The Altar Rail, Part 3

The Altar Rail, Part 3

Continuing our catechesis on the Communion rail, let us think about where it is situated in the church. In the construction of churches, Catholic architects always made a firm delineation between the nave and the sanctuary, since the sanctuary represents the heavenly realm. Without a gate, or a doorway into a dwelling place, it is impossible to know where one is headed. A door gives us a direction, a point for which to set out on our pilgrim journey. If the nave represents the earthly realm and the sanctuary represents the heavenly realm, the altar rail is the edge of heaven. The Mass is truly “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven” (John Henry Cardinal Newman), and the Mass is directly connected to the daily offering that Christ makes in heaven to his Eternal Father. Receiving at the rail allows us to draw close to heaven, our faces “peeking into heaven” as we receive the pledge of future glory: the Eucharist. Practically, when we receive at the Communion rail, we have time to get set in our place and then spend a few moments recollected before we receive the Eucharist. Rather than just following the person in front of us, we have a great gift to kneel or stand in place and truly have some moments of prayer as we wait for Christ to give himself to us.

 

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