sure all flecks are scraped up before and after Communion when he is purifying the vessels with the linen purificator which is then folded and draped over the chalice before placing the paten atop that. That is then covered with the pall, a stiffer square cloth covered board just a bit wider than the top of the chalice. The corporal is then folded and placed inside the burse, which is a large envelope, if you will, matching the vestments and chalice veil. The latter is then placed over the pall and chalice and lastly atop that is the burse.
Other sacred vessels are the monstrance, the adorned vessel in which a larger sacred Host is placed in the luna and inserted in the monstrance and placed on the altar for adoration or carried in procession before Benediction. The priest wears the cope and humeral veil when elevating the monstrance, holding the veil in such a manner that his hands do not touch the monstrance while blessing the faithful. He then ejects the luna and places the luna with the sacred Host back in the Tabernacle.
The Tabernacle (or "tent"), is a kind of safe, made of wood, marble, or metal, having a door with lock and key, in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. Early tabernacles took various forms, such as a silver dove suspended over the altar. Never, ever can it be made of glass or anything transparent. Yet we have seen several of this variety. So much for laws and rules. But again, repeating ad nauseum, He is not there!
The Tabernacle should always be above and behind the center of the altar, and covered with a curtain when the Blessed Sacrament is inside. It recalls the tent of the Ark of the Covenant. A veil envelops the Tabernacle, and is a sign of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Its color is either white or matches the vestments.
Christians who live their Faith realize that the Tabernacle is the heart of the church, for day and night it houses Jesus Himself, the Incarnate Son of God. If we are so eager to give the best we can to our earthly guests, how much more concerned should we be to furnish a suitable dwelling place for our Divine Redeemer, Who comes to live in our midst! The Tabernacle should be as rich as we can afford to furnish, and of an artistic design that focuses all reverence and awe of the Holy of Holies.
Every altar must have a crucifix, to symbolize the cross on which Our Lord died and to remind all of the sacrificial aspect of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that Calvary is being re-presented on the altar. You'll note the crucifix was one of the first sacramentals to go once the wreckovators moved in and set up the tables away from the altars. The crucifix, as we ourselves were told by those in charge of conciliar changes, is too traumatic and is offensive to non-Catholics. Excuuuuuuse me? The greatest sacrifice ever made is offensive to man? Do they realize Christ died for them? Oh, that doesn't matter any more. We must be politically correct. That movement, by the way, corresponded with the revolution of the sixties and the takeover of the Church by the apostate barbarians.
Of the candles on the altar, two must be of pure wax. At a high Mass, at least six candles must be used. A sanctuary lamp of oil is kept burning day and night whenever the Blessed Sacrament is in the Tabernacle. For a Requiem Mass the white candles are replaced by waxed candles of a rose/lavender or grayish hue. This includes the floor candles around the bier at a Burial Mass.
The credence table is a table or shelf at the Epistle side of the sanctuary, holding the materials for the Offertory of the Mass and the ablution after Communion. On it are the cruets (one with wine and another with water), the basin, and the finger towel for the priest's hands.
Prior to Vatican II, the priest used the amice, alb, cincture, maniple, stole, and chasuble, in the celebration of Mass. After the conciliar forms this was reduced to merely the alb, stole and chasuble.
When the priest appears before God at the altar, he is clad in suitable vestments. God Himself gave directions about the vestments of the priests in the Old Testament (Exodus 28:4). The chief vestments worn by Catholic priests have come down to us from the time of the Apostles.
Symbolical significances have been attached to the different vestments. The prayers said by the priest as he puts on each piece of attire show the meaning attached to them by the Church.
The amice is a piece of white linen cloth which covers the priest's shoulders. The vesting prayer is, "Place, O Lord, on my head the helmet of salvation, that I may overcome the assaults of the devil." When putting it on, the priest places it for a moment on his head, then lets it rest on his shoulders.
The alb is a white linen tunic which envelops the priest's whole body. As he puts it on, the priest says, "Purify me, O Lord, from all stain and cleanse my heart, that washed in the Blood of the Lamb, I may enjoy eternal delights."
The cincture or girdle is the cord which fastens the alb at the waist. The vesting prayer is, "Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may remain in me."
The maniple is a short narrow strip of cloth which hangs from the left arm. The vesting prayer is, "Let me deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of tears and sorrow, so that one day I may come with joy into the reward of my labors."
The stole is the long silk band that fits around the neck and is crossed on the breast of the priest. It is the symbol of authority in the Church, of all vestments most blessed. The vesting prayer is, "Restore to me, O Lord, the state of immortality which was lost to me by my first parents, and although unworthy to approach Thy sacred mysteries, grant me nevertheless eternal joy." As a sign of his full priestly powers the bishop does not cross the stole in front. The Pope alone has the right to wear it always.
The chasuble is the uppermost vestment worn by the celebrant at Mass. It hangs from the shoulders, in front and behind, down almost to the knees. The vesting prayer at Mass is, "O Lord, Who hast said, 'My yoke is sweet and my burden light,' grant that I may carry it so as to obtain Thy grace." The chasuble, stole, maniple, and veil for the chalice are made as a set of vestments, of the same material, color, and design.All of these vestments represent the armor of God as Saint Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6: 11-18.
There are two styles of vestments, the Gothic or short chasuble that more resembles a large scapular, and the Roman chasuble which is longer and fuller. Those long flowing, in fact, quite effeminate robes conciliar presbyters wear with every color in the rainbow and literally that as well, are again a rebellion against the tried and true.
At the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass various colors are used, according to the season and event being commemorated, these colors being: white, red, green, purple, and black. The latter is seldom used anymore for funerals are celebrated with white vestments today. The Requiem Mass has been greatly changed.
In the early days of the Church, the vestments were of one color, white, though black was also used for mourning. In our times, not only the priest's vestments, but the tabernacle curtain, veil, and antependium are in the prescribed color.
White vestments are worn on the festivals of Our Lord, except those of His Passion; they are also used for the feasts of Our Lady, and of Virgins and Confessors. White symbolizes purity and joy; hence its use for Our Lord and virgins.
Red vestments are used at Pentecost, in commemoration of the descent of the Holy Ghost in the form of tongues of fire. Red is likewise used on the feasts of martyrs and Apostles, and on the feasts of the Holy Cross on September 14th. Red is the color of fire and blood; hence its use for Pentecost and for martyrs is very appropriate.
Green vestments are prescribed on Sundays after the Epiphany and after Pentecost, that is, outside Lent and Advent, except when some special festival requires another color. Gold may be substituted on solemn feasts for white, red, and green. Green is the symbol of hope and growth; hence its use for the greater part of the year.
Purple, or violet vestments are worn during Advent and Lent, as well as for Vigils, Rogation Days, and Ember Days. The latter three are practically non-existent today in the conciliar church. Vigils are the days preceding great festivals. As purple is a penitential color, it is fitting to use it during the seasons of special penance, Advent and Lent. It also used to be used on December 28 Feast of the Holy Innocents, to show the sympathy of the Church towards the mothers of the first martyrs. Today it is red for they are truly martyrs.
On Gaudete and Laudare Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent and the third Sunday of Lent respectively the color Rose is allowed as a symbol of rejoicing at the midpoint of both penitential seasons.
For centuries black vestments were used at ceremonies for the dead, and on Good Friday. However, at the funerals of children who die before the age of reason, white vestments are used, to express the joy we should feel at the knowledge that a baptized innocent one is Home. Today in the conciliar climes that has been adopted for all as a celebration of life with little regard to the deceased's real need: prayers for the person's eternal soul.
Another 'fashion fatality' of Vatican II was the disappearance of the biretta, the three-ridged square cap worn by the priest when he enters the sanctuary.
Outside of Mass, the priest use to wear the cassock or soutane, the cope, the surplice, and the humeral veil. The cassock or soutane is the principal vestment used by ecclesiastics. It is a robe reaching down to the feet, and buttoned in front. For priests it is black, for bishops violet, for cardinals red, and for the Pope white. In some Catholic countries ecclesiastics go everywhere in their cassocks, such as Rome. In the United States today, except for some orders and traditional priests, very few wear the cassock. Sadly more and more very few wear their Roman collar when out in public. This behavior indicates the attitude that clerics are ashamed of their calling, or being seen as a priest. No wonder there are so few vocations. But, considering that since Paul 6 changed the Sacrament of Holy Orders from a divinely ordained rite to a man-made rite in 1968, there is no valid ordination and thus why should they wear the collar since they are not true priests if "ordained" in the conciliar church with the new rite?
The surplice is a short alb, used by the priest outside of Mass, when he preaches, joins a procession, etc. This, too, has been replaced by merely the stole in so many parishes. Even the altar servers who once wore the surplice over the red or black cassock have abandoned those in favor of the modern unisex alb, if indeed any garb at all is worn to distinguish the altar server from the rest of the congregation. Of course, at the true Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the server still wears the cassock and surplice. Also in the past, when a priest died, he was buried dressed in his cassock and surplice, and with the purple stole, the badge of his priesthood. In complete purple vestments, he laid there in dignity.
At Solemn High Mass, the deacon wears a special vestment called dalmatic, and the subdeacon a tunicle. This too is rarely found except in the most orthodox of parishes and is fast fading out because of the constant novelty changes, but at traditional churches such as St. Michael's in Spokane, Immaculate Queen in Omaha, St. Gertrude's in Cincinnati, Our Lady of the Rosary in Monroe, Connecticut and other sites, you will see the reverence afforded during solemn High Masses and Pontifical High Masses.
The cope is the long mantle used for Benediction, processions, and other occasions outside of Mass. The humeral veil is the long silk cloth used by the priest when carrying the Blessed Sacrament and giving Benediction. As mentioned above, consider the great care and reverence he took in handling the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance and using the humeral veil to wrap his hands so that they would not touch the monstrance when he lifted it to bless the faithful. Now compare that utmost reverence to 'eucharistic ministers', conciliar communicants and their presbyters. No contest!
Some of the vestments, such as the amice, alb, surplice, and benediction veil, are always white. The stole for hearing confessions is always purple.
Catholics spend a great deal of care and money on sacred vessels, vestments, and furnishings for the altar, because it is only right to give what is most precious and beautiful for the service of God. Yet, modern rubrics and liturgical norms have greatly diminished this.
Nothing is too good for the Lord of Heaven and earth. The beauty of God's house also impresses the beholder and helps devotion. Some worldly-minded people are prone to ask, "To what purpose is this waste?" when they see how much care and money Catholics spend on sacred vessels, vestments, and church ornaments. Let us remember that Judas asked that when Saint Mary Magdalene anointed Our Lord.
Finally, we have spent much of this time describing the garments of the priest and we'd like to take this paragraph to remind all that if we are truly sincere and truly believe the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the ultimate worship, then we should also dress for the occasion for we are in the presence of the King of kings. That is another major difference between a traditional Catholic and a conciliar Catholic and in their mode of dress, illustrates only too well what each believes. Lex orandi, lex credendi et vivendi - The law of worship determines how we believe and how we live.
Previously: Step Forty-Five: The Graces and Values of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
For all steps to date, see Archives of Catholicism Made Simple
Catholicism Made Simple