QUAERITUR: Holy Thursday altar of repose in the basement where coffee is usually taken

From a reader:

Is there any guidance about where the Altar of Repose on Holy Thursday should be located? For many years at my parish, it was located at one of the side altars in the Church (we have five to choose from). Our current pastor has experimented with its placement over the last three years; last year it was set up in the Church basement on a temporary altar, which is a space normally used for parish activities such as meetings and the Sunday morning coffee hour. Many parishioners are not happy about trekking out of the main Church and down to the hall. The pastor plans to use the same place this year, saying that under the rubrics the Altar of Repose is not supposed to be located at a side  altar, which is still part of the main sanctuary. Is this correct? Many of us would like to revert to its prior placement but are unsure what the “rules” provide.

In… the … basement…

That sounds silly to me.   But I am unreconstructed ossified manualist.

I think the Lord should be reposed on a side altar.  I believe that practice is well attested in our Latin tradition.

But… documents.  I don’t know at this moment, so I will open this to the readers, trusting that they will perhaps stay on topic.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Random Friar says:

    This is all I could find:

    CDWDS, Dec 2001:
    Holy Thursday
    Visiting the Altar of Repose
    141. Popular piety is particularly sensitive to the adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the wake of the Mass of the Lord’s supper(145). Because of a long historical process, whose origins are not entirely clear, the place of repose has traditionally been referred to as a “a holy sepulchre”. The faithful go there to venerate Jesus who was placed in a tomb following the crucifixion and in which he remained for some forty hours.

    It is necessary to instruct the faithful on the meaning of the reposition: it is an austere solemn conservation of the Body of Christ for the community of the faithful which takes part in the liturgy of Good Friday and for the viaticum of the infirmed(146). It is an invitation to silent and prolonged adoration of the wondrous sacrament instituted by Jesus on this day.

    In reference to the altar of repose, therefore, the term “sepulchre” should be avoided, and its decoration should not have any suggestion of a tomb. The tabernacle on this altar should not be in the form of a tomb or funerary urn. The Blessed Sacrament should be conserved in a closed tabernacle and should not be exposed in a monstrance(147).

    After mid-night on Holy Thursday, the adoration should conclude without solemnity, since the day of the Lord’s Passion has already begun(148).
    Source: http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/holyweek.shtml

  2. James Joseph says:

    You attend a church with five side-altars? That is awesome! What a blessing it is to be your parish priest, and the mighty gift God has given him to offer the Most Holy Sacrifice on five side-altars.

  3. homeschoolofthree says:

    Our Altar of Repose is in the basement, one would be hard pressed to recognize it though! We spend many hours transforming it into a ‘cave’ with hundreds of flowers and candles along with a waterfall and an altar. It is quite beautiful and an awesome place to sit with our Lord in prayer after Mass until midnight!

  4. uptoncp says:

    Surely the altar of repose should be set up at, er, an altar.

  5. chonak says:

    Bp. Elliott, in his book on ceremonies of the liturgical year, says that the procession is meant to represent the journey from the Cenacle to Gethsemane, and that it is thus preferable to have the altar of repose apart from the place where the Mass is offered.

  6. Random Friar says:

    I agree with Chonak about the procession and movement, and as homeschoolofthree pointed out, if decorated well and tastefully, one could transform a blah or mundane space into something worthy.

    But no simple altar cloth over a card table! Put some effort into it!

  7. David2 says:

    The General Decree of the Sacred Congregation for Rites “To Restore the Liturgical Order of Holy Week” in 1955 – had this to say about the place of reposition:

    “8. For the solemn reposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a suitable place is to be prepared in another chapel or altar of the church as prescribed in the Roman Missal, and as far as possible this is to be decently adorned with hangings and lights.

    9. The decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites having been observed concerning the abuses to be avoided or removed in the preparation of this place, a severity which is proper to the celebration of these days is clearly recommended.”

    Fr McManus’ 1956 Commentary on the Liturgies of Holy Week says that the place of reposition need not be an altar, and under no circumstances should be the High Altar. The decoration spoken of is to be decent but austere. No relics pictures or statues are allowed.

    I don’t think waterfalls are entirely consistent with the severity traditionally required by the Church.

    The CDWDS December 2001 document appears to be consistent with the SCR 1955 Decree.

  8. David2 says:

    And the 1962 MR says:

    2. Pro solemni Sacramenti repositione paretur locus aptus in aliquo sacello vel altari ecclesiae, ac decenter, quoad fieri potest, ornetur velis et luminaribus; atque, servatis Sacrae Rituum Congregationis decretis de vitandis vel tollendis abusibus in hoc loco parando, plane commendatur severitas, quae liturgiae horum dierum convenit.

  9. daveams says:

    The document “Paschalis Sollemnitatis” (CDW, 1988), states:

    49. For the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, a place should be prepared and adorned in such a way as to be conducive to prayer and meditation; seriousness appropriate to the liturgy of these days is enjoined so that all abuses are avoided or suppressed.[55]

    When the tabernacle is located in a chapel separated from the central part of the church, it is appropriate to prepare the place of repose and adoration there.

    Endnote 55. SCR, Decree “Maxima Redemptionis Nostrae Mysteria” (November 16, 1955), n. 9, AAS 47 (1955), p. 895.

    While it doesn’t mention a side-altar specifically, the really interesting thing seems to be the endnote…from a certain document in 1955!:

    8. For the solemn reposition of the Blessed Sacrament a suitable place is to be prepared in another chapel or altar of the church, as prescribed in the Roman Missal, and as far as possible this is to be decently adorned with hangings and lights.
    9. The decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites having been observed concerning the abuses to be avoided or removed in the preparation of this place, a severity which is proper to the liturgy of these days is clearly recommended.

    Since this section of the 1955 decree is referenced as an endnote in “Paschalis” by the CDW, does that mean it still has force of law? Was someone in 1988 already thinking “hermeneutic of continuity?”

  10. chonak says:

    Maybe it would be good to recall the example we saw in a video from France where servers at an FSSP mass transformed a very plain modern altar to a trompe-l’oeil traditional one in under 15 minutes of time-lapse activity.

  11. Cincses says:

    My old Missal from the late 1960’s, referring to the Stripping of the Altars, which used to be an
    actual ceremony at the end of the Holy Thursday Mass and Procession, states “The Celebrant and
    his ministers strip all the altars of the Church, except the one where the Blessed Sacrament is
    solemnly adored.

    By the way, is there some rule that Holy Thursday adoration must end at 10 p.m.? I know there
    is not supposed to be any solemn adoration after midnight, but must we hide the Lord in the sacristy vault?

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