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Altar of Repose
(Sometimes called less properly sepulchre or tomb, more frequently repository).
The altar where the Sacred Host, consecrated in the Mass on Holy Thursday, is reserved until the Mass of the Presanctified (see GOOD FRIDAY) on the following day. It is prescribed that the altar of repose be in the church and other than the one where Mass is celebrated. In the Mass on Holy Thursday two hosts are consecrated; after the consumption of the first, the second Host is placed in a chalice, which is covered with a pall and inverted paten; over the whole is placed a white veil, tied with a ribbon. This remains on the corporal in the centre of the altar till the end of Mass, when it is carried in solemn procession to the altar of repose, there to remain in the tabernacle or in an urn placed in a prominent position above the altar. Individual churches vie with one another in rendering these altars of repose with their respective chapels ornate in the extreme, with rich hangings, beautiful flowers, and numerous lights. Catholic piety has made Holy Thursday a day of exceptional devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and the repository is the centre of the love and aspirations of the faithful. Mention of the altar of repose and the procession thereto is not found before the close of the fifteenth century. The reservation of the Consecrated Species in the Mass of Holy Thursday, spoken of in earlier liturgical works, was for the distribution of Holy Communion, not for the service on the following day.
ANDREW B. MEEHAN