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Reason why catholic kiss the altar and bible

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The practice of reverencing the altar with a kiss is one of the most ancient liturgical traditions and can be dated back to the 4 th century with certainty.

In the pagan Roman empire, it was customary to kiss the door of a temple before entering to venerate the various pagan gods. Families at home would also reverence the family table by kissing it before sitting down for a meal. The early Church took these customs and “baptized” them by incorporating them into worship of the true God as we gather around his altar from which Jesus offers Himself to the Father and feeds us with His Body and Blood. During this time of the church there were many people converting from pagan worship to the worship of the True God and those joining with their fellow Catholics would have immediately recognized this symbolism from their former pagan lives.

As the custom has continued to this day at each Mass that is celebrated we recognize two primary reasons the priest, and the deacon if one is present, kisses the altar.

First, the altar is a symbol of Christ. Preface V of Easter declares, “By the oblation of his Body, he brought the sacrifices of old to fulfillment in the reality of the cross and, by commending himself to you (Father) for our salvation, showed himself the Priest, the Altar, and the Lamb of sacrifice.” In her liturgy, the Church tells us that Jesus “showed” himself as a type of altar.

This makes sense in a number of ways. Jesus is the center, source and goal of our worship and the altar is the center point of the celebration of the Mass, so when the priest reverences the altar with a kiss he is showing his love for Christ who is the center of life and worship.

Another reason that Jesus is the altar pertains to the materials used to build the altar in many churches, especially cathedrals throughout the world. An altar that is made of marble gives the impression that it will never be moved from its prominent position within the church. Jesus on the cross does not waver from His commitment to offer Himself for our salvation and remains steadfast as the rock upon which our hope is built.

Another reason pertains to the relics of the saints that are contained within each altar. During the first centuries, the altar was often a stone slab placed over the tomb of a martyr. Typically, this took place in the catacombs which you can still visit in Rome to this day. Could the memorial of the death of the Savior be anywhere more fittingly celebrated than on the tombs of the faithful who had died for Christ? This is the origin of the custom of setting in the altar-stone a cavity in which relics of martyrs or other saints are enclosed.

St. John, in the Book of Revelation, says, “I saw beneath the altar the souls of all who had been slain for love of God’s word” (6:90). Some people think that this statement refers to the habit of saying Mass over a martyr’s tomb on certain occasions early in the life of the Church. This tradition goes all the way back to the time of the Apostle John.

The next time you see the priest reverence the altar with a kiss remember these two reasons for the action and thank the Father for the gift of his Son, Jesus and the many saints that have given their lives to Christ and intercede for us daily, and especially as we gather for the worship of Christ, the Eternal Priest.

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