The Chinese missionary priest unlocked a small windowless room on the second floor, and we all took off our shoes as our family followed him into the room with the floor covered by a nylon mat. The room was empty except for a low table at one end of the room, and on the table was a small box, and on each side of the box was an electric candle that was lit. He bowed very low with his forehead almost touching the mat, and we did the same gesture.
On closer look, the table was an ordinary coffee table and the small box was a cheap jewelry box like a miniature armoire with a clock on it that did not have the correct time. In fact, the clock was not running. Our children asked, “Where is the tabernacle?” The priest pointed to the jewelry box as if he understood what our children asked. The children tried to restrain their giggles. Their gleeful amusement at an unexpected tabernacle with a clock was muted by a great effort to be reverent in the presence of Jesus.
Light of the World
“This is just like the first Christmas,” I thought. It is like the manger where Mary and Joseph laid the Baby Jesus in that stable at Bethlehem. Here, the Eucharist is placed in a plain jewelry box, probably the only thing this missionary priest could find to serve as a tabernacle when he came to establish the Church only a few years before with only ten Catholic Christians in this ancient small city.
We all knelt there silently together, yet in our hearts, we praised God, “Glory to God in the highest!” Jesus has come to this place that would qualify as one of “the ends of the earth.” The people in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16)
Tabernacle of Our Heart
In just a few years, many locals were baptized and the growing church gathered for Mass in a room on the third floor of the small building with no heat in the winter. Most of our churches here in the USA are not locked and are heated in the winter. Jesus not only remains with us in our beautiful tabernacles with red sanctuary lamps burning, but He comes to each one of us as we receive Him in Holy Communion. Anytime of the day, we can turn interiorly and adore Him in the tabernacle that is our heart. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”