Portable Mini Altar (Thabilitho)
This is a rectangular, miniature, and portable altar measuring 18″ long, 12″ broad and 0.5″ thick. Thus, the Thabilitho can be said to be a Mini Altar (Thronos). The word means plate or tablet. It is kept in the middle of the Holy Altar and is made of wood or marble slab. It is the most important item on the Holy Altar. Without this, the Holy Eucharist cannot be officiated. It is sanctified along with the Consecration of the Church. It is consecrated, with Holy Mooron (Holy Chrism) only by the Bishop. Each thabilitho has the following inscription on it on the backside, in the form of a Cross: ‘The Holy Spirit has hallowed this Thabilitho by the hands of Mar (‘Bishop’s Name,’ and across it ‘the year of consecration’).
The altar is the Calvary and the Thabilitho is the sacred cross, on which Jesus was crucified. It represents our Lord Jesus Himself who is the fountain and the corner stone of the Church. (1 Cor 3: 11; 10: 1-4; Eph. 2: 20). It is also like the Mercy Seat holding God’s Shekinah in the Tabernacle. The Thabilitho also symbolizes the stone that had covered and sealed the Tomb of our Lord and also the Table on which Jesus Christ and His disciples partook the Last Supper. Thabaleetha is a reminder that the Holy Qurbana is a sacrifice of Jesus Christ, without blood. The Thabilitho is not used bare, but tightly covered with a cloth covering. While arranging the Altar for celebrating, the Thabilitho is placed with length, East to West, on the Holy Altar below white portion of the Virikoottam and the Chalice and Paten are placed on it.
Byzantine and Eastern Orthodox Churches use antimension for the same purpose. It is a rectangular piece of cloth of either linen or silk, typically decorated with representations of the Descent of Christ from the Cross, the Four Evangelists, and inscriptions related to the Passion, with the relic of a martyr is sewn into it.
Tabalaitha can be used as a portable altar where the consecrated Churches are not available. In situations where and when we need to, celebrate Holy Qurbana outside our Church or at a Church belonging to other denominations, it is essential that we have to use our Thabilitho or Moving Altar. It functions as a alternative altar, in that a priest may celebrate the Eucharist on it in the absence of a properly consecrated altar. The Thabilith0 has been in use around, at least from 4th century. During those days of persecutions, there was a need to use a portable altar, the thabilitho, to celebrate Holy Eucharist. The Canons attributed to St Clement, refer to Churches have a fixed and portable Altar. The lives of saints also mention the use of portable altars.
One Thabilitho can be used in a day only for one Holy Qurbana. Thus, based on this ‘One Holy Qurbana is celebrated, in one day, on one Thronos. Because it is a consecrated by Holy Mooron, only a bishop, a priest or full deacon (in emergency) is allowed to touch it. They should be vested when they before touching. In case of necessity or emergency, a leaf of the book of the Gospels may be used in place of the thabilitho and if there is no facility to place the thabilitho, it can be held in a cloth tied around the neck of the celebrant, and the paten and chalice can then be placed on it (according to Bar Hebraeus). In the past, when clergymen, often fleeing away, from persecutions had to celebrate Holy Qurbana using the Portable Altars, during their long journeys through wilderness.