Liturgical Changes in Advent. Our High Altar emphasizes the transcendence and unreachability of God, the God who is “immortal, invisible, God only wise.” Whereas, our Nave Altar emphasize the immanence and presence of God, the God who is Emmanuel (“God with us”). Both transcendence and immanence are aspects of God, and both are worthy of our devotion and attention. Because we have both a High Altar and a Nave Altar, we can be intentional about which aspect to emphasize in a given season.
This Sunday, the annual cycle begins again with Advent, and our watching and waiting for God to return. Advent is a wilderness time. A time of preparation, prayer, and fasting. A time of prophesies and portents. A time to become reawakened to the God who sits in majesty—the transcendent, ineffable God—and to contemplate the mystery of how this transcendent God becomes the immanent—the incarnate—Emmanuel (“God with us”). Thus, beginning with Reign of Christ Sunday (29 November) and continuing through Advent the Nave Altar is removed, and this empty space becomes a symbolic desert for us; a sign of our own spiritual hunger, of our longing for God to come among us. The Liturgy of the Table is celebrated at the High Altar, emphasizing God’s transcendence, and our faithful waiting for this God to “come down” at Christmas.