From pastor’s desk on the 2nd Sunday of Advent, year B
On the second Sunday of Advent we hear the voice of St. John the Baptist calling people to authentic conversion, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
A conversion is a change of heart and mind. In Greek, the word for that is metanoia, which means a profound transformation from within. It is like the yeast that changes flour into dough so our soul must be changed by the Word of God. Thus, Advent should make us think more about Jesus and divine things so that we may begin to think with Jesus and like Jesus. We should also examine our consciences whether we are walking with Jesus or walking our own ways. The change of heart is very difficult, but not impossible, for “all things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23).
Speaking of changes, very soon we are going to make some practical alterations regarding the furnishing of our church. First, the crucifix, in our case the Franciscan cross of San Damiano, will stay in the center above the altar, where it is now. The body of the Risen Christ will be placed within the church’s building but not above the altar. The reason for that is that in the tradition of the Catholic Church a cross with the crucified body of Christ was always placed in a clearly visible place, somewhere in the center of the church’s building, usually higher above the altar. On that point, the liturgical guidelines proscribe “there is to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, a cross clearly visible to the assembled people. It is desirable that such a cross should remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations, so as to call to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord” (General Introduction to the Roman Missal, no. 308).
Secondly, we are going to move the tabernacle to the center of the church as well, just behind the altar and below the cross. This is also recommended by the precepts of the Church that the tabernacle, in which dwells the Real Presence of Christ, be properly venerated while giving it a dignified place within the temple. The Built of Living Stones, a document on the liturgical art and design prepared by USCCB, states that “[the location] should be worthy of the Blessed Sacrament—beautifully designed and in harmony with the overall decor of the rest of the church. To provide for the security of the Blessed Sacrament the tabernacle should be "solid," "immovable," "opaque," and "locked." The tabernacle may be situated on a fixed pillar or stand, or it may be attached to or embedded in one of the walls. A special oil lamp or a lamp with a wax candle burns continuously near the tabernacle as an indication of Christ's presence” (par. 72)
In other words, the tabernacle should be located in such a way that it is easily recognizable even by visitors. Some people may ask why then the tabernacle has been in the side niche at St. Joseph church for so long. The answer is that the Church allows placing the tabernacle in “a separate chapel suitable for adoration and for the private prayer of the faithful.” This was often misunderstood and during the construction of new sacred places the Blessed Sacrament was placed on the side in order “not to obscure the altar.” However, to make a dignified space for the Blessed Sacrament there should literally a separate chapel for it. It seems that the current location of the Most Blessed Sacrament in our church does not convey the message of the centrality of the Eucharist, for many people are passing by it without even properly reverencing the Presence of Christ, or, quite frequently talk in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Moving the tabernacle to the center of our church will certainly allow to emphasize the centrality of the Eucharist and the Real Presence – it is Jesus Christ who is the most important, not the presider, nor even the altar. Thus, the central location if the Blessed Sacrament will also help to foster more reverence and it will allow us a few more practical accommodations during celebration of the Holy Mass, like fetching the Eucharist and bringing it back after communion, the role that is specifically reserved for a priest or deacon.
The current location of the tabernacle will be converted to a little shrine with the Body of the Resurrected Jesus and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This way will continue the veneration of the Risen Christ present for many years at St. Joseph parish as well allow for arrangement of a kind of “grotto” for the Blessed Mother. I hope that you find these changes suitable for cultivating spiritual practices of our parish.
Blessings upon your families. Marana tha, Come Lord, Jesus!
Fr. Janusz Mocarski, pastor