That piece of church furniture we call the altar—the table at which we make our memorial of Jesus’ offering up of himself once for all, and, in response, offer up our own sacrifice of thanks and praise—is marked by five crosses, one in each of the four corners and one at the centre-point, recalling the five wounds of Christ on the cross: the nail-piercing of his wrists and ankles, and the spear thrust up through his ribs to burst open his heart.
For most of the year, these crosses are covered by a fine linen cloth, but on Maundy Thursday we strip the altars bare, exposing them until the altar is made ready again to celebrate on Easter Sunday.
This photo is of the stripped altar in the Lady Chapel at St Nicholas’. I love its elegant, elongated form.
These crosses, beautifully tactile, usually hidden from view, are just about my favourite piece of symbolism in the symbol-rich Christ-shaped imagination of the Church. Our hands, our feet, our heart, none of which escape wounding, are to be conformed to his likeness. What we do, where we go, and what motivates us, not for our glory but, for the most part hidden, one with him. Our mandate, to love one another, as he has loved.
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