A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
Adoration Without Exposition
ROME, 19 JAN. 2010 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: We have a very unusual problem in my parish regarding the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Our pastor is very devoted to the Holy Sacrament and dedicated to the adoration of the same. He spends long hours in the chapel and encourages all the parishioners to do the same. However, he believes that the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is unimportant and unnecessary. Christ is present in the tabernacle, and having the door of the tabernacle open or closed does not make any difference. His logic seems to be: that the parishioners should be taught to pray and adore the Blessed Sacrament all the time and that the practice of exposition in the monstrance is irrelevant and counterproductive to any real devotion. Your thoughts, please. — J.L., Cumberland County, New Jersey
A: The pastor's devotion to the Eucharist is commendable, and our reader is surely thankful for this. The pastor also has a valid point in stressing adoration of Our Lord in the tabernacle, since reverence toward the tabernacle has often been neglected in recent times. It is necessary to do all that is possible to recover the spirit of silent prayer and adoration in many of our churches.
Adoration of Our Lord in the tabernacle is and remains the normal and most common mode of adoration. There is, however, a small number of Catholics who emphasize exposition of the Blessed Sacrament so much as to give the impression that they consider this to be the only authentic adoration.
That said, I think the pastor should go deeper into Church doctrine so as to discover that it is not a question of aut—aut but of et—et. Almost all magisterial documents recommend both practices. In some cases, they allude to exposition and Benediction as bringing to the fore certain doctrinal aspects that are less apparent in adoration in the tabernacle.
Thus, Pope Pius XII in his 1947 encyclical "Mediator Dei" speaks of how adoration has contributed to doctrinal progress with a deeper understanding of Christ's presence outside of Mass. He points out that the different forms of Eucharistic adoration "have brought a wonderful increase in faith and supernatural life to the Church militant upon earth."
Regarding Benediction, he says: "Of great benefit is that custom which makes the priest raise aloft the Bread of Angels before congregations with heads bowed down in adoration, and forming with It the sign of the cross." This "implores the heavenly Father to deign to look upon His Son who for love of us was nailed to the cross, and for His sake and through Him willed [...] to shower down heavenly favors upon those whom the Immaculate blood of the Lamb has redeemed."
The 1967 instruction on the Eucharistic Mystery underlines the importance of both forms of practice:
"58. Devotion, both private and public, toward the sacrament of the altar even outside Mass that conforms to the norms laid down by lawful authority and in the present Instruction is strongly advocated by the Church, since the eucharistic sacrifice is the source and summit of the whole Christian life …
"60. Exposition of the blessed sacrament, either in a ciborium or a monstrance, draws the faithful to an awareness of the sublime presence of Christ and invites them to inner communion with him. Therefore, it is a strong encouragement toward the worship owed to Christ in spirit and in truth."
It is possible to quote many other magisterial sources, such as Pope Paul VI's encyclical "Mysterium Fidei," and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1378.
I believe the following texts from the two most recent Holy Fathers is sufficient to illustrate the point.
Pope John Paul II in his final encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" admirably summed up the doctrinal essentials:
"25. The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church. This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The presence of Christ under the sacred species reserved after Mass — a presence which lasts as long as the species of bread and of wine remain — derives from the celebration of the sacrifice and is directed towards communion, both sacramental and spiritual. It is the responsibility of Pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species.
"It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the 'art of prayer,' how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!
"This practice, repeatedly praised and recommended by the Magisterium, is supported by the example of many saints. Particularly outstanding in this regard was Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who wrote: 'Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us.' The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by not only celebrating it but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace. A Christian community desirous of contemplating the face of Christ in the spirit which I proposed in the Apostolic Letters Novo Millennio Ineunte and Rosarium Virginis Mariae cannot fail also to develop this aspect of Eucharistic worship, which prolongs and increases the fruits of our communion in the body and blood of the Lord.
"In the course of the day the faithful should not omit visiting the Blessed Sacrament, which in accordance with liturgical law must be reserved in churches with great reverence in a prominent place. Such visits are a sign of gratitude, an expression of love and an acknowledgment of the Lord's presence."
Finally, our present Pope touches on this theme in the postsynodal exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," Nos. 67-68:
"The practice of eucharistic adoration
"67. With the Synod Assembly, therefore, I heartily recommend to the Church's pastors and to the People of God the practice of eucharistic adoration, both individually and in community. Great benefit would ensue from a suitable catechesis explaining the importance of this act of worship, which enables the faithful to experience the liturgical celebration more fully and more fruitfully. Wherever possible, it would be appropriate, especially in densely populated areas, to set aside specific churches or oratories for perpetual adoration. I also recommend that, in their catechetical training, and especially in their preparation for First Holy Communion, children be taught the meaning and the beauty of spending time with Jesus, and helped to cultivate a sense of awe before his presence in the Eucharist ….
"Forms of eucharistic devotion
"68. The personal relationship which the individual believer establishes with Jesus present in the Eucharist constantly points beyond itself to the whole communion of the Church and nourishes a fuller sense of membership in the Body of Christ. For this reason, besides encouraging individual believers to make time for personal prayer before the Sacrament of the Altar, I feel obliged to urge parishes and other church groups to set aside times for collective adoration. Naturally, already existing forms of Eucharistic piety retain their full value. I am thinking, for example, of processions with the Blessed Sacrament, especially the traditional procession on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Forty Hours devotion, local, national and international Eucharistic Congresses, and other similar initiatives. If suitably updated and adapted to local circumstances, these forms of devotion are still worthy of being practiced today."
From this, it seems clear that the Church desires the practice of both adoration in the tabernacle and exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. If well-prepared, exposition should lead to more-frequent visits to the tabernacle and to a deeper living of the mystery of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
* * *
Follow-up: Adoration Without Exposition [2-2-2010]
Pursuant to our commentaries on adoration without exposition (Jan. 19), a reader from Columbus, Ohio, outlined this case: "I know of a situation where a priest goes to the tabernacle and brings the Blessed Sacrament to the altar and places it in the monstrance before the students of the school come to the church for Benediction. Only one person is present in the church while the priest leaves and comes back to the church later for Benediction. When the liturgy of Benediction begins, the Blessed Sacrament is already displayed on the altar. Also, should the priest presiding at Benediction leave the sanctuary and go to the confessional to hear confessions while the Blessed Sacrament is exposed?"
While the procedure described is perhaps imperfect, it is not, strictly speaking, contrary to the liturgical law with respect to a simple exposition. The presence of at least one person at all times is necessary for exposition, so this rule appears to be fulfilled.
There is also a specific rule that the Blessed Sacrament may not be exposed just to impart Benediction. Thus, if the students arrive only for Benediction, then it is correct that they should find the Blessed Sacrament already exposed and somebody in adoration.
Preferably, though, the best procedure would be to await the arrival of the students, expose the sacrament with song, have about 20 minutes of adoration and then give Benediction.
Regarding the second question, since exposition and Benediction are two separate liturgical acts, there is no difficulty, and may even be commendable, for a priest to hear confessions while the faithful are engaged in adoration.
A Chicago priest had asked earlier: "Is it ever proper or permissible to have exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament right before the celebration of Mass on the same altar and in the same church?"
Again, it would be incorrect to expose the Blessed Sacrament only to give Benediction, but the norms foresee the possibility of longer periods of adoration on the same altar upon which Mass is celebrated.
If the exposition ends before the Mass, then Benediction may be given before the celebration but as separate celebrations. This means that after Benediction the priest and other ministers should return to the sacristy, change to appropriate Mass vestments, and form a new procession.
If adoration is to continue after Mass, then the Blessed Sacrament may be simply reserved before Mass and restored after it is over. However, this should not be done more than twice in one day.
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