Wednesday, April 27, 2011


It is interesting (for a Catholic) to enter into a Catholic Church on Good Friday. The church is bare – no decorations or appointments – and most startling, the tabernacle doors are open, the inside is empty, and the sanctuary lamp is extinguished. Granted the altar of sacrifice is still there, much of the architectural art is still there, and it is still a consecrated space set aside for worship (we wouldn’t have a ping-pong tournament in there) but by and large it has become a fancy room. We are quiet but not because Jesus is present as the Eucharist, but out of respect for His conspicuous absence. It was if you were still in the King’s chamber and you respected it because it was his, but he wasn’t there so it seemed less alive.

Many non-Catholic Christian communities have this all of the time. I remember growing up having Boy Scout meetings in Protestant sanctuaries – playing around, putting on skits, parents drinking coffee, etc, because it didn’t matter. It was just a room.

Then we celebrated the Easter Vigil with new light, new water, fresh song, and of course Jesus was present to us as the Eucharist once again and some among us received Him for the very first time. The king returns to His chamber. Genuflections return, a quiet returns to his court. For one scary moment we have a taste of what it would be like if we had no more priests. For a lonely afternoon we had knew what it was like to walk into Church and not have Him there.

Pray for vocations. When you pass a Catholic Church, acknowledge His presence there. Never take Him for granted.

What does a typical vocation to the preisthood look like today?


Robin said...

Our Presbyterian sanctuary is not "just a room." We do not play around, drink coffee, put on skits (except when they are part of worship), or drink coffee there. Our sanctuary is a beautiful, sacred space designed and used for word and sacrament.

I sometimes find myself explaining and/or defending Catholic architecture and practice to Protestant friends. Now I have to do the reverse?

Fr. V said...

If you read more closely it says "Many Christian communities" not all and the exact description was of a place that I actually experienced it as a young man. I apologize of this was not clear enough. There are certainly also some Protestestant denominations in which this is not the case. Going even further though - the point is not that they are beautiful - but is Christ present in His most privledged form in the Blessed Sacrament?


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, Father. We don't know what we have until it is missing... It is just heart-stopping to see the tabernacle open and empty. But how wonderful to celebrate the vigil and have Him BACK in the tabernacle!!

Anonymous said...

Fr. V.,

This year my pastor did something new, he had the altar removed after the Mass of the Lord's supper. It was carried back up the isle at the Easter Vigil before the offetory. It looked like the Arc of the Covenant was being brought it. It was very impressive.

And having no altar on Good Friday (we used a nice table for communion) made a strong point.

It was different, and well done.