"The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord, glorious in
Heaven, is not multiplied but is made present by the Sacrament in the
numerous places on earth where the Mass is celebrated. After the
Sacrifice, this existence remains present in the Blessed Sacrament, that
is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each one of our churches. It
is for us a pleasant duty to honour and worship in the Sacred Host which
our eyes see, the incarnate Word which our eyes cannot see and which
without leaving heaven has made itself present before
the People of God
The Council of Trent teaches that Christ is truly, really, and
substantially present in this sacrament without leaving heaven. And it
is not repugnant that he is in all places where the sacrifice of the
Holy Mass is celebrated while remaining in heaven, in such
a mode of existence which, by reason enlightened by faith, we know is
possible for God, although we cannot express it in words (Sess. XIII,
cap.1; Ds, 1626).
Sacred Scripture presents the Eucharist as a sacrifice and as a meal:
thus the Synoptics, St. Paul and Saint John; and it
clearly affirms that Christ is truly and substantially in the Eucharist
both because of the expressions in the biblical text itself and because
it is implicit in the affirmation of the eucharistic sacrifice and meal.
When the eucharistic celebration of the Holy Mass ends and the
Eucharist remains, the body and blood of Christ always remain in
it. This doctrine is very ancient in the Church.
The early Christians had the habit of receiving the Eucharist and
taking it home to keep it and eat it later. This we know, for
example, from Tertullian (De oratione, c. 19;. P. L., 1. 1181), from
Novation (De spectaculis, CSEL III p. 8), and from St. Basil (Lettera
93; P.G. 32, 483-486), etc.
Thus the early Christians believed that even after the end of the
Mass the body of Christ remains in the Eucharist. Cyril of Alexandria
exclaims that those who deny this make a gross error: " In factóhe
writesóChrist does not change nor does his sacred body, but the power
and the strength and the life-giving grace always remain in it.
(Letter to Calosyrius; P.G., 76, 1075).
Thus faith in the presence of Christ after the celebration of the
Eucharist is an ancient belief in the Church; one could even say that it
is of apostolic origin and directly connected to the Words of Christ.
Is well known that Luther and his disciples affirmed that
Christ is in the Eucharist only during use; that is, during the
Eucharistic celebration, and thus they denied all belief in the
real presence and did not keep the tabernacle in their churches.
The Council of Trent expressly condemned this
opinion as false: "He who maintains that after the
consecration the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ is no
longer present in the sacrament of the Eucharist but that it is only
present in the use, and not before or after; and that in the consecrated
hosts or particles that are preserved after the communion
or that remain afterwards, there is not present the true body of Christ,
let him be anathema" (Sess. XIV, can. 4; DS, 1654).
Consequently the Council of Trent taught authoritatively the duty of
Christians to venerate and worship Christ who remains in the tabernacle.
In fact, the tabernacle does not contain a relic but a person,
and precisely a divine person; thus it must be worshipped.
And as God the Father sent Christ on earth commanding all the angels to
worship him (Psalms 96, 7; Hebrews 1, 6), the Magi adored
him (Mathew 2, 11) and also the Apostles (Mathew 28, 17); and thus men
must also worship him.
It is easy then to understand that the Church should wish to honour
Christ in the Sacrament with a special cult, even after the Eucharistic
celebration. This has been the case during the entire history of the
Church , but especially since the XIII century, when under the Influence
of Blessed Giuliana di Monte Cornillon, Urban IV (1210-1264) with the
famous Bull "Transiturus" extended the feast of Corpus
Domini throughout the whole Church.
Since that time devotion to Christ, who is really and substantially
present in the Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle, spread and grew
among the Christian people and it took various forms such as adoration,
visits, the Forty Hours, processions, Benediction of the Blessed
Thus, after various vicissitudes, it has reached us today, and is now
subjected here and there, to illogical contestation. Once again the
doctrine of Luther, rejected by Trent is put forward, namely, that
Christ is present only during the Eucharistic celebration. Hence Paul VI
warned against this error in the recent Eucharistic Encyclical "Mysterium
* * *
"The Blessed Sacrament, in the tabernacle, is the living heart
of each of our churches", says Paul VI.
The universal Church is the society of the worship and of the
salvation of men in Christ. In it perfect honour is rendered to the
Father, and humanity receives spiritual health. The Catholic Church is
present in the various places where there is a local church. This church
is fully active when it renders honour to God and leads men to
salvation. This happens in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, where
the local community is gathered together around Christ who offers
himself to the Father in sacrifice and to men in food; and with him, who
is the head with his members, they honour God and are saved.
The eucharistic celebration which is a sacrifice and a meal, is thus
the centre of the Christian life of the local church, which is the
diocese and also the parish. From the Holy Mass originates the
ecclesiastical life of the Christian community, its charity and its
When the Eucharist remains after the eucharistic celebration, the
Lord Jesus is present bodily and substantially, and lives in the
tabernacle in the midst of the Christian community, He continues to be
the heart of the parish: "The Eucharist is reserved in the churches
and oratoriesówrites Paul VI in the Mysterium Fideióas the
spiritual centre of the religious and parish community". In fact,
as the Pope adds, "he lives with us full of grace and truth; he
renews moral life, nourishes virtue, consoles the afflicted, strengthens
the weak, and urges all those who approach him to imitate him. "The
Lord Jesus in the tabernacle continues the work begun in holy Mass and
in the Eucharistic Communion.
* * *
Thus we must bear in mind the particular significance of the
veneration due to Christ in the tabernacle. In the tabernacle Christ is
in the Eucharist which remained after the celebration of Mass; thus in
some way the work of the Mass continues in the tabernacle.
The Lord is in the tabernacle under the species of bread, that is,
under the aspect of victim, in the sacramental state of sacrificial
offering. And in the tabernacle his prayer continues "always living
to intercede for us" (Hebrews 7, 25). Whoever honours Christ in the
Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle, must see him as a sacrificed
victim, that is to say, he must unite himself with the victim of
Calvary, continuing the sacrifice of the Mass.
Moreover, Christ is in the tabernacle under the species of bread,
which signifies food to be eaten. Devotion to Christ in the tabernacle
thus supposes a spiritual continuation of the Eucharistic Communion,
which makes one participate in the sacrificial victim of the Mass.
In the light of this we can understand the true meaning of the
worship of Christ in the Eucharist as reserved. It is a devotion which
continues the Mass and its fruits as a sacrifice and as a meal. It is in
this sense that we should understand visits to the Blessed Sacrament,
adoration, processions, etc.
If the presence in the tabernacle is separated from the Mass and
Communion, then certainly, devotion to Christ in the Eucharist as
reserved is no longer understandable, since Christ is in the tabernacle
as a consequence of the sacrifice and of the meal. Only in relation to
these is it possible to understand this presence correctly.
Consequently, it is only as a continuation of the Eucharistic sacrifice
and meal that devotion to Christ in the tabernacle is theologically
clear and set in the Eucharistic context willed by Christ.