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Reverence for the Real Presence
Reverence for the Real Presence
No issue causes more emotion in the church than real or perceived disrespect for the Blessed Sacrament. It is important therefore that Christ’s presence both in the Eucharistic celebration and in the tabernacle be treated at all times with the utmost reverence.
A key Australian characteristic is that of informality. While it is wrong to judge hastily that certain types of behaviour are disrespectful, when a casual approach is carried over into liturgical celebrations, it can be seen as indicating a lack of reverence for the awesome mystery the liturgy expresses.
Our rites can be welcoming and inclusive without losing their dignity. Even utilitarian actions carried out during the liturgy should be performed with a grace and a sense of purpose that befits the sacred liturgical action.
There are several ways in which we might look to improve our expression of reverence for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
In many parishes there is room for improvement in the quality of the liturgical vessels. Domestic utensils are simply inappropriate for the sacred ritual actions we perform in liturgy.
As members of the assembly, we demonstrate our respect for the presence of Christ in the Eucharist by our prayerful preparation, through our full and active participation in the liturgy and in our general demeanour as we process to the Lord’s table, receive and consume the Body and Blood of Christ, and return to our seats.
The General Instruction directs communicants to ‘make a proper reverence’ at communion. This means raising our eyes for the proclamation of faith from the minister (‘The Body of Christ’, ‘The Blood of Christ’), responding with a sincere ‘Amen!’ and extending our hands to receive the gift.
Special Ministers of Communion need to develop the art of dignified movement and be able to hold the plate and cup and share the consecrated bread and wine with reverence. It is important that they show respect both for the sacred actions they perform as well as for those they serve through a caring approach inside and outside the liturgy.
The procedures carried out by the ministers after communion need to be done thoughtfully and well. One minister returns the ciborium to the tabernacle; others carry the empty plates and cups to the side table for purification. Any consecrated wine which is left over is consumed by the ministers quietly and without fuss so that people are not distracted from their thanksgiving.
If too much of the precious blood remains for the ministers to consume immediately after communion (good judgement should ensure that this is a rare occurrence), it can be consumed after Mass by the priest and special ministers as required. Of course it is never just poured away, as it remains the Blood of Christ, the real presence.
The tabernacle for the reserved Sacrament must be a worthy and dignified receptacle, positioned in such a way that people are encouraged to spend time praying in the presence of Christ. Showing respect for the Blessed Sacrament means marking the tabernacle with lamps, using appropriate gestures of respect and observing silence in the immediate area. Creating a special chapel for the tabernacle will support people’s prayer before the Blessed Sacrament by creating an atmosphere of quiet intimacy.