The First Tabernacle


Today and last Friday the Gospel at Mass was the story of the Visitation, how, after Mary heard that her kinswoman Elizabeth was pregnant, she raced off from Galilee to Judea to help her.  As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby in her womb leaped and she, filled with the Holy Spirit, made an act of faith in the fruit of Mary's womb.  She recognized that Mary was "the mother of my Lord," that she carried within her the Son of God. 

As the celebration of the birth of Jesus draws closer, I often think about a book that George Peate wrote called Unborn Jesus Our Hope.  It is a beautiful meditation on the first nine months of Jesus' life when Mary carried Him in her womb.  Recently the Unborn Word Alliance published on their blog, Unborn Word of the Day, a series of pictures of shrines and art that show the Christ Child in Mary's womb. 

As we believe that Jesus was truly present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, within the womb of Mary s
o we believe that He is present in the tabernacles of our churches.  This is the "Hidden Jesus," an expression that the Fatima seer Francisco Marto used when he spent hours adoring Jesus in the tabernacle of his parish church. 

In his encyclical on the Eucharist #55, Blessed John Paul II made thisame connection between Mary's womb and the tabernacle:  "When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a “tabernacle” – the first “tabernacle” in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary."

The Annunciation, the Visitation, and Christmas are Eucharistic mysteries, for Jesus was only able to give His Body and Blood to us because He first took flesh in Mary's womb, was carried there for nine months, and was born.  May the coming celebration of Christmas during this Year of Faith increase our faith in the Christ Child's hidden presence in Mary's womb and in the Holy Eucharist.