4 August 2021

The Holy House

Pilgrims to Loretto ... or, indeed, to a shrine of the Holy House of 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 the 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.


FrB. said...

That the Blessed Sacrament would be reserved at more than one altar at a time has never occurred to me before. Now that I am thinking about it, I wonder if it might be have been to make the distribution of Holy Communion easier/possible at all those busy side altars every morning. The priests could hardly have been going off on a hike to nudge the celebrant at the High Altar to the side every time one of them needed a ciborium.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

We ought to cease the post-mediaeval Roman practice of reservation, and return to hanging pyxes, aumbries, and sacrament houses.