“The altar, which symbolizes Christ and
the place where bread and wine
become his true presence, is the main
focal point in every Catholic church.”
Alignment to the Altar
During our annual spring-cleaning, we took out all the chairs in the church to clean them and to steam clean the carpet. When we put the chairs back, we decided to angle them a bit so that all the chairs would be in line with the altar. The altar, which symbolizes Christ and the place where bread and wine become his true presence, is the main focal point in every Catholic church. Other focal points include the ambo (pulpit), the presider’s chair, and the assembly. Christ is also present in the action taking place at each of those. The angled chairs might make it a bit easier to see one another in the assembly.
Some may wonder why the tabernacle is not in that list of main focal points for the Mass. The tabernacle is extremely important. It is the place where the Eucharist is reserved in order to bring it to the sick and dying. It also makes a holy and special place for individual prayer outside of Mass. Some may have grown up or come from parishes that had the tabernacle right behind the altar. However, the instruction of the Roman Missal states that if the tabernacle is in the sanctuary it is to be “apart from the altar of celebration” (#315). The instruction also states that the tabernacle may be “in some chapel suitable for private adoration and prayer of the faithful,” which we have here at St. John’s. The point is that the tabernacle should not be the focal point during the Mass. Nor should hosts from the tabernacle be used for Mass. The Second Vatican Council stated that the faithful should receive Holy Communion from the hosts consecrated at the Mass they attend. It is active participation in the action taking place in the Mass that is most important.
It is our custom to bring the hosts from the tabernacle and place them on the altar during the communion procession. Any leftover hosts from the Mass are added to them. And if we miscounted or too many people come late and we run out of hosts, we then need to use hosts consecrated at a different Mass.
The church is open during business hours for you to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. The main doors of the church are usually locked, but you may enter through the parish office. You are invited to spend some time with the Lord, truly present in the consecrated bread in the tabernacle. You might also wish to consider becoming a Eucharistic minister to the sick and homebound, so that those who are ill or apart from the community may experience in the sacrament, the presence of the Lord, and the concern of his community. Contact Laurie for more information at our parish office.