31 August 2016

The Holy House

Pilgrims to Loretto ... or, indeed, to the shrine of the Holy House at Walsingham ... may recall the following episode narrated by S Therese of Lisieux:

Best of all, we received our Blessed Lord there in his own house; became living temples of him on the very spot which had once been consecrated by his earthly presence. The Italian custom is to have the Blessed Sacrament reserved on one single altar, which is the only one where you can make your Communion. [Does this mean that in France per contra the Blessed Sacrament was reserved on more than one altar? Is this why ... it has often puzzled me ... in churches with many altars, a lot of them have tabernacles?] Here at Loretto, where the basilica is only a marble casket in which the Holy House reposes like precious diamond, the Blessed Sacrament is outside the sacred enclosure. This wouldn't do for Celine and me; we wanted to go to Communion inside. So we left Papa to do as he rest of the world did, like the gentle soul he was, and went off to find a priest belonging to our party who had got special leave to say Mass in the Holy House itself; it was just a matter of getting him to put two small hosts on the paten, and there we were, fortunate enough to make our Communion on this hallowed ground. This was a blessing straight from heaven; no words can do justice to our feelings. It was a foretaste of that moment when we shall be made one with our Lord in that other, eternal dwelling-place of his; when our joy will be unending, when there will be no more sadness of saying good-bye, no need to scrape a fragment or two from walls sanctified by a divine presence, because his home will be our home for all eternity. He just lets us have a look at his earthly home, to make us love poverty and the hidden life; what he keeps in store for us is his heavenly palace, where we we shall no more see him hidden under the form of a little child, or of a consecrated Host, but as he really is, in all the splendour of his majesty.


Joshua said...

I recall reading somewhere of the Blessed Sacrament chapel at the old Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City: every fifteen minutes, Holy Communion was distributed in that chapel, and the many pilgrims who came from all over Mexico and beyond would come forward on their knees to receive the Sacred Host there. I assume that the Basilica had many altars frequented by many priests offering Low Masses at those altars every morning, not to mention the High Mass sung by the chapter of canons, all of which celebrations of the Eucharistic Sacrifice would have been devoutly attended by pilgrims, but any who, having confessed, were desirous of receiving the Adorable Sacrament, did so in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

I also recall finding details in an old French-Latin prayerbook of how a First Communion was celebrated in France; it included the chanting of the Apostles' Creed (I wish I had taken a copy, as such settings are exceedingly rare), and was done outside of Mass, which was presumably celebrated earlier.

In those days at the English College, the rule was to receive Holy Communion before Mass, so the students could make a half-hour's thanksgiving in meditation afterward, during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice.

Did not some Anglo-Catholics maintain the same practice? One communicated at an early celebration, which was a simple said service; having breakfasted, one then came back to church and "pleaded the one Sacrifice" at a solemn sung celebration of the Holy Communion later in the morning, at which no one but the celebrant communicated.

All of these admirable practices co-existed with Exposition, Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the afternoon or evening. For the sublime Eucharistic Sacrament possesses these three dimensions: the Sacrifice; the Communion; and the Real Presence deserving of worship.

neilmac said...

At S. John's, Tue Brook, Liverpool (a famous Anglo-Catholic church) both our High Altar and Lady Altar were provided with tabernacles - and, as far as I know, still are. Reservation was at the High Altar on Sundays and Holy Days, but at the Lady Altar during other days of the week, since that is where Low Mass was celebrated Monday to Saturday. The reasoning behind this was that Canon Sampson would consecrate only the priest's host at Mass, using the reserved Sacrament for the Communion of the faithful.

The Lady Altar was also provided with six candles (in addition to the two used for Low Mass). My understanding was that an altar with a tabernacle should have this number. These candles were lit during liturgical processions, as were the candles on all other altars.

Ferociter Romanus said...

In all the years I have acted as MC in various Catholic parishes (OF, EF and Ordinariate, I have kept a custom of hearing an early mass so I can receive and worship, and then MC the High Mass so that others can do the same without distraction.

The greatest compliment I have ever gotten was from a lady who, on seeing me in the procession out of the church, greeted me saying "I didn't even notice that you were there"

neilmac said...

Ferociter Romanus, I take your point about altar servers - especially the MC - not being noticed (perhaps " being unobtrusive" is a more felicitous expression), but, in some ways, I submit, they are clearly meant to be noticed - hence their ceremonial function. Perhaps, we might regard the ceremonies of the EF as the true liturgical dance.

I recall one famous Anglo-Catholic clergyman being challenged by one his congregation, after High Mass - "Father, your Masses are so dramatic." To which he replied, summoning all his (mock?) indignation, "Madam, they are not dramatic: they are operatic."