In late April I participated in the dedication of St. Joan of Arc Church in Toledo, Ohio. Many Catholics never have such an opportunity, and if they do, it may be a once-in-a-lifetime event. The experience is profound given the richness of the symbolism. What affected me the most was the dedication of the new altar built by Mr. Richard Anderson. Bishop Daniel Thomas poured chrism on the four corners of the altar. Then he smeared the consecrated oil over every inch of the altar, this anointing making the altar a symbol of Christ “The Anointed One.” After the church was anointed with crosses of chrism, making the building an image of the holy city of Jerusalem, incense was burned on the altar to signify that Christ’s sacrifice ascends to God as an odor of sweetness, and the prayers of the People of God rise up pleasing and acceptable to the throne of God.
Before the Eucharist Prayer several women wiped the chrism with large towels later to be burned. (They also cleared the floor of chrism that had splashed during the anointing.) At that point Dick and Fran Anderson, along with two Sisters of Notre Dame, dressed the altar. A family brought in flowers, and other parishioners brought in candles. After the Mass the four who dressed the altar grabbed hands but said little to each other. What could be said after such a privilege?