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Bring the Tabernacle Back Into the Sanctuary

By: Deacon Keith A. Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
Catholic Online

There I said it.

The depth and passion of the heart cry that informs the title of this article surprises even me. I just returned from Sunday Mass at a local parish and I find myself concerned. The “Mass” or the “Divine Liturgy” on the Lord’s Day, Sunday, should be the high point in the worship and life of a Catholic Christian. Instead, I am troubled by the experience.

This morning I spent the first ten minutes before the liturgy began trying to pray above the gymnasium level conversations. It was fruitless to try to avoid the distractions around me in my efforts to prepare for the Liturgy. I finally had to leave the “sanctuary” and go to the “Eucharistic chapel”, which is a very small nondescript place where the reserved Sacrament is kept.

How particularly sad it all seemed to me this morning. There, in a profound way, the beauty of the Incarnation is revealed in the new “holy of holies”, the tabernacle. There, Jesus Christ, who once dwelt in the womb of the Virgin, now dwells in the Sacrament, awaiting a dialogue of love with all who will come and spend time in prayer. “How many come” I wondered? At least it was quiet and I could prepare myself for Mass.

Accompanying my family this morning was a young man who is quite taken with one of my daughters. He was raised in a nominally and generically “Protestant” home. He is in a season of searching for God and we have had some conversations recently that have led me to believe that he is ready to meet the Lord in a new and profound way. I longed for him to experience the very beauty that is Catholic liturgical worship. I hope that he did this morning. My faith tells me he did because that encounter does not depend on anything but grace.

I understand this kind of search. I am a “revert” to the Catholic Church. I returned “home” after my own teenage journey. I love being a Catholic Christian. I believe that the Catholic faith is the fullness of Christianity and I want all who have been created by a loving God to experience the re-creation that is redemption in Jesus Christ and the full incorporation into His Body, the Church. I want all men and women to enter into the rich beauty that is Catholic Christian faith in its imminence and transcendence. I do not want “Catholic Lite” I want Catholicism.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes a rich, developed body of teaching in the tradition with these words:

“The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life. The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch. The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.

Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all. In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking." [Paragraphs 1322-1325]

So the Eucharistic celebration is pretty important, right?

Well, it should be.

It is the time when we who have been baptized into Christ enter into the deepest mystery of our Faith, hear the words of the Lord proclaimed, and actually participate in the great paschal mystery. This is the time when we who are mere mortals enter into the very timeless sacrifice of Calvary and touch heaven itself; a time when we eat the bread of angels; when we come forward to receive the very body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. This God of the whole universe who condescended to become one of us now gives Himself as food for our journey in this pilgrimage of life.

On that altar, Jesus Christ becomes sustenance for us in our mission and sends us forth from the altar into the world to carry forward His redemptive work. This Mass is the solemn assembly of the faithful where God the father joins us to Himself in His Son; and with one another in His Son, and for the world by the working of the Holy Spirit. This “work of worship” which is what “Liturgy” means, should be a palpable, experiential encounter with the mystery, the grandeur, the intimacy and the pure wonder of a living God!

I am now going to share the thoughts that have led to the title of this article. Before I do let me clarify something. I am not a ...

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