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To tabernacle or not to tabernacle

By Hugh J. McNichol

In regards to your question regarding the disposition of "reserved" Eucharist vs. "fresh" Eucharist, there are always multiple schools of thought.

A great liturgist (Rev. Msgr John Miller @Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia educated me. He clearly was of the proper indication that Eucharist should not be distributed from the tabernacle. The purpose of reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in our Churches dates to apostolic times. The purpose however is very clear, to distribute communion to those that are sick and dying (Viaticum), and for private adoration.

Some of the liturgical changes of Vatican II developed tabernacle areas that were outside of the altar area proper. Other churches never moved the tabernacle from its pre Vat.II position.

It is now apparent that the pre Vat.II position is preferred in the United States. I have actually seen very modern churches that have been horribly converted into pre Vat. 2 design. I have also seen horrible mutilations of preVat.2 churches to the modern design as well. Both conversions I suppose have their correct place and followers.

The use of Eucharist from the tabernacle seems to forget the distinction between the ACTIONS of the Eucharistic liturgy...that is actually happening during Mass. It intertwines...the PASSIVE activity of Eucharistic worship, which is private prayer and devotion (as indicated for the purpose of the tabernacle.)

It seems that in an era where we can precisely give facts, figures and demographics on parishes and people attending Eucharist; we could accurately count the people in Church and prepare an appropriate amount for the liturgy. It would be a nice thing to restore the usher's duties to what they really were in the ancient church...that of porter. The porter was the (Male) minister of hospitality of the primitive Church, as well as the first group of liturgical bouncers (if the crowd got out of hand, or the Romans found the liturgy. They prepared the Eucharistic species and arranged the event. for orderly fashion. If there were an appropriate "count" of Eucharistic bread to be used there would be no need to go to the tabernacle. If there was some amount of Eucharist left...within reason. The priest, deacon, or acolyte present could consume it.

The most fitting method of preparing the correct amount of Eucharistic species is in my mind.... using large hosts that are broken into pieces at the appropriate "Lamb of God". Theologically I think it reflects great significance of how all of us as Catholics share in the theological "breaking of self" in our giving of self to each other, to God and to the Church. One thought as is ok to run short at communion. Just start breaking the hosts so people can all share in the Eucharist that is present. When I studied philosophy and theology in preparation for my priest career (which never happened), I left as an instituted many situations if you could see you were running short of Eucharist. We began to break the species and distribute "half or a quarter of the host. I think this is an excellent manner to participate in "the Breaking of the Bread" and teach a great theological message...Christ is present in ALL and in PART of the Eucharistic species. It is not possible to receive "less of Jesus" just because the host is smaller. Unfortunately as in McDonald we have gotten in "biggy" sizing Eucharist portions to reflect the appropriate amount of sacramental grace we receive.

Additionally it actually makes me cringe when I hear any type of description of "meal" as the primary description of the Eucharist.

Our concept in 21 century of a meal ranges from a drive through fast food place, to a diner, to a wedding.or whatever. A meal in the ancient world was "life saving" and special. Not because you "gathered together" to share....but because it was the time where you prepared and shared your most precious resources with others...for survival. As well...with the development of the MEAL...we neglect to remember that while Eucharist is a sort of meal.... is it most explicitly the reenactment of Jesus Christ's sacrifice on Calvary. Jesus Christ died on the cross so we his followers could share in the glory of the Father's life. Personally, I have always thought the constant "meal, meal, meal" push was an organized attempt by some "liberal Church leaders" to lessen the understanding of "Real Presence, and make us more in line with protestant teachings of Eucharist...Christ present only in the assembly at Eucharist.

Thankfully the liberal theologians are not as heard.

Personally I am quite disturbed by the fact that my parish has 100 Eucharistic ministers that distribute communion, while the 3 priests and two deacons never darken the Church unless they are the principal celebrants.

Perhaps it is time to have ONLY Bishops, priests, deacons and acolytes distribute communion.

What is the big process people through communion as if they were going through a "Jack in the box" for Eucharistic reception? It is really the intrusion of the secular and no mystical world...breaking through the transcendence of our religious beliefs. Again, the misnomer of American democratic ideals...everybody has to have equal status and share all of the jobs. Well the right to distribute Eucharist belongs ONLY to the Bishop then his priests and deacons. It would make sense that in order to attract vocations we would emphasize the critically important role of "Minister of Eucharist" brings through the Imposition of Hands through Holy Orders. I think all priests and future priests would have a great incentive if they believe their job was THE most important in the parish...representatives of Jesus, acting in persona Christi.

Finally, the more restrictive use of non-ordained and non-instituted ministers for Eucharist would re affirm and strengthen our belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Eucharist is not wonder bread, served at the meal.... it is the Bread of Life served for eternal redemption and life.


TriNet DE, US
Hugh McNichol - author, 302 6339348




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