Monday, January 26, 2015

Snow Altars in the Grand Tetons

Each January, Wyoming Catholic College freshmen spend a week in the vicinity of the Grand Teton mountains near Jackson, learning how to live in the wintry outdoors, cross-country skiing with backpacks, building quigloos and quinzees, and generally getting comfortable (or as comfortable as possible) with the cold, quiet, and beautiful world of deep winter. I won't say much more about the winter trip or the outdoor program with its experiential leadership component; interested readers can find out more here and here.

What I'd like to post on today, instead, is an amazing "competition" that took place on this year's winter expedition. Because they knew the two College chaplains would be traveling from site to site to celebrate Mass, the students challenged one another's groups to build the ultimate snow altar for the occasion. (Credit for the initial idea goes to Mr. Rob Meeker, Assistant Director of the Outdoor Adventure Program.) And, as the photos show, they outdid themselves. Altars weren't enough; they built chairs, pews, altar rails, and other furnishings, and decorated them with Latin phrases. One of the photos shows Fr. Christopher Saliga's Byzantine altar cloth that he carried with him so that he could celebrate Mass upon the relics of saints.

Congratulations to the freshmen of the College for their creative adaptation of the plentiful God-given ice and snow, so that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass could be fittingly celebrate even in the remote wilderness. How can one not be reminded of the verse of the Benedicite: "Benedicite, rores et pruina, Domino; benedicite, gelu et frigus, Domino, laudemus et superexaltemus eum in saecula. O frost and cold, bless the Lord; O ice and snow, bless the Lord: praise Him, and exalt Him above all for ever."

I'll post the photos according to student groups -- there are five different Masses (and therefore five different "sanctuaries") shown here.

The sanctuary -- with altar, altar rail, chair, and ambo.

Getting ready for Mass. Where has the sun gone?

Celebrating ad orientem.

A new kind of monastic cowl?

There's even a statue of Our Lady.

Next location. The reading from the ambo.

Ecce Agnus Dei...

This next group stopped at nothing. Note the high altar, the enclosed sanctuary, etc.

A close-up of the altar.

The Byzantine altar cloth, ready for Mass.

Our Dominican chaplain vests.

The reading.

Worshiping eastwards -- where the dawning east is really obvious.

Like some churches in Rome: steps ascending to a lofty altar. 

At a final location, the chaplains prepare to celebrate the last outdoor Mass of the trip.

Some happy campers!

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