Sunday, February 07, 2021

Holy Communion from the Tabernacle: Letter in The Tablet

SS Gregory & Augustine's, Oxford

It is sad to see The Tablet's Letters Editor reverting the habit of cutting out the key sentences of my letters. Here is my letter in full - with the expurgated sentences in red. In this weekend's edition.

This particular issue is a favourite of the kind of progressive liturgist who likes to sprinkle his attacks on the Tradition with plausible-sounding quotations and references. Don't be fooled. The distribution of Hosts from the Tabernacle is a practice perfectly in line with the Tradition of the Church for very important theological reasons, and is licit in both Forms of Mass, whatever the faddish 'recommendations' of the General Instruction may say.



Canon Atthill (Letters, 30th January) quotes Pope Pius XII quoting Benedict XIV encouraging priests to give, in Holy Communion, hosts consecrated at the Mass being celebrated. In context, however (Mediator Dei 118, 121), the passage reads slightly differently. Pius XII is speaking of those who request to receive the hosts consecrated at the same Mass as a special act of devotion, and notes that ‘not infrequently’ this is not convenient. He clearly envisages the reception of Hosts consecrated at the same Mass as the exception, not the rule.

The practical considerations at issue have not gone away since 1947. The number of communicants is not always easy to establish in advance, and the hosts which are reserved need to be regularly consumed and refreshed.

But there is also a theological consideration. The ritual of commingling recalls the ancient practice of dropping into the consecrated chalice a portion of a host consecrated at a previous Mass, to express ‘the continuous unity of the Eucharistic sacrifice’ (as Josef Jungmann put it). The use of reserved hosts today has the same significance. As Pius XII remarked, when insisting that tabernacles be joined to the altar: ‘it is the same Lord who is present on the altar and in the tabernacle’ (Assisi allocution, 1956).


Yours faithfully,


Joseph Shaw 

Chairman, the Latin Mass Society

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