He only shuts up when he is writing!
From the Pastor: The New Tabernacle
Last weekend, for the celebration of Corpus Christi, you might have noticed a new tabernacle behind the altar. It was a donation from a very holy and generous priest, Fr. Mangiafico. As beautiful as the tabernacle is, it is still a bit out of place, something which will be rectified whenever we can finally find a suitable altar/reredos which will fit our limited space. Once we find a truly noble altar setup, the sanctuary floor will be renovated, making it stronger, perhaps giving us the extra (third) step that should be there, and with marble instead of carpet. Once that is complete, with the altar in its proper place up against the wall, the tabernacle, the place of safe repose for the Blessed Sacrament, will then be intimately associated with the altar of sacrifice which brings the Blessed Sacrament into being in the first place. The tabernacle will also be immediately available to the priest, as it will be within arm’s reach, which is practical as well as aesthetically superior to a disconnected altar/tabernacle setup. But something a bit odd to common man’s current way of thinking about liturgical beauty will occur even before the complete transformation of the sanctuary takes place. The tabernacle will soon be covered with a veil and, therefore, beyond our sight.
Why cover the tabernacle? It is beautiful and covering it would seem to hide its beauty from us, so why even have a gorgeous tabernacle if it cannot be seen? Couldn’t we just have used a (much cheaper) plain steel drum with a door if we were going to cover it? After all, nobody would know the difference. Why spend good money on something that will be hidden? Those questions will be asked, so you might as well know the answer for your own enlightenment and so that you can explain it to others later. First of all, it is important to understand that the beauty of the church, its architectural majesty, its style, its furnishings and appointments (stained glass, light fixtures, chalices, pews, flooring, etc.) is for God’s glory first and only secondarily for our edification. Unfortunately, the first thing we often think of is ourselves. Since in Florida we are so used to ugly, non-traditional church buildings filled with junk (following Judas’ lament on the costly spikenard used to anoint Jesus’ feet, “Why spend money on ornate vessels made of good-quality materials when that money could be given to the poor and plastic vessels are available in the clergy department at WallyMart?”) once we finally have something truly worth looking at, something of such great artistic design that it lifts up or minds to Who is contained therein, we think, “Shouldn’t we, rather than veil it, put spotlights on it and encourage everyone to gaze in awe?” But something isn’t quite right in this thought. The beauty of the church and its appointments, although certainly for our enjoyment, for our spiritual nourishment, and even for our catechesis, is secondary to its primary purpose, which is to please God and to manifest His glory. Yet it is not completely understood in today’s society, as we have the notion that everything must have practical value first and foremost. But what we do to please God does not have the same “practical value” as those things we do to please ourselves or others. For instance, to please God in the Old Testament, the Jews had to sacrifice the first and best of their livestock and their produce. That has no “practical value” as we commonly think of either “practical” or “value.” It is a “waste” of perfectly good resources, things which could be sold (“for the poor”, of course!) or which one’s family could certainly use. But God asks us for our first and our best. The man who understand that God is God and man is not God will, with little or no hesitation, demur to His will, and not even think about keeping the best, the most costly, the most beautiful, the most important anything for himself, including the tabernacle.
In the document, Inaestimabile Donum (Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery) from the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship and Approved and Confirmed by His Holiness Pope John Paul II April 17, 1980, we see the instruction: “25. The tabernacle should be solid, unbreakable, and not transparent. The presence of the Eucharist is to be indicated by a tabernacle veil or by some other suitable means laid down by the competent authority, and a lamp must perpetually burn before it, as a sign of honor paid to the Lord.” As no other “suitable means” has been “laid down by the competent authority” (even long after Vatican II) the veil still remains the decreed means of indicating His presence in the tabernacle, while the sanctuary lamp shows honor to Our Lord (though many people assume the lamp is the “indicator”!). The beauty of the tabernacle, though hidden to us by the veil, is quite clear in God’s eyes, so to speak, and we make the sacrifice of not visibly seeing the sacred vessel, for inside of it Our Lord has chosen to veil Himself from our eyes in the guise of Bread. The hidden beauty of the container is a reminder of the even greater hidden beauty of the Contained. Do you long to see the beauty of the tabernacle? Good! Long to see the Beauty of Christ Jesus in all His Divine Majesty and Splendor even more. Become a Saint and all will be revealed. Thus ends the liturgical lesson.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka