The Altar of God

And the altar of a church, around which the holy people of God gather to take part in the Lord’s sacrifice and to be refreshed at the heavenly meal, stands as a sign of Christ himself, who is the priest, the victim, and the altar of his own sacrifice.” Rightly so, the altar is the primary ‘ecclesiastical furniture’, for without it a building is not a church.

As is the custom in our Institute, here in the Philippines we tried our best to look for a single block of natural stone to serve as an altar. Why natural stone? A natural-stone altar is rich in symbolism, in one of the letters of St Paul, he related that stone with the Exodus of the People of God: “and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”(1 Cor 10:1-4)

The first challenge was to find a company that sells huge blocks of natural stone. It was quite hard to locate them since most of them are selling those stones that have been converted into ornamental tiles. Through some online search, we found a marble quarry at Teresa, Rizal. We called this company, gave the dimension of the marble block we wanted and the deal was made.  After 2 months, we received a call from them telling us that the marble is ready, but we have to find someone else to install it in our chapel since it weighs 6 tons (6000 kilos). This called for some rounds of ‘negotiations’. They suggested us to cut the block into four for easy installment. Of course, we said no. The logistics company hired to install the altar, came to inspect the chapel twice, but still they cannot commit themselves to work.  Marble is too delicate to handle, they said. On the third visit we finally convinced them.

When everything has already been set, everyone became so excited for the delivery of this spectacular altar (could this be the heaviest altar in the Philippines?). The chapel, which is still under construction, was prepared for its ‘grand entrance’.  Then the crane lifted the altar–what a joy of seeing that 6-ton altar up on the air! (Well, not very high, but at least that would be the first and last time we will see it ‘float’. Very historical, indeed).

On March 9, at around 4am the two trucks arrived in the city, a six-wheeler carrying the marble and a 10-wheeler carrying all the equipment.  Some of us accompanied those trucks and we inched our way towards the seminary, passing through small city roads and even smaller farm roads. At 6am, we arrived at the seminary, and after an hour, the work begun. We prepared a simple video to explain the process of moving this altar to our new chapel.

Our Provincial Superior then placed three relics under the altar before it was completely installed: relics of the Blessed Martyrs of El Pueyo, Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro and of Venerable Francis-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận. All of them suffered a state-sponsored persecution, all of them proclaimed Christ: “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne” (Rev 6:9)

It is worth the effort, for after that floating altar descended on the chapel floor, we would now wait for some few months more before Christ would descend on it in every Eucharistic sacrifice offered there, and our prayers, petitions and offerings ascend from that same altar.

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