Friday, August 25, 2017


To this day, I believe it was a horrible mistake to remove the tabernacle from the center of the Church's sanctuary to the side or a separate chapel. But I understood the theological reason for doing so but it was done in a horrible way. The appropriate reason, though, was that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass not only brings forward in a unbloody way the Sacrifice of the Cross, but also "confects" the Most Holy Eucharist. Thus during Mass, the Faithful should anticipate this miraculous confecting of the Most Blessed Sacrament and not praying before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle prior to the event on the altar at that particular Mass.

The celebrant and con-celebrant priests of the Mass may never receive Hosts "confected" at a previous Mass and the current GIRM of the Ordinary Form Missal states that it is proper (but not mandated) for the laity to receive Holy Communion "confected" at the Mass they attend, but this has nothing to do with the validity of the Mass or the ratification of the Holy Sacrifice which is accomplished by the celebrant alone receiving the Oblations, and under both Forms of Bread and Wine.

Rather than remove the tabernacle, from the vicinity of the Altar of Sacrifice, would it have been better simply to have had a second tabernacle in a separate small chapel away from the altar of sacrifice and the sight of the people? Five minutes before Mass begins there would be a simple, but solemn transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament to this out of sight second tabernacle?

A screen or drapery that would hide the tabernacle during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass could accomplish the same purpose and more easily. Of course Hosts from the hidden tabernacle would be retrieved only in the case of necessity and then after Holy Communion the "in sight" tabernacle would have the Most Blessed Sacrament enclosed.

In fact, this was/is the liturgical law of the EF Pontifical High Mass with a bishop celebrant as proven by this recent photograph of an empty tabernacle during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:
 17_08_22_PontMass_02 17_08_22_PontMass_01


Mark Thomas said...

Father McDonald, I hope that the following isn't too off-topic...



Wednesday, 2 August 2017 A.D.

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

There was a time when churches were oriented toward the East. You entered the sacred building from a door at the west end and, walking along the nave, you moved eastward. It was an important symbol for old-world man, an allegory which, in the course of history, has gradually died out.

We men and women of the modern epoch, much less accustomed to grasping the great signs of the cosmos, hardly ever notice details of this sort.

The West is the cardinal point of the setting sun, where the light dies out. The East, however, is the place where the shadows are overcome by the first light of dawn and it reminds us of Christ, the Sun risen on high, at the world’s horizon (cf. Lk 1:78).

The ancient Rites of Baptism called for the catechumens to pronounce the first part of their profession of faith keeping their gaze turned to the West. And in that stance they were asked: “Do you renounce Satan, his service and his works?” — And the future Christians repeated in chorus: “I do!”.

Then they turned toward the apse, in the direction of the East, where the light is born, and the candidates for Baptism were again questioned: “Do you believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?”. And this time they responded: “I do!”.

In modern times the appeal of this Rite has been partially lost: we have lost sensitivity to the language of the cosmos."


Mark Thomas

Rood Screen said...

A simple solution, Father McDonald. I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

From before Vatican II , I remember my childhood church having a tabernacle in the center of the main altar, and a second tabernacle on one of the side altars. I don't recall them putting a drape or screen over that second altar, but I do recall reading that during the TLM the common practice was to put a drape over the tabernacle.

Православный физик said...

No, not even for the bishop, we in the east dont dare separate the tabernacle from the altar of sacrifice

John Nolan said...

The custom of placing the tabernacle centrally on the high altar (strictly speaking not on the mensa itself, but behind it) is a comparatively recent innovation (16th century). It never applied to cathedrals where the Sacrament is reserved in a separate chapel. It is removed, without ceremony, when a bishop celebrates - liturgically aware parishes apply this also to the Novus Ordo.

Of course, before the 1960s a visiting bishop would administer Confirmation but not usually celebrate Mass, for the simple reason that few parishes had the resources for a Pontifical Mass.

When, after the Second World War, liturgical progressives started experimenting with Mass versus populum, the position of the tabernacle became problematic. It was suggested that a low tabernacle could stand on the altar between priest and people - a remarkably silly idea.

Transferring the sacrament back and forth for every Mass doesn't strike me as either practical or necessary, particularly as most priests would no doubt delegate this to lay people. Better to reserve the Sacrament in a dedicated chapel, or in a 'Sacrament House' to one side of the sanctuary. Some fine late medieval examples of these tower-like structures survive, and I have seen some excellent modern examples.

There are two main problems with a central tabernacle. If celebrating versus populum the priest has perforce to turn his back on it; and when celebrating ad apsidem it can create the erroneous impression that it is in some way the focus of the Mass.

On the subject of altars: when the traditional Roman Rite is celebrated at one of those modern 'cuboid' altars (e.g. Chartres, ND de Paris) is it really necessary to cram six tall candlesticks and a tall crucifix onto it? In the absence of gradines they would be better off on the floor.