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Question

Dear father Angelo,

I would like to ask you if the reposition’s altar is obligatory in a Church or it was originated by popular tradition.

Thank you for the answer, I renew my sincere wishes for a Holy Easter.


Priest answer

Dear friend,

1.Celebrating the Holy Thursday’s liturgy with the Holy Mass in cena domini involves itself the need to be together with the Lord.

The Holy Thursday is the day on which the Lord has instituted the Eucharist.

For this reason, the Church’s liturgy has established that there must be a tabernacle (it does not say altar) where to place the Blessed Sacrament for the adoration of the faithfuls, and also to preserve the consecrated particles for the liturgy of the Holy Friday, the day when the Mass is not celebrated and therefore the priest cannot consecrate the particles.

2. A Circular Letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship on the preparation and celebration of the Easter holidays has established (n° 54): “the procession and the reposition of the Blessed Sacrament are not allowed in those churches where, during the Holy Friday, Christ’s Passion is not celebrated”.

3. In the past there used to be a solemn procession at the end of the Holy Mass in Cena Domini.

The liturgical discipline minutely provided all the people with a particular role. 

In an ancient liturgy text we read: “For the procession the seven subdeacons, the seven deacons, and the twelve priests precede the canons, in the middle of whom the assistant priest can be found.

The crosier holder and the Thurifers walk in front of the canopy, under which the assistant deacons stay, walking at the sides of the Prelate.

The waiter supports the Prelate’s wax and he walks at the right side of the first one of priests who hold the canopy.

The flag-bearers follow the celebrant”.

4. Around this adoration, the popular piety has manifested in many ways its own sensitivity.

“For a historical process, not yet fully clarified in its various stages, the place of reposition has been considered as «holy sepulchre»; the faithfuls used to flock in order to venerate Jesus who, after the deposition from the cross, was collocated in the tomb for about 40 hours” (Directory on popular piety and liturgy, n° 141).

5. Until we used to talk about the holy sepulcher (and we talked about it until the Holy Week reform implemented by Pius XII) we also used to visit the sepulchers.

We used to visit the sepulcher seven times in order to repair the many insults done to Jesus in the seven passages of His passion (from the Cenacle to Gethsemane, from Gethsemane to Annas, from Annas to Caiaphas, from Caiaphas to Pilate, from Pilates to Herod and the back to Pilate’s praetorium, from the Praetorium to the Calvary where Jesus was crucified).

6. The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy writes: “It is necessary that the faithful be enlightened on the meaning of reposition: carried out with austere solemnity and ordered essentially to the conservation of Lord’s body for the communion of the faithful in the liturgical Action on the Holy Friday and for Viaticum of the sick, it is an invitation to adoration, silent prolonged of the wonderful Sacrament instituted on this day. 

Therefore, with reference to the place of reposition, the term «sepulchre» and in its preparation, not be given to this the appearance of a burial place; For the tabernacle shall not be in the form of a sepulchre or a funeral urn: the Sacrament is kept in a closed tabernacle without exposing it with the monstrance. After midnight on Holy Thursday, worship takes place without solemnity, being already started the day of the Lord’s Passion” (n° 41)

I wish you a good and Holy Easter, rich in graces and peace

I remind you to the Lord and bless you

Father Angelo


Translated by : Martina Bimbi

Verified by : Sara Bellei