11 May 2019

I will go unto the Altar of God

The Preparation at the Foot of the Altar, now returned to us by our splendid Ordinariate Missal, is a very dear part of our Patrimony, offered in the English Missal  and so many of the other twentieth century Anglo-Catholic Mass Books (and even in 1928!). As we all ... I hope ... become more and more familiar with it, I offer you two comments on this verse, both from erudite Anglicans but, my goodness, how differently erudite.

Firstly from Catherine ("radical Orthodoxy") Pickstock. "Unlike ordinary geographical destinations, the altar of God is an infinitely receding place, always vertically beyond, in the sense of altaria, a raised place where offerings were upwardly burnt, possibly linked in Latin to adolere ("to burn in sacrifice"), adolescere ("to burn") and the concomitant sensual diffusion of olere ("odour"). This raised place of sacrificial burning is the site where offerings are altered and transubstantiated."

And next, from John Mason ("Ritualist and Patristical") Neale. "Never, surely, more glorious and comforting a verse than this. To see the Man of Sorrows, - now His warfare almost accomlished, - now the sin He bare for us almost pardoned, - approaching to the Great Altar of the Evening Sacrifice of the world".

Introibo ad Altare Dei. What greater privilege than this; to stand at the foot of the altar and to say in and with and through the Eternal Son these words "I will go unto the Altar of God" - to say or hear them three times because they are not an observation to be uttered and cast aside but an entering into the heart of meaning. And then to go up the steps, ascending with Him ad montem sanctum Dei as so many of God's pilgrim people went up to Sion, since those ancient, shadowy, days when there first was a place of sacrifice upon that Mount. To be granted to kiss the stone of sacrifice and to stand there as Abraham did with Isaac on Moriah. And, thus, "day by day to offer up the Immaculate Lamb of God, to hold in one's hands the Incarnate Word under the visible tokens which He has ordained, again and again to drain the chalice of the Great Victim" (Newman).


Anonymous said...

How strange.

I woke up this AM, only 15 min. ago, my mind captive to this verse. Only I couldn't quite put my finger on it...it was a dream within a dream.

Thank you for this post. I love the quotes (all three or four of them!)

Michael McDonough said...

Fr. H,

Now THAT is a terrific outline for meditation!

As to your concern about your "perennial sin", please take comfort in what the Italians would say: "forse peccato, ma non mortale"!

Dale said...

In the Roman parish in my locale, the mass begins thus..."Howdy, I'm Fr. Bill!"

Sometimes with and sometimes without balloons.

Steve said...

Thank you for this - I understand the Reformation better now.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Such nostalgia is understandable but our great Saint, Pope Paul Vi, brought us up to date and calibrated our worship so as to be acceptable to modern man:

7. Cena dominica sive Missa est sacra synaxis seu congregatio populi Dei in unum convenientis, sacerdote praeside, ad memoriale Domini celebrandum. Quare de sanctae Ecclesiae locali congregatione eminenter valet promissio Christi: "Ubi sunt duo vel tres congregati in nomine meo, ibi sum in medio eorum" (Mt. 18, 20).

"7. The Lord's Supper, or Mass, is the sacred meeting or congregation of the people of God assembled, the priest presiding, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord. For this reason, Christ's promise applies eminently to such a local gathering of the Church: 'Where two or three come together in my name, there am I in their midst' (Mt. 18:20)."

Get with it Padre :)

Christopher Boegel said...

How I miss the strengthening reminder of that opening prayer: I will go unto the altar of God, the God who gives joy to my youth."