Sunday 5 February 2017

Answering Two Anglicans

They were going to the American Church of Paris, told me I would feel at home there, but then admitted there was no Tabernacle. They did not even know what it was.

Some readers might be in the same position:

Church Tabernacle on Wikipedia

A tabernacle is a fixed, locked box in which, in some Christian churches, the Eucharist is "reserved" (stored). A less obvious container for the same purpose, set into a wall, is called an aumbry.

Within Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and in some congregations of Anglicanism and Lutheranism, a tabernacle is a box-like vessel for the exclusive reservation of the consecrated Eucharist. It is normally made of metal, stone or wood, is lockable and secured to its altar or adjacent wall to prevent the consecrated elements within from being removed without authorization. The "reserved Eucharist" is secured there for distribution at services, for availability to bring Holy Communion to the sick, and, especially in the Western Church, as the center of attention for meditation and prayer. The term "tabernacle" arose for this item as a reference to the Old Testament tabernacle which was the locus of God's presence among the Jewish people - hence, it was formerly required (and is still generally customary) that the tabernacle be covered with a tent-like veil or curtains across its door when the Eucharist is present within.

After some to and fro, they explained why the Real Presence of the Body of Christ (primary sense, the one which was born of the Virgin, died on the Cross, was alive again the Third Day, is Seated in Heaven) is less important to them.

Two ideas emerged as their motives:

  • The Jews had a holy of holies, and since the veil was rent, we don't need that kind of thing any more. We can go directly through Christ.
  • The Church - "we" - are the Body of Christ.

And there are two rather obvious answers :

  • Receiving the Eucharist as being the Physical body of Christ is somehow NOT going through Christ?
  • The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, because it partakes in the Physical Body of Christ, in the Eucharist.

I might want to expand a little on either.

Natrium chloride is salt, and certain products are salt because they contain natrium chloride. When Our Lord talked about "salt loosing its savour" he was talking about such a product loosing natrium chloride.

The physical Body of Christ is the Body of Christ in its own right. The Church is only Body of Christ because containing it.

The sun is light by itself. Air in daytime is light because sunlight is present.

The Body of Christ, the Blood of Christ, the Sacrifice of Christ, the Soul and Divinity of Christ - that is the Sun of Justice in its own right. The Church is giving light because of its presence, not in its absence. The same atmosphere which is bright and transparent in daytime is dark and mostly opaque when the Sun is in nadir, any place. And so the Church without Christ is giving darkness, or at best some candle-light.

The Body of Christ is the Temple per se. Both our bodies as temples of the Holy Ghost, the clerical communion as "living temple of God" (St Paul) and the temple of the old covenant, where the veil was torn, are only images of this temple.

I will tear this temple down and in three days I will build it up again.

For the old covenant it was true enough, that the temple was holier than any animal sacrificed in it, they were sanctified as sacrificial gifts by the temple. A Church is not so. It is holy because the Sacrificial Lamb is or can be present in it.

The reason the veil was torn is so that we went from an era in which the Temple of Solomon showed forth the Temple which is His Body to one in which His Body, present in spirit (that is by miracle) and truth (that is, not just figuratively, but actually) makes a building where it is preserved into a kind of temple. In a Catholic Church, it is the Sacrifice which sanctifies the temple.

And if on Good Friday He made a miracle at a distance, destroying the veil to the old Holy of Holies, on Resurrection Sunday, He identified Himself to the disciples of Emmaus "in the breaking of bread".

Hans Georg Lundahl
Paris XI
IV Sunday after Epiphany
and St Agatha's Day

PS, two more things : next Sunday is no longer a "Sunday after Epiphany", but Septuagesima Sunday. And the two Anglicans are kindly asked to forward this also to my hosts and "table friends" of the two picknicks of IV of July. Those years ago./HGL

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