“Today we are doing something very sacred,” Bishop John Noonan told parishioners of Annunciation Parish in Altamonte Springs. On January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Bishop Noonan celebrated Mass with the community and blessed the parish’s new altar, the culmination of recent enhancements made to the church over the summer and fall months.
The new altar is not only a beautiful addition to the sanctuary, but its every detail is rich in symbolism, with a special focus on Mary, the patroness of the parish. Constructed of Italian marble, the altar features a Fleur-De-Lis cross in the center where the shape of a lily represents purity, and in turn, the Virgin Mary. It is composed of three petals and three sepals which symbolize the Holy Trinity. It is also the attribute of the archangel Gabriel, notably in representations of the Annunciation. The colors of the marble include blue for the Blessed Mother, red signifying the Blood of Christ, and gold for the Body of Christ.
During the Mass the relic of St. Therese of Lisieux, a piece of bone, was presented to Bishop Noonan. It will be permanently placed in a special repository created at the bottom of the altar. A statue of St. Therese is located in the Narthex of the church. She is known for finding God in all things, especially in the ‘little things.’
Father Stephen Parkes, pastor, pointed out there was a special significance with the altar’s blessing coinciding with the beginning of the diocesan Year of the Eucharist which began on December 3.
“Our diocese is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a Year of the Eucharist, so it is a fitting day for Bishop Noonan to be here at Annunciation to bless our altar where we are fed with the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ,” said Father Parkes.
Bishop Noonan likened the blessing of the altar to the baptism of a child, explaining that through the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist the faithful are called to be members of the Body of Christ. Bishop Noonan spread the same Sacred Chrism that is used in baptisms on all four corners of the altar, that it may be a “holy, visible sign of the mystery of Christ, who offered himself for the life of the world.” Candles were lit around the altar, recalling the baptismal candle, “that the light of Christ will always shine in our hearts, shine in our lives, to show us the way.” After the altar was incensed, with fragrant smoke symbolizing the prayers of the faithful rising the heaven, it was then covered with a white linen cloth to prepare to receive the body and blood of Jesus. This cloth calls to mind the white garment received at baptism to signify “putting on Christ.”
“You are gifted with Jesus Christ and that gift comes every day that you come to church because on this altar we receive Christ in the Eucharist,” said Bishop Noonan. “Because of that gift of Christ, you are no longer slaves of the world, of sin, of hatred, or of violence. You are children of God and what a great gift to receive, being called children of God!”
By Elizabeth Wilson, Florida Catholic Correspondent – January 4, 2018