Eucharistic Lessons from El Salvador

Contributed by: Joe Burns. Joe has been involved in social justice issues for many years and is currently Treasurer of Pax Christi UK.
A tabrnacle with a large host breaking out
A broken tabernacle or a challenging image of Eucharist?

In November 2017, Steve Atherton, the Justice & Peace worker in Liverpool went on the Romero Pilgrimage to El Salvador. The picture  below was taken by him in one of the churches in central San Salvador.

A tabrnacle with a large host breaking out
He related how, when he first caught sight of it, he was puzzled – it looked as though there had been an accident that had smashed the glass of this tabernacle. It was only when he got up close to it that he realised that, instead , it was a piece of art – of a large host breaking out of the tabernacle – and breaking the glass in the process.

What a spectacular image of Eucharist!

For how long have we tried to ‘lock up’ Jesus in the Tabernacle and to ‘tame’ him into something that isn’t too threatening – something that doesn’t mean we really have to change how we live? Yet, here is Jesus breaking out of that tabernacle and smashing his way into the world in which we live and showing us that where we need to look for Jesus is in the world around us and not in some fancy container.
This pilgrimage, organised by the Romero Trust, uses the Jesuit Retreat Centre in San Salvador as its base. This centre is built on the side of a steep hill – so there is much going up and down stairs during the course of the pilgrimage. The centre’s chapel is built quite high up on the site. It looks nothing special from the outside but, as with the photo above, the inside view provides a transformative image – this time of the Eucharistic table.

back of chapel looking out on San Slavador

The Eucharistic table is the focal point of the room, as it should be liturgically. However, the backdrop is simply a wall of glass looking out on the city of San Salvador below. As you are drawn into the action of the Mass the backdrop is a constant reminder of the world outside. Churches often just become safe places where we feel closer to God. That’s great – but if that warm cosy feeling is where our actions stop then we have fundamentally misunderstood the Gospel of Jesus.

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In November 2017, Steve Atherton, the Justice & Peace worker in Liverpool went on the Romero Pilgrimage to El Salvador. The picture  below was taken by him in one of the churches in central San Salvador.

A tabrnacle with a large host breaking out
He related how, when he first caught sight of it, he was puzzled – it looked as though there had been an accident that had smashed the glass of this tabernacle. It was only when he got up close to it that he realised that, instead , it was a piece of art – of a large host breaking out of the tabernacle – and breaking the glass in the process.

What a spectacular image of Eucharist!

For how long have we tried to ‘lock up’ Jesus in the Tabernacle and to ‘tame’ him into something that isn’t too threatening – something that doesn’t mean we really have to change how we live? Yet, here is Jesus breaking out of that tabernacle and smashing his way into the world in which we live and showing us that where we need to look for Jesus is in the world around us and not in some fancy container.
This pilgrimage, organised by the Romero Trust, uses the Jesuit Retreat Centre in San Salvador as its base. This centre is built on the side of a steep hill – so there is much going up and down stairs during the course of the pilgrimage. The centre’s chapel is built quite high up on the site. It looks nothing special from the outside but, as with the photo above, the inside view provides a transformative image – this time of the Eucharistic table.

back of chapel looking out on San Slavador

The Eucharistic table is the focal point of the room, as it should be liturgically. However, the backdrop is simply a wall of glass looking out on the city of San Salvador below. As you are drawn into the action of the Mass the backdrop is a constant reminder of the world outside. Churches often just become safe places where we feel closer to God. That’s great – but if that warm cosy feeling is where our actions stop then we have fundamentally misunderstood the Gospel of Jesus.