Thanksgiving is around the corner. Across the country, people will be traveling great distances and small in order to spend the day with family and loved ones. And across the country, people will sit down around tables and share meals. I wonder how many of those meals will feature left overs. I am not talking about food that will be left over after the meal, although I am sure that there will be such left overs. I am talking about the food that is served *at* the meal. Do people serve left over food for Thanksgiving or do they do what they can to prepare food expressly for the Thanksgiving dinner? As you think about this question, think about the Sunday Mass. Across the country and indeed around the world, people will be traveling great distances and small to observe the Lord’s Day by listening to the Word of God, by praying and singing, and by sharing in the Eucharistic bread and wine. How many assemblies will serve left overs by resorting to consecrated bread stored in a tabernacle?
Surely, the Blessed Sacrament in reserve in the tabernacle is no more or less “blessed” than the elements consecrated during the Mass in question. At the same time, however, the specific consecration at a specific Mass is a function of the Eucharistic praying of this or that specific assembly. It is, as Augustine would say, the mystery meaning “you” that is on the altar (cf. Sermon 272). This “you” is not generic. It refers to the assembly at hand, which has prayed through and with the presbyter that God’s Spirit may sanctify the gifts of bread and wine and sanctify, too, this specific assembly. It is for this reason that both Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (in paragraph no. 55) and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (in nos. 13 and 85) clearly recommend that the assembly partake of elements consecrated at the Mass in question. What is the practice at your parish?
Timothy Brunk, Associate Professor of Theology