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Ask the Register: tabernacles?

Q. Acts 17:24 says God does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands.  I’m confused because we are supposed to believe he does, in tabernacles.  Please explain this.

A. In Acts 17, St. Paul does say that “the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.”

Of course, Catholics reserve the Blessed Sacrament, the Most Holy Eucharist, in tabernacles, in churches around the world. Some non-Catholics suggest that the practice of reserving the Blessed Sacrament, where Christ is really and truly sacramentally present, is in conflict with the words of St. Paul.  

However, while Christ is present in a real and unique way in the Blessed Sacrament, no one would say that his presence in the world is limited to his Eucharistic presence, or that Christ can only be said to be present in the Eucharist. And this idea was what St. Paul was addressing in Acts 17: he was in Athens, and referring to the many pagan shrines where Greek deities were thought to actually live: that their presence was limited to the shrines created for them, instead of being, like God, everywhere, in all places and all times.  

St. Paul was an ardent and obvious believer in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and he wrote about this in many places in Sacred Scripture. His concern, recorded in Acts 17, was to explain the enduring truth that God is with us, always, everywhere, and at all times.

Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.

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