Yesterday (Holy Thursday) I went with my sister into my parish to place a few fresh flower pots in front of the altar for Holy Thursday Evening Mass. I was totally surprised to see that the Tabernacle was completely empty with the Altar lamp extinguished and the doors of the Tabernacle stripped of it’s veil and left open. Any remnant of consecrated hosts including the Monstrance Luna had either been consumed or placed in the Altar of Repose.
Typically from a liturgical stand point from what I can remember from being a former sacristan for ten years, the Holy Presence of Christ inside the Tabernacle wasn’t removed until after Holy Thursday Mass and then brought to the Altar of Repose by the Priest, Deacon, and EMHC’s. The Empty Tomb takes place on Good Friday with the Tabernacle laid bare empty of the Holy Presence of Our Lord.
I just couldn’t understand WHY the Tabernacle was empty yesterday?
What you saw was correct. The tabernacle should be empty for holy thursday and the blessed sacrement along with the sanctuary lamp soud be placed in an area of repose.
When people arrive for holy thursday they should see an empty tabernacle.
According to the norms of Paschale solemnitatis, IV. Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, n. 48. The tabernacle should be completely empty before the celebration. You may find the norms at the USCCB website by looking around a little.
Perhaps the years you spent as sacristan things were not being doen correctly.
(Sometimes called less properly sepulchre or tomb, more frequently repository).
The altar where the Sacred Host, consecrated in the Mass on Holy Thursday, is reserved until the Mass of the Presanctified (see GOOD FRIDAY) on the following day. It is prescribed that the altar of repose be in the church and other than the one where Mass is celebrated.
In the Mass on Holy Thursday two hosts are consecrated; after the consumption of the first, the second Host is placed in a chalice, which is covered with a pall and inverted paten; over the whole is placed a white veil, tied with a ribbon. This remains on the corporal in the centre of the altar till the end of Mass, when it is carried in solemn procession to the altar of repose
, there to remain in the tabernacle or in an urn placed in a prominent position above the altar. Individual churches vie with one another in rendering these altars of repose with their respective chapels ornate in the extreme, with rich hangings, beautiful flowers, and numerous lights. Catholic piety has made Holy Thursday a day of exceptional devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and the repository is the centre of the love and aspirations of the faithful. Mention of the altar of repose and the procession thereto is not found before the close of the fifteenth century. The reservation of the Consecrated Species in the Mass of Holy Thursday, spoken of in earlier liturgical works, was for the distribution of Holy Communion, not for the service on the following day.
FWIW, the tabernacle being empty and open before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is also the case in the EF.
One thing: the inner quote (above) does not apply to the “revised” Holy Week rites of 1955. That particular part of the old ritual was eliminated, which was, perhaps, the biggest change made at the time to the Holy Thursday liturgical rite. That change also, of course, affected the “Mass of the Presanctified” on Good Friday in that the celebrating priest would consume a small host from the ciborium.
Unfortunately our pastor refuses to do this and the Tabernacle still held the Blessed Sacrament last night. The large number of Hosts that remained in the Tabernacle were mixed with those consecrated last night and distributed to the small congregation. Today we’ll again be receiving both those consecrated last night and those consecrated earlier in March.
Our dear sacristan could avoid that by only putting out a few hosts to be consecrated at each Mass when she knows that the Ciborium in the Tabernacle is 1/2 full, but she has told me that all she can think of is what would we do if there was a plane crash with hundreds of Catholics on board. She starts to get uneasy if there are fewer than 50 or 60 Hosts in the Tabernacle and she’s happy with 100+ No amount of talking will get her to change what she’s doing unless it comes from the pastor and he’s not about to interfere with what she’s doing.
This year I stayed out of it. Last year he got angry because we were insisting that the Tabernacle should be empty. He categorically refused. As much as I want an abuse-free liturgy, I’m not going to fight with him any more. It doesn’t help that the Litugy Coordinator, who has taken the same courses and has the same certificate in pastoral liturgy that I have has a conniption fit when I haul out the documents that make everything simple. She’s threatened,only half joking, to burn my binder of church documents.
Actually, it souldn’t be at the altar of repose (yet), the Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in “the other place of reservation” (that’s actually what it’s called). For us (and I assume for most people), this would be the sacristy.
The blessed sacrament takes quite a trip during holy week
Before Holy Thursday Mass
Tabernacle --> “Other place…”
At the end of Holy Thursday Mass
Altar of sacrafice --> Altar of repose
During the celebration of the Lord’s Passion (Good Friday service)
Altar of repose --> Altar Sacrifice
Altar of repose <-- Altar Sacrifice
Sometime before Easter Vigil
Altar of repose --> “Other place…”
During Easter Vigil (around Agnus Dei)
Altar of repose --> Altar of Sacrafice
It looks like Jesus is a world traveler after holy week!