Monday, June 7, 2010

St Agnes, Port Macquarie

To deconstruct a high altar "in the spirit of Vatican II"... let me count the ways:

1.  On the Epistle Side:

On the right as one looks from the body of St Agnes' Church, Port Macquarie, one finds what I suspect is a reworking of the exposition throne from the former high altar, turned into a not unfitting tabernacle.  Pretty obviously – and old photographs I'm told confirm it – time was there was a pretty side altar here.  The altar rails have become the edge of the raised and extended sanctuary: at least they weren't junked.

(Note the tasteful banner, a leftover from Trinity Sunday.)

2.  In the apse:

The mensa is retained, or a passable copy substituted; but, there being no footpace (predella), it just sits in the sanctuary, a stone holy table, indeed above the steps leading from the nave level, yet below the steps leading up to, not the bishop's throne (though that is the impression I had, I was wrong) but to the priest's chair, from which he must preside over the sacred synaxis.

The lectern would also be part of the former marble high altar reworked.

In an unconsciously Anglican or rather Sarum manner, there are no candlesticks on the altar (in any case covered with a Vesper cloth to keep the dust off), but two standard (or standing) candles flank the steps leading up to the chancel.

While a good large crucifix now takes the place once filled by the high altar, a giant flower arrangement (perhaps in honour of St Agnes, flower of virgin-martyrs) dominates, and would appear as a floral aureole about the celebrant's head...

(One can just see the arch on the left leading through into a side chapel – a small statue of St Agnes can be seen there.  Strangely, this is the only reminder of her in the church, aside from a learnèd wall-mounted tablet hidden by the doorway halfway down the nave on the left, giving the verses Pope Damasus wrote in her honour, in the Latin, and with an English version also)

3.  On the Gospel side:

Behold the fruits of an access of baptismal devotion!  The font, bizarrely, now occupies the space once kept for an altar, and keeps the Paschal candle company in the sanctuary all the year round.

One may wonder whether this could occasion the simple faithful, noting the equal honour given the tabernacle and font (one each side of the altar where sacrifice is offered to God the Father) to surmise that, as Christ in His Sacrament abides in the tabernacle on the right, perhaps the Holy Ghost imbues the mystic laver with His secret Presence on the left.  All hail, adorèd Trinity! 

An appropriate bas relief of Christ baptized by St John has been put in below that acme of modern worship, the overhead projector screen.  No doubt the words of the new revised English Mass will be put up there once Lismore officially brings these into use...

(I took these images before settling down to the Breviary on Friday morning.)

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