The New Code of Canon Law contains no legislation requiring the tabernacle to
be demoted from the centre of the high altar even though it does not state
specifically that it should be placed there. Canon 938,§2 states:
There is no place in a church that is more prominent and suitable for prayer
than the high altar (if it has not been destroyed).
The latest pronouncement concerning the tabernacle can be found in the
Catechism of the Catholic Church. It states in Number 1379 that "the
tabernacle should be located in an especially worthy place in the church, and
should be constructed in such a way that it emphasizes and manifests the truth
of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament." In number 1183 it
quotes the encyclical Mysterium Fidei of Pope Paul VI: "The tabernacle is
to be situated "in churches in a most worthy place with the greatest honour".
The Latin original "in nobilissimo loco" is better translated as
"the most worthy place",which, as
Mysterium Fidei states explicitly, is the centre of the high altar. The
official English text of the encyclical published by the Catholic Truth Society
of England and Wales in 1965 translates "in nobilissimo loco" as "the
most distinguished position". In view of the fact that the Catechism cites
Mysterium Fidei, it is not unreasonable to claim that it recommends the
centre of the high altar as the most appropriate place for the tabernacle.
Number 1183 also states, referring to Number 128 of the Liturgy Constitution of
Vatican Council II: "The dignity, placing and security of the Eucharistic
tabernacle should foster adoration before the Lord really present in the Blessed
Sacrament of the altar." The dignity of the tabernacle is best affirmed by
placing it in the centre of the high altar.
© 1997 Michael Davies.
Last modified 27th October, 1997, by David Joyce.