New Altar Dedicated on the Feast of St. Joseph

The solemnity of St Joseph – the highest feast day dedicated to Jesus’ foster father and the head of the Holy Family was a day of rejoicing for the Diocese of St. John’s-Basseterre and in particular the Holy Family Cathedral Parish in Antigua.

The ongoing effort to transform the sanctuary to a giant step on March 19, when Bishop llanos presided over a special mass for the dedication of the new altar. The Fr. Athanasius George Williams, Administrator of Holy Family, along with Vicar General, Father Pierre Tevi-Benissan and the other priests and deacons of the diocese assisted with the Mass.

The Mass featured several extra rites, beginning with a sprinkling of both the congregation and the new altar with holy water. Bishop Llanos then detailed what makes an altar dedication such a special ceremony. He underscored that the use of sacred chrism oil, which is usually reserved for baptisms, confirmations, and ordinations, and is only used outside of these sacraments to consecrate a new church or altar. In his homily, Bishop Llanos highlighted the the appropriateness of of the occasion on which the altar is dedicated. He noted “as we reflect on God’s work of art in St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus and husband of Mary the Mother of God, we dedicate our new altar as an instrument and place of unique holiness in the history of our salvation. He continued, that “in the New and Eternal Covenant with the Blood of the Lamb, this Altar, this Sanctuary, this Temple, and the people of God are made holy and set apart i.e. covenanted to share in the Glory of God on the seventh day (Sabbath/Sunday) the day that sanctifies for all eternity.”

In a similar tone, Master of Ceremony, Fr. Courage Dogbe provided an excellent summary of the significance of the event. He remarked that the altar, as the central object of the Church where the holy sacrifice of the Mass is offered, consecrated and dedicated to God, and therefore means that nothing else, with the exception of Mass can ever be done on the altar.

Following the homily, the congregation was led by the choir in the singing of the Litany of the Saints, a reminder of the unity we share with the Communion of Saints. Another important feature was the placement of a saint relic within the altar, an ancient tradition of the Church which serves as a mark of honour for the saints. A prayer of dedication, highlighting important figures and moments of salvation history, as well as evidence of God’s fulfillment of his Covenant with them was offered. Bishop then anointed the altar with chrism, pouring it in the center and in each corner of the altar. Once completed, the oil of chrism was rubbed in across the entire surface, following which, Bishop Llanos burned incense on the altar, praying: “make it [altar] a source of unity and friendship where your people may gather as one to share your spirit of mutual love; make it the center of our praise and thanksgiving until we arrive at the Eternal Tabernacle where together with Christ [the] High Priest and living altar we will offer you an everlasting sacrifice of praise.” Father Jean Paul and Dcn. Duplessis then covered the altar to prepare it for the Eucharistic sacrifice.

Finally, the lighting of the altar signified the presence of God and Church’s responsibility to radiate the love of Christ all around us. “Received the Light of Christ,” declared Bishop Llanos.