It has been a busy Advent season, and this past Sunday was a very full day of celebration and reflection for the parish of St. Ann’s. We’re now truly ready to commemorate and celebrate Christ’s birth this Sunday!
During the morning Mass last Sunday, children of all ages were treated to a visit from St. Nicholas, in the person of parishioner John Cornali. He shared the story of the kind and generous bishop of Myra, whose gift-giving and protection of children led to the popular saint becoming known as Santa Claus.
On Sunday evening, the parish enjoyed a unique celebration -- the dedication of a new altar. Traditionally, altars are blessed as part of the Mass of dedication of a new parish church. The previous altar was part of such a celebration.
However, St. Ann’s received a new altar, a gift to mark the parish’s 50th jubilee last year. The altar has been in use since it was installed, but had not been formally dedicated until this past Sunday.
San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garc’a-Siller presided over the rite of dedication, a beautiful and meaningful ceremony.
Some may wonder why we make all the fuss over what is, to all appearances, a mere slab of stone. But the altar is so much more than that.
“The Catholic altar is both a sacrificial altar, and a table for a communal meal,” according to aquinasandmore.com. In Jesus’ day, altars for animal sacrifice for atonement for sins were common. Christ’s passion “... was the ultimate sacrifice, to atone for the sin of mankind. Therefore, the Christ’s sacrifice is enacted each Mass at an altar. The altar is also a table because we are all ‘called to the Lord’s supper.’”
In reverence, Archbishop Gustavo anointed the new altar with oil, burned incense on and around it, and invited it to be covered and lit with candles.
This was prefaced by a beautiful prayer of dedication. I leave you with part of the prayer here -- as we complete our Advent journey with Mary and Joseph -- to ponder and pray about our gathering in worship as community on Christmas day, and throughout the year.
“Make it a table of joy, where the friends of Christ may hasten to cast upon you their burdens and cares and take up the journey restored.
“Make it a place of communion and peace, so that those who share the body and blood of your Son may be filled with his Spirit and grow in your life of love.
“Make it a source of unity and friendship, where your people may gather as one to share your spirit of mutual love.
“Make it the center of our praise and thanksgiving until we arrive at the eternal tabernacle, where, together with Christ, high priest and living altar, we will offer you an everlasting sacrifice of praise.”
Join the parish of St. Ann’s at this table of joy to celebrate Christ’s birth anew in our hearts.
Wishing you true joy and God’s peace and love this Christmas!