“However, in St. Peter’s during the pontificate of St. Gregory the Great (590–604), the altar was moved nearer to the bishop’s chair, probably for the simple reason that he was supposed to stand as much as possible above the tomb of St. Peter. This was an outward and visible expression of the truth that we celebrate the Sacrifice of the Lord in the communion of saints, a communion spanning all times and ages. The custom of erecting an altar above the tombs of the martyrs probably goes back a long way and is an outcome of the same motivation. Throughout history the martyrs continue Christ’s self-oblation; they are like the Church’s living altar, made not of stones but of men, who have become members of the Body of Christ and thus express a new kind of cultus: sacrifice is humanity becoming love with Christ.”
Thoughts: Having relics by and in altars, reminds people that God wants us to not only love Him, but love others as well. The fact that the altar reminds us of our membership in the communion of saints, helps us live out this love more deeply. It increases a feeling of kinship to think of those who have gone before us to God’s heavenly kingdom who are still helping us live our lives according to God’s will through prayer and intercession. Knowing that God loves others so much and wants us to love others too, gives insight into His love. This fact clarifies how all-consuming His love is for everyone, and it reaffirms how He is a community of love. His love for everyone helps to prove how He is Love. By giving us deeper insight into the love of God, altars and their relics help us worship God with more devotion and love.
Excerpt from Sacred Places: The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer from The Spirit of the Liturgy
“… it shall occupy a place in the sacred building which is truly central, so that the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful is spontaneously turned to it.”
Thoughts: This excerpt reveals how important the altar is in a church. It occupies a very prominent place in the church. The only reason a thing would be important in a church is if it greatly reflected God or helped people worship Him. In this case, the altar is the place on which God becomes physically present in the Eucharist. There is no better way to grow in a deeper relationship with God than to be physically with Him. In knowing God better, one realizes more deeply His Goodness, Beauty, and Perfection. This realization leads to more personal and meaningful worship of God.
Excerpt from “The Proper Construction of Churches and Altars in order to Facilitate the Active Participation of the Faithful,” the Instruction for the Proper Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. This excerpt was found in
BAYNE, W. W. “Liturgical Art, History of.” New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., vol. 8, Gale, 2003, pp. 618-638. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.aapld.idm.oclc.org/apps/doc/CX3407706766/GVRL?u=algo36745&sid=GVRL&xid=fdd3e383. Accessed 8 Jan. 2019.
“Therefore, churches or other places should be suitable for carrying out the sacred action and for ensuring the active participation of the faithful. Moreover, sacred buildings and requisites for divine worship should be truly worthy and beautiful and be signs and symbols of heavenly realities.
289. Consequently, the Church constantly seeks the noble assistance of the arts and admits the artistic expressions of all peoples and regions. In fact, just as she is intent on preserving the works of art and the artistic treasures handed down from past centuries and, in so far as necessary, on adapting them to new needs, so also she strives to promote new works of art that are in harmony with the character of each successive age.”
A church should also have an altar, ambo, “Chair for the Priest Celebrant and Other Seats,” “Places for the Faithful,” “Place for the Schola Cantorum and the Musical Instruments,” “Place for the Reservation of the Most Holy Eucharist,” and “Sacred Images.”
The schola cantorum is the church choir.
Information and excerpt from Chapter V of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal
“751 The word ‘Church’ (Latin ecclesia, from the Greek ek-ka-lein, to ‘call out of’) means a convocation or an assembly. It designates the assemblies of the people, usually for a religious purpose.139 Ekklesia is used frequently in the Greek Old Testament for the assembly of the Chosen People before God, above all for their assembly on Mount Sinai where Israel received the Law and was established by God as his holy people.140 By calling itself ‘Church,’ the first community of Christian believers recognized itself as heir to that assembly. In the Church, God is ‘calling together’ his people from all the ends of the earth. The equivalent Greek term Kyriake, from which the English word Church and the German Kirche are derived, means ‘what belongs to the Lord.’
752 In Christian usage, the word ‘church’ designates the liturgical assembly,141 but also the local community142 or the whole universal community of believers.143 These three meanings are inseparable. ‘The Church’ is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ’s Body.”
If a church is “the assemblies of the people, usually for a religious purpose,” then a church that raises the mind to the God of that religion and therefore to the religion itself is an effective church. The fact that the word “Kyriake, from which the English word Church and the German Kirche are derived, means ‘what belongs to the Lord,'” shows that a church should center thought on God, His attributes, and what is His.
Excerpt from ARTICLE 9 “I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH”, Paragraph 1. The Church in God’s Plan, I. NAMES AND IMAGES OF THE CHURCH from the Catechism of the Catholic Church