Tag Archives: Tabernacle





I firmly believe with my heart and confess with my lips that thou, my loving Jesus, equal to the Father in power and majesty, art really and truly present in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and, with thy Divinity and thy Humanity, abidest for me in this sanctuary.

Thou who didst weep as an infant in the crib, Who wast offered a Victim for me on the Cross. Who sittest as my intercessor at the right hand of the Father, Who wilt come as my Judge in the clouds of heaven – dwellest a hidden God in the narrow limits of the tabernacle and concealest under the humble form of bread.

Thy Flesh and thy Blood, thy Body and thy Soul, thy Divinity and thy glorified Humanity, thy splendour and thy boundless Majesty, I believe this on the authority of thy word as firmly as if I saw it with my eyes. Animated by this faith, I cast myself before thee, and adore thee as my Creator, my Redeemer, my greatest Good. In this faith will I live and die; quicken and increase this virtue in me.


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• “The ALTAR STONE is the main part of the altar. It may be the whole table of the altar or a stone placed in the centre of the table. In either case it must be consecrated by a Bishop. It is marked with five carved crosses, and should generally contain the relics of several Martyrs. The relics of one Martyr are sufficient for validity of consecration.

• The altar table should be covered with three ALTAR CLOTHS properly blessed. These should be made of linen, and the uppermost cloth should hang down on either side almost to the floor.

• In the centre of the altar table stands the TABERNACLE, an appropriate shrine in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. It should be wholly lined in the interior with white silk or gilded plating.

• The TABERNACLE KEY should be gilded and should be on a ribbon or chain. It is exclusively in charge of the priest, who has a grave obligation of keeping it safe from profane hands.

• A CROSS bearing a conspicuous FIGURE OF JESUS CRUCIFIED is placed in the middle of the altar between the candlesticks.

• On the main altar are placed six large candlesticks, between which the Crucifix has a prominent position. On the other altars at least two candlesticks should be placed. The CANDLES used during Mass are of beeswax.

• On the altar are three ALTAR CARDS – one in front of the tabernacle, and one at each side of the altar. Inscribed on these cards are some of the prayers said by the priest during Mass.

• The MISSAL (Mass-book) contains the text of the various Masses. During Mass it rests on the MISSAL-STAND.

• Near the altar on a small table (CREDENCE table) are placed the CRUETS containing wine and water, and also a bowl and SMALL TOWEL for the washing of the priest’s fingers at the LAVABO.

• On the step of the altar is kept the ALTAR-BELL. It is to be rung during Mass and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament to call the attention of those present to the more inportant parts of these services.

• Before the tabernacle in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved there burns continually day and night at least one SANCTUARY LAMP, for which olive oil or beeswax is used.” (Slight changes have been made since, but the essence applies as always.)
– Brepols, 1952


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“The name ‘Maundy’ is from ‘Mandatum,’ the ceremony of washing the feet at the end of the Mass, whose first antiphon begins: ‘Mandatum novum do vobis.’ It is usual to call a service after the first word of its chants. In the same way we speak of a ‘Requiem,’ a ‘Dirge’ (‘Dirge’ is the beginning of the first antiphon at Matins for the dead), and so on. It is curious that in England the ceremony of washing the feet should have given its name to the whole day.


The main feature of the function today and tomorrow is that on Good Friday the holy Sacrifice is not offered. That is as old a custom as any in the Church. It obtains equally in all rites. Indeed, in most of the Eastern rites, as once at Rome, there were many ‘aliturgical’ (that is, days on which the holy Liturgy [Mass] was not celebrated) days in Lent. The Byzantine rite, for instance, has this Liturgy of the Presanctified every Wednesday and Friday in Lent, and on Monday and Tuesday in Holy Week. We now have it only on Good Friday. But, although no priest consecrates on Good Friday, it is the equally old custom that the priest (and once the people, too) should make their Communion. For this purpose it is necessary to reserve the Sanctissimum consecrated at the Mass the day before. Nowadays, it would be easy to take the Sanctissimum from the tabernacle; but the ceremonies of Holy Week date from a time when it was by no means the universal custom to reserve in every church. So special arrangements had to be made to reserve for this occasion. At the Mass on Maundy Thursday the priest consecrates [hosts, some of them he takes to a place prepared where they are kept] till Communion on Good Friday. That is the root of the service on both days.


For the rest, the Mass of Maundy Thursday is a festal Mass, with white vestments, with the ‘Gloria in excelsis.’ It is the only case in the year when the Mass of the day and office do not correspond. The office is all mournful. Here the memory which seems most to fill the mind of the Church is the betrayal of Judas. But when Mass is said the Church cannot forget, although it is the middle of the week of mourning, that this is the day to which we owe the Holy Eucharist. So, a startling exception to the usual note of the time, at Mass at least we put aside all thought of mourning and celebrate with joy our Lord’s last gift before he died.

The ringing of the bells at the ‘Gloria’ is only the sign that from now on they will not be heard again until the first Easter Mass. The Church is accustomed to do a thing solemnly for the last time before it ceases, as we say the ‘Alleluia’ solemnly twice at the end of Vespers before Septuagesima. Probably the time of the ‘Gloria’ is chosen because it corresponds to the time when the bells ring out on Holy Saturday. The playing of the organ at the same time is obviously a further development of the same idea. The organ, too, comes back at the ‘Gloria’ on Holy Saturday. (Thurston, pp. 277-281). To play the organ on Maundy Thursday is less logical, since it should not have been heard during all Lent; but one can see the connection of ideas.

From this time begin the ‘still days’ of our forefathers, on which all are to be intent only on the memory of what our Lord bore for us.

After Mass the procession takes the Sanctissimum to the place where it is kept till the next day. This is an example of a real Roman procession, having a definite object. It is usual to call the place to which the Blessed Sacrament is taken the ‘altar of repose.’ This is a harmless popular name; but it is not really an altar. No sacrifice is offered on it.


At first it seems that nothing more was done than to keep the Sanctissimum reverently in some safe place, often in the sacristy, as it is still reserved in many Eastern Churches. Then people realised that this was the one occasion when they had the Blessed Sacrament in their churches. So they made much of it. They fitted up and adorned a place of honour; they began to watch and pray before the ‘altar of repose’ all the day and all night. Much of the ideas of such later developments as Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, of the ‘Forty Hours’ and so on, seems to have begun during this time between Mass on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. And then, even after it had become usual to reserve the Sanctissimum on the altar of nearly every church all the year round, the old custom of special reverence on this occasion went on. That, too, is nearly always so. Custom preserves many things in liturgy after their first reason has ceased.


This accounts for the special reverence with which we still treat the Sanctissimum at the altar of repose, although we have it now in the tabernacle always. And, indeed, on this night of all nights, when our Lord was suffering his bitter torment, it is natural that people should spend part of the time with him in prayer, honouring the gift of that day.


We leave the altar of repose, come back to the High Altar and say Vespers. This is not really a special feature of these days. On all fast days Vespers are now said in the morning, from the old idea that one does not break one’s fast till after Vespers. Easier rule now allows people to eat at midday on fast days; but the liturgical sequence is preserved; so the meal pushed Vespers back to the morning. The fact that on fast days at the end of Mass the deacon says not: ‘Ite missa est,’ but ‘Benedicamus Domino,’ meant once that he did not dismiss the people then, because they were to stay for Vespers.


After Vespers the altar is stripped. This ceremony has become to us one of the features of Holy Week; yet it is only one more case of an archaic custom, otherwise abolished, but preserved on these days. Once, after Mass on any day, the altar was stripped. Now on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday the stripping of the altar has become a symbol of desolation, or a memory that our Lord was stripped of his garments.


The Maundy follows. When our Lord had washed the feet of the Apostles he gave us a clear command to do as he had done (John xiii. 15). Doubtless this means, in the first place, rather the general attitude he then observed; but the Church has always taken his command literally too. There are innumerable cases of washing feet (at one time a very practical work of charity) by Heads of religious houses, done to poor travellers, pilgrims, and so on, by Popes, bishops, Kings. Still in Catholic countries it is the custom for the Sovereign to wash the feet of thirteen poor men today. Indeed, so definite is our Lord’s command to carry out this ceremony, so clear the implication of a grace given thereby (John xiii, 10, 11, 17), that at one time it seems to have been considered almost to approach the dignity of a sacrament. We shall certainly not consider the Mandatum to be a real sacrament; but it may be counted among the sacramentals.

Naturally, it was most of all on this day that people obeyed our Lord’s command. Whereas Fathers and synods, from the fourth century, recommend the washing of feet in general, often especially the washing of the feet of the newly baptised (Thurston, pp. 307-309. As a typical example see the Rule of St Benedict, chap. 35 and 53), in the seventh century we find a Spanish council insisting on the restoration of this ceremony on Maundy Thursday, since in some places it was falling out of use (Seventeenth Syn. of Toledo (694), can. 3 (Hefele-Leclerq: Hist. Des Conciles, iii, p. 586). It is curious that thirteen men whose feet are washed, not twelve, are constantly mentioned. In the twelfth century the Pope washed the feet of twelve subdeacons after Mass, and of thirteen poor men after dinner (Ordo rom. xii, 25, 27). Various explanations are given of the number thirteen. Either it is meant to include St Matthias, or St Paul, or perhaps the Lord himself. There is a legend about an angel who appeared and joined the twelve poor men entertained on one occasion by St Gregory I. No number is specified in the missal; but the Ceremonial of Bishops speaks of thirteen (Caer. Ep., L. II, cap. XXIV, 2); this is the usual number now in the West (the Eastern rites keep to twelve).

After the washing of feet the church is left all empty and bare; only in a distant chapel the lights burn and people watch silently before the altar of repose, waiting for the service of the next morning.”
– Adrian Fortescue, from “The Holy Week Book”, Burns Oates & Washbourne, London, 1913


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“My eyes and my heart shall be always there, and not only during the day, but even during the long hours of the night, when the churches are closed, and men, having retired into their dwellings, give themselves up to sleep. Thus bound in a certain sense by the tender love which He bears us, Jesus cannot leave us a single moment.

There, then, He awaits us, even inviting and pressing us to go and find Him. From the depths of the Tabernacle, He addresses to us unceasingly these sweet words: ‘Come to Me all you who labour and are burdened; come, and I will refresh you.’ Come to Me, you who are poor, and you who are sick, and you, also, who are in desolation; come, all you, the just and the sinners; and all, such as they are, will find in Me healing, strength, and consolation.

It is not permitted to everyone to approach the kings of the earth. ‘But You,’ says Saint Teresa, ‘You, O my Jesus, may be approached by all; anyone can find You when he wishes, and no one is ever sent away.’ And, she remarks further, ‘if Jesus veils His majesty completely in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, it is that He may inspire in us no fear, but only the most complete and filial confidence.'”
– St Alphonsus, Pratique de l’armour


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“You who are just beginning life, and who, like a flower, open out your heart easily, let not the beautiful flower of your frankness be closed by a passing shadow: BE CONFIDING. And you who have already passed through many vicissitudes, you who have tested the fidelity of the world and the sincerity of men, do not shut yourselves up in yourselves, BE CONFIDING.

There are on earth two persons in whom a soul should first of all confide, the mother and the confessor.

Confide in your mother, child, for we know there are secrets which only your mother should know, – they are the secrets of your heart.

How like indeed these two hearts are, when both are pious, and how they understand each other! Confide in your confessor, for there are secrets which only your confessor should know – they are the secrets of your soul.

Lastly, remember that there is in the tabernacle a Friend always ready to greet you. Oh! go to Jesus in the Eucharist! It is His right to know all, pour out at His feet your heart and your soul.

Communicate, yes, communicate often, for Jesus Christ is guidance and strength, support in struggles, a healing balm, which cures our wounds while sanctifying them.

Have confidence then, entire confidence!

Confide in the Hand which guides our lives. Confidence in Him, Who came to save the world, and Whose voice says to us always: ‘Put aside all empty fears, pursue your way in peace!'”
– St Alph., Pious Reflections


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“Form the habit of visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament during the day. Let your visit last only for a moment if you have little time, but make it daily.” – St John Bosco


“Our Lord is there, hidden, waiting for us to come to visit Him, and offer Him our requests. He is there in the Sacrament of His love, which yearns and intercedes perpetually with His Father for sinners. He is there to console us; hence we should often go to visit Him. How pleasing to Him is the short quarter of an hour which we steal from our business or from some useless occupations, in order to come and pray to Him, to visit Him, to console Him for all the injuries He receives. When He sees pure souls hastening eagerly towards Him, He smiles upon them… And what happiness we experience in the presence of God, when we find ourselves alone at His feet, before the Holy Tabernacle! …


My children, when you awake in the night transport yourselves quickly in spirit before the tabernacle, and say to Our Lord: ‘My God, behold me! I come to adore, praise, and bless You, to keep You company along with the angels! … If we loved Our Lord, we would always have before the eyes of our soul this golden tabernacle, the house of God. When in our journeyings we perceive the spire of a church, our hearts should leap at the sight. We should be unable to take our eyes from it!


Ah! if we had the eyes of the angels, and could see Our Lord Jesus Christ really present on the altar, looking at us, how we should love Him! We could not bear to be separated from Him; we would wish to remain always at His Feet. It would be a fore-taste of heaven. Everything else would insipid to us. But alas! … we lack faith.

When we are before the Blessed Sacrament, instead of looking about us, let us shut our eyes and open our hearts; God will open His.”
– Blessed Cure d’Ars


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“Has Jesus in the Eucharist ever lacked the homage of genius and of love? How the highest intelligences have toiled to establish the truth of the Real Presence! What a profound study of the benefits and miracles hidden in the Sacred Host! What admirable views on the central position occupied by the Eucharist in the sacramental world, and on the mysterious gravitation of signs of grace around the symbol which contains the Author of grace Himself! What sublime hymns, what magnificent canticles of the great masters of art! What beauties in the liturgies! What splendid ceremonies instituted by the Church! What a universal convocation of all creatures to honour the Creator in His abasement – lights, perfumes, flowers, precious stuffs, gold, silver, stone, marble, shaped and chiseled by the skilful hands of artists! Such are the magnificent temples, of which all the beauties are directed towards the Eucharistic God.

Those great trees in stone, whose branches interlace to form such proud and graceful arches, are to cover with their protecting shade the Divine Sacrament and its worshippers. Those leaves, those flowers, those traceries, those ornaments so richly and delicately carved, are to crown the Eucharist. Those saints, standing or kneeling, those transparent figures, through which the light streams in a thousand colours, offer homage to the King in the Tabernacle. More impressive still is the sight of the faithful people passing in long procession, prostrating themselves in crowds on feasts of adoration, and raising their voices to chant their reverence, their love, and their faith. But still more glorious the spectacle of Christians transformed by their intimate relations with the Eucharist, exercising in the midst of the world the sublime virtues of the God, whose flesh they have eaten.

If the unbeliever would not insist on regarding only the lowest aspect of the Divine Sacrament, if he reflected with an open mind on the unique and perpetual honour which Christian humanity offers to the Eucharist, he would soon recognise that a piece of common bread could not inspire so much devotion.”
– R. P. Monsabre


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