Fr. JOHN SYMON
Question: We used to he taught that, from the moment of the consecration, Christ himself was present on the altar and He remained prevent even when the Mass was over but I wonder if our priests are quite sure of this now.
The Blessed Sacrament is no longer reserved on the high altar hut, as if we were ashamed of it. on a side altar in a corner of the church. If (me comes into the church during the clay to make a visit. it is difficult to find where the tabernacle is. Surely Our Lord in the eucharistic species should he in the centre of any Catholic Church?
J.N., Windsor A similar question comes from C.L.. Edinburgh,
Answer: The mystery of the Holy Eucharist embraces several different aspects of doctrine and the particular emphasis of the Church's teaching and practice has varied from one period of her history to another. The Church does not now deny that Our Lord is really present in the reserved Sacrament but she
treats this aspect of belief as subordinate to His dynamic activity when in the Mass the sacrifice of Calvary is made present here and now.
The recent Instruction on the mystery of the Eucharist, issued on the feast of Corpus Christi, underlined the Catholic belief in the Real Presence. Indeed, listening to a priest the other day, I heard him speak of the Instruction as if this were the only point of importance taught in it! This. by the way, is very far from being the case.
While the Coneilium in charge of applying the Liturgy Constitution have approved many different ways of arranging the sanctuary of our churches. they have repeatedly stated that in larger buildings the best place of reservation is a side chapel. This is merely the application of common sense to our theological belief for during Mass the reserved Sacrament should not he the focus of our attention and outside Mass. if reservation is in a side chapel, our devotion is helped, rather than hindered.
Nor can it be said that such a way of treating the Blessed Sacrament is a recent post-conciliar innovation; after all, it has been the custom for centuries in churches like St. Peter's and St. John Lateran's, neither of them usually classed as dangerous centres of liturgical extremism!
I would not deny that there are one or two grounds for justifiable complaint by the laity. If it has
been customary to reserve on the high altar, and until recently this was so in the vast majority of churches, the reasons for making a change need to be explained.
Again, the Blessed Sacrament chapel or shrine should be so adorned as to be easily distinguished; it should be an outstanding feature of the church. It would not be a bad thing to put one or two clear notices at the back of the church so that visitors can easily find out where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, In churches originally designed with reservation at the High Altar in mind, if liturgical reform suggests, as it often does, that the Blessed Sacrament should be moved elsewhere, these common sense precautions can do much to remove the understandable annoyance which the laity otherwise feel.
Our correspondents have some ground of complaint against us priests but our fault is nothing so serious as unorthodoxy in faith; it is simply that quite a few of us are surprisingly lacking in imagination !