3 September 2019

Advice from Mascall: Where should the Tabernacle be?

Useful guidance from the Anglican Catholic theologian Professor Canon Dr Eric Mascall;

"There are a good many Anglicans ... who would prefer that the Sacrament was kept in some quiet and secluded corner of the church where it would not be exposed to the attention of the casual visitor and where the devout worshipper would be free from disturbance. It seems to me that this attitude, however well-meant, is fundamentally mistaken ... For the fundamental facts about the Blessed Sacrament are its publicity and its centrality. It is not a hidden treasure, hidden away in a corner to be the object of devotion of the abnormally pious; it is the gift of Christ to His Body the Church. The method of reservation ... whereby the consecrated elements are placed in a safe in the church wall and removed from association with the altar, seems calculated to encourage almost wrong view of the reserved Sacrament that is conceivable. Could anything be more likely to detach the reserved Sacrament from its organic connection with the Church's liturgy ... ? It is therefore, I would suggest, most desireable that the Blessed Sacrament should normally be reserved in as central a place as possible, upon the high altar of the church, and that regularly some form of public devotion to the Eucharistic Presence should be held, if possible when the main body of the congregation is assembled ...

"In the full rite of Benediction ... the blessing of the people with the Sacred Host as the climax of the service reminds them inescapably of the fact that, in our relation with God, it is he, and not we, who is the primary agent and who takes rthe initiative."


Pulex said...

1. In the most of today's parish churches, the implementation of Mascall's advice means the celebrant turning his, ahem, posterior towards the Blessed Sacrament while celebrating Mass.

2. In cathedral churches this seems somehow in conflict with the traditional rubrics which presuppose that, before Mass, the pontiff goes to the Sacrament chapel and then to the High Altar (which are then not at the same place, e.g. papal basilicas in Rome, other medieval cathedrals), or that he sits with his back to the altar during some ceremonies.

Protasius said...

I beg to differ. As outlined in Caeremoniale Episcoporum, lib. 1, cap. xii, nr. 8: Nam licet sacrosancto Domini nostri Jesu Christi Corpori, omnium Sacramentorum fonti, præcellentissimus ac nobilissimus omnium locus in Ecclesia conveniat, neque humanis viribus tantum illud venerari et colere umquam valeamus, quantum decet, tenemurque; tamen valde opportunum est, ut illud non collocetur in majori, vel in alio altari, in quo Episcopus, vel alius solemniter est Missam seu Vesperas celebraturus; sed in alio sacello, vel loco ornatissimo, cum omni decentia et reverentia ponatur.

If it is possible, the tabernacle should thus not be located on the main altar, in particular in Cathedral and collegiate churches.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Many years ago a curate in our village church decided to take a vote from the congregation as to whether the tabernacle should be moved from behind the altar. The vote was taken with raised hands and not one voted for the move. All were against. It was duly moved and now sits on top of a stick next to the altar. For many years there was a gaping hole in the brick wall behind the altar. I expect the church to be demolished in a few years.

E sapelion said...

I am not a fan of Baroque innovations in liturgy, devotion or art. Tabernacles on the high altar were rightly resisted by Rome when they first became fashionable.
There are of course much worse things, such as sticking the tabernacle on a lamp stand/Bar-stool in the corner of the sanctuary, where the altar servers sit with their backs to it.
However, in a small church there is no worthy alternative. I expect that in a village church the previous option of reservation in a hanging pyx had the pyx above the high altar. http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2009/08/hanging-pyx.html#.XXAbrWZ7ncs