Friday, May 25, 2007

On the Altar of the Sepulchre

....Since the earliest times, Masses have been celebrated at the Holy Sepulchre, not only in the body of the church of the Holy Sepulchre with its many altars, but also in the burial chamber itself. Priest and faithful assemble in the the grave's antechamber and recite the readings that precede the sacrifice. Then the priest enters the burial chamber, where he uses the grave's niche as an altar; the grave cloths become a kind of altar cloth. Once inside, he cannot be seen by the congregation, who remain in the antechamber. They only hear his voice. The Consecration that takes place in the hidden space of the grave unites the sacrificial act of Golgotha and the moment of Resurrection inside the grave, for this Resurrection was also a kind of transubstantiation; it was the greatest step any substance can undergo: from death to life. The faithful who stand facing the choir-screen, the iconostasis, or the priest's back that hides the action from them are, as it were, standing outside the grave in Jerusalem. Here, in utter seclusion, without human witnesses, the Resurrection took place....
—Martin Mosebach, The Heresy of Formlessness,pages 166-167.

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