How to Build a Christian Altar

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An altar is a sacred structure within a house, workplace or place of worship that is devoted to practicing religious and spiritual beliefs. For Christians, altars serve as a place where they can pray and concentrate on the words of Jesus. It also functions as a sanctuary of peace and wisdom within the home. While altars can take on many different shapes and forms and include a variety of different components, certain essential ingredients should be considered when making your own.

1 Find a place

Find a place in your home that is suitable for holding an altar. Good places include mantels over fireplaces, bookshelves and windowsills. Place the altar in the center of the chosen location and ensure easy access to it.

2 Place a cross or crucifix

Place a cross or crucifix in the center of the altar. The cross symbolizes the victory of Jesus over death. The crucifix, which depicts the body of Jesus hanging from a cross, is a symbol of his suffering.

Place candles on either side of the altar or directly in front of it. Make sure, however, that they are not higher than the cross or crucifix found on the altar. When you come to pray or meditate on the Christian path, light a candle to offer up a sacrifice and to designate the moment as special. Place special candles around the altar that are meant to signify certain issues like hope for a sick loved one or a call for world peace.

Place incense in front of your altar. The burning of incense is an act of sacrifice and an offering to your religion. It also helps you to focus on prayers and intentions. Traditional Christian incense includes frankincense and myrrh, both of which are flammable tree resins that should only be burned inside of a metal incense container. Incense also has potent mood altering effects that help you to reach a place of peace and contemplation while praying or mediating at the altar.

Place a dove symbol on the wall over the cross or a dove statue on the shelf or mantle in front of it. The dove is an ancient Christian symbol that symbolizes God in heaven. It is a symbol of the bridge between the physical world and the spiritual world and brings the energy of purity and holiness to an altar.

Place the Bible in front of the cross or crucifix. If you have a book stand, place the Bible on it and open it to a relevant passage that you want to reflect on. If you don't have a stand, simply place the Bible face up on the altar.

Based in San Francisco, Ocean Malandra is a travel writer, author and documentary filmmaker. He runs a major San Francisco travel website, is widely published in both online and print publications and has contributed to several travel guidebooks to South America.