Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Altar (in Liturgy)

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Altar (in Liturgy).—In the New Law the altar is the table on which the Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered. Mass may sometimes be celebrated outside a sacred place, but never without an altar, or at least an altar-stone. In ecclesiastical history we find only two exceptions: St. Lucian (312) is said to have celebrated Mass on his breast whilst in prison, and Theodore Bishop of Tyre on the hands of his deacons (Mabillon, Praef. in 3 saec., n. 79). According to Radulphus of Oxford (Prop. 25), St. Sixtus II (257-259) was the first to prescribe that Mass should be celebrated on an altar, and the rubric of the missal (XX) is merely a new promulgation of the law. It signifies, according to Amalarius (De Eccles. Officiis, I, xxiv) the Table of the Lord (mensa Domini), referring to the Last Supper, or the Cross (St. Bernard, De Coena Domini), or Christ (St. Ambrose, IV, De Sacram. xii; Abbot Rupert, V, xxx). The last meaning explains the honour paid to it by incensing it, and the five crosses engraved on it signify His five wounds.


Position.—In the ancient basilicas the priest, as he stood at the altar, faced the people. The basilicas of the Roman Empire were, as a rule, law courts or meeting places. They were generally spacious, and the interior area was separated by two, or, it might be, four rows of pillars, forming a central nave and side aisles. The end opposite the entrance had a semi-circular shape, called the apse, and in this portion, which was raised above the level of the floor, sat the judge and his assessors, while right before him stood an altar upon which sacrifice was offered before beginning any important public business.

When these public buildings were adapted for Christian assemblies, slight modifications were made. The apse was reserved for the bishop and his clergy; the faithful occupied the centre and side aisles, while between the clergy and people stood the altar. Later on the altar was placed, in churches, in the apse against, or at least near, the wall, so that the priest when celebrating faced the east, and behind him the people were placed. In primitive times there was but one altar in each church. St. Ignatius the Martyr, Cyprian, Irenaeus, and Jerome, speak of only one altar (Benedict XIV, De Sacr. Misssae, no. 1, xvii). Some think that more than one altar existed in the Cathedral of Milan in the time of St. Ambrose, because he sometimes uses the word altaria, although others are of opinion that altaria in this place means an altar. Towards the end of the sixth century we find evidence of a plurality of altars, for St. Gregory the Great sent relics for four altars to Palladius, Bishop of Saintes, France, who had placed in a church thirteen altars, four of which remained unconsecrated for want of relics. Although there was only one altar in each church, minor altars were erected in side chapels, which were distinct buildings (as is the custom in the Greek, and some Oriental Churches even at the present day) in which Mass was celebrated only once on the same day in each church (Benedict XIV, Ibidem). The fact that in the early ages of Christianity only the bishop celebrated Mass, assisted by his clergy, who received Holy Communion from the bishop's hands, is the reason that only one altar was erected in each church, but after the introduction of private Masses the necessity of several altars in each church arose.


Material Of Altars.—Although no documents are extant to indicate the material of which altars were made in the first centuries of Christianity, it is probable that they were made of wood, like that used by Christ at the Last Supper. At Rome such a wooden table is still preserved in the Lateran Basilica, and fragments of another such table are preserved in the church of St. Pudentiana, on which St. Peter is said to have celebrated Mass. During the persecutions, when the Christians were forced to move from one place to another, and Mass was celebrated in crypts, private houses, the open air, and catacombs, except when the arcosolia were used (see below, FORM OF AN ALTAR), it is but natural to suppose that they were made of wood, probably wooden chests carried about by the bishops, on the lid of which the Eucharistic Sacrifice was celebrated. St. Optatus of Mileve (De Schismate Donatistarum) reproves the Donatists for breaking up and using for firewood the altars of the Catholic churches, and St. Augustine (Epist. clxxxv) reports that Bishop Maximianus was beaten with the wood of the altar under which he had taken refuge. We have every reason to suppose that in places in which the persecutions were not raging, altars of stone also were in use. St. Gregory Thaumaturgus in the third century built a vast basilica in Neo-Caesarea in which it is probable that more substantial altars were erected. St. Gregory of Nyssa speaks of the consecration of an altar made of stone (De Christi Baptismate). Pulcheria, sister of Theodosius II, presented an altar of gold to the Basilica of Constantinople; St. Helena gave golden altars ornamented with precious stones to the church which was erected on the site where the Cross had been concealed for three hundred years; the Popes St. Sixtus III (432-440) and St. Hilary (461-468) presented several altars of silver to the churches of Rome. Since wood is subject to decay, the baser metals to corrosion, and the more precious metals were too expensive, stone became in course of time the ordinary material for an altar. Besides, stone is durable and, according to St. Paul (I Cor., x, 4), symbolizes Christ -- "And the rock was Christ". The Roman Breviary (9 November) asserts that St. Sylvester (314-335) was the first to issue a decree that the altar should be of stone. But of such a decree there is no documentary evidence, and no mention is made of it in canon law, in which so many other decrees of this Pope are inserted. Moreover, it is certain that after that date altars of wood and of metal were erected. The earliest decree of a council which prescribed that an altar which is to be consecrated should be of stone is that of the provincial council of Epeaune (Pamiers), France, in 517 (Labbe, Concil. tom. V, col. 771). The present discipline of the Church requires that for the consecration of an altar it must be of stone.


Form Of An Altar.—In the primitive times there were two kinds of altars.

  • The arcosolium or monumentum arcuatum, which was formed by cutting in the tufa wall of the wider spaces in the catacombs, an arch-like niche, over a grave or sarcophagus. The latter contained the remains of one or several martyrs, and rose about three feet above the floor. On it was placed horizontally a slab of marble, called the mensa, on which Mass was celebrated.
  • The altar detached from the wall in the cubicula, or sepulchral chapels surrounded by loculi and arcosolia, used as places of worship in the catacombs or in the churches erected above ground after the time of Constantine. This second kind of altar consisted of a square or oblong slab of stone or marble which rested on columns, one to six in number, or on a structure of masonry in which were enclosed the relics of martyrs. Sometimes two or four slabs of stone were placed vertically under the table, forming a stone chest. In private oratories the table was sometimes made of wood and rested on a wooden support. Within this support were placed the relics of martyrs, and in order to be able to expose them to view, folding doors were fixed on the front.

The Liber Pontificalis states that St. Felix I decreed that Mass should be celebrated on the tombs of martyrs. This no doubt brought about both a change of form, from that of a simple table to that of a chest or tomb, and the rule that every altar must contain the relics of martyrs. Usually the altar was raised on steps, from which the bishop sometimes preached (see ALTAR-STEPS). Originally it was made in the shape of an ordinary table, but gradually a step was introduced behind it and raised slightly above it (see ALTAR-LEDGE). When the tabernacle was introduced the number of these steps was increased. The altar is covered, at least in basilicas and also in large churches, by a canopy supported by columns, called the ciborium (see ALTAR- CANOPY), upon which were placed, or from which were suspended, vases, crowns, baskets of silver, as decorations. From the middle of the ciborium, formerly, a gold or silver dove was suspended to serve as a pyx in which the Blessed Sacrament was reserved. Veils or curtains were attached to the columns which supported the ciborium. (See ALTAR-CURTAIN) The altar was often encircled by railings of wood, or metal, called cancelli, or by low walls of marble slabs called tranennae. According to the present discipline of the Church, there are two kinds of altars, the fixed and the portable. Both these denominations have a twofold meaning, i.e. an altar may be fixed or portable either in a wider sense or in the liturgical meaning. A fixed altar, in a wider sense, is one that is attached to a wall, a floor, or a column whether it be consecrated or not; in the liturgical; sense it is a permanent structure of stone, consisting of a consecrated table and support, which must be built on a solid foundation. A portable altar in a wider sense is one that may be carried from one place to another in the liturgical sense it is a consecrated altar-stone, sufficiently large to hold the Sacred Host and the greater part of the base of the chalice. It is inserted in the table of an altar which is not a consecrated fixed altar.

The component parts of a fixed altar in the liturgical sense are the table (mensa), the support (stipes) and the sepulchrum. (See ALTAR-CAVITY.) The table must be a single slab of stone firmly joined by cement to the support, so that the table and support together make one piece. The surface of this table should be perfectly smooth and polished. Five Greek crosses are engraved on its surface, one at each of the four corners, about six inches from both edges. but directly above the support, and one in the centre. The support may be either a solid mass or it may consist of four or more columns. These must be of natural stone, firmly joined to the table. The substructure need not, however, consist of one piece, but should in every case be built on a solid foundation so as to make the structure permanent. The support may have any of the following forms:

  • at each corner a column of natural stone, and the spaces between the columns may be filled with any kind of stone, brick, or cement;
  • the space between the two columns in front may be left open, so as to place beneath the table (exposed) a reliquary containing the body (or a portion of the body) of a saint;
  • besides the four columns, one at each corner, a fifth column may be placed in the centre at the front. In this case the back, and if desired the sides also, may be filled with stone, brick, or cement;
  • if the table is small (it should in every case be larger than the stone of a portable altar), four columns are placed under it, one at each corner and, to make up the full length required, frames of stone or other material may be added to each side. these added portions are not consecrated, and hence may be constructed after the ceremony of consecration;
  • if the table is deficient in width, four columns are placed under it, one at each corner, and a frame of stone or other material is added to the back. This addition is not consecrated, and may be constructed after the consecration of the altar.

In the last two cases the spaces between the columns may be filled with stone brick, or cement, or they may be left open. In every case the substructure may be a solid mass, or the interior may remain hollow, but this hollow space is not to be used as a closet for storing articles of any kind, even such as belong to the altar. Neither the rubrics nor the Sacred Congregation of Rites prescribe any dimensions for an altar. It ought, however, to be large enough to allow a priest conveniently to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice upon it in such a manner that all the ceremonies can be decorously observed. Hence altars at which solemn services are celebrated require to be of greater dimensions than other altars. From the words of the Pontifical we infer that the high altar must stand free on all sides (Pontifex circuit septies tabulam altaris), but the back part of smaller altars may be built against the wall.


Altar—Candles.—For mystical reasons the Church prescribes that the candles used at Mass and at other liturgical functions be made of beeswax (luminaria cerea. -- Missale Rom., De Defectibus, X, I; Cong. Sac. Rites, 4 September, 1875). The pure wax extracted by bees from flowers symbolizes the pure flesh of Christ received from His Virgin Mother, the wick signifies the soul of Christ, and the flame represents His divinity. Although the two latter properties are found in all kinds of candles, the first is proper of beeswax candles only. It is, however, not necessary that they be made of beeswax without any admixture. The paschal candle and the two candles used at Mass should be made ex cera apum saltem in maxima parte, but the other candles in majori vel notabili quantitate ex eadem cera (Cong. Sac. Rit., 14 December, 1904). As a rule they should be of white bleached wax, but at funerals, at the office of Tenebrae in Holy Week, and at the Mass of the Presanctified, on Good Friday, they should be of yellow unbleached wax (Caerem. Episc.). De Herdt (I, no. 183, Resp. 2) says that unbleached wax candles should be used during Advent and Lent except on feasts, solemnities, and especially during the exposition and procession of the Blessed Sacrament. Candles made wholly of any other material, such as tallow (Cong. Sac. Rit., 10 December, 1857) stearine (Cong. Sac. Rit., 4 September, 1875), paraffin, etc., are forbidden. The Cong. Sac. Rit. (7 September, 1850) made an exception for the missionaries of Oceania, who, on account of the impossibility of obtaining wax candles, are allowed to use sperm-whale candles. Without an Apostolic indult it is not allowable, and it constitutes a grievous offense to celebrate Mass without any light (Cong. Sac. Rit., 7 September, 1850), even for the purpose of giving Holy Viaticum, or of enabling the people to comply with their duty of assisting at Mass on Sundays and holy days (St. Lig., bk. VI, n. 394). In these, and similar cases of necessity it is the common opinion that Mass may be celebrated with tallow candles or oil lamps (ibid.). It is not permitted to begin Mass before the candles are lighted, nor are they to be extinguished until the end of Mass. If the candles go out before the Consecration, and cannot be again lighted, most authors say that Mass should be discontinued; if this happens after the Consecration, Mass should not be interrupted, although some authors say that if they can possibly be lighted again within fifteen minutes the celebrant ought to interrupt Mass for this space of time (ibid.) If only one rubrical candle can be had, Mass may be celebrated even ex devotione (ibid).


Number of Candles at Mass.—

(1) At a pontifical high Mass, celebrated by the ordinary, seven candles are lighted. The seventh candle should be somewhat higher than the others, and should be placed at the middle of the altar in line with the other six. For this reason the altar crucifix is moved forward a little. In Requiem Masses, and at other liturgical services. e.g. Vespers, the seventh candle is not used. If the bishop celebrate outside his diocese. or if he be the administrator, auxiliary, or coadjutor, the seventh candle is not lighted.

(2) At a solemn high Mass, i.e. when the celebrant is assisted by a deacon and subdeacon, six candles are lighted. This is not expressly prescribed by the rubrics, but merely deduced from the rubric describing the manner of incensing the altar (Ritus celebrandi Missam, tit. iv, n. 4), which says that the celebrant incenses both sides of the altar with three swings of the censer prout distribuuntur candelabra.

(3) At a high Mass (missa cantata), which is celebrated without the assistance of deacon and subdeacon, at least four candles are required (Cong. Sac. Rit., 12 August, 1854), although six may be lighted. At these Masses under (l), (2), (3), the two lighted candles prescribed by the Missal (Rubr. XX) to be placed one on each side of the cross, are not necessary (Cong. Sac. Rit., 5 December, 1891).

(4) At low Mass celebrated by any bishop, four candles are usually lighted, although the "Caeremoniale Episc." (I, cap. xxix, n. 4) prescribes this number only for the more solemn feasts, and two on feasts of lower rite.

(5) At a strictly low Mass celebrated by any priest inferior to a bishop, whatever be his dignity, only two candles may be used.

(6) In a not strictly low Mass, i.e. in a parochial or community Mass on more solemn feasts or the Mass which is said instead of a solemn or high Mass on the occasion of a great solemnity (Cong. Sac. Rit., 12 September, 1857), when celebrated by a priest more than two candles, and when celebrated by a bishop more than four candles may be used.

At all functions throughout the year except on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, before the Mass bishops are allowed the use of the bugia or hand-candlestick. The use of the bugia is not permitted to priests, whatever be their dignity, unless it be granted by an Apostolic privilege either personal, or by reason of their being curial dignitaries. If, on account of darkness a priest stands in need of a light near the Missal he may use a candle, but the candlestick on which it is fastened cannot have the form of the bugia (Cong. Sac. Rit., 31 May, 1817). An oil lamp can never be used for this purpose (Cong. Sac. Rit., 20 June, 1899). At the Forty Hours Devotion at least twenty candles should burn continuously (Instructio Clementina, section 6); at other public expositions of the Blessed Sacrament at least five (Cong. Sac. Rit., 8 February, 1879); at the private exposition, at least six (Cong. Episc. et Reg., 9 December, 1602). The only blessings at which Lighted candles are prescribed are:

  • of the candles on the feast of the Purification
  • of the ashes on Ash Wednesday;
  • of the palms on Palm Sunday.


Double Altar.—An altar having a double front constructed in such a manner that Mass may be celebrated on both sides of it at the same time. They are frequently found in churches of religious communities in which the choir is behind the altar so that whilst one priest is celebrating the Holy Sacrifice for the community in choir, another may celebrate for the laity assembled in the church.


Portable Altar.—A portable altar consists of a solid piece of natural stone which must be sufficiently hard to resist every fracture. It must be consecrated by bishop or other person having faculties to do so. By virtue of Facultates Extraordinariae C., 6., the bishops of the United States may delegate a priest. It is inserted in, or placed on, the table of the altar, about two inches from the front edge, and in such a manner that, by its slight elevation above the table, the celebrant can trace its outlines with his hand and thus recognize its location beneath the altar-cloths. In general it should be large enough to hold the Sacred Host and the greater part of the base of the chalice (Cong. Sac. Rit., 20 March, 1846) If the altar is intended for the celebration of Masses at which Holy Communion is distributed, it should be large enough to hold the ciborium also. Five Greek crosses are engraved on it, one near each corner and one in the centre, to indicate the place on which the unctions are made at the consecration. If the cross in the centre should be wanting, the unction must not be omitted, but the omission of this unction would not invalidate the consecration (Cong. Sac. Rit., 2 May, 1892). The table and supports on which the portable altar rests may be constructed of any suitable material, wood or stone, provided they have the proper dimensions. For the portable altar the Greeks generally use the antimensium, a consecrated altar-cloth of silk or linen, after the manner of our corporals. When a church is consecrated, a piece of cloth large enough to form several antimensia is placed on the altar. It is consecrated by the bishop pouring wine and holy chrism on it and stiffening it with a mixture consisting of relics pounded up with wax or fragrant gum. It is afterwards divided into pieces about sixteen inches square, and after the Holy Eucharist has been celebrated on them for seven days these pieces are distributed as occasion requires (Neale, Holy Eastern Church, I, 187).


Privileged Altar.—An altar is said to be privileged when, in addition to the ordinary fruits of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, a plenary indulgence is also granted whenever Mass is celebrated thereon, the indulgence must be applied to the individual soul for whom Mass is offered. The privileged altar must be a fixed, or immovable, altar, but in a wider sense that is, it must be stationary or permanent, whether built on a solid foundation or attached to a wall or column, even though it be not consecrated, but have merely a consecrated stone (portable altar) inserted in its table. The privilege is annexed not to the altar-stone, but to the structure itself, by reason of the title which it bears, that is, of the mystery or saint to whom it is dedicated. Hence if the material of the altar be changed, if the altar be transferred to another place, if another altar be substituted for it in the same church, provided it retains the same title, and even if the altar is desecrated or profaned, the privilege is preserved. To gain the indulgence, the Mass must be a Mass of Requiem, whenever the rubrics permit it. If, on account of the superior rite of the feast of the day, or on account of the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, or for other reasons, a Requiem Mass cannot be celebrated, the indulgence may be gained by celebrating another Mass (S. C. Indulg., 11 April 1864). This privilege is of two kinds, local or real and personal. It is local or real when it is annexed to the altar as described above. Hence whoever the priest may be who celebrates Mass at such an altar, the indulgence is gained. It is personal when it is inherent in the priest, so that it does not depend on the altar, but on the priest who celebrates. Hence on whatever altar he may celebrate, whether it be a fixed or a portable one, and in whatever church he celebrates, the altar he uses is for the time being a privileged altar. On 2 November every altar is privileged. The bishops of the United States have the faculty (Facultates Extraordinariae C., fac. viii) of declaring privileged one altar in even church and public chapel or oratory, whether it be consecrated or not, of their dioceses, provided this privilege had not been previously granted to any other altar in such church under the same conditions.


Stripping of an Altar.—On Holy Thursday the celebrant, having removed the ciborium from the high altar, goes to the sacristy. He there lays aside the white vestments and puts on a violet stole, and, accompanied by the deacon, also vested in violet stole, and the subdeacon, returns to the high altar. Whilst the antiphon "Diviserunt sibi" and the psalm "Deus, Deus meus" are being recited, the celebrant and his assistants ascend to the predella and strip the altar of the altar-cloths, vases of flowers, antipendium, and other ornaments, so that nothing remains but the cross and the candlesticks with the candles extinguished. In the same manner all the other altars in the church are denuded. If there be many altars in the church, another priest, vested in surplice and violet stole, may strip them whilst the celebrant is stripping the high altar. The Christian altar represents Christ, and the stripping of the altar reminds us how He was stripped of his garments when He fell into the hands of the Jews and was exposed naked to their insults. It is for this reason that the psalm "Deus, Deus meus" is recited, wherein the Messias speaks of the Roman soldiers dividing His garments among them. This ceremony signifies the suspension of the Holy Sacrifice. It was formerly the custom in some churches on this day to wash the altars with a bunch of hyssop dipped in wine and water, to render them in some manner worthy of the Lamb without stain who is immolated on them, and to recall to the minds of the faithful with how great purity they should assist at the Holy Sacrifice and receive Holy Communion. St. Isidore of Seville (De Eccles. Off, I, xxviii) and St. Eligius of Noyon (Homil. VIII, De Coena Domini) say that this ceremony was intended as an homage offered to Our Lord, in return for the humility wherewith He deigned to wash the feet of His disciples.


Altar-Bell.—A small bell placed on the credence or in some other convenient place on the epistle side of the altar. According to the rubrics it is rung only at the Sanctus and at the elevation of both Species (Miss. Rom., Ritus celebr., tit. vii, n. 8, and tit. viii, n. 6) to invite the faithful to the act of adoration at the Consecration. This must be done even in private chapels (Cong. Sac. Rit., 18 July, 1885). It may also be rung at the "Domine non sum dignus", and again before the distribution of Holy Communion to the laity, and at other times according to the custom of the place. When the Blessed Sacrament is publicly exposed, (1) it may or may not be rung at high Mass, and at a low Mass which takes the place of the high Mass, celebrated at the Altar of Exposition, according to the custom of the place. (2) It is not rung at low Masses at any altar of such church, but in such cases a low signal may be given with the bell at the sacristy door when the priest is about to begin Mass (Gardellini, Instr. Clem., nos. 16, 4, 5). (3) It is not rung at high Mass celebrated at an altar other than that on which the Blessed Sacrament is publicly exposed (Cong. Sac. Rit., 31 August, 1867). It should not be rung at low Masses whilst a public celebration is taking place, and at any Mass during the public recitation of office in choir, if said Mass be celebrated at an altar near the choir (Cong. Sac. Rit., 21 November, 1893). It is not rung from the end of the "Gloria in excelsis" on Maundy Thursday to the beginning of the "Gloria in excelsis" on Holy Saturday. During this interval the Memoriale Rituum (Tit. iv, sec. 4, n. 7) prescribes that the clapper (crotalus) be used to give the signal for the Angelus, but it is nowhere prescribed in the liturgical functions. The custom of using the clapper on these occasions appears quite proper. The Cong. Sac. Rit. (10 September, 1898) when asked if a gong may be used instead of the small bell answered, "Negative; seu non convenire".


Altar-Bread Boxes.—These are made of wood, tin, britannia, silver, or other metal. In order that the breads may not become bent or curved, a round flat weight, covered if necessary with silk or linen, and having a knob on top, so as to be easily taken hold of, is placed on the breads. The cover must fit tightly, so that the breads become neither damp nor soiled. The box for the large hosts is of suitable dimensions. A larger box is employed for the particles used at the communion of the laity.


Altar-Breads.—Bread is one of the two elements absolutely necessary for the sacrifice of the Eucharist. It cannot be determined from the sacred text whether Christ used the ordinary table bread or some other bread specially prepared for the occasion. In the Western Church the altar-breads were probably round in form. Archaeological researches demonstrate this from pictures found in the catacombs, and Pope St. Zephyrinus (A.D. 201-219) calls the altar-bread "coronam sive oblatam sphericae figurae". In the Eastern churches they are round or square. Formerly the laity presented the flour from which the breads were formed. In the Eastern Church the breads were made by consecrated virgins; in the Western Church, by priests and clerics (Benedict XIV, De Sacrif. Missae, I, section 36). This custom is still in vogue in the Armenian Church. . The earliest documentary evidence that the altar-breads were made in thin wafers is the answer which Cardinal Humbert, legate of St. Leo IX, made at the middle of the eleventh century to Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople. These wafers were sometimes very large, as from them small pieces were broken for the Communion of the laity, hence the word "particle" for the small host; but smaller ones were used when only the celebrant communicated.

For valid consecration the hosts must be:

  • made of wheaten flour,
  • mixed with pure natural water,
  • baked in an oven, or between two heated iron moulds, and
  • they must not be corrupted (Miss. Rom., De Defectibus, III, 1).

If the host is not made of wheaten flour, or is mixed with flour of another kind in such quantity that it cannot be called wheat bread, it may not be used (ibid.). If not natural but distilled water is used, the consecration becomes of doubtful validity (ibid., 2). If the host begins to be corrupt, it would be a grievous offence to use it, but it is considered valid matter (ibid., 3.) For licit consecration:


  • the bread must be, at present unleavened in the Western Church, but leavened bread in the Eastern Church, except among the Maronites, the Armenians, and in the Churches of Jerusalem and Alexandria, where it is unleavened. It is probable that Christ used unleavened bread at the institution of the Blessed Eucharist, because the Jews were not allowed to have leavened bread in their houses on the days of the Azymes. Some authors are of the opinion that down to the tenth century both the Eastern and Western Churches used leavened bread; others maintain that unleavened bread was used from the beginning in the Western Church; still others hold that unleavened or leavened bread was used indifferently. St. Thomas (IV, Dist. xi, qu. 3) holds that, in the beginning, both in the East and West unleavened bread was used; that when the sect of the Ebionites arose, who wished that the Mosaic Law should be obligatory on all converts, leavened bread was used, and when this heresy ceased the Latins used again unleavened bread, but the Greeks retained the use of leavened bread. Leavened bread may be used in the Latin Church if after consecration the celebrant adverts to the fact that the host before him has some substantial defect, and no other than leavened bread can be procured at the time (Lehmkuhl, n. 121, 3). A Latin priest travelling in the East, in places in which there are no churches of his rite, may celebrate with leavened bread. A Greek priest travelling in the West may, under similar circumstances, celebrate with unleavened bread. For the purpose of giving Viaticum, if no unleavened bread be at hand, some say that leavened may he used; but St. Liguori, (bk. VI. n. 203, dub. 2) says that the more probable opinion of theologians is that it cannot be done.
  • The hosts must be recently made (Rit. Rom., tit. iv, cap. i, n. 7). The rubrics do not specify the term recentes in speaking of the hosts. In Rome, the bakers of altar-breads are obliged to make solemn affidavit that they will not sell breads older than fifteen days, and St. Charles, by a statute of the Fourth Synod of Milan, prescribed that hosts older than twenty days must not be used in the celebration of Mass. In practice, therefore, those older than three weeks ought not to be used.
  • Round in form, and not broken.
  • Clean and fair, of a thin layer, and of a size conformable to the regular custom in the Latin Church. In Rome the large hosts are about three and one-fifth inches in diameter; in other places they are smaller, but should be at least two and three-fourths inches in diameter. The small hosts for the Communion of the laity should be about one and two-fifths inches in diameter (Schober, S. Alphonsi Liber de Caeremoniis Missae, p. 6, footnote 9). When a large host can not be obtained Mass may be said in private with a small host. In cases of necessity, such as permitting the people to fulfil the precept of hearing Mass, or administering Viaticum, the Mass may be also said with a small host but, as liturgists say, to avoid scandal the faithful should be advised.

As a rule the image of Christ crucified should be impressed on the large host (Cong. Sac. Rit., 6 April, 1834), but the monogram of the Holy Name (Ephem. Lit., XIII, 1899, p. 686), or the Sacred Heart (ibid., p. 266) may also be adopted. The altar-breads assumed different names according as they had reference to the Eucharist as a sacrament or as a sacrifice: bread, gift (donum), table (mensa) allude to the Sacrament, which was instituted for the nourishment of our soul; oblation victim, host, allude to sacrifice. Before the tenth century the word "host" was not employed, probably because before this time the Blessed Eucharist was considered more frequently as a sacrament than as a sacrifice, hence the Fathers use such expressions as communion (synaxis), supper (coena), breaking of bread, etc., but at present the word "host" is used when referring to the Eucharist either as a sacrament or as a sacrifice. In the liturgy it is used:

  • for the bread before its consecration, "Suscipe sancte Pater . . . hanc immaculatam hostiam" (Offertory of the Mass);
  • for Christ under the appearance of the Eucharistic Species, "Unde et memores . . . hostiam puram, hostiam sanctam, hostiam immaculatam" (Mass, after the consecration).

Durandus says that the word host is of pagan origin, derived from the word hostio, to strike, referring to the victim offered to the gods after a victory, but it is also of biblical origin, as it represented the matter, or victim, of the sacrifice, e.g. "expiationis hostiam" (Exod., xxix. 36).


Altar-Candlesticks.—An altar-candlestick consists of five parts: the foot, the stem, the knob about the middle of the stem, the bowl to receive the drippings of wax, and the pricket, i.e. the sharp point that terminates the stem on which the candle is fixed. Instead of fixing the candle on the pricket, it is permissible to use a tube in which is put a small candle which is forced to the top of the tube by a spring placed within (Cong. Sac. Rit., 11 May, 1878). In the early days of the Church candlesticks were not placed on the altar though lights were used in the church, and especially near the altar. The chandeliers were either suspended from the ceiling or attached to the side walls, or were placed on Pedestals. When the chandeliers were fed with oil they were usually called canthari, when they held candles they went by the name of phari, although frequently these words were applied indiscriminately to either. The lights usually assumed the form of a crown, a cross, a tree, etc., but at times also of real or imaginary animals. We have no documentary evidence that candlesticks were placed on the altar during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice before the tenth century. Leo IV (847-855) declared that only the relics of saints and the book of the Gospels might be placed on the altar (Hamel; De cura pastorum). No writer before the tenth century who treats of the altar makes mention of candlesticks on the altar, but mention is made of acolytes carrying candlesticks, which, however, were placed on the floor of the sanctuary or near the corners of the altar, as is still the custom in the Eastern Church. Probably in the twelfth century, and certainly in the thirteenth, lights were placed on the altar; for Durandus (Rationale, I, iii, 27) says "that at both corners of the altar a candlestick is placed to signify the joy of two Peoples who rejoiced at the birth of Christ", and "the cross is placed on the altar between two candlesticks." The custom of placing candlesticks and candles on the altar became general in the sixteenth century. Down to that time only two were ordinarily used, but on solemn feasts four or six. At present more are used, but the rubric of the missal (20) prescribes only two, one at each side of the cross, at least at a low Mass. These candlesticks and their candles must be placed on the altar, their place cannot be taken by two brackets attached to the superstructural steps of the altar, or affixed to the wall (Cong. Sac. Rit., 16 September, 1865). According to the "Caeremoniale Episcoporum" (I, xii, 11), there should be on the high altar six candlesticks and candles of various sizes, the highest of which should be near the cross. If all six be of the same size they may be placed on different elevations, so as to produce the same effect; a custom, however, has been introduced of having them at the same height and this is now permissible (Cong. Sac. Rit. 21 July, 1855). On the other altars of the church there should be at least two candlesticks, but usually four are used; on the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, if the Blessed Sacrament is not kept on the high altar, there should regularly be six. The Roman Missal (Rubr. 20) says also that a third candlestick and candle should be placed at the epistle side, and that this extra candle should be lighted at low Masses from the consecration t4 the consumption of the Precious Blood. This rubric is only directive (9 June, 1899). The third light is not placed on the altar itself, but on the credence, or on the step of the altar at the place where the altar-boy kneels. A bracket affixed to the wall may be used for this candlestick (Ephem. Lit., IX, 34, 1875). The candlesticks may be made of any kind of metal or even of wood, gilded or silvered, but on Good Friday silvered ones may not be used (Caerem. Episc., II, xxv, 2). The candlesticks destined for the ornamentation of the altar are not to be used around the bier at funerals, or around the catafalque at the commemoration of the dead (Rit. Rom., VI, i, 6), during Mass or other functions, at least on solemn feasts, they cannot be covered with a cloth or veil (Cong. Sac. Rit., 12 September, 1857; 16 September, 1865). Candelabra holding several candles cannot be used for the candlesticks prescribed by the Rubrics (Cong. Sac. Rit., 16 September, 1865).


Altar-Canopy.—The "Caeremoniale Episcoporum (I, xii, 13), treating of the ornaments of the altar, says that a canopy (baldachinum) should be suspended over the altar. It should be square in form, sufficiently large to cover the altar and the predella on which the celebrant stands, and if it can easily be done, the colour of the material, silk velvet or other cloth, with which it is covered, should vary with the colour of the ornaments of the altar. It is either suspended from the ceiling by a movable chain, so that it may be lowered or raised when necessary, or it may be attached to the wall, or to the reredos at the back of the altar. It may also be a stationary structure, and this is usually the case in large churches, and then it is made of marble, stone, metal, or wood beautifully carved and overlaid with gold or silver, in the form of a cupola erected on four pillars. In liturgy it is called the ciborium. The canopy or ciborium is, according to the decision of the Cong. Sac. Rit., to be erected over the altar of the Blessed Sacrament (23 May, 1846), and over the other altars of the church (27 April, 1697), but as contrary custom has so far prevailed that even in Rome it is usually erected only over the high altar, and the altar of the Blessed Sacrament. The purpose of this canopy is to protect the altar from dust or other matter falling upon it from the ceiling, which, being usually very high, cannot be conveniently or easily cleaned. On solemn festivals, or at special solemnities, a temporary canopy is sometimes placed over an altar in or outside the church. The framework on which such a canopy is erected is called the "altar-herse", a word probably derived from hearse, a frame covered with cloth, and formerly set up over a corpse in funeral solemnities.


Altar-Cards.—To assist the memory of the celebrant at Mass in those prayers which he should know by heart, cards on which these prayers are printed are placed on the altar in the middle, and at each end. They were not used before the sixteenth century, and even at present are not employed at the Mass celebrated by a bishop, who reads all the prayers from the Pontifical Canon. At the time that Pius V revised the Missal, only the card at the middle of the altar was used, and it was called the "Tabella Secretarum" (tit. xx). Later, another was added containing the Gospel of St. John (recited usually at the end of Mass), and placed on the Gospel side. For the sake of symmetry, another containing the prayer "Deus qui humanae substantiae", which is said by the celebrant when he blesses the cruet of water, and the psalm "Lavabo", recited at the washing of the hands, was placed on the Epistle side. Only during Mass should the cards stand on the altar, the middle one resting against the crucifix or tabernacle, the side ones against the candlesticks or superstructural steps of the altar. At any other time they are either removed or placed face downwards on the altar under the altar cover. When the Blessed Sacrament is exposed outside of Mass, the cards must be removed (Cong. Sac. Rit., 20 December, 1864). If these cards are framed, the frames should, as far as possible, correspond to the architecture of the altar.


Altar Carpets.—The sanctuary and altar-steps of the high altar are ordinarily to be covered with carpets. If the sanctuary floor be marble, tile, or tessellated woodwork, at least a broad strip of carpet should be placed before the lowest step in plano. On solemn feasts particularly, rugs of fine quality are reserved for the predella and altar-steps. If the whole sanctuary and altar-steps cannot be covered, at least the predella of the high altar, and of the other altars should have a rug (Caerem. Episc., I, xii, 16). Exceptions to this rule: (1) From the time of stripping the altars on Maundy Thursday to Holy Saturday the carpets are removed. They are replaced on Holy Saturday before the Mass. (2) During solemn Requiem Masses the floor of the sanctuary and the altar-steps are to be bare although a suitable rug may be placed on the predella and, when a bishop celebrates, in front of the faldstool (Caerem. Episc., II, xi, 1). The same authority mentions that the carpet should be of green colour, but any may be used. Care should be taken that crosses, images of the saints, emblems, e.g. chalice, lamb, etc., and monograms of the Holy Names, etc., be not woven into the carpets, for it is unbecoming and unseemly that the figures of sacred things be trodden upon. These remarks apply equally to marble, tile, mosaic, etc., floors.


Altar-Cavity.—This is a small square or oblong chamber in the body of the altar, in which are placed, according to the "Pontificale Romanum" (De Eccles. Consecratione) the relics of two canonized martyrs although the Cong. Sac. Rit. (16 February, 1906) decided that if the relic of only one martyr is placed in it the consecration is valid, to these may be properly added the relics of other saints, especially of those in whose honour the church of the altar is consecrated. These relics must be actual portions of the saints' bodies, not simply of their garments or of other objects which they may have used or touched; the relics must, moreover be authenticated. If the altar is a fixed or immovable altar, the relics are placed in a reliquary of lead, silver, or gold, which should be large enough to contain, besides the relics, three grains of incense and a small piece of parchment on which is written an attest of the consecration. This parchment is usually enclosed in a crystal vessel or small vial, to prevent its decomposition. The size of the cavity varies to suit the size of the reliquary. If it is a portable altar the relics and the grains of incense are placed immediately, i.e. without a reliquary, into the cavity. This cavity must be hewn in the natural stone of the altar. Hence, unless the altar be a single block of stone, a block of natural stone is inserted for the purpose in the support. The location of the cavity in a fixed altar is

  • either at the front or back of the altar, midway between its table and foot;
  • in the table (mensa) at its centre, near the front edge;
  • in the centre, on the top of the base or support if the latter be a solid mass.

If the first or the second location is selected, a slab or cover of stone, to fit exactly upon the opening, and for this reason somewhat bevelled at the corners, must be provided. The cover should have a cross engraved on the upper and nether sides. If the third location is chosen the table (mensa) itself serves as the cover. In a portable altar the cavity is usually made on the top of the stone near the front edge, although it may be made in the centre of the stone. This cavity is called, in the language of the Church, the sepulchrum.


Altar-Cloths.—The use of altar-cloths goes back to the early centuries of the Church. St. Optatus of Mileve says that in the fourth century every Christian knew that during the celebration of the Mysteries the altar is covered with a cloth (bk. VI). Later it became a law, which, according to Gavantus, was promulgated by Boniface III in the seventh century. The custom of using three altar-cloths began probably in the ninth century, but at present it is of strict obligation for the licit celebration of Mass (Rubr. Gen. Miss., tit. xx: De Defectibus, tit. x, 1). The reason of this prescription of the Church is that if the Precious Blood should by accident be spilt it might be absorbed by the altar-cloths before it reached the altar-stone. All authors hold it to be a grievous offence to celebrate without an altar-cloth, except in case of grave necessity, e.g. of according to the faithful the opportunity of assisting at Sunday Mass, or of giving Viaticum to a dying person. To celebrate without necessity on two altar-cloths, or on one folded in such manner that it covers the altar twice, would probably constitute a venial sin (St. Lig., bk. VI, n. 375) since the rubric is prescriptive. Formally the altar-cloths were made of gold and silver cloth inlaid with precious stones silk, and other material,, but at present they must be made of either linen or hemp. No other material may be used, even if it be equivalent to, or better than, linen or hemp for cleanliness, whiteness, or firmness (Cong. Sac. Rit., 15 May, 1819). The two lower cloths must cover the whole surface of the table (mensa) of the altar, in length and width (Caerem. Episc., I, xii, II) whether it be a portable or a consecrated fixed altar (Ephem. Lit., 1893, VII, 234). It is not necessary that there be two distinct pieces. One piece folded in such manner as to cover the altar twice from the epistle to the gospel end will answer (Rubr. Miss., tit. XX). The top altar-cloth must be single and extend regularly to the predella on both sides (ibid.). If the table of the altar rests on columns, or if the altar is made after the fashion of a tomb or sepulchre, and is not ornamented with an antipendium, the top cloth need only cover the table without extending over the edge at the sides (Ephem. Lit., 1893, VII, 234). The edges at the front and two ends may be ornamented with a border of linen or hempen lace in which figures of the cross, ostensorium, chalice. and host, and the like may appear (Cong. Sac. Rit ., December, 1868), and a piece of coloured material may be placed under the border to set forth these figures. This is deduced from a decree (Cong. Sac. Rit., 12 July, 1892) which allows such material to be placed under the lace of the alb's cuff. This border must not rest on the table of the altar. Sometimes, instead of attaching this border to the upper cloth, a piece of lace is fastened to the front edge of the altar. Although this is not prescribed, yet it is not contrary to the rubrics. Great care should be taken that these cloths be scrupulously clean. There should be on hand at least a duplicate of the two lower cloths. The top piece should be changed more frequently according to the solemnity of the feast, and therefore several covers, more or less fine in texture, should be constantly kept ready for this purpose. When, during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, candles are placed on the table of the altar, another clean white cloth should be placed over the altar-cloths to prevent their being stained or soiled (De Herdt, I, n. 179). We may note here that the corporal and the cere-cloth cannot take the place of the altar-cloths.

The three altar-cloths must be blessed by the bishop or someone who has the faculty before they can be used for the celebration of Mass. In the United States the faculty is granted by the ordinary to priests in general (Facultates, Form. I, n. 13). The formula or this blessing is found in the "Rituale Romanum", tit viii, cap. xxi, and in the "Missale Romanum" among the "Benedictiones Diversae". Symbolically the altar-cloths signify the members of Christ, that is, God's faithful, by whom the Lord is encompassed (Pontificale Rom., De ordinat. subdiaconi); or the linens in which the body of Christ was wrapped, when it was laid in the sepulchre; or the purity and the devotion of the faithful: "For the fine linen are the justifications of saints" (Apoc., xix, 8). Besides the three altar-cloths there is another linen cloth, waxed on one side, which is called the chrismale (cere-cloth), and with which the table of the consecrated altar (even if part of it be made of bricks or other material, and does not form a part of the consecrated altar) should be completely covered (Caerem. Episc., De altaris consecratione). It must be of the exact size of the table of the altar, and it is placed under the linen cloths, the waxed side being turned towards the table. Its purpose is not only to prevent the altar-cloths from being stained by the oil used at the consecration, but also to keep the cloths dry. Hence it is advisable to have such a wax cloth on all altars in churches which may be, accessible to dampness. According to the rubrics, this cloth is removed once a year, that is, during the stripping of the altars on Maundy Thursday; but it may be changed as often as the altar is washed. The cere-cloth is not blessed. It cannot take the place of one of the three rubrical linen cloths. To procure cere-cloths, melt the remnants of wax candles in a small vessel. When the wax is in a boiling condition, skim off the impurities that remain from the soiled stumps of candles. Dip into this wax the linen intended for the cere-cloth, and when well saturated hang it on a clothes-line, allowing the surplus wax to drop off. When the wax cloth has hardened place it between two unwaxed sheets of linen of like dimensions. Iron thoroughly with a well heated flat iron, thus securing three wax cloths. The table on which the cloths are ironed should be covered with an old cloth or thick paper to receive the superfluous wax when melted by the iron. It should be remembered that unwashed linen when dipped in wax shrinks considerably, hence before the cloths are waxed they should be much larger than the size of the altar for which they are intended.


Altar-Crucifix.—The crucifix is the principal ornament of the altar. It is placed on the altar to recall to the mind of the celebrant, and the people, that the Victim offered on the altar is the same as was offered on the Cross. For this reason the crucifix must be placed on the altar as often as Mass is celebrated (Constit., Accepimus of Benedict XIV, 16 July, 1746). The rubric of the Roman Missal (xx) prescribes that it be placed at the middle of the altar between the candlesticks, and that it be large enough to be conveniently seen by both the celebrant and the people (Cong. Sac. Rit., 17 September, 1822). If for any reason this crucifix is removed, another may take its place in a lower position; but in such cases it must always be visible to all who assist at Mass (ibid.). We remarked above that a crucifix must be placed on the altar during Mass. To this rule there are two exceptions:

  • when the Crucifixion is the principal part of the altarpiece or picture behind the altar. (We advisedly say the principal part of the altarpiece or picture, for if the picture represents a saint, e.g. St. Francis Xavier holding a crucifix in his hand, or St. Thomas kneeling before the cross, even if the cross be large, such a picture is not sufficient to take the place of the altar-crucifix -- see Ephem. Lit., 1893, VII, 408) and
  • when the Most Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

In both these cases the regular crucifix may be placed on the altar; in the latter the local custom is to be followed (Cong. Sac. Rit., 2 September, 1741), and if the crucifix is kept on the altar it is not incensed (29 November, 1738). From the, first Vespers of Passion Sunday to the unveiling of the cross on Good Friday, even if a solemn feast occur during this interval, the altar-crucifix is covered with a violet veil (Cong. Sac. Rit., 16 November, 1649), except during High Mass on the altar at which Mass is celebrated on Holy Thursday when the veil is of white material (Cong. Sac. Rit., 20 December, 1783), and on Good Friday, at the altar at which the function takes place, when the veil may be of black material. This is the custom in Rome (Martinucci, Van der Stappen, and others). From the beginning of the adoration of the Cross, on Good Friday, to the hour of None, on Holy Saturday inclusively, all, even the bishop, the canons and the celebrant, make a simple genuflection to the cross (Cong. Sac. Rit., 9 May, 1857; 12 September, 1857). At all other times during the year a simple genuflexion is made to the cross, even when the Blessed Sacrament is not kept in the tabernacle, during any function, by all except the bishop, the canons of the cathedral, and the celebrant (Cong. Sac. Rit., 30 August, 1892). The altar-crucifix need not be blessed; but it may be blessed by any priest, by the formula "pro imaginibus" (Rituale Rom., tit. viii, cap. xxv). It may be well to note that if, according to the Renaissance style of architecture, the throne is a permanent structure above the tabernacle, the altar-crucifix may never be placed under the canopy under which the Blessed Sacrament is publicly exposed, or on the corporal which is used at such exposition (Cong. Sac. Rit., 2 June, 1883). It is probable that the custom of placing a crucifix on the altar did not commence long before the sixth century. Benedict XIV (De Sacrificio Missae, P. I, 19) holds that this custom comes down from the time of the Apostles. However, the earliest documentary evidence of placing a cross on the altar is canon III of the Council of Tours, held in 567: "Ut corpus Domini in Altari, non in armario, sed sub crucis titulo componatur". Mariano Armellini (Lezioni di Archeologia Sacra) tells us that the early Christians were not accustomed to publicly expose the cross for fear of scandalizing the weak, and subjecting it to the insults of the pagans, but in its stead used symbols, e.g. an anchor, a trident, etc. A simple cross, without the figure of Christ, was fixed on the top of the ciboria which covered the altars.


Altar-Curtain.—Formerly, in most basilicas, cathedrals, and large churches a large structure in the form of a cupola or dome resting on four columns was erected over the high altar, which was called the ciborium. Between the columns ran metal rods, holding rings to which were fastened curtains which according to the rubrics of the individual churches, were drawn around the altar at certain parts of Mass. These curtains were styled tetravela altaris and were made of linen, silk, gold cloth, and other precious stuffs. In the lives of many of the Roman pontiffs (Gregory IV, Leo IV, Nicholas I) we read that they made presents of such curtains to the churches of Rome. When the ciboria over the altar fell into disuse a curtain was suspended at the back of the altar. called a dossel, or dorsal, and two others, one at each side of it. They were hung to rods fastened in the wall or reredos, or rested on four pillars erected at each end of the altar. The pillars were surmounted by angels holding candelabra, in which candles were burnt on solemn occasions. Probably the sanctuary candelabra of to-day may trace their origin to these.


Altar-Frontal.—The frontal (antipendium, pallium altaris) is an appendage which covers the entire front of the altar, from the lower part of the table (mensa) to the predella, and from the gospel corner to that of the epistle side. Its origin may probably be traced to the curtains or veils of silk, or of other precious material, which hung over the open space under the altar, to preserve the shrines of the saints usually deposited there. Later, these curtains were converted into one piece of drapery which covered the whole front of the altar and was suspended from the table of the altar. The use of a frontal which covers only a small portion of the front of the altar is forbidden (Cong Sac. Rit., 10 September, 1898). If the altar is so placed that its back can be seen by the people, that part should likewise be covered with an antipendium (Caerem. Episc., I, iii, 11). Its material is not prescribed by the rubrics. It is sometimes made of precious metals, adorned with enamels and jewels, of wood, painted, gilt, embossed, and often set with crystals or of cloth of gold, velvet, or silk embroidered and occasionally enriched with pearls, but it is usually of the same material as that of the sacred vestments. It is evidently intended as an ornament of the altar (Rubr. Gen. Miss., tit.). Hence if the altar is made of wood or marble, and its front is beautifully painted or decorated, or if the table is supported by columns, and a reliquary is placed under it, it may be considered sufficiently ornamented, and the antipendium would not be necessary; nevertheless, even in such cases, on solemn occasions more precious and elaborate ones should be used (Caerem. Episc., I, xii,, 11). The antipendium may be ornamented with images, pictures of Christ, representations of some fact of His life or such as refer to the Eucharistic Mystery, or with emblems that refer in some manner to the Blessed Sacrament -- a lamb, a pelican, the chalice and host, etc. Pictures of the saint in whose honour the altar is dedicated to God, and emblems referring to such saint, may be used. It is forbidden to ornament the black antipendium with skulls, cross-bones, etc. (Caerem. Episc., II, xi, 1). The antipendium may be fastened to little hooks or buttons, which are attached to-the lower part of the table of the altar or it may be pinned to one of the lower altar-cloths or attached to a light wooden frame which fits tightly in the space between the mensa and the predella. A guard about three inches wide (plinth), made of wood suitably painted. or of polished metal, may be placed at its lower extremity, resting on the predella, so as to prevent its being easily injured by those who move about the altar. Regularly, the colour of the antipendium should correspond with the colour of the feast or office of the day (Caerem. Episc., I, xii, 11). The Missal (Rubr. Gen., xx) says this should be the case quoad fieri potest, by which the Missal does not imply that one colour may be used ad libitum for another, but that the more precious antipendia of gold, silver, embroidered silk, etc., in colours not strictly liturgical, may be used on solemn occasions, although they do not correspond in colour with the feast or office of the day (Van der Stappen vol. III, q. 43, ii). The following are exceptions to the general rule: (1) When the Blessed Sacrament is publicly exposed the antipendium must be white, whatever the colour of the vestments may be. If, however, the Exposition takes place immediately after Mass, or Vespers, the antipendium of the colour of the Mass, or Vespers, may be retained if the celebrant does not leave the sanctuary between the Mass, or Vespers, and the Exposition; but if on these occasions he vests for the exposition outside the sanctuary, the antipendium if not white must be exchanged for a white one. (2) In solemn votive Masses the colour of the antipendium must be that of the vestments. In private votive Masses (missae lectae) its colour corresponds to that of the office of the day. In private votive Masses celebrated solemnly, i.e. with deacon and subdeacon, or in chant (missae cantatae) it is proper that its colour correspond with that of the vestments. (3) During a solemn Requiem Mass at an altar in the tabernacle of which the Blessed Sacrament is kept, the black antipendium cannot be used (Cong. Sac. Rit., 20 March, 1869), but one of a violet colour should take its place. The Ephemeides Lit., (XI, 663, 1897), states that this decree was revoked by a subsequent decree of the same Congregation, 1 December, 1882. It seems strange that the former decree is retained in the latest edition of the Decrees of the Cong. Sac. Rit. The latter decree is an answer to the question: Under these circumstances may the antipendium and the conopoeum (cover of the tabernacle) be black? The answer seems to pass over the antipendium, and merely says: "At least the canopy over the tabernacle should be of a violet colour". The antipendium need not be blessed.


Altar-Horns.—On the Jewish altar there were four projections, one at each corner, which were called the horns of the altar. These projections are not found on the Christian altar, but the word cornu ("horn") is still maintained to designate the sides or corners of the altar. Hence cornu epistolae and cornu evangelii mean the epistle and gospel side of the altar respectively, cornu anterius and cornu posterius evangelii or cornu dexterum anterius and dexterum posterius mean respectively the anterior or posterior corner of the altar at the gospel side.


Altar-Lamp.—In the Old Testament God commanded that a lamp filled with the purest oil of olives should always burn in the Tabernacle of the Testimony without the veil (Exod., xxvii, 20, 21). The Church prescribes that at least one lamp should continually burn before the tabernacle (Rit. Rom. iv, 6), not only as an ornament of the altar, but for the purpose of worship. It is also a mark of honour. It is to remind the faithful of the presence of Christ, and is a profession of their love and affection. Mystically it signifies Christ, for by this material light He is represented who is the "true light which enlighteneth every man" (John, i, 9). If the resources of the church permit, it is the rule of the Caerem. Episc. (1, xii. 17) that more than one light should burn before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, but always in uneven numbers, i.e. three, five, seven, or more. The lamp is usually suspended before the tabernacle by means of a chain or rope, and it should hang sufficiently high and removed from the altar-steps to cause no inconvenience to those who are engaged in the sanctuary. It may also be suspended from, or placed in a bracket at the side of the altar, provided always it be in front of the altar within the sanctuary proper (Cong. Sac. Rit., 2 June, I883). The altar-lamp may be made of any kind of metal, and of any shape or form. According to the opinion of reputable theologians, it would be a serious neglect, involving grave sin, to leave the altar of the Blessed Sacrament without this light for any protracted length of time, such as a day or several nights (St. Lig., VI, 248). For symbolical reasons olive oil is prescribed for the lamp burning before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, for it is a symbol of purity, peace, and godliness. Since pure olive oil, without any admixture, causes some inconvenience in the average American climate, oil containing between 60 and 65 per cent of pure olive oil is supposed to be legitimate material. Where olive oil cannot be had, it is allowed, at the discretion of the ordinary, to use other, and as far as possible vegetable, oils (Cong. Sac. Rit., 9 July, 1864). In case of necessity, that is, in very poor churches, or where it is practically impossible to procure olive or vegetable oils, the ordinary, according to the general opinion of theologians, would be justified to authorize the use of petroleum. We are of the opinion, however, that there are but few parishes that can claim this exemption on the plea of poverty. Gas (Ephem. Lit., IX, 176, 1895) and electric lights (Cong. Sac. Rit., 4 June, 1895) are not allowed in its stead. The Caerem. Episc. (ibid.) would have three lights burn continually before the high altar, and one light before the other altars, at least during Mass and Vespers. Before the Blessed Sacrament, wherever kept, a lamp should be constantly burning. Our bishops have the power of granting permission to a priest, under certain circumstances, to keep the Blessed Sacrament in his house. In such cases, by virtue of Faculty, n. 24, Form. I, the priest may keep it without a light, if otherwise it would be exposed to the danger of irreverence or sacrilege. For the same reason we believe It may be kept also in the church without a light during the night.


Altar-Lantern.—Lanterns are used in churches to protect the altar candles and lamp, if the latter for any reason, such as a draught, cannot be kept lighted. They are of perforated metal-work or set with crystals. They are used also to accompany the Blessed Sacrament when carried from one altar to another in the church, or when It is carried as Viaticum to the sick. In the former case the lanterns are attached to the top of high staves; in the latter, a ring is fastened to the top as in ordinary lanterns, and they are carried in the hand of a cleric or an assistant.


Altar-Ledge.—Originally the altar was made in the shape of an ordinary table, on which the crucifix and candlesticks were placed. By degrees, behind the altar a step was introduced, raised slightly above it, for candlesticks, flowers, reliquaries, and other ornaments. This step was called the altar-ledge. Later the tabernacle was added as a stationary appends of the altar and at its sides and behind it other steps were placed. They are sometimes called degrees or gradini. The front of these steps was sometimes beautifully painted and decorated. The gradini of Brunelleschi's church of Santo Spirito, Florence, display beautiful miniature groups of subjects from the Passion of Christ.


Altar-Linens.—The altar-linens are the corporal, pall, purificator, and finger- towels. The Blessed Sacrament and the vase containing It must always be placed on a corporal, which must be made of linen (Miss. Rom., Ritus celebr. tit. i, n. 1) or hemp (Cong. Sac. Rit., 15 .May, 1819) without any embellishment or embroidery. Corporals made of muslin (Cong. Sac. Rit., 15 March, 1664) or cotton (ibid., 15 May, 1819) are forbidden. The edges may be ornamented with fine lace, and a cross may be worked into it near the front edge. No cross is allowed in its centre (De Herdt, I, n. 167), which would necessarily give some difficulty when collecting the fragments. The rubrics do not prescribe its size. It must be spacious enough to hold the chalice and large host used by the priest, and also the ciborium containing the smaller hosts for the Communion of the laity. It should be a square, at least fifteen by fifteen inches, or an oblong, fourteen by eighteen inches. The corporal must be blessed by a bishop, or by a priest having the faculty to do so, before it may be used the first time. It is not blessed again after it is washed; use at the Holy Sacrifice does not constitute a blessing (Cong. Sac. Rit., 31 August, 1867). The form of the blessing is the "Benedictio corporalium" found in the Rituale Romanum (tit. viii, cap. xxii) which is not changed to the plural even if many corporals are blessed at the same time (Cong. Sac. Rit., 4 September, l880). The corporal loses its blessing when no part of it is sufficiently large to hold the chalice and host together, and it is forbidden to use a torn or ripped corporal. When the corporal becomes unfit for use it should be destroyed by fire, and its ashes thrown into the sacrarium. After the corporal has been washed, bleached, and ironed it is folded into three equal parts, both in its length and in its width, i.e. the anterior part is folded over the middle; then the posterior part is turned down over the anterior part; after this the part at the priest's right is folded over the middle, and finally the part at the priest's left is folded over these. The corporal is placed in the burse in such a manner that the edge of the last fold is towards the opening of the burse. It is probable that the corporal was prescribed as early as the fourth century. Originally it was longer and wider than the one in use at present. It covered the whole table of the altar, and was looked upon as a fourth altar-cloth. About the eleventh century it began to be curtailed, and by degrees was reduced to its present size. The Carthusians use the corporal in its old form (Benedict XIV, De Sacrif. Missae, I, no. 31).

Originally the pall was not distinct from the corporal, because the latter was so large as to do away with the need of a distinct pall, and the posterior part of the corporal was so arranged that it could be easily drawn over the host and chalice. When the corporal was reduced to its present size the pall became a distinct cover of the chalice, and is called by Benedict XIV Corporale quo calix tegitur (ibid., no. 34). Although prescribed by the rubrics, theologians hold that its use does not bind sub gravi. It may be a single piece of linen or hemp, or it may consist of two pieces of linen or hemp, between which a piece of cardboard is inserted for the sake of stiffening it. The upper side may be ornamented with embroidery or painting in various colours, or covered with cloth of gold, silver, or silk of any colour except black (Cong. Sac. Rit., 17 July, 1894). It may be embellished with a cross or some other emblem. The nether piece must always be of plain white linen or hemp (ibid.) and be detachable for the purpose of washing it (ibid., 24 November, 1905). Since the pall was originally a part of the corporal, the blessing "Benedictio corporalium" is used without change in number or words when blessing one or more palls alone, or one or more palls with one or more corporals (ibid., 4 September, 1880). Like the corporal, it is blessed by a bishop, or by a priest who has faculties to do so. It should be large enough to cover the paten. If the pall is wanting, a folded corporal may be used in its stead.

The Purificator is a piece of pure white linen or hemp (Cong. Sac.. Rit., 23 July, 1878) used for cleansing the chalice. Its size is not prescribed by the rubrics. It is usually twelve to eighteen inches long, and nine or ten inches wide. It is folded in three layers so that when placed on the chalice beneath the paten its width is about three inches. A small cross may be worked in it at its centre to distinguish it from the little finger-towels used at the "Lavabo", although this is not prescribed. It is not blessed. It is also called the "Mundatory" or "Purificatory". The Greeks use a sponge instead of the linen purificator. Before soiled corporals, palls, and purificators are given to nuns or lay persons to be laundried, bleached, mended or ironed, they must be first washed, then rinsed twice by a person in sacred orders (Cong. Sac. Rit., 12 September, 1857). When preparing soiled corporals for the altar a little starch may be used to stiffen them and give them a smooth surface. The same may be done with the palls. The purificators are always prepared without starch.

Finger-towels, used at the "Lavabo" and after administering Holy Communion, may be made of any kind of material, preferably, however, of linen or hemp, and of any size.


Altar of Our Lady.—From the beginning of Christianity special veneration was paid to the Mother of God, which in the language of theology is called hyperdulia, to distinguish the honour rendered to her from that given to the other saints. It is not strange, therefore, that after the main or principal altar, the most prominent is that dedicated in a special manner to the Mother of God; and to indicate this specific preference, this altar is usually placed in the most prominent position in the church, i.e. at the right (gospel) side of the main altar. In general it signifies any altar of which the Blessed Virgin is the titular.


Altar-Piece.—A picture of some sacred subject painted on the wall or suspended in a frame behind the altar, or a group of statuary on the altar. In the Middle Ages, instead of a picture or group, the altar-piece consisted in some churches of embossed silver or gold and enamelled work set with jewels. Sometimes the piece was set on the altar itself. If the altar stood free in the choir, and the altar-piece was to be seen from behind as well as from before, both sides were covered with painting (Norton, Church Building in the Middle Ages). The decorated screen, retable or reredos is also called an altarpiece. (See ALTAR-SCREEN)


Altar-Protector.—A cover made of cloth, baize or velvet which is placed on the table of the altar, during the time in which the sacred functions do not take place. Its purpose is to prevent the altar-cloth from being stained or soiled. It should be a little wider than the table and some what longer than the latter, so that it may hang down several inches on each side and in front. It may be of any colour (green or red would seem to be the preferred colours), and its front and side edges are usually scalloped, embroidered, or ornamented with fringes. During the divine services it is removed (Cong. Sac. Rit., 2 June, 1883), except at Vespers, when, during the incensing of the altar at the Magnificat, only the front part of the table need be uncovered, and it is then simply turned back on the table of the altar. It is called the vesperale, the stragulum or altar-cover. It need not be blessed.


Altar-Rail.—The railing which guards the sanctuary and separates the latter from the body of the church. It is also called the communion-rail as the faithful kneel at it when receiving Holy Communion.

It is made of carved wood, metal, marble, or other precious material; it should be about two feet six inches high, and on the upper part from six to nine inches wide. The "Rituale Romanum" (tit. iv, cap. ii, n. I) prescribes that a clean white cloth be extended before those who receive Holy Communion. This cloth is to be of fine linen, as it is solely intended as a sort of corporal to receive the particles which may by chance fall from the hands of the priest. It is usually fastened on the sanctuary side and when in use is drawn over the top of the rail. It should extend the full length of the rail, and be about two feet wide, so that the communicant, taking it in both hands, may hold it under his chin. Its very purpose suggests that it is not to be made of lace or netting, although there is nothing to forbid its having a border of fine lace or embroidery. Instead of this cloth a gilt paten, larger than the paten used at the altar, to which a handle may be attached, or a small gilt or silver salver, or a pall, larger than the chalice pall, may be used. These latter are usually passed from one communicant to the other, and when the last at the end of the rail at the Gospel side has received Holy Communion the altar boy carries the paten to the first communicants at the Epistle side. A consecrated paten may never be placed for this purpose in the hands of lay persons.


Altar-Screen.—The Caerem. Episc (I, xii, n. 13) says that if the High Altar is attached to the wall (or is not more than three feet from the wall) a more precious cloth, on which images of Our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin, or of saints, are represented, may be suspended above the altar, unless such images are painted on the wall. This piece of embroidered needlework, cloth of gold, or tapestry is called the altar screen. It is as wide as the altar, and sometimes even extends along the sides of the altar. Its purpose seems to be to separate the altar from the rest of the sanctuary, and to attract to the altar the eyes of those who enter the church. It is called the Dossel or dorsal, from the French dossier, and signifies a back panel covered with stuff. Formerly the stuff corresponded in colour with the other ornaments of the altar and was changed according to the festivals. Instead of the cloth a permanent or movable structure was sometimes raised above the altar at the back. If permanent it consisted of three distinct parts, the base which was as long as the table and the steps of the altar, and reached to the height of the altar table; above this came the panel which formed a decorative frame to a picture, bas-relief, or statue, and the cornice, consisting of a frieze and pediment surmounted by a cross. In the eleventh century the structure was usually made of metal, in the thirteenth century of stone, and from the fourteenth century of wood. Sometimes a folding door was attached which covered the picture during the year, and was opened on grand festivals to expose the picture. If it was a movable structure, it was made of hammered silver or other precious material, supported on the altar itself. The face of this structure which looks towards the nave of the church is called the "retable", and the reverse is called the "counter-retable". This decoration of the altar was not known before the twelfth century. It should always correspond to the architecture or style of the church. The best models are found in the churches of St. Sylvester in Capite, Sta. Maria del Popolo, della Pace and sopra Minerva, at Rome. When this structure is ornamented with panels and enriched with niches statues, buttresses, and other decorations, which are often painted with brilliant colours, it is called a "reredos". Sometimes the reredos extends across the whole breadth of the church, and is carried nearly up to the ceiling. This decorative screen, retable, or reredos is also called the altarpiece.


Altar-Side.—That part of the altar which faced the congregation, in contradistinction to the side at which the priest stood when formerly the latter stood at the altar facing the people. In ceremonials we frequently find mention of the right and left side of the altar. Before 1488, the epistle side was called the right side of the altar, and the gospel side the left. In that year, Augustine Patrizi, Bishop of Pienza, published a ceremonial in which the epistle side is called the left of the altar, and the gospel side the right, the denomination being taken from the facing of the cross, the principal ornament of the altar, not of the priest or the laity. This change of expression was accepted by St. Pius V and introduced into the rubrics.


Altar-Steps.—In the beginning altars were not erected on steps. Those in the catacombs were constructed on the pavement, and in churches they were usually erected over the confession, or spot where the remains of martyrs were deposited. In the fourth century the altar was supported by one step above the floor of the sanctuary. At present the number of steps leading up to the high altar is for symbolical reasons uneven; usually three, five, or seven, including the upper platform (predella). These steps are to pass around the altar on three sides. They may be of wood, stone, or bricks, but St. Charles (Instructions on Ecclesiastical Building, xi, no. 2) would have the two or four lower steps of stone or bricks, whilst he prescribes that the predella, on which the celebrant stands, should be made of wood. The steps should be about one foot in breadth. The predella should extend along the front of the altar with a breadth of about three feet six inches, and at the sides of the altar about one foot. The height of each step ought to be about six inches. Side altars must have at least one step.


Altar-Stole.—An ornament, having the shape of the ends of a stole, which in the Middle Ages was attached to the front of the altar.


Altar-Stone.—A solid piece of natural stone, consecrated by a bishop, large enough to hold the Sacred Host and chalice. It is inserted into or placed on the surface of a structure which answers the purpose of an altar, when the whole altar is not consecrated. Sometimes the whole table (mensa) takes the place of the smaller altar-stone. It is called a portable altar.


Altar-Tomb.—A tomb, or monument, over a grave, oblong in form, which is covered with a slab or table, having the appearance of an altar. Sometimes the table is bare, and sometimes it supports one or more recumbent sculptured figures. It either stands free, so that the four sides are exposed, or one side may be attached to the wall, when a canopy or niche is often raised above it.


Altar-Vase.—Vase to hold flowers for the decoration of the altar. The Caerem. Episc. (I, xii, n. 12) says that between the candlesticks on the altar may be placed natural or artificial flowers, which are certainly appropriate ornaments of the altar. The flowers referred to are cut flowers, leaves, and ferns, rather than plants imbedded in soil in large flowerpots, although the latter may fitly be used for the decoration of the sanctuary around the altar. If artificial flowers are used they ought to be made of superior material, as the word serico (ibid.) evidently implies, and represent with some acouracy the natural variations. Flowers of paper, cheap muslin, or calico, and other inferior materials, and such as are old and soiled, should never be allowed on the altar.


Altar-Vessels.—The chalice is the cup in which the wine and water of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is contained. It should be either of gold, or of silver with the cup gilt on the inside or it may have a cup only of silver, gilt on the inside; in which case the base and stem may be of any metal, provided it be solid, clean, and becoming (Miss. Rom., Ritus celebr., tit. i, n. 1). According to the Roman Missal (De Defectibus, tit. x, n. 1) it may be also made of stannum (an alloy of tin and lead), with the cup gilt on the inside, but authors permit this only by way of exception in case of extreme poverty. Chalices made of glass, wood, copper, or brass are not permitted, and cannot be consecrated by the bishop (Cong. Sac. Rit., 16 September, 1865). The base may be round, hexagonal, or octagonal, and should be so wide that there is no fear of the chalice tilting over. Near the middle of the stem, between the base and the cup, there should be a knob, in order that the chalice, especially after the Consecration, when the priest has his thumb and index finger joined together may be easily handled. This knob may be adorned with precious stones but care should be taken that they do not protrude so far as to hinder the easy handling of the chalice. The base and cup may be embellished with pictures or emblems, even in relief, but those on the cup should he about an inch below the lip of the chalice. The cup should be narrow at the bottom, and become gradually wider as it approaches the mouth. The rounded or turned-down lip is very unserviceable. The height is not determined, but it should be at least eight inches.


Paten.—The paten is a vessel of the altar on which the altar-bread is offered in the Holy Sacrifice. It should be made of the same material as the chalice, and if it is made of anything else than gold it should be gilt on the concave side. Its edge ought to be thin and sharp, so that the particles on the corporal may be easily collected. It should not be embellished, at least on the concave side, in any manner; however, one small cross may be set near its edge to indicate the place on which it is to be kissed by the celebrant. Any sharp indentation on the upper side prevents its being easily cleaned. Those having a plain surface throughout, with the gradual slight depression towards the centre, are the most serviceable. By a decree of the Cong. Sac. Rit., 6 December, 1866, Pope Pius IX allowed chalices and patens to be used which were made of aluminium mixed with other metals in certain proportions given in the "Instructio", provided the whole surface was silvered, and the cup gilt on the inside, but this decree is expunged from the latest edition of the Decrees. Both the chalice and the paten, before they can be used at the Sacrifice of the Mass, must be consecrated by the ordinary, or by a bishop designated by him. Only in exceptional cases can a priest, who has received special faculties for doing so from the Holy See, consecrate them. By virtue of Facultates Extraordinariae C, fac. vi, the bishops of the United States may delegate a simple priest. The mere fact of celebrating the Holy Sacrifice with an unconsecrated chalice and paten can never supply the place of this rite, specially ordained by the Church.


Loss of Consecration.—The chalice loses its consecration when it becomes unfit for the purpose for which it is destined. Hence it becomes devoid of consecration: (1) when the slightest break or slit appears in the cup near the bottom. This is not the case if the break be near the upper part, so that without fear of spilling its contents consecration can take place in it. (2) When a very noticeable break appears in any part, so that it would be unbecoming to use it. (3) When the cup is separated from the stem in such a manner that the parts could not be joined except by an artificer, unless the cup was originally joined to the stem, and the stem to the base, by means of a screwing device. If, however, to the bottom of the cup a rod is firmly attached which passes through the stem to the base, under which is a nut used to hold the different parts together, then, if this rod should break, tutius videtur to reconsecrate it. (4) When it is regilt (Cong. Sac. Rit., 14 June, 1845). A chalice does not lose its consecration by the mere wearing away of the gilding, because the whole chalice is consecrated; but it becomes unfit for the purpose of consecrating in it, for the rubric prescribes that it be gilded on the inside. After being regilt, the celebrating of Mass with the chalice cannot supply its consecration (St. Lig., bk. VI, n. 380). The custom of desecrating a chalice, or other sacred vessel, by striking it with the hand or some instrument, or in any other manner, before giving it to a workman for regilding, is positively forbidden (Cong. Sac. Rit., 23 April, 1822). By making slight repairs upon the chalice or paten the consecration is not lost. The Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in 1874 decided that a chalice loses its consecration if it is employed by heretics for any profane use, e.g. for a drinking cup at table. The paten loses its consecration: (1) When it is broken to such an extent that it becomes unfit for the purpose for which it is intended, e.g. if the break be so large that particles could fall through it. (2) When it becomes battered to such an extent that it would be unbecoming to use it. (3) When it is regilt. A chalice which becomes unserviceable is not to be sold, but should, if possible, be used for some sacred purpose.


Ciborium.—The ciborium is an altar-vessel in which the consecrated particles for the Communion of the laity are kept. It need not necessarily be made of gold or silver, since the Roman Ritual (tit. cap. i, n. 5) merely prescribes that it be made ex solida decentique materia. It may even be made of copper provided it be gilt (Cong. Sac. Rit., 31 August, 1867). If made of any material other than gold, the inside of the cup must be gilt (Cong. Episc. et Reg., 26 July, l588). It must not be made of ivory (ibid.) or glass (Cong. Sac. Rit., 30 January, l880). Its base should be wide. its stem should have a knob, and it may be embellished and adorned like the chalice (vide supra). There should be a slight round elevation in the centre, at the bottom, in order to facilitate the taking out of the particles when only a few remain therein. The cover, which should fit tightly, may be of pyramidal or a ball shape, and should be surmounted by a cross. The ciborium ought to be at least seven inches high. It is not consecrated, but only blessed by the bishop or priest having the requisite faculties according to the form of the "Benedictio tabernaculi" (Rit. Rom., tit. iii, xxiii). As long as the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in it, the ciborium must be covered with a veil of precious material of white colour (Rit. Rom., tit. iv, 1, n. 5), which may be embroidered in gold and silver and have fringes about the edges. When it does not actually contain the Blessed Sacrament, this veil must be removed. Hence, after its purification at Mass, or when filled with new particles to be consecrated, it is placed on the altar, the veil cannot be put on it. Even from the Consecration to the Communion it remains covered. Just before placing it in the tabernacle after Communion the veil is placed on it. It is advisable to have two ciboria as the newly consecrated particles must never be mixed with those which were consecrated before. In places in which Holy Communion is carried solemnly to the sick, a smaller ciborium of the same style is used for this purpose. The little pyx used for carrying Holy Communion to the sick is made of the same material as that of which the ciborium is made. It must be gilt on the inside, the lower part should have a slight elevation in the centre, and it is blessed by the form "Benedictio tabernaculi" (Rit. Rom., tit. viii, xxiii). The ciborium and pyx lose their blessing in the same manner as the chalice loses its consecration.


Ostensorium.—The ostensorium (ostensory, monstrance) is a glass-framed shrine in which the Blessed Sacrament is publicly exposed. It may be of gold, silver, brass, or copper gilt (Cong. Sac. Rit., 31 August, 1867). The most appropriate form is that of the sun emitting its rays to all sides (Instructio Clement., 5). The base should be wide, and at a short distance above it there should be a knob for greater ease in handling. The ostensorium must be surmounted by a cross. (Cong. Sac. Rit., 11 September, 1847). It should not be embellished with small statues of saints, as these and the relics of saints are forbidden to be placed on the altar during solemn Benediction. At the sides of the receptacle in which the lunula is placed it is appropriate to have two statues representing adoring angels. In the middle of the Ostensorium here should be a receptacle of such a size that a large Host may be easily put into it; care must be taken that the Host does not touch the sides of this receptacle. On the front and back of this receptacle there should be a crystal, the one on the back opening like a door, when closed, the latter must fit tightly. The circumference of this receptacle must either be of gold or, if of other material, it should be gilt and so smooth and polished that any particle that may fall from the Host will be easily detected and removed. The lunula must be inserted and recovered without difficulty, hence the de need for keening it in an upright position should be construed with this end in view. The ostensorium need not necessarily be blessed, but it is better that it should be. The form "Benedictio tabernaculi" (Rit. Rom., tit. viii, xxiii) or the form "Benedictio ostensorii" (Rit. Rom., in Appendice) may be used. When carried to and from the altar it ought to be covered with a white veil.

The lunula (lunette) is made of the same material as the ostensorium. If it be made of any material other than gold, it must be gilded (Cong. Sac. Rit., 31 August, 1867). In form it may be either of two crescents or of two crystals encased in metal. If two crescents be used, the arrangement should be such that they can be separated and cleaned. Two stationary crescents, between which the Sacred Host is pressed, are, for obvious reasons, not serviceable. If two crystals are used it is necessary that they be so arranged that the Sacred Host does not in any way touch the glass (Cong. Sac. Rit., 14 January, 1898). The ostensorium, provided it contains the Blessed Sacrament, may be placed in the tabernacle, but then it should be covered with a white silk veil. (Recent authors say that since the ostensorium is intended merely ad monstrandam and not ad asservanduam SS. Eucharistiam it should not be placed in the tabernacle.) When the Blessed Sacrament is taken out of the ostensorium after Benediction it may or may not be removed from the lunula. If it is removed it should, before being placed in the tabernacle, be enclosed in a receptacle, called the repository (custodia, repositorium, capsula), which is made like the pyx, used in carrying Holy Communion to the sick, but larger, and may have a base with a very short stem. If the Blessed Sacrament be allowed to remain in the crescent-shaped lunula both It and the lunula may be placed in the same kind of receptacle, or in one specially made for this purpose, having a device at the bottom for keeping the Sacred Host in an upright position. The latter may have a base and short stem, and a door, which fits tightly, on the back part, through which the lunula is inserted. This receptacle is made throughout of silver or of other material, gilt on the inside, smooth and polished, and surmounted by a cross. No corporal is placed in it. If the lunula be made of two crystals, encased in metal, it may, when containing the Blessed Sacrament, be placed in the tabernacle without enclosing it in a custodia. If the host be placed before the Consecration in the lunula made of two crystals, the latter must be opened before the words of Consecration are pronounced. The lunula and custodia are blessed with the form "Benedictio Tabernaculi" (Rit. Rom., tit. viii, xxiii) by a bishop or by a priest having the faculty. They lose their blessing when they are regilt, or when they become unfit for the use for which they are intended. All the sacred vessels, when not actually containing the Blessed Sacrament, should be placed in an iron safe, or other secure place, in the sacristy, so as to be safeguarded against robbery or profanation of any kind. Each ought to be placed in its own case or covered with a separate veil, for protection against dust and dampness.


Altar-Wine-—Wine is one of the two elements absolutely necessary for the sacrifice of the Eucharist. For valid and licit consecration vinum de vite, i.e. the pure juice of the grape naturally and properly fermented, is to be used. Wine made out of raisins, provided that from its colour and taste it may be judged to be pure, may be used (Collect. S. C. de Prop. Fide, n. 705). It may be white or red, weak or strong, sweet or dry. Since the validity of the Holy Sacrifice, and the lawfulness of its celebration, require absolutely genuine wine, it becomes the serious obligation of the celebrant to procure only pure wines. And since wines are frequently so adulterated as to escape minute chemical analysis, it may be taken for granted that the safest way of procuring pure wine is to buy it not at second hand, but directly from a manufacturer who understands and conscientiously respects the great responsibility involved in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice. If the wine is changed into vinegar, or is become putrid or corrupted, if it was pressed from grapes that were not fully ripe, or if it is mixed with such a quality of water that it can hardly be called wine, its use is forbidden (Missale Rom., De Defectibus, tit. iv, 1). If the wine begins to turn into vinegar, or to become putrid, or is the unfermented juice is pressed from the grape, it would be a grievous offence to use it, but it is considered valid matter (ibid., 2). To conserve weak and feeble wines, and in order to keep them from souring or spoiling during transportation, a small quantity of spirits of wine (grape brandy or alcohol) may be added, provided the following conditions are observed (1) The added spirit (alcohol) must have been distilled from the grape (ex genimime vitis); (2) the quantity of alcohol added, together with that which the wine contained naturally after fermentation, must not exceed eighteen per cent of the whole; (3) the addition must be made during the process of fermentation (S. Romana et Univ. Inquis., 5 August, 1896).


Altarage.—From the low Latin altaragium, which signified the revenue reserved for the chaplain (altarist or altar-thane) in contradistinction to the income of the parish priest. At present it signifies the fees received by a priest from the laity when discharging any function for them, e.g. at marriages, baptisms, funerals. It is also termed honorarium, stipend, stole-fee.

A. J. Schulte.