Why We Reserve The Eucharist In A Tabernacle
Within Our Churches, Chapels, And Oratories
Throughout the centuries, the Church has taken great care to reserve the Blessed Sacrament with all due reverence and devotion within her churches, chapels, and oratories in fixed tabernacles. As faithful Catholic Christians, we do well to remind ourselves as to why this is so. After all, why not just consume all of the Sacred Hosts that are consecrated at a particular Mass? Why reserve them in the tabernacle?
First and foremost, the Church teaches that the celebration of the Eucharist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the origin and end of the worship given to the Eucharist outside of Mass. Furthermore, the Sacred Species are reserved after Mass principally so that the faithful who cannot be present at Mass (most especially the sick and those advanced in age) may receive Holy Communion outside of Mass, for example, in their home or in a hospital when a properly deputed Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion takes it to them. In addition, reservation of the Sacred Species also permits the practice of adoration of this great Sacrament and offering it the worship due to Almighty God. Paragraph 1379 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives a wonderful overview of these truths when it states:
“The tabernacle was first intended for the reservation of the Eucharist in a worthy place so that it could be brought to the sick and those absent, outside of Mass. As faith in the Real Presence of Christ in His Eucharist deepened, the Church became conscious of the meaning of silent adoration of the Lord present under the Eucharistic Species. It is for this reason that the tabernacle should be located in an especially worthy place in the church and should be constructed in such a way that it emphasizes and manifests the truth of the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.”
For example, placing adoring Angels on either side of the tabernacle and having the Sanctuary Lamp placed in such a way that it is easily and readily noticed (with a “living flame” that signifies the “Living Presence” of our Lord in the Eucharist) are two wonderful ways in which the tabernacle (through its construction and placement) “emphasizes and manifests the truth of the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.”
In regard to Eucharistic Adoration, which reserving the Most Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle makes possible, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta teaches, “The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with Him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in Heaven, and will help bring about everlasting peace on earth.”
I’m always greatly moved whenever I’m at a holy hour of Eucharistic Adoration in which all the lights in the Church are dimmed with the exception of those focused on the altar on which the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in a magnificent monstrance, flanked by candles with clouds of rising, fragrant incense – symbolic of our prayers rising up to Almighty God. What a sight!
St. Mother Teresa would also often say, “The Eucharist is the continuing presence of our Lord’s Sacred Incarnation among us.” How right she was and is! Indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ is truly present, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the consecrated Hosts reserved in our churches, chapels and oratories. So, go and make a visit to Him. Offer Him your prayers, joys, sorrows, actions, sufferings, and loved ones. And tell Him that you love Him.