Dream of the Altar Cloth


I was at my home parish standing at the altar about to consecrate the Eucharist.  A friend was standing on the other side of the altar in front of me to the left.  He invited me to look at the altar cloth, which was pristine white.  As I looked I saw some small crumbs of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar cloth.  Startled, I reached out too pick up the crumbs and place them in the ciborium but my friend invited me to look closer.  Instantly I was able to see the altar more clearly and became aware of many smaller crumbs like course sand or like a constellation of stars but all of one size spread unevenly over the entire altar cloth.  They were nearly as white as the altar cloth and therefore required close inspection to discern.  My immediate thought was, “how do I possibly pick up all of them?”  I was embarrassed and bewildered at how many there were.  My friend seemed to be saying to me that the altar cloth would have to be laundered and I knew that the Church has a special means by which to purify it.


I experienced this dream a couple of years ago and I truly wish I had written it down while it was fresh in my mind.  Nevertheless, I can still picture some of the images in my mind, especially the clarity with which I was made able to see the crumbs on the altar cloth at the second glance.

 My Interpretation:

The meaning of this dream is also equally clear to me.  Upon waking I almost immediately recognized that this dream was informing me of a need for the sacrament of Confession, which I soon made.  There were a few aspects of the dream that troubled me until further contemplation.  First of which is the number of small crumbs.  The crumbs represent my non-confessed sins at the time.  The size of the crumbs denotes the degree of sins; how grave it is.  The number of crumbs was greater than I would have imagined and this directly relates to how many times I committed these infractions.  The second look recalls the examination of conscience prior to confession.  That the crumbs were white and blended in with the altar cloth refers to how difficult it is to discern even small sins from everyday activities of life or to realize and acknowledge them as sins. The second troubling aspect of this dream is that I am not a priest and cannot consecrate the host.  But every Catholic has a priestly role in the Mass.  That is, every Catholic offers the trials of his life in union with the Holy Sacrifice.  This is what is meant by my intention to consecrate.  I am coming before the altar, in union with the sacrifice of the Holy Mass, in order to offer my trials to God.  Before I actually give them up my friend, who in this instance represents either Jesus, my guardian angel, or my own conscience, points out that there are non-confessed sins of which I am not fully aware.  The third troubling aspect about the dream is the particular friend that my conscience chose to represent as counselor to me.  This preoccupied me and hindered me temporarily from fully considering the previous two troubling aspects.  I had to first put aside any personal objections and internal competitions I had with this real life friend before I could move forward.  Although this part of the dream was minor when compared to the meaning and importance of the other images I mention it because it is these kinds of prejudices that the conscious mind entertains that prevent spiritual growth. 

Perhaps the most peculiar aspect of this dream imagery is how the Eucharist can be a sign of sin.  I never questioned whether the crumbs on the altar were consecrated.  When I saw the first of the few larger crumbs I knew that they were in fact consecrated.  That’s why it was startling for me to see.  If I understand these crumbs to be my sins then the shock of seeing so many is likewise understandable.  If these crumbs are not consecrated then they are just bread crumbs and there is no weight to their importance as representation of sin.  They would be sins not committed in that case.  It is easier to see how the dream image of the Eucharist can represent sin if we look at the totality of Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist regardless of the size of the host or its fragmentation.  In the same way that the smallest piece of the Eucharist is 100% Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, likewise the smallest sin is 100% sin.  When I described this dream and interpretation to my confessor he acknowledged it as good and reasonable.

Some after thoughts and additional reading:

There is another way by which the Eucharist can represent sin.  While recalling to mind that the Eucharist is Jesus consider that Jesus was made sin for us:

“And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

The context of this quote is precisely the same as the context of this dream of the altar cloth and crumbs; reconciliation.   Compare Numbers 21:8 with John 19:37 and Zechariah 12:10

© Tim Bartel 2008

2 Corinthians 5:18-21
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
18But all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Christ; and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.
19For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their sins; and he hath placed in us the word of reconciliation.
20For Christ therefore we are ambassadors, God as it were exhorting by us. For Christ, we beseech you, be reconciled to God.
21Him, who knew no sin, he hath made sin for us, that we might be made the justice of God in him.
Numbers 21:8
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
8And the Lord said to him: Make brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign: whosoever being struck shall look on it, shall live.
John 19:37
View in: NAB Vulg Greek
37And again another scripture saith: They shall look on him whom they pierced.
Zechariah 12:10
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
10And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace, and of prayers: and they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced: and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for an only son, and they shall grieve over him, as the manner is to grieve for the death of the firstborn.

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