Courtesy of DMac at CMR, here's a look at yet another cathedral renovation that strains the meaning of the word.
Here, for easy comparison, is the old altar at the old cathedral:
And here's the new:
Now, the old altar is clearly an altar. There's no doubt that the church exists for the greater glory of God. The whole orientation of the church makes that clear.
The new altar--well, it looks like a 1970s coffee table, an example of which can be found here; I've put its picture below:
The 1970s influence is even greater when the altar in the new church has its lights on. Yes, lights. They emanate from the frosted glass (!) base. You can look at it here; I'm too fainthearted to post any more examples of the horror, neither the lights (which could have been worse--they could have gone all out with the 70s coffee-table theme and done disco lighting) nor what DMac succinctly describes as the "day-glo" panels behind the Coffee Table of Sacrifice. I'm also not showing the pictures of the "in-the-round" seating, which alas is no longer rare, but which still combines the charming ability to see full-on one's neighbor snoozing or the lady with the neckline that looks like it might plunge over the cliff or the kid with the obscene t-shirt etc., with the complete inability to ignore the showy cantor at center stage--er, sanctuary? Dais? What do we even call, anymore, that nebulous part of the "worship space" where podiums erupt like unfortunate stalagmites from the glistening floor?
The two cathedral buildings seem to have a different purpose altogether. The old cathedral says, simply, "Come and worship the Almighty God; participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and partake of the Eucharist." The new building says, "Are there any visitors here today? Oh, yes, and where are you from? Let's give them a round of applause. Now, what about birthdays? Anniversaries? Good, good. Well, here we are again, gathered around the Lord's (Coffee) Table, to become bread for each other. And to be good bread we need--what? Anybody? Elizabeth? Jim? Nice to see you're back from your vacation, Jim. Oh, Sally? Yes, that's right, we need God's special leaven to make us bread. We can't be bread for each other without God's leaven in our hearts, right? So for all those times when we've failed to be bread, let us ask God to add more leaven into our hearts..."
Meanwhile the congregation, having tuned out at "visitors," looks at the altar and thinks--if I slip out before the closing Song O' Our Specialness, I can hit the coffee and donuts before all the chocolate glazed are gone...