Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The Confessional Ingredient in Having a Tabernacle
A hundred and nine comments on one blog post is about enough. One of you owes me an evening with a fine single-malt.
But there are some matters which need further exploration, it seems to me, as opposed to mere hashing over old arguments.
A desire to know my real reasons for building a tabernacle is a fair enough inquiry.
Of course there is the chief reason, mentioned in the former post on this subject (required reading for anyone wanting seriously to contribute to this conversation), which, simply, is that it is the best way to give honor to the reserved elements.
This begs a second reason, which is that, in my view, reservation is preferable to celebrating mass in a hospital room.
There is a third reason, which has been lurking in the background of much of our conversation in the former post, and I was reminded of it by the antepenultimate comment, by a certain Anonymous:
"Which came first:
"- Your desire to take Holy Communion to the shut-ins from the same elements as were used in the Sunday mass, and so you retain it and thus adore it during its retention; or
"- Your desire to adore the elements from the Sunday mass, and so you retain it under the good intention of taking it to the shut-in?
"Trusting that no one here would side with the second half of the question, there is nothing sinful or evil with this practice."
The truth is that what came first was a simple reservation of elements, many years ago, in a fit receptacle in the sacristy. I began to feel uncomfortable with that, and to think that for fitness I could really do better. The members of my parish agreed, and the rest is history.
And yet what happened as a result, almost instantly, I realized how this had become an opportunity to confess the Real Presence against receptionism.
Today, nobody in my parish is afflicted with that ghastly disease, I can tell you. Nor does anyone believe in the Real Withdrawal either. And everyone, including some little children, knows that the church is the place for reverence, because of the Body of Christ on the altar.
I admit that I was a bit unsure, when we went to building the tabernacle, about whether it was worth the grief I knew I would catch for doing it, and whether it was worth the sideways glances even from some of my close friends. But these words were repeating themselves in my mind every time I wondered: This is my body. So I went ahead with the plans.
And I must tell you, it has paid off in spades. For my parish, first (and most importantly), in countless ways. It has taught them in a way worth a thousand words what the Sacrament is, and remains. It has also shown them how very serious I am, as their pastor, about the Holy Mass. And they have learned a sacramental piety for which I am truly grateful.
And secondly, for whomever in the world of people in Lutheranism happens to take notice, it has paid off. It has smoked the ugliness of receptionism out into the open for all to see. Now, before anyone starts fuming here, I am not accusing everyone who disagrees with me here of receptionism. Far from it.
Rather, I am interested in exposing the beast. It is a hideous monster. It forces otherwise pious Christians to think console themselves with regard to spilled elements, or shoddy practices that rot like skeletons in their closets; it acquits them of years of not having had to think the unthinkable: have I desecrated the body of Christ?
And in exchange for that service, the beast gets its pound of flesh: a puny, pitiable religion that doesn't bother to think past the idea that somehow, somewhere out in space the communicant is being united with the body of Christ as he eats this little "wafer." It's enough to make John Calvin proud.
And if someone wants to label me a quatenus subscriber to the Confessions over this, all it tells me, frankly, is that the beast is alive and well. And as long as the beast lives, I will gladly confess, at every opportunity, the body of Christ.
Did you know, that's kind of how the elevation of the host developed? I'm thinking it was the eleventh century, and in France, that the practice of elevating the host began to assert itself, against one Peter the Stammerer, who began teaching a strange new doctrine, probably at Paris. Peter insisted that the host did not become the body of Christ until after all the words of institution were spoken. Against this the faithful, up in arms, began to support a new means of confession against said Peter, namely, a silent pause in the midst of the Verba immediately after the consecration of the first species, in order to elevate it for all to adore.
Not only, therefore, will I defend my decision to erect a tabernacle here; I encourage you, as you are able, to try it as well. You might be as surprised as I was at the results you get.
I'll say one thing: it has made the beast unwelcome in my parish. And that is no small victory.