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The Open Tabernacle

When I was a little girl I was always pretty confused when the priest would lock the ciborium in the tabernacle after communion. It seemed to me like Jesus was being locked in His kennel. It was a pretty kennel, but I didn’t  grasp why Jesus had to be locked away. I couldn’t quite believe Jesus would run away the way my dog had run away. But having had the experience of losing my dog that way, it was nice to know that Jesus couldn’t go the route of my first dog.

Then I grew up, but to my horror, I realized that symbol of locking Jesus away in a tabernacle was still really important for some people, and for very specific theological reasons. On the practical level this locking up the ciborium would seem to be about theft, but I began to realize it was also about theft on the theological level. Leave the metaphorical theological tabernacle open, and horror of horrors, anyone could come in and take Jesus. Which is after all, what He Himself said. Take this all of you…..

The locked Tabernacle for me became a very potent symbol about access to the Catholic Jesus. There would be a lot of hoops to jump through before that door would be unlocked and there would be insurmountable intrinsic barriers which meant I would never be allowed access to the keys. It didn’t matter how much I loved Jesus or how I advanced spiritually, the closed tabernacle was a fact of Catholic life I would  have to accept.

And then I grew up some more and realized the locked tabernacle has nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with the clerical key keepers. Once I realized that, I knew if there was a tabernacle, it was always open and always meant to be that way. The only keys were faith and love, and those can’t be put in a pocket. Those have to be lived.

When people live faith and love that’s when Jesus is truly available, and in that living out of faith and love,  as He taught us by His own example, He is available to everyone. No locks nor gold box can hold that Jesus—no matter what sayeth the Keeper of the Keys.

The Open Tabernacle is about the free and loving Jesus.  It is authored by people who in too many cases have been denied access to the locked Tabernacle Jesus by the keepers of the keys.  The keepers tell us they lock Jesus from us because they love us.  I suspect the truth may be that they are afraid of us and our free and loving Jesus.

They don’t need to be afraid because Jesus lives to bring peace and love and joy and hope.  To think one can lock this Jesus up and keep His life from ‘others’  is in essence not a statement of love, but of fear and the need to control.  It’s about a need to create a ‘manageable’ diety.  It’s about a deity that supports one’s prejudices rather than overcomes one’s prejudices.

In my mind this blog will attempt to underscore one very important point and will do so from a variety of personal experiences, theologies, cultures, and spiritual perspectives.  That point is this:  The very first tabernacle mankind tried to lock the life of Jesus in was a sepulchre in Jerusalem.  We know how ineffective that was because Catholicism is founded on that failure.

The Resurrected Jesus transcends our notions of tabernacle and is freely available to those who seek Him.  Any theological or faith system which says otherwise is in denial.  They are trying to roll back the stone and close the sepulchre.  It’s too late for that.  The Tabernacle is well and truly open.

25 Responses

  1. These reflections sound suspiciously Christian, with a capital “C”, and will only lead to trouble, the same kind of trouble that brought Jesus to his untimely end. But the story is not over with that penultimate end; … thus, this new collaborative blog, Open Tabernacle, will help to bring a needed dialogue to truncated Catholicism by restoring it (“big C” catholicism) to its Christian foundations in the perennial struggles for justice, peace, and truth in our world, as exemplified in the life and teachings of Jesus.

    My New Year Wish for you and the collaborators on this shared blog is that many hearts are touched and many hands renewed in strength through your efforts, that faith, love, and justice are rekindled in our time, in 2010! SJS

    • Thank you, Stephen, for some very moving encouragement. I’m glad you point to that troublemaker Jesus Christ. He was no respecter of religious rules or authorities – and I take that as a sound model for my own attitude to the institutional church.

    • Well Stephen J Schafer, you sure touched my heart with this comment. Thank you.

  2. Welcome, and I look forward to reading the postings here!

    • khughes, thanks for your interest and especially thanks for all the cogent comments you’ve made on Enlightened Catholicism. It’s great to see you here as well.

  3. My heartfelt congratulations. I hve been proclaiming the need to transform the patriarchal church into the Church of the Holy Spirit, the Church Jesus described at the Last Supper when he told his disciples “It is necessary that I go away for the Spirit to come and dwell in your hearts”. Today that mesage means that it is necessary that the whole patriarchal system with its exclisive male priesthood must go away in order for the Church of the indwelling Holy Spirit replace it. The Spirit has been working overtime by exposing the fallibility of Chrurch leadership via the pedophile scandal and the hierarchy’s mysogeny and homophobia to produce that result. I write about this on my webpage http://www.johnjmcneill.com. May God prosper your efforts

    • Many, many thanks for these words, John. I can assure you that your work, and your repeated writing about the action of the Holy Spirit, have been a major inspiration for this project.

    • “It is necessary that I go away for the Spirit to come and dwell in your hearts”. Today that mesage means that it is necessary that the whole patriarchal system with its exclisive male priesthood must go away in order for the Church of the indwelling Holy Spirit replace it.”

      Hmm….let’s see if I got this straight….Jesus said that HE had to go away in order for the Paraclete to come. You compare that to the dreaded “patriarchal system.” Doesn’t that mean, in your own reasoning, that the dreaded “patriarchal system” is in fact Jesus himself?

      I’ll let you digest that one. Meanwhile I’ll try to figure out how exactly it is that radicals always attack women like Mother Angelica.

  4. I’d like to second that Terence. Fr. John has been a huge inspiration for me and I really appreciate his taking the time to acknowledge this effort. Thank you Fr. John for all you have done and may this website be an extension of your efforts.

    • And I “third” Colleen’s and Terry’s remarks, John.

      I can’t think of anyone whose blessing and encouragement for this new venture I’d value more than yours. You have not only been a constant inspiration to me and to many others. You have also created a path where there simply was no path before–and you’ve done so by walking there, step by step, no matter the obstacles.

      We are very much in your debt. This collaborative blogging venture is in very many ways the fruit of work you have done before us.

  5. Hmmm…so you think that Jesus is locked away?

    And I thought he was available to all through the REPENTANCE of sins? You know…confession, reconciliation, whatever you want to call it. On your knees contrition, you know. Oh, maybe you don’t know.

    Confession…the forgotten sacrament. Why? It’s HARD. It takes humility.

    “Just gimme the wafer or I’ll WHINE!!!!”

    That’s easier to do.

    • Mark, of course I think Jesus is locked away, especially obvious in comments like yours. Jesus never said we must put a priest between ourselves and Himself. All He ever asked is that we listen and attempt to understand what He was teaching and learn to love each other at the end of that process.

      Some of us feel that discussing our mistakes and misunderstandings with another committed follower, someone wiser than us, is an important part of that listening and receiving process. We can experience self forgiveness participating in this process and that’s really important. Learning to forgive one’s self takes even more humility because to be success it must hit us emotionally and personally. It can’t stay rote and intellectually abstract if forgiveness is to be meaningful. This can certainly happen with ordained confessors, but it can also happen with your grandmother. Jesus is with you in either case.

      • Isn’t there a serious case of YOU judging ME here?

        So…sin is relative when YOUR behavior is questioned and everything gets all nuanced and squishy…but MY behavior is condemned? Nice try but that ain’t gonna fly. Who are you to say such a thing to me? Aren’t you as guilty of sin as you claim I am?

        Why did Jesus give the apostles the ability to forgive and to not forgive sins? He seems to have placed them “between ourselves and Himself.”

        Look, at the end of the day, we’re all human and we all sin. But the Church is an obvious, visible thing. We know what behaviors are wrong in almost all cases. What you’re proposing here is a new religion of homosexuality. That is the central, defining feature of the new religion. Anything that goes against this new religion is labeled a sin. This is a behavior that has been known to be wrong through the whole of the Church’s history.

        How can you denounce the Church if everything is relative? You talk a big game about “listening” and “understanding.” But this is a game. Your tolerance is only skin deep, and it is centered on your own homosexuality. Because in truth you DON’T believe in relativity. Your faith is in your own homosexuality. You’ve made it an idol. Agree with it and we’re fine. Disagree with it, and we’re not. The supposed tolerance of the left. “We’re tolerant of all right thinking people.” The single most intolerant people are those on the left.

        No one is asked to be perfect. Sex has bedeviled man since our beginnings. Everyone is human, and I for one have only found compassion in the Church for my own same-sex attraction.

        I’ll say it one more time, NO ONE is expected to be perfect. We all still sin, and we usually all still sin in the same ways. But there is a standard in the ten commandments, i.e. lying, fornication, theft, etc.

        The last thing is…look at the results. At no time ever in human history has homosexuality been widely practiced when it has not degenerated into something demonic. Just look at what you’re doing here. You’ve rejected the Bible, rejected the sacred traditions of the Church, and are tearing down what is the most holy thing on earth. And that’s just for starters.

        You know, sin has its season. It all looks good at the start. This is a known fact. But the truth always shows through. Your religion of homosexuality will die on the vine because its sterile. What will be left will be countless damaged souls.

        Also, I know how hypocritical professional homosexuals are. I’ve seen the scam up close first hand. It’s like Blance duBoid in Streetcar. By day she’s all about poetry and little Japanese lanterns. By night she’s swilling up all the booze and is hitting on 16-year-old boys. You don’t fool me one second.

        • Judging is a two way street Mark. I don’t think any of us posting here are advocating for a homosexual church. What we might be advocating for is a Church with a leadership which doesn’t project it’s self hate of their own homosexuality on others or sink themselves into a level of sexual maturity in which exploiting others for their own gratification becomes a primary focus of their ministry. That lack of sexual maturity is hardly limited to gay clergy. Or Catholic clergy.

          I will take up one other point you make in this comment. Read John Chapter twenty where Jesus gives the disciples the ability to forgive sins. John defines discipes as those ‘who love Jesus’. Later John describes the missing Thomas as one of The Twelve. I may be way off base here, but it seems to me John has gone out of his way to define disciples as different from the twelve and he writes that Jesus gave the ability to forgive sins to His disciples. This obviously includes The Twelve, but would not be exclusive to the twelve.

          Mary Magdelene was a disciple who clearly loved Jesus. I would think the ability to forgive sins was hers as well as any other disciple. At least by John’s definition.

          Forgiving transgressions is a very important part of Jesus’s teaching and this process of forgiveness is very powerful in every kind of relationship. It doesn’t take ordination to make it powerful in it’s own right. You need to make a distinction between the power of the forgiveness of the ordained vs the power of the forgiveness of others. I think forgiveness is powerful no matter where it comes from and that Jesus accepts the personal change it engenders in us.

          Even the Church’s own tradition recognizes the concept of the perfect act of contrition as sufficient for salvation in extremus. That’s a smart and compassionate tradition and I’m sure one that will get extended as the priest shortage requires more and more extension.

          Finally, I had to laugh at the idea of worshipping in a homosexual church. That would be as male dominated as the one I already worship in. Not much of an improvement from my perspective. I want the Tabernacle fully open, to everyone, even those who think God demands it stay selective. Salvation is not a selective gift. It’s offered to everyone and is there for a personal choice and certainly a gift we can mature in understanding.

  6. Congratulations to all here who work so tirelessly to relate, encourage & inspire the truth of the gospels and Jesus Christ’s mission in these times, while the institution of catholicism falters, misguides, implodes and fosters the spirit of adolescent ignorance and fear. I am truly grateful to you all for your commitment to speaking the truth, writing with justice, compassion and devotion to Jesus Christ’s teachings with maturity and grace. I thank you all so much for telling it as it is & aiding us in our walk with Christ and wish you all the very best throughout this new year. May the Holy Spirit bless us all and light the way for us every step of the way.

    • Thanks Fran. Glad to hear you like it and thanks for your encouragement. You’ve been walking this path with us since the old NCRcafe and I for one really appreciate it.

  7. Congratulations on the successful opening of a new blog. I have enjoyed reading Enlightened Catholocism since it’s conception. I am delighted at the collabrative perspective and variety of viewpoints. Having left the Mormon Church with it’s patriachal, racist, and cult trappings to become a mystic, shaman and seeker of truth, it makes my heart sing to find other’s on a similar path of seeking enlightenment

    • And long may it sing with us, Julie. Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. How did I not know about this blog? And I am honored to find my own blog on the bloglist here.

    I am promoting this on my own blog and FB page now. Brilliant! Thank you all for your work here.

  9. I come here because sweetest Fran tipped me off. Wellcome to the intertubes and Blessings!

    • And you’re most welcome, Göran. Thanks for dropping by – I’m pleased to have met you, too. I like the look of your own blog, and am adding a link on this site, and at my own blog, Queering the Church.

  10. The Open Tabernacle. I love the concept, and appreciate that you also carry a link to the Saint Mychal Judge website. He is one of my favorite Saints, one who brought the Holy Spirit of Christ to thousands of people, like me.

    Here are three quotes by and about Mychal Judge that relate to the themes of your blog —

    (on the church hierarchy’s annoyance with Mychal): “Mychal spoke directly with the Almighty — he prayed directly to Him — that’s where Mychal got his orders.” (Michael Daly)

    “Mychal Judge didn’t hide in the sanctuary; he brought the sanctuary out to us.” (a homeless man)

    “Don’t let the institutional church get in the way of your relationship with God.” (Mychal Judge)

  11. Fascinating site, William! I had a Catholic girlfriend a few years back but could never take the Mass with her because the priests kept describing at as “this sacrifice”. Not the cross, no, but the Mass had become a process in the hands of men who could somehow resacrifice Christ again and again, thousands of times a day all over the world.

    I was even more concerned when she described the Easter Friday services where she would stay up all night keeping Jesus company (keeping the bread company), because all had forsaken him.

    I really found that mildly offensive, despite the best of theological intentions.

    When I read “Going to Church in the First Century” by by the New Testament scholar Robert Banks (chase it up!) I encountered the wonderful role that a real meal with bread and wine, in a home with no presiding priests, played in the earliest Christian communities. It was beautiful and profound and seemed so much truer to the teachings in the New Testament than the hocus pocus (which in fact comes from the Latin Mass) of some church traditions.

    Anyway, I was a little releived when I read surveys showing that most Western Catholics don’t believe in the actual presence that occurs that instant after the bell sounds.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Daniel, for the good wishes, and for pointing us to the book, “Going to Church in the First Century”. Personally, I have a strong interest in both the early church, and in books – so I will certainly be looking out for it.

  12. The classic definition of theology is “faith seeking understanding.” Each person/generation must struggle with issues presented to them by life/history. An honest look at one’s own life (hopefully) reveals that while we are the same person who we were when we were five, ten, twenty, thirty, etc, we have grown because of new life experiences and insights. The same is true for us collectively.

    The Church has grown because of new insights from Scriptural studies, psychology, and the other sciences. The Church continues to grow as we move through history and test theological theories/ideas in pastoral practice. There has always been a temptation to see a previous epoch as a “golden age.” Saint Augustine warns against this when he said, “it was a golden age because you did not have to live it.”

    Both on a personal level and on a collective level I think that God is trying to open the doors not simply to the tabernacle, but to our minds and hearts. I think that this Blog is part of such an effort on the part of the Holy Spirit. May God bless and guide you in your wrestling with the truth.

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