Recently I posted about The Symbolism of the Cross, a response to one question of several asked by a friend of mine about symbols in churches. I actually rather enjoyed writing in response to a question and so if you have any topics or themes you would like to suggest I have a look at then do go ahead and suggest them in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.
Anyway, here’s the second question.
What do you believe the Altar symbolises?
We don’t call the table at the front an Altar, because we no longer have to make any sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Instead, the Altar becomes the communion table – a table that reminds me of two tables; that of the last supper, and the one in Emmaus.
The table at the last supper was a place of love as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. It was a place of praise and worship when they sang a psalm together. It was a place where Jesus and the disciples could gather and share the Passover meal together. But it was also a table of hard truths, ‘one of you will betray me’; a table of questions, ‘who would do that?’; a table of nerves and anticipation, for both Judas about to leave and for Jesus who needed to go and pray before the ordeal that was to come.
The table in Emmaus is the scene of an evening meal shared between travellers who had been discussing the latest political events and all the talk of the town -puzzling over what it all could mean. Yet one of the travellers was a stranger to the others, and he seemed to have an interesting perspective on things. A perspective which, he suggested, they really should share given all the signs that Jesus had done and the ways it had matched the scriptures from Moses and through all the Prophets. After these questions and discussions, they convinced him to stop a while and share a meal. He took the bread and broke it in the same way as at the last supper. Their eyes were opened and they recognised him for who he was. That very hour, they left to return to the disciples to tell them. So this table is a table of recognition, of education, of revelation and, lastly, a table of sending – they left and went to share the news.
Our table at the front of our churches are places around which we can gather to share the Eucharist, to bring our questions and our doubts, to receive love and to share in worship. They are places where we can encounter God afresh with our communities, and they are tables from which we go out sharing our faith through the big and little things of our lives.