MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS
HART FOR THE DEDICATION OF THE ALTAR AND THE CHURCH REFURBISHMENTS AT SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, MILL PARK, ON SATURDAY, 17TH MAY 2014 AT 6.30
Brothers and Sisters,
In the Gospel Jesus challenged his
followers to look beyond the immediate needs of daily life and as the means of
following him he said: “I am the way,
the truth and the life.”
You will remember at the beginning of
this Mass that everyone was sprinkled with holy water and finally, as a sign of
penance and purification, I sprinkled holy water on the altar here in Saint
Francis of Assisi church.
The Fathers of the Church when they
meditated on the word of God asserted that Jesus was the victim, priest and
altar of his own sacrifice. In the Old
Testament there had to be always these three elements for a sacrifice; usually
an animal, a place and a priest. But
when Jesus went to the cross he was the priest who did the offering, the victim
who offered himself and the altar because he made the cross as the place where
he offered himself.
In our Christian Church because the
Mass makes present again what happened on Calvary the altar is the place where
Jesus offers himself through the words of a priest – another Christ – where we
encounter God. Saint Paul challenges us
that we too can offer ourselves like Christ and Saint Gregory the Great
says: “What is God’s altar if not the
soul of those who lead good lives.
Christians who give themselves to prayer, who offer petitions to God and
come to the sacrifice of the Mass are the living stones from which the Church
So you can see that the altar is the
table of sacrifice and yet a banquet place in which the priest represents
Christ and does what Jesus did and what he handed on to his disciples to do in
his memory. We are all one body. As Saint Paul says: “The blessing cup that we bless is a
communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion
with the body of Christ. The fact that
there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a
single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.”
In tonight’s ceremony we see that here
at this altar what Jesus did on the cross is given to us. We come to give thanks and receive the body
and blood of Christ and the altar is the centre of all the thanksgiving that we
give. Sometimes relics of martyrs are
placed in the altar and this is a reminder that our faith is built on the faith
and goodness given us by our parents and by the saints back through the
centuries. Tonight’s ceremony helps us
to understand this.
1. Because this is an important occasion
we pray the Litany of the Saints asking all the saints in heaven who are our
brothers and sisters to pray with us.
2. The relics of martyrs are placed in
the altar to show that living close to Christ is part of our witness.
3. Then I will say the Prayer of
Dedication, recalling the offerings of Noah, Abraham and Moses in the Old
Testament, then of Jesus on the cross who offers us himself, calls us to this
place as a place of joy, communion and peace, unity and friendship, the centre
of our praise and thanksgiving.
4. Then, as we were anointed in Baptism
and Confirmation, the table of the altar is anointed and set apart as a holy
5. Incense is burned on the altar that as
its perfume rises so our prayer may rise to God and after the clothing of the
altar the altar candles are lit as a reminder that the light of Christ is with
us as God’s holy people who have dedicated this altar to his name.
I pray with gratitude that you have
built this beautiful altar and I ask that you will remember it always as a
place of meeting with our loving and ever-faithful God.
Congratulations to Father Girolami and
yourselves for the excellent work which has been done.
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.