Pastor’s Letter Nov. 20, 2016: Pride of Place in the Sanctuary
This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King. Given the political uncertainties, tensions and divisions in our country and the world, it is a good opportunity to remind ourselves that Christ is King; and that a Kingdom of truth, justice, love and peace cannot be realized on this earth. Original sin has sown the seeds of selfishness and corruption in the human heart. Jesus had to come to show us the way and help each of us to purify our heart by following his Commandments. Following Jesus’ Commandments is the only way a Kingdom of truth, justice, love and peace can begin to be established. When Jesus returns at the end of time, then his definitive Kingdom will be established with no semblance of evil or corruption.
In a church the arrangement of the space communicates what is important. There are four things that should have “pride of place” or an important presence in the space of the church or sanctuary. They are: the altar, tabernacle, ambo and presider’s chair.
The altar is the most important focus because it is the place of sacrifice. It is at the altar that Jesus makes present, through the priest, the eternal Sacrifice of himself on behalf of mankind; and there becomes present in the Eucharist with his words “This is my Body…This is my Blood…” It is from the altar that we receive his Body and Blood at Communion.
The tabernacle is the next item of prominence in the church. It is there the consecrated host, the Body of Christ, is kept and reserved for adoration and prayer.
The ambo and presider’s chair are next in prominence. The ambo is the place where the Word of God is proclaimed. And the presider’s chair is where the priest, the leader of the assembly, leads the community in prayer.
I am going to make a slight adjustment to the sanctuary to more clearly communicate visually the prominence of the altar. Presently the presider’s chair is above and directly in line with the altar. It may seem the presider and his chair are more important than the altar. I am going to move the presider’s chair down and off to the side of the altar. It will have an equal place with the ambo, which is more appropriate.
Presently, some parishioners are constructing a new presider’s chair out of wood. It will not be ready for some time so I will just move the one we have to the new location. The one being constructed will have a bit more prominence than the present one but the instructions for liturgy are careful to point out the presider’s chair should not look like a throne. Christ is King, not the priest.