Altars and Relics

Altar stone
Altar stone that was kept within the altar of our church from approx 1975 to 2017

Some people may remember a time when altars had set into the table an ‘altar stone’.  The stone often had set into it the relic of a saint.

In early times, churches were often built over the tombs of martyrs, whose sacrifice reflected and honoured Christ’s own sacrifice.  St Peter’s Basilica and the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, for example, are both built over the tombs of the respective saints.

From this practice, the Church has had a long tradition of placing relics of saints beneath altars.  Many other saints, even if they are not martyrs, came to be interred in crypts below the sanctuaries of churches and cathedrals.  In other churches, a reliquary has been placed beneath the table of the altar.  While there was a time where relics were set into the table in an altar stone, the altar itself is a symbol of Christ, the living stone.  Relics, if they are to be kept at an altar, are to be placed beneath the table, which better reflects the traditional custom.

1401-altar-021.jpg
Architect’s impression of the new stone altar to be installed in our church as part of our Church Renewal Process

Our new altar will include a compartment beneath the table for the relics of a saint, which will be placed there by Bishop Vincent when the altar is dedicated on Sunday 17 December.

Hear the Difference

Carmel Bulletin, 1 October 2017

Church Renovation 1The visual difference to our church since demolition work began is obvious, but have you noticed any aural (sound) difference?

The removal of the carpet has changed the acoustics of the building.  Soft furnishings, like carpet, absorb sound, while sound bounces off hard surfaces like brick, timber and stone.  The result is an increased resonance of sound throughout the church, which enlivens the output from the sound system, organ and musical instruments.

Good acoustics are also important so that we can hear each other.  Being able to hear those around us pray and sing gives us confidence and reminds us that the liturgy is a communal, rather than individual act.  If we can’t hear others, it feels like we’re cheering on our team at home in front of the TV, rather than at the stadium with thousands of other fans – there’s a big difference in terms of sound and experience.  Feeling like you’re the only person in the church singing is not very encouraging!

While our renewed church will have some carpet, there will be less of it.  Some spaces that were carpeted will be tiled instead.  This means the acoustic feel of the church will change again, but will not be as dull as what it was before.  We’ll need to wait and see what the difference will sound like.

Church Renewal: The Entrances as Functional Spaces

Carmel Bulletin, 18 October 2015

Church Renewal ProcessWithin the design concept for the renewal of our church, new doors will improve the flow of movement between the church and parish centre, as well as the natural light under the choir gallery.

Light is a natural symbol of the presence of Christ.  We are fortunate to have a church that is abundant with natural light, reminding us of the heavenly light and warmth of God the creator.  This is less apparent under the choir gallery; the imposition of the gallery and the closed former entry doors limiting the light in that space.  The glass doors proposed to replace the current entry doors will provide much more light in this area.

The same doors will be positioned further forward than the current doors.  This will allow us to expand the area at the entrance, improve the sense of transition between exterior and interior, and provide space that will help support people’s personal and devotional prayer.  A new awning at the entrance will ensure that the entrance remains adequately sheltered.

Entrance Procession
The doorways of a church need to be large enough to accommodate a proper procession with all its requirements. Photo © Alphonsus Fok, 321 Photography

To be suitable for a procession of vested ministers led by a processional cross held high, the entrance is designed with appropriate gravitas.

And when churches are to be built (national guidelines for the building of churches), article 215

Something we have learned from using our parish centre is that the doorways between it and the church are narrow and too short to accommodate a liturgical procession (making sure the door frame doesn’t collect the processional cross on the way through is an art our servers have had to perfect!).  The new doors for our church will be designed with greater proportions to better serve this ritual action, and again improve the flow of movement of people in and out of the church.

You can read and view more about the design concept in the parish centre and at www.olmcwenty.org.au/churchrenewal

Church Renewal: Reflecting the Importance of the Entrances

Carmel Bulletin, 11 October 2015

Church Renewal ProcessWithin the design concept for the renewal of our church, new doors will improve the flow of movement between the church and parish centre, as well as the natural light under the choir gallery.

Architecturally and symbolically, doorways and thresholds are significant places, linking two different kinds of space.  In a church, the transitional or liminal space of the narthex marks the movement from introductory activities and rituals to the sacred action of the liturgy itself where the Body of Christ is constituted for worship and where the people enter into the mystery of God’s saving action.

And when churches are to be built (national guidelines for the building of churches), article 213

Door, Abbey Church, Montecassino
Door from the Benedictine Abbey Church of Montecassino, Italy – clearly not a door you would find for sale in your local hardware store!

The new glass doors that we propose to install are of glass construction, with a decorative metalwork screen.  The glass will let light into the church, and allow passers-by to see inside, which will help to make the entrances and the church more inviting.  The metal screens on the doors relate directly to original design plans for the church, and provide a design that sets them apart from other common doors. This will help to define the church as a special, sacred space with a particular purpose, and highlight the church doors as an important point of transition and movement into a house of prayer.

You can read and view more about the design concept in the parish centre and at www.olmcwenty.org.au/churchrenewal

Church Renewal: The Entrances

Carmel Bulletin, 4 October 2015

Church Renewal ProcessFr Paul is currently sharing with everyone the design concept for the renewal of our church.  In developing the concept, we asked the architect, Jesse Mowbray, to improve the flow of movement between the church and parish centre, as well as the natural light under the choir gallery.

The Church’s Book of Blessings (article 1216) reminds us of the importance of the church doors:

In the liturgical celebrations of baptism, marriage, and funerals provision is made for a rite of reception at the doors of the church. On certain days of the liturgical year, the faithful pass through these doors in procession into the body of the church. It is proper, then, that in construction, design, and decoration church doors should stand as a symbol of Christ, who said: “I am the door, whoever enters through me will be safe,” and of those who have followed the path of holiness that leads to the dwelling place of God.

The entrance to the church has a liturgical purpose and function, as is demonstrated we celebrate Palm Sunday each year.  They serve as means of helping us make the transition from the world into a house of prayer, and back out to proclaim the Good News.  On countless occasions over the centuries, church doors have also been a source of protection, keeping out those who threaten the Christian faith and providing sanctuary to those within.  As such, the entrance to the church is more than just a set of doors!

You can read and view more about the design concept in the parish centre and at www.olmcwenty.org.au/churchrenewal