Sanctuary Rearrangements Explained

straphaelsanctuary-tThe beginning of Advent next weekend marks the start of a new liturgical year, and we are going to take the opportunity to try something new to help us get closer to that “noble simplicity” called for by the Second Vatican Council. This involves some rearrangements of our sanctuary, that is, the central part of the church where the Altar, Ambo, Tabernacle, and Presider’s Chair are located.

Starting the weekend of November 27, the three chairs for the priest, deacon, and head altar server will be relocated to just in front of the section of pews closest to the Tabernacle (facing the same direction as those seated in the pew). The remaining altar servers…..will be seated in the pew row just behind the chairs, rather than in the middle of the sanctuary as they are now. We will use the space formerly occupied by the chairs for placement of the Advent Wreath, and then the Nativity Scene at Christmas.

This primarily benefits our liturgical processions, which I’ve written about previously. Processions are symbolic of a journey. For instance, the destination of the Entrance Procession is the altar. In the new configuration, ministers will reverence the altar, and then go directly to their place nearer the altar. You may have noticed the “laps” that the ministers make around the sanctuary several times during the liturgy. There won’t be need for this with the new configuration, which will make the movements of the ministers simpler and more purposeful.

The other reason for the change is proximity. It makes sense for the ministers, including the priest, deacon, and altar servers, to be closer to where their actions take place, i.e., the altar and ambo. It also helps that they are in closer proximity to one another to assist with communication if necessary. Additionally, the new positioning allows for the presider to address the entire assembly standing at his chair (for instance, at the beginning of Mass) without having his back to a large number of people in some sections.

I want to point out that none of these changes involves tearing down walls or spending money. We think it will improve our liturgies, but will evaluate the results and be attentive to constructive feedback. The word “liturgy” literally means work of the people, and our liturgies are always a work in progress. Thanks for being part of that work!

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– Jeff Rice, Pastoral Associate of Liturgy & Music

Fons et Culmen / Source & Summit: Liturgical Q&A 11/20