Sir,—A. P. Hill in your correspondence columns seems to miss the whole point of "relegating" the Blessed Sacrament to a side altar. It is the Mass and not the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle
which should be the centre of
the Christian life.
Many theologians even doubt whether in fact devotion to the Blessed Sacrament outside of the Mass should be encouraged, since, they say, Christ instituted the Eucharist as a meal i.e., something to be eaten—not something to be placed in a Tabernacle or a monstrance for worship, This is a positive idea and it is silly to suggest that it has been prompted by misplaced ecumenical enthusiasm.
The relationship between the Mass and the Tabernacle is only one of convenience, i.e., a ciborium of consecrated hosts for the distribution of Holy Communion is usually kept in the Tabernacle. There is certainly no liturgical relationship.
If the Mass is of ultimate importance---and one suspects that Mr. Hill does not appreciate this—then surely future churches should be built and if necessary present ones adapted so that the Mass and the Mass alone is the focal point of the assembly. To move the Blessed Sacrament to a side altar is not to play down the Real Presence; it is rather to stress emphatically the importance of the Mass in the Christian community.
Noel Lamb London, N.4.
Sir,—How refreshing to read a letter in support of devotion and honour to the Blessed sacrament. As Pope Paul has issued Mysterium Fidel for our guidance, no more need be said on that subject. But who bothers to read, these encyclicals?
It is easy to express obedience and devotion to the vicar of Christ but this is lip service only Mysterium Fidel and Veterum Sapientia should be required reading for all who have any authority in the church, and then they should begin to act upon the obvious wishes of both Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.
Margaret Vaughan Edinburgh, 4 Sir,—Post-conciliar as well as primitive liturgical thinking regards the building we call a "church" primarily as one designed to provide a meeting
place for the faithful gathered together in their Sunday assembly for the purpose of reenacting the sacrifice of Calvary and for partaking of its sacred victim in the ensuing sacrificial meal.
The focal point of this building. therefore, should be the altar, which is at once the stone of sacrifice and the table of the Lord; it should stand forth in stark and unencumbered dignity, signifying as it does Christ himself, who is at once our altar, priest and victim, and our food.
Clearly, then, it is not the primary function of a church to be a shrine of the reserved Sacrament though it is eminently right that such a shrine should find an honoured place within its walls.
Nor can there be any more suitable place for this than in a special chapel of its own, spacious but intimate and richly ornamented, in which the faithful may gather for prayer and devotion, and where weekday Mass may very well be celebrated.
Here the Blessed Sacrament may be reserved, either on the altar or, better still, in a shrine of its own behind or to one side of it. Here it will be the centre and focus of attention, and not, as it inevitably becomes if kept on or near the high altar, a liturgical distraction—almost an anomaly.
This is why it has for many centuries been the practice in cathedrals, basilicas and other large churches to have a separate Blessed Sacrament chapel —nothing to do with sightseers!
Where this has not been done and reservation has been at the high altar, it has been not unusual, before a pontifical function, to see a priest or deacon in surplice and stole stealing away with the Blessed Sacrament to some distant hideout, lest its presence should become a rubrical embarrassment during the service! Hardly a dignified expedient. one would say; far better, surely, to enthrone it from the start in a place of its own, as worthy as we can make it of such a treasure.
Frank R. James
Sir,—Oh, how I agree with A. P. Hill in his letter "The placing of the Tabernacle". It is indeed sad to have compromised about Our Lady by pushing her into the background "because our separated brethren do not like our devotion to her" but to consider applying similar treatment to the Blessed Sacrament is appalling.
If this continues, it will not be the Church's teaching on birth control that will (as some say) "become a threat to her survival" but the disregard of the Blessed Sacrament which will automatically follow from this relegation.