Sir,—Two correspondents disagree with the removal of the tabernacle at Pinner from the high altar. They do not _mention the reason for this removal: one hopes that they at least considered it..
Their comments reveal that they appear to base their dislike on emotional and non-logical grounds: Mrs. Flindmarsh considers that the blessed sacrament has traditionally been taught to be "the focal point of our altars", and Mr. Swann refers to it as "the central feature" of a church.
It is true that from the earliest times the consecrated elements have been retained from one celebration to another, either for communicating the sick (always the main reason for reservation) or I or practises that were meant to show the unity or all Masses.
But in all cases this reservation was other than upon the altar itself. Constantine for exempts gave a reservation tower for Si Peter's; hanging doves were the frequent vessel, as were wall ambryes. As late as the eighteenth century the blessed sacrament was in France reserved in the sacristy. Even today cathedral churches are exempt from having the blessed sacrament reserved upon the high altar. Thus it is by no means the general consensus of historical fact that the blessed sacrament has been traditionally taught to he the "focal point of our altars".
An altar is a work-table; a meal-table. It is not a suitable place to use as a sacrament throne. The blessed sacrament is present upon that table at certain parts of the Mass. At other times Is presence there is neither conducive to the utilitarian and primary function of the altar as a work-place, nor to the dignity of the reserved sacrament itself, which would be better placed in some setting particularly designed for it.
With regard to Mr. Swann's point that the reserved sacrament is the central feature of a church: it is not. The Mass itself is that. A church is a building to shelter the worshippers at the celebration of Mass. At other times they might well pray anywhere.
When no Mass is being celebrated, the central feature of a church is the altar itself, which traditionally. is to be treated as the very body of Christ; indeed it was the custom in mediaeval times to pray before the altar, and not before the reserved sacrament.
Francis Harris, Oblate O.S.B. Wirral, Cheshire.
Sir.—On reading the letters about the tabernacle in the Grail Chapel at Pinner, and the Whitefriars Chronicle comment that a dignified position had been found "without cluttering up the sanctuary", I am
more dismayed and bewildered than ever. What next, I wonder.
I am fast reaching the stage of being prepared for anything—but in a defensive way only. For I am a
convert and Catholics made such a good job of converting me to the reasonableness and high worth of
all Catholic practices and devotions that 1 cannot turn against what I have held up to now since coming to the Church.
So I am holding on to those things no matter what, I must say I feel very distressed indeed to see Catholics turning against the Catholic point of view they put across to me so well, so long ago now. I feel as though the rock on which I thought I stood is being smashed to bits under my feet.
Newcastle upon Tyne, 3,
Sir.—Perhaps Mrs. Hindmarsh has never set foot in the Grail Chapel at Pinner. As soon as one enters, one is struck by the simplicity, serenity and peace, which ts so hard to find in this modern world.
Surely it does not matter where the Tabernacle is situated, as the main object of all is the worship of God.
(Miss) Moira Leigh
Rhyl, N. Wales.
Sir.—How out of focus can one get? I refer to two letters last week about the Tabernacle. The Christian altar—which, according to current legislation, should henceforth stand out boldly in the church, well clear of the wall, to enable Mass to be said facing the people — equally represents two things: the Stone of Sacrifice and the Table of the Lord.
Upon it, by Christ's own institution, His sacrifice of Himself on Calvary is sacramentally reenacted; and from it His Body and Blood arc distributed to the members of His Mystical Body.
The Blessed Sacrament reserved (originally for the sick) is indeed a prolongation of the Mass, but, being a state rather than an act. it is not tied to the altar as is the Mass itself, indeed—if the appeal is to history—it is only for a few hundred years (a very short period of the Church's history) that the practice has obtained of reserving it on the altar—on any altar, It is just as appropriate and just as suitable to reserve it in a tabernacle on a pedestal behind, and separate from, the altar, or in a sacrament-house to one side of it (as in the beautiful Grail chapel), or in an awmbry in the wall, or even in a hanging pyx (as I believe is still done at Amiens).
Nor is it any less easy or devotional to worship the Blessed Sacramentin any of these positions. And with the new liturgy any of these arrangements will be found to be a great deal more logical and convenient, avoiding a confusion at once of ideas and ceremonies.
Do, please, allow us to get on implementing the decrees of the Pope and Council, in their letter and spirit. without the unceasing sniping of subjective and wholly unconstructive critics!
Frank R. James Coldharbour, Dorking, Surrey.