A portable altar consists of a solid piece of natural stone which
must be sufficiently hard to resist every fracture. It must be
consecrated by bishop or other person having faculties to do so.
By virtue of Facultates Extraordinariae C., 6., the bishops of the
United States may delegate a priest. It is inserted in, or placed
on, the table of the altar, about two inches from the front edge,
and in such a manner that, by its slight elevation above the
table, the celebrant can trace its outlines with his hand and thus
recognize its location beneath the altar-cloths. In general it
should be large enough to hold the Sacred Host and the greater
part of the base of the chalice (Cong. Sac. Rit., 20 March, 1846)
If the altar is intended for the celebration of Masses at which
Holy Communion is distributed, it should be large enough to hold
the ciborium also. Five Greek crosses are engraved on it, one near
each corner and one in the centre, to indicate the place on which
the unctions are made at the consecration. If the cross in the
centre should be wanting, the unction must not be omitted, but the
omission of this unction would not invalidate the consecration
(Cong. Sac. Rit., 2 May, 1892). The table and supports on which
the portable altar rests may be constructed of any suitable
material, wood or stone, provided they have the proper dimensions.
For the portable altar the Greeks generally use the antimensium, a
consecrated altar-cloth of silk or linen, after the manner of our
corporals. When a church is consecrated, a piece of cloth large
enough to form several antimensia is placed on the altar. It is
consecrated by the bishop pouring wine and holy chrism on it and
stiffening it with a mixture consisting of relics pounded up with
wax or fragrant gum. It is afterwards divided into pieces about
sixteen inches square, and after the Holy Eucharist has been
celebrated on them for seven days these pieces are distributed as
occasion requires (Neale, Holy Eastern Church, I, 187).
A.J. SCHULTE Transcribed by Michael C. Tinkler
From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the
Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by
New Advent, Inc., P.O. Box 281096, Denver, Colorado, USA, 80228.
Taken from the New Advent Web Page (www.knight.org/advent).
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