Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Friday, May 14, 2004

More on 'sacred places' 

Here are the relevant texts:

Can. 932 §1 "The eucharistic celebration is to be carried out in a sacred place, unless in a particular case necessity requires otherwise; in which case the celebration must be in a fitting place."
"§2 The eucharistic Sacrifice must be carried out at an altar that is dedicated or blessed. Outside a sacred place an appropriate table may be used, but always with an altar cloth and a corporal" (Code of Canon Law).

"The Eucharist is celebrated as a rule in a place of worship. Apart from cases of real need, as adjudged by the Ordinary for his jurisdiction, celebration outside a church is not permitted. When the Ordinary does allow this, there must be care that a worthy place is chosen and that the Mass is celebrated on a suitable table. If at all possible, the celebration should not take place in a dining room or on a dining-room table" (Liturgicae Instaurationes, 9).

"For the celebration of the Eucharist, the people of God normally are gathered together in a church or, if there is no church or if it is too small, then in another respectable place that is nonetheless worthy of so great a mystery. Churches, therefore, and other places should be suitable for carrying out the sacred action and for ensuring the active participation of the faithful. Sacred buildings and requisites for divine worship should, moreover, be truly worthy and beautiful and be signs and symbols of heavenly realities" (GIRM 288).

In sum, it appears that a 'sacred place' is, as a rule, a church. Exceptions seem to be permitted only in cases of 'real need,' e.g. if the church is too small to accomodate the congregation, and a visit from the Holy Father would certainly involve a situation like this. Any other exception seems to require permission from the ordinary.

Now, I'm not a 'rules for the sake of rules' type, although I don't get my kicks out of breaking them either. But the intent behind the rules here is clearly to ensure that the liturgical surroundings are befitting to the sacredness of the Eucharistic mystery. Primarily to avoid disrespect, or perhaps even sacrilege, to the sacrament of the alter. Secondarily, to ensure that the sacrament is not devalued in the minds of the faithful. Decades of 'dorm masses' and 'fireside liturgies,' I think, in addition to all the other liturgical abuses this generation has suffered, have had the cumulative effect of implanting a certain ambivalence or even flippancy regarding the Eucharistic celebration into the minds of the faithful, even if only subconsciously. Ensuring the proper sacredness of the surroundings of the liturgical celebration is the only means of preventing the progressive desacralization of the sacraments. I've attended 'living room masses' in the past without thinking twice, and I think most who participate in this sort of thing (first of all myself) simply don't know better. But hopefully Redemptionis Sacramentum will start to change all that.

# posted by Jamie : 7:41 AM


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Ad Limina Apostolorum: An ecclesiastical term meaning a pilgrimage to the sepulchres of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, i.e., to the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles and to the Basilica of St. Paul "outside the walls".

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