Saturday, March 21, 2015

Altars of Repose

Altar of Repose at OL Mount Carmel church, Valletta, Malta
One of the most solemn days in the life of the church is Holy Thursday, the day the Eucharist and the Priesthood were instituted, both at the Last Supper which Jesus hosted for his 12 apostles. The foot washing ceremony takes place during the evening Mass, re-enacting the humble gesture Jesus did to his beloved apostles, encouraging them to do the same to others, humbly serving them, the mission of every priest. 
An Altar of Repose in a church in Rabat, Malta
Following the Mass, a procession with the Blessed Sacrament is held, placing the Eucharist in a special Altar of Reposition, usually a side altar, away from the main altar. The main altar is then stripped of altar cloths, candles, flowers, etc. Many churches decorate the Altars of Reposition in a magnificent display of flowers, candles, angels and other symbols of the Eucharist. These photos show just a few of the altars decorated in Maltese churches in 2010.
The Altar of Repose in my childhood church in St Julian's, Malta
People then visit these altars out of respect towards the Eucharist and pray until midnight. These visits continue also in the morning on Good Friday until noon. The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, originating in Rome, traditionally started by Saint Philip Neri, who took the members of his Oratory to visit the 7 major basilicas as penance. These churches are Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls, Saint Lawrence-outside-the-Walls, Saint Sebastian-outside-the-Walls, and Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem. 

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