|Bishop David Choby consecrated the new marble altar at the Cathedral of the Incarnation during the 12:10 Mass on Monday, Jan. 19. About 60 priests and 30 deacons attended the Mass. Photo by Rick Musacchio|
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Bishop David Choby blessed and dedicated a new marble altar at the Cathedral of the Incarnation during the midday Mass on Monday, Jan. 19, to celebrate both the history of the Diocese of Nashville and the relationship between its people and God that is found in the Eucharist.
“It’s always important to mark the occasions in which the church celebrates significant moments in its life,” Bishop Choby said. “This year marks the 100th anniversary of the dedication of our Cathedral in Nashville. We began the year-long observance of this centenary with the ordination of 10 men to the priesthood.”
But the new altar is more than a historical marker.
“The aspect of the altar which I appreciate the most is the way it represents the communion that is in our relationship with the Lord as it is present in the Eucharist,” Bishop Choby said.
About 60 priests and 30 deacons participated in the Mass for the dedication of the altar.
When the Cathedral of the Incarnation was originally under construction from 1910-1914, Nashville Bishop Thomas Byrne envisioned an altar finished in fine Italian marble. However, at that time, the start of World War I in Europe, there was no way to import the marble.
So the dedication of the new altar, along with other improvements to the sanctuary in the Cathedral, completes Bishop Byrne’s vision.
The new marble altar replaced the old wooden and plaster one. Along with the altar, a new marble pulpit and cathedra (the chair that the bishop sits on) have been installed. To conform with current Catholic cathedral design standards, the cathedra was moved to the left side of the altar (as viewed from the pews), and the pulpit was moved to the right.
In the Catholic Church, the cathedral is the home church of the diocese’s presiding bishop and his center of operation. Though the Cathedral of the Incarnation also is home to a parish, it also is a church that belongs to and is used by the whole diocese.
Throughout the year, the Cathedral plays host to a variety of diocesan-wide sacramental and social events like priestly ordinations, and the annual all-schools Mass during Catholic Schools Week and the Chrism Mass during Holy Week.
“In the course of the past several years, it’s been observed that the appointments at the Cathedral could be improved, especially in regards to the size of the altar and its use in celebrations involving a great number of priests and a great number of people,” Bishop Choby said. “The altar was not large enough for the placement of all the chalices and placements we need to use.
“So the new altar meets the practical needs for a larger altar plus the opportunity it presents to mark the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral itself,” Bishop Choby added.
Because the Cathedral is the “mother church” of the diocese, Bishop Choby asked each parish to contribute to the cost of the altar and other renovations to the sanctuary.
While Cathedral parishioners were not responsible for covering the cost of the new marble instillations, the parish will be responsible for maintaining maintain it.
Bishop William Adrian oversaw the first major renovation of the Cathedral in 1937, which included needed repairs, new lighting and better weatherproofing. At that time, the Angelus prayer was also inscribed on the upper walls under the windows.
The marble for the new altar, blessed and dedicated by Bishop Choby, came from the same quarry in Carrara, Italy, as the marble for the altar Bishop Adrian had designed and built for the Cathedral in the 1930s, Bishop Choby said.
Fifty more years would pass before another major renovation was undertaken in 1987. This included moving the tabernacle to the new Eucharistic chapel and adding a baptismal pool in the back of the church, among other updates.
A crew from the New Jersey-based Giovannetti Marble and Granite installed the new altar, pulpit and cathedra.