18/10/09 – Renovation Concept, Consideration 11

The work of the Liturgy Committee to date, including consultation with parishioners, has resulted in the development of a renovation concept. This concept includes a number of matters we would like considered in plans for a renovated church. One consideration for our renovation plans is:

The establishment of a Blessed Sacrament Chapel

Those who have contributed to the conversation so far believe this is important because:

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel at the Cathedral by Zeetz Jones
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel at the Cathedral by Zeetz Jones

The place for the reservation of the eucharist should be truly preeminent. It is highly recommended that the place be suitable also for private adoration and prayer so that the faithful may easily, fruitfully, and constantly honour the Lord, present in the sacrament, through personal worship. This will be achieved more easily if the chapel is separate from the body of the church, especially in churches where marriages and funerals are celebrated frequently and churches which are much visited by pilgrims or because of their artistic and historical treasures. (Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, 9)

The tabernacle for eucharistic reservation is a reminder of Christ’s presence that comes about in the sacrifice of the Mass. But it is also a reminder of the brothers and sisters we must cherish in charity, since it was in fulfilment of the sacramental ministry received from Christ that the Church first began to reserve the eucharist for the sake of the sick and the dying.

In our churches adoration has always been offered to the reserved sacrament, the bread which came down from heaven. (Book of Blessings, 1192)

2/8/06 – The Table of the Lord

We have recently been discussing the concern within in the Church that people are losing a sense of the “real presence”, that is, the belief that Christ is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine we receive at Mass.

One factor contributing to a change in attitude is that whereas the attention of people at Mass in the past was drawn towards the tabernacle on a high altar, the liturgical focus is now rightly on the altar itself.

The problem with this has been that we have often failed to properly form people in understanding the true importance of the altar as the place where the Eucharistic sacrifice takes place.  Sometimes people have been under the impression that the tabernacle was what made the altar, even the sanctuary, holy.  This is not surprising given the attention directed towards the tabernacle in older churches.

We need to remember that the altar is holy not because of the Eucharist that may have been reserved on it, but because of the Eucharist which is formed upon it when we bring forth the gifts of bread and wine, and ask God to send the Holy Spirit to change them into the Body and Blood of Christ.  The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (no. 296), tells us that:

The altar on which the Sacrifice of the Cross is made present under sacramental signs is also the table of the Lord to which the People of God is called together to participate in the Mass, as well as the centre of the thanksgiving that is accomplished through the Eucharist.

The General Instruction (no. 298) also reminds us of the dignity of the altar, and that it is not just a table where Mass is celebrated, but in itself a symbol of Christ:

It is appropriate to have a fixed altar in every church, since it more clearly and permanently signifies Christ Jesus, the living stone.

19/7/09 – The Real Presence: Giving Due Reverence

Last time, I began to discuss the concern one correspondent raised of the seemingly diminishing sense of the “real presence”, that is, our belief that Christ is fully present in the bread and wine we consecrate at Mass, and thus consume as his body and blood. It is a belief that Catholics have held for many centuries, although different Christian Churches have different theological viewpoints and understandings. Some Christian Churches do not believe in Christ’s presence in the Eucharistic elements.

Bishop Manning has written on this topic many times, and has also noticed a change of attitude towards the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. A sense of the mystery of this great gift of Christ has been lost for many. As I said last time, I believe there are a number of factors that have contributed to this.

The first centres around the practices we teach our children from a young age around giving reverence to the Eucharist.

TabernacleWhenever we enter a church or a Blessed Sacrament Chapel where there is a tabernacle, we should genuflect towards it. We need to teach those learning about our faith about the lamp that burns alongside the tabernacle and its purpose of indicating the presence of Christ. During Mass, when we are next to receive communion, we should bow to acknowledge the presence of Christ in the Eucharist we are about to receive.

AltarWe also need to show appropriate reverence to the altar as the place where this mystery is realised. In churches where the tabernacle is in a separate Blessed Sacrament Chapel (as at Greystanes, Toongabbie, or Parramatta for example), the appropriate reverence upon entering the church is a bow to the altar. The altar should only be used for the celebration of the Eucharist, and only hold those things required for it. It is not merely a table where we rest things for the sake of convenience! When we celebrate the Eucharist, the altar is the centre around which we gather and is a key focal point, whereas the tabernacle would be a focal point at other times of personal prayer, devotion and adoration.