Expert Answer Forum

Altar Cloth QUESTION from Ronald Smith December 14, 1999
We have a new church building and new altar. In the old church the priest used white altar cloths that usually contained a cross and other religious symbols. To signify seasons, they usually laid a band of colored material over the altar cloth such as a purple band for lent, a red band for a martyr's feast, etc. In the new building they have a quilted altar cloth in country colors. It looks like a country tablecloth and not like an altar cloth at all. Is this new type of altar cloth permissible? ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on December 14, 1999
Dear Ronald Traditionally the altar cloth represents the burial shroud of Christ. In some of the major basilicas the altar cloth has a relic of the cross sewn into the hem. Unfortunately the rubrics aren't specific regarding its shape and color. At least one cloth should be placed on the altar out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and the banquet that gives us his body and blood. The shape, size, and decoration of the altar cloth should be in keeping with the design of the altar. [General Instruction of the Roman Missal , 268] I can't imagine why someone would prefer a quilted country tablecloth to a traditional altar cloth. Perhaps they're trying to create that famous warm and fuzzy atmosphere so important to trendy clerics and liturgical committees. Do you suppose they would use such a tablecloth for their own wedding reception (feast)? Personally I doubt it. Hang in there my brother. John Miskell Back to Index Page

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