Altar linen and vessels


Today we’re going to talk more about the altar and credence table.

The altar

The altar should be covered with three cloths, the top one of which is called the fair linen cloth.  When the altar is not in use, this is covered with a fourth – a dust cover, which is taken off before the Eucharist.

Bread and wine

As you know, the matter of the Eucharist is bread and wine.  Wafer bread is used and is made from the finest wheat flour without any yeast.  That is to say, it is unleavened.  The reason for this is that Jesus used unleavened bread at the Last Supper.  The wafers are round, the priest’s being rather larger than the people’s.  Wine, of course, which Jesus commanded the Church to use at the Eucharist, is the fermented juice of the grape.  Unfermented grape juice is not wine at all, and therefore must never be used.

Chalice, paten and ciborium

The vessels used at the altar are three: the chalice, the paten and the ciborium.  The chalice is the cup in which the wine is consecrated.  It is made of silver, or sometimes of gold, but if it is of silver the inside is silver gilt.  The paten is the shallow plate used for the priest’s wafer.  It is made of the same metal as the chalice.  The ciborium is a silver cup with a lid in which the people’s wafers are consecrated.

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