THE TABERNACLE’S REMOVAL

– Corrado Gnerre

Much has recently been said in the recent past about the statements of Monsignor (now Cardinal) Malcom Ranijth, the then secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Statements made on the occasion of the presentation of the Italian edition of the book by Father Uwe Michael Lang, “Turning towards the Lord: Orientation in liturgical prayer”. Certainly, we feel the need for “adjustments” in the liturgy. But I would like to know from you what you think about it, not about the position of the altar, but about the fact that more and more frequently in newly built churches the altar does not bind to the Tabernacle, indeed the latter is almost “hidden” in some side room.

Dear ______, what you say is true. Certainly, the question does not arise so much for the great churches (cathedrals and sanctuaries) where the lateral location of the Tabernacle serves above all to prevent it from being lost in the greatness of the temple, as it stands for medium to small-sized churches. Is there a sense in what is happening in recent years? I really think so. This must be found in the reasons that constitute the essence of post-conciliar thought. One above all: the desire to consider the liturgical building more as a reality of communion – as undoubtedly also it is – as a reality of the mystery. Let us ask ourselves: is the liturgical building a “place” for an assembly or a “place” for a Presence? Also from this alternative, or rather from this placing, the accent above all on the first possibility (the church as a place for assembly) springs what can be defined as loss of the sense of mystery and encounter. The loss as is visible to all has made the Christian proposal less persuasive. All the reasons used to justify the cause of placing the Tabernacle on the side, even if they do not want to diminish the attitude of adoration, undermine their raison d’etre. There is not a single reason for adoration, at least a couple could be identified: the future adoration and the present adoration. The first is found in all those spiritualities that possess at least one of these two characteristics: recognition of man as non-creature or recognition of man as a reality totally separated from God and therefore incurable. In these spiritualities, the adoration is future, as the conditions would not exist for being able to truly worship. The present adoration is, instead, a typical trait of Catholicism, because in this it lacks both the pantheistic characterization and the Protestant demonization of the world. In Catholicism, the tension of expectation is certainly not absent, but the conviction is fundamental that everything that can be experienced by man is already the “place” of a true and saving Presence of the mystery of the incarnate Word. This is of faith in the Real Presence of the Man-God in the Eucharist. The Church is, yes, a communion, but in, with and for the Real Presence of Christ. The centrality of the Tabernacle is the centrality of the Eucharist, that is of the real, physical presence of Christ still today in the Church. The centrality of the Tabernacle is intended to make the liturgical building not a place to wait and to remember, but a place to experience a physical Presence.

(From La buona battaglia. Apologetica cattolica in domande e risposte, 2019©Chorabooks. Translated by Aurelio Porfiri. Used with the permission of the publisher. All rights reserved)

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