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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 1. What is the purpose of the Tabernacle that is found in the Catholic Church?

A. 1. As clearly explained on the "Wikipedia" website, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit, the Catholic Church holds the doctrine of transubstantiation, i.e. that Christ is "truly present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity," though under the appearance of bread or wine. This presence perdures after the consecration, so that even after Mass is concluded, the Eucharistic elements are still Christ's Real Presence. A tabernacle therefore serves as a secure place in which to store the Blessed Sacrament for carrying to the sick who cannot participate in Mass or to serve as a focus for the prayers of those who visit the church. A light burns near the tabernacle when the Eucharist is present as a sign to members of the congregation.

One aim of the renewal of the Roman-rite liturgy following the Second Vatican Council was to highlight the primacy of the Eucharistic celebration itself, seen as much more than just a means for providing the permanent Eucharistic presence. The altar, it was decided, should be "truly the centre to which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns". Before Vatican II Mass was often celebrated directly in front of the tabernacle itself. Today, most often, the altar for the celebration of Mass stands on its own, and the tabernacle is given its own, usually smaller, altar or it stands nearby on a pedestal or in its own separate chapel. This allows the faithful to focus on the celebration of the Eucharistic action itself during Mass, but preserves a dignity of place and fosters prayer and meditation outside of Mass by giving the tabernacle its own space.

In the "General Instruction of the Roman Missal," under "The Place for the Reservation of the Most Holy Eucharist", we read:

314. In accordance with the structure of each church and legitimate local customs, the Most Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a tabernacle in a part of the church that is truly noble, prominent, readily visible, beautifully decorated, and suitable for prayer.

The one tabernacle should be immovable, be made of solid and inviolable material that is not transparent, and be locked in such a way that the danger of profanation is prevented to the greatest extent possible. Moreover, it is appropriate that, before it is put into liturgical use, it be blessed according to the rite described in the Roman Ritual.

315. It is more in keeping with the meaning of the sign that the tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved not be on an altar on which Mass is celebrated. Consequently, it is preferable that the tabernacle be located, according to the judgement of the Diocesan Bishop,

a. either in the sanctuary, apart from the altar of celebration, in a form and place more appropriate, not excluding on an old altar no longer used for celebration;

b. or even in some chapel suitable for the faithful’s private adoration and prayer and which is organically connected to the church and readily visible to the Christian faithful.

316. In accordance with traditional custom, near the tabernacle a special lamp, fuelled by oil or wax, should be kept alight to indicate and honour the presence of Christ.

Tabernacles have generally been made of metal (such as bronze or brass), or sometimes of heavy wood. They are traditionally lined in white cloth (often silk), and are always securely lockable and generally permanently affixed or bolted to their support. Some Tabernacles are veiled when the Eucharist is actually present in them. These veils are often of cloth and design similar to the priest's vestments (that is, to create a harmony of design), and are either white (the color of the Eucharist), gold (which may be substituted for white), or of violet, green or red depending on the liturgical color of the day or season.

[Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_tabernacle]

In summary, the Tabernacle is the place where the Real Presence of Jesus dwells within the catholic Church. While the Consecrated Host has the appearance of Bread, It is the true Body of Jesus living among us in fulfillment of God's promise during the days of the Old Testament to come and make His dwelling among His people.

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