MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART FOR THE DEDICATION OF THE ALTAR IN THE CHAPEL OF BURKE HALL, KEW, ON WEDNESDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 2011 AT 2.30PM.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am honoured to be with Father Tom Renshaw, with your Head of Campus at Burke Hall, Mr. Peter Cooper, with staff members and so many friends, as we dedicate this altar to the permanent service of God.
The Chapel itself and the altar behind have been already consecrated. However, with the reforms which followed the Second Vatican Council, permitting Mass to be celebrated facing the people, this altar is now permanently installed.
After the blessing and sprinkling of water Mass will continue until after the Profession of Faith when the Rite of Dedication will take place.
We have come to dedicate this altar because in the Catholic tradition each altar is set apart particularly for God. After Jesus instituted the Eucharist in which the elements of bread and wine are separated pointing to his death next day, Jesus then went to the cross which became an altar where he offered himself to save us.
At the Last Supper Jesus had instructed his disciples to do what he did in memory of him. Hence we have the tradition of celebrating the Eucharist upon an altar set apart for God, which makes present what Jesus did on Calvary and renews the work of our redemption. In a Church’s understand the altar is therefore a table of sacrifice and also the place of the paschal meal when he gives his Body and Blood to us in Holy Communion.
Just as Jesus made the cross holy when he died upon it, so each altar has to be set apart because Christ is saving us by the action which takes place there. This will help us to understand the ceremonies that take place.
Already the altar has been sprinkled with holy water and in a few moments, after we profess our faith, in continuity with Christ and all that he taught, we pray the Litany of the Saints, remembering that we are one with all the servants of Jesus Christ in heaven and on earth, asking the saints in heaven to pray for us as we undertake this solemn ritual.
Then following the tradition of the early Church small pieces of bones of martyrs, called relics, are placed beneath the altar to show continuity with the faith for which they died and with the way in which Mass was celebrated in the Catacombs. After the relics are sealed I will pray the prayer of dedication, which recalls the use of altars in the Old Testament, the importance of the altar now as a sign of Christ, a place of joy, a place of communion, unity and friendship, a place of praise and thanksgiving.
Next the altar is anointed as we are anointed in Confirmation and Ordination. The altar is incensed to show that from it our prayer goes up to God and then the altar is clothed and candles are lit upon it.
I invite you to listen reflectively and to participate in this wonderful moment. It is a sign of great achievement and beauty by builders and craftsmen and I wish to pay tribute to the authorities of Xavier College who have wanted to prepare this altar in permanent form. It is a moment of blessing and grace for us all when we remember the goodness of our God who is always near to us.
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE