When we enter a Catholic Church, we make a sign of reverence towards the tabernacle where the Holy Eucharist is kept. But when we celebrate the Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, should our focal point shift? Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your FatherTM, shared his insights.
Outside of Mass, we focus on the tabernacle. “We genuflect toward the tabernacle because we recognize the presence of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, there in a supreme way in the Eucharistic species,” said Msgr. Swetland. “The door is closed but we still know he is there inside the tabernacle and we genuflect on our right knee to that tabernacle presence because that is the kind of adoration reserved for God alone.”
When we begin the celebration of Mass, however, our focus changes.
“Once the priest invokes the blessed Trinity and greets the people and Mass has begun, then the center of our focus as a worshipping community is the altar and the altar itself represents Christ. … And of course, it’s on the altar that the Eucharistic species is consecrated and becomes the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so obviously the focus is there until Mass has ended,” explained Msgr. Swetland.
And then when we consume the Body and Blood of Christ at Holy Communion, we become tabernacles ourselves. Because Christ dwells within us after we receive His Body and Blood, we are instructed to go forth in peace when Mass ends. “You are to go and be and take that presence of Christ in you, out into the world.”
It’s also important to remember that God dwells within us as baptized Christians.
“A baptized person has the Trinity dwelling within us unless we seriously sin and drive them out,” explained Msgr. Swetland. “We are partakers of the divine nature. Jesus took on our human nature; the Christ, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, took on our human nature while always remaining divine. When we are baptized, we humans take on the divine nature while remaining human persons.”
Let’s work to make ourselves into worthy dwelling places of Christ (though we cannot be truly worthy) by preparing our hearts for Mass and the reception of Holy Communion. Observe the Eucharistic fast so your body and soul hungers for Christ and ensure that you are in a state of grace when you receive Him. Honor and care for your body and work to cut out vice and grow in virtue.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, help us to become a worthy dwelling place for your presence.
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