Communion from the Tabernacle


Imagine this. You buy some rosary beads and ask a priest to bless them. He takes the beads, puts them in his pocket and hands you a similar set of beads that he said he blessed last week. I think you might feel a little short changed and ask for your own beads to be blessed in your presence.
So why do so many people meekly continue to accept being given communion week after week from hosts that were consecrated at a previous Mass and not from what was offered and blessed in their presence?
To be fed with the Body of Christ from the tabernacle and not from what was consecrated at the Mass being celebrated breaks the connection between sacrifice and communion. There can be no communion without sacrifice, and this is symbolised most clearly when we receive communion from what we ourselves have offered.
At Mass we offer ourselves along with the gifts of bread and wine to be blessed by God and broken for the life of the world. This is not enacted when we share communion from what was offered by a different group of people at another time.
Imagine this! A friend invites you home for dinner. The host eats the meal that has just been prepared and gives you last night’s heated-up leftovers. I imagine you would be offended by this appalling lack of common courtesy.
So why is it somehow acceptable for the priest, and perhaps the ministers of communion, to receive communion from what has been consecrated at a Mass while the rest of the assembly is given hosts from the tabernacle? What is bad manners at home is still bad manners in church!
As we do what Jesus did at the Last Supper, our celebration of the eucharist makes Christ’s sacrifice present to us here and now. Jesus took the bread, gave thanks for it, broke it and gave it to his disciples to eat. Christ did not produce a plate of pieces of bread he had blessed earlier and pass it around. How can we claim to be ‘doing what Jesus did’ when we routinely give pre-consecrated hosts to people?
The reason for reserving the consecrated bread is twofold – to provide communion for the housebound and for the purpose of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. It is not to provide a supply of hosts to service several Masses!
I know from experience that it does not take too much effort to consecrate the right amount of bread for each Mass. Any good sacristan can manage it.
Included in a report of proceedings at Vatican II in the Catholic Leader dated 17 October 1963 is this sentence: “The Fathers want communicants, as far as possible, to receive hosts consecrated during the Mass at which they communicate”. That was 40 years ago!
And for those who aren’t convinced by arguments from theology, symbolism, hospitality or history, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal of 2000 spells it out quite clearly: “It is most desirable that the faithful, just as the priest himself is bound to do, receive the Lord’s body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass” (GIRM 2000 # 85).


Elizabeth Harrington