Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sacred Heart Cathedral Basilica, Newark, New Jersey

To my knowledge we have not featured the splendid Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey. My attention was actually drawn to it by a photo I saw of an Anglican use Mass which was celebrated here -- an event which I'd be happy to receive photos from. What little I saw impressed me and so I sought out the building.

In particular I was drawn to the magnificent ciborium of the cathedral-basilica:

We should perhaps state the obvious: evidently the altar candlesticks, seen on the floor in front of the ciborium, would more appropriately and edifyingly be placed upon the altar itself, whether in a "Benedictine" configuration or of course an ad orientem one. This would both put them in better relation to the altar proper and also further add to the vertical aspect of the entire arrangement. I'd also make brief note that this is an altar which cries out for the use of full antependia instead of the partial sort seen here, not only further emphasizing the altar itself, but better vesting it in the liturgical colour of the day.

That said, the ciborium looks magnificent and it is good to see that the altar continues to be used in relation to it. Why I say so is for both the reason that often this was not the case by the latter part of the 20th century (a good example of the lamentable loss of some of the very gains made by the 20th century Liturgical Movement, pushed aside in the face of other trends) and also for reason of the history of the ciborium in relation to the altar. Schuster and Bishop speak of that history accordingly:

The sum of the Christian religion was there upon the Altar, the gospel of the Word and the gifts of the Paraclete. For this reason, in the minds of the early Christians, the altar could never be without the halo of its sacred nature -- that is, the ciborium or baldacchino in marble or in silver. The altar in its entirety constituted the true tabernacle of the Most High, who assuredly could not dwell sub divo without a special roof of his own under the lofty vaulting of the naos.

-- Ildefonso Cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum, p. 163

* * *

The canopy served for honour: the existence of a covering over, and marking the seat of the ruler, magistrate, pontiff, existed in the general instinct of the peoples; it was surely fitting to render the same honour to the seat of Majesty of the King of Kings...

-- Edmund Bishop, "On the History of the Christian Altar", Liturgica Historica

As for antependia, see our article of Oct. 16, 2008: The History, Development and Symbolism of the Antependium, Altar Frontal, or "Pallium Altaris"

Here are some further images from the cathedral, which has many edifying aspects. (For more information on the history of this cathedral, see here.)

Photo credit: Image source

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