Tabernacles inside and outside of church

| Father Michael Van Sloun | November 21, 2019 | 0 Comments


The tabernacle is where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. It is usually located in the sanctuary area in the front of the church, often either behind the altar or in its immediate vicinity, or it may be located in a reservation chapel.

Tabernacle means “dwelling place.”

The consecrated hosts in the tabernacle retain the real presence of Christ, and Christ dwells therein. A sanctuary lamp is located near the tabernacle, and the candle remains lit all day, every day, as a reminder of Christ’s presence. Reverence is offered to Christ by genuflection or kneeling.

The purpose of the tabernacle is to have the Eucharist available for the sick and dying, to have a location where the faithful can pray in adoration, and to provide storage for the consecrated hosts that remain after the distribution of holy Communion.

The consecrated hosts are placed in different kinds of vessels. Most are placed in a ciborium, a large chalice-like or bowl-like container, with a cover, usually made of metal that has a gold or silver appearance. There may be a pyx, a smaller container for one or several hosts. There may also be a luna, a round receptacle with a clear glass front which contains one larger consecrated host and is inserted into the monstrance for eucharistic adoration or Benediction.

The tabernacle is built solidly, much like a safe. It is firmly anchored in the wall or on a pedestal so it cannot be moved. The front door has a lock that is opened with a key. This is to ensure that the Eucharist is treated with the utmost respect and to prevent it from being desecrated (see Canon 938.3, Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1379).

The tabernacle is adorned in a variety of ways. The front door may be covered with a veil, or it may be decorated with eucharistic symbols such as wheat and grapes or a host and a chalice, or it may have a beautiful metallic finish.

When a person receives holy Communion, the person becomes a human tabernacle. The real presence of Christ dwells within the person. The tabernacle in church is inanimate, made of wood and metal, but the human tabernacle is alive and breathing, made of flesh and blood.

As a person would reverence Christ present in the tabernacle in church, a person should reverence Christ within one’s self. The communicant is to pause, look inwardly, give one’s full attention to Christ, listen to him and speak with him.

Furthermore, the communicant must be a worthy vessel, righteous and virtuous, pure and undefiled, free from sin, pleasing to Christ in thought, word and deed, so the communicant would give honor to Christ, the greatest of all guests, and nothing would give offense to him.

The tabernacle in church is immovable, but the human tabernacle is mobile. When a person is dismissed at the end of Mass and leaves the church, the communicant is to be like the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Christ-bearer, the one who brought Christ to the world. We are to bring Christ to those we meet. With Christ dwelling within us, the love of Christ should radiate outward from ourselves to others in our kindness, service and joy.

Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata. This column is part of an ongoing series on the Eucharist. Read more of his writing at

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Category: Faith Fundamentals