by Derrick Celso
For some time now the Hermandad has developed a set of semi-formal customs, in which in this series of posts I would compile for the sake of formalizing it in order to solidify our liturgical praxis. For this post, I would like to tackle the subject of the altar arrangement.
In this post as well as the succeeding ones, the rite of Mass and Divine Office assumed is that of the Old Missal.
This series of posts will not include those that are already explicitly instructed in the Rubricæ Generalis, although it may make reference to it from time to time.
I. Regarding the altar ornaments:
There shall be on the altar:
– A crucifix should be placed on the center of the altar. If the altar is fixed to the wall, it should be placed on the top gradine or suspended from the ceiling by chains or affixed to the wall. It is not recommended for a crucifix to be placed on top of the tabernacle unless extremely needed. The crucifix should be plainly seen by all. If in any case a larger crucifix in the reredos, or a painting of the crucifixion is present, then a crucifix would no longer be required. Unless the priest be too scrupulous, then at least a small crucifix should be placed, out of plain sight of the people. In the absence of the gradines, the crucifix is placed on the mensa or on the other placed indicated above. The crucifix should remain on the altar and be veiled in violet (white on Holy Thursday) from Passiontide until Good Friday (optionally, black could be used in lieu of violet in veiling the crucifix.).
– Candlesticks, of which 2 would be sufficient in situ, although the usual six may be placed if the chaplain wishes. The candlesticks could be placed on the gradines, or on the mensa.
– Besides the usual altar cloths, there shall be an antependium of the proper liturgical colour. An altar should be vested with the antependium at all times except from the Stripping of the Altars up until Good Friday.
– The altar cards which should be placed lying upon the gradine. The center card should not block the tabernacle unless it is extremely needed. The altar cards should also be appropriate for the size of the altar, and the text clear enough for the priest to read.
– If the tabernacle contains the Sanctissimum, it should be covered with a tabernacle veil of the proper colour of the day except black.
– Optionally, there could be vases provided for flowers or greens, to be placed on the gradines on the appropriate occasion. According to mediaeval custom, earthenware vases could be placed near the altar instead of at the gradine. Placing the vases on the mensa is tolerated.
– Optionally, reliquaries could be placed on the gradines or on the mensa (in the absence of the gradines) on the appropriate feast days. According to custom, if such would be the case then two votive candles be allowed to burn before each reliquary. Care must be taken that the candles do not risk burning the altar cards or the other ornaments of the altar. If such would be the case, then it would be prudent for the candles be placed on another appropriate place. The reliquaries should be kept in a secret place after Mass unless it is publicly exposed for veneration, in which case a priest or the sacristan keep watch over it.
– Optionally, statues of saints should be placed on the gradines or on the mensa. It should be well-proportioned to the altar and should not be distracting or offensive to piety.
II. Regarding the candlesticks
– There are, at most, six candlesticks with candles to remain in situ at the altar when not in use. Two is sufficient.
– Two standing candlesticks with candles may flank the altar during solemnities, or otherwise remain in place when not used.
– A Sanctus candle should be lit during the Sanctus up until the ablutions during Low Mass. Besides the Sanctus candle, the server is to hold an elevation candle. This candle could be omitted if the bell could not be rung by the server while holding the edges of the chasuble.
6 candlesticks are to be used during:
– Sundays and high solemnities, regardless of whether the Mass is sung or said.
– during all Sung Masses, unless the Mass is of a ferial weekday.
– during the singing of Vespers
4 candlesticks are to be used:
– during Sung Masses of the ferial weekday.
In addition, two standing candlesticks are to flank either sides of the altar, to be lit on highest solemnities.
Optionally, there were to be four riddel posts at each side of the altar, surmounted by a candleholder and whose candles shall be lit on high feast days.
III. Regarding the Credence Table
The credence table shall resemble a secondary altar. In that view, the credence should have the acolytes’ processional candlesticks, and the processional cross be placed in the middle. The stand for these should therefore be placed in such a way that is convenient for the acolytes to get their candles at the proper time and at the same time be aesthetically-pleasing. The tablecloth should, if possible, resemble an altar cloth. Otherwise it should be at least appropriate for the credence table.
Upon the credence are placed the lavabo, the ewer, the cruets, the towels and the epistolary and the gospel-book, if applicable. The built-up chalice with the subdeacon’s humeral veil and the burse is also placed here, according to the rubrics (if applicable).
Care must be taken that these things are arranged properly and without a hint for hapahazardness.
To be continued…