Christian Cyclopedia

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In Christian worship, the symbol of the divine presence in a ch. or chapel and the focus of devotion. The many forms it takes all derive from the table in early places of worship to which mems. of the cong. brought their offerings and on which Communion was celebrated. In best Luth. tradition it is covered to the floor on all sides and has on the mensa,* in addition to the service book, only 2 candles and a crucifix (though these need not stand directly on the altar). When the altar stands against the back wall of the chancel,* it may have behind it a reredos or dossal (the latter an ornamental cloth hung behind and above the altar; if it extends around the sides of the altar, each side curtain is called a riddel). Over the altar may be a canopy called a ciborium or tester. Liturgical denominations are increasingly returning to the ancient practice of placing the altar far enough away from the wall to allow the officiant to function behind it, facing the people. Before the worship revival in contemporary Protestantism, altars were not gen. used in these denominations; the service was conducted from the rostrum or pulpit, and a small table was brought out for use as necessary in Communion services. The main altar is called the high altar. See also Church Furniture, 1. ACP

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

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