The Holy Table
Inside every Catholic Church there is an altar. It is the Holy Table. Sometimes the altar is made of stone; sometimes it is made of wood. Our altar, which is very beautiful, is carved by hand and made of wood.
We call it a table because we gather there every weekend to eat the holy meal – the bread and wine which become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ! The words of the priest and the power of the Holy Spirit make this miracle happen!
But an altar is also a place where sacrifices take place. A sacrifice is an offering to God. When he was nailed to the cross on Calvary, Jesus was offering himself – giving himself away. He offered himself to God the Father in love for us. He does this still – everywhere and forever. His offering of love reaches out even into outer space! And that gift of his love comes to us disguised as bread and wine at Mass. Ever think about the priest raising up the host and raising up the cup? It's like Jesus being lifted up on the cross – looking out over the whole world in love and forgiveness. His eyes of love find us even where the world hides in sin: in hatred, selfishness, killing, terrible disobedience.
Look carefully at our altar – it seems to be alive with carved vines and even beautiful peacocks! Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches." And the peacocks are symbols of Jesus rising from the dead. Death is not the end for us – but a bridge that Jesus opens up to life in the Holy Trinity.
When we see the long white cloths placed over the altar we might think of the cloths used to wrap Jesus' body before it was placed in the tomb.
On the top of the altar and hidden underneath the cloths is an antimension. Here is a picture. It is a lovely sewn cloth with a picture of Jesus being taken down from the cross and being readied for the tomb. His mother is there and his friends. I like to think that on Calvary day, I would have been there too.
Sewn into the border of the cloth are relics – little pieces of cloth or bone from the saints who have died but who now live in heaven's light, heaven's song, heaven's joy! I want to be a saint too! But how? Love Jesus. Be good. Be generous. Be forgiving. Get all the hatred out of your heart.