Pope Benedict XVI teaches us the ABC's of altar setup
"Up to our own times, it has been the constant concern of supreme pontiffs to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy ritual to the Divine Majesty, 'to the praise and glory of His name,' and 'to the benefit of all His Holy Church' " - Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum
In attempting to ensure the Church offers this ritual that is "worthy....of divine majesty", the Holy Father has set up his Papal altar with a renewed emphasis on the sacredness of our ancient liturgy: with the Crucifix in the center with the candles positioned on the altar:
Is your altar at your parish set up like the Supreme Pontiff's? If not, we need to ask ourselves why; does a local ordinary or priest know better than the Successor of Peter, who is the Vicar of Christ and the Supreme Pontiff who has both the authority and responsibility "...to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy ritual to the Divine Majesty, 'to the praise and glory of His name,' and 'to the benefit of all His Holy Church?'
This may seem like a small matter, but it seems to us that the small things are exactly what adds up to problems through misunderstandings, bad feelings and a spirit of deviancy. So say the altar, in your parish, is set up differently. What does this say? That the Holy Father is just giving us a passive suggestion rather than a meaningful example? Where else am I allowed to stray from his example?
When we accept these small differences, we detract from the authority of the Chair of Peter and we take away from the rich meaning and tradition that guide his practices. We understand that not every parish is St. Peter's Basilica in Rome with ten-foot-high candlesticks and unmatched splendor, but candlesticks and a crucifix should be pretty standard church fare. The emphasis, as Pope Benedict XVI constantly reminds us, must be on Christ, not on his priests or anyone else, and this altar (the altar set up in the way of the Supreme Pontiff) points us always to Him.