Friday 29 March 2013

Repose for Prayer

We celebrated a simple yet beautiful Mass of the Lord's Supper last night, enhanced by the the chants of the Mass and our new organ, as well as by the best attendance in my time here.  The altar was stripped as Psalm 21 was chanted and we even managed to chant the psalms of Compline at the end of watching at the Altar of Repose.

We have no such thing as a side altar let alone a side chapel to set up the Altar of Repose, so like many small churches, it is in the church hall. I always like the slightly makeshift and homemade feel, as though it were set up for a Recusant Mass and yet the effort has been gone to in order to create a suitable dwelling for the Lord's Presence.  In the penal times for Catholics in this country, they could have just offered Mass on the kitchen table but instead chose to carve elaborate altars disguised as domestic furniture on the outside but opening up to reveal the altar stone and and attempt to do something beautiful for the Lord.  To recreate the atmosphere of a proper church - a sacred place set apart so that, rich or poor, we gave of our best for the Lord.  A tradition going back to our Jewish forebears in giving the first fruits.  There is one such altar just up the road from us here at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fernyhalgh -  Ladyewell.

The Burgess Altar, also called the Old Mission Altar, at Fernyhalgh was made by Mr Burgess in 1560 at the request of John Townley of Townley Hall, Burnley. St. Edmund Campion, St. Edmund Arrowsmith and Blessed John Woodcock offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on this altar which was made to fold away like a sideboard. 

1 comment:

Damask Rose said...

Beautiful Altar of Repose, Father.

Thank you for the information and picture of the Burgess Altar. SS Edmund Campion and Arrowsmith! Wow! One day I must go on a pilgrimage to Fernyhalgh.