Extra Kneeling; Monstrance on Holy Thursday

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Extra Kneeling; Monstrance on Holy Thursday

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q1: Is it permissible to kneel (priest, deacon and people) during the penitential rite of the Mass during Lent? It seems to me to be adding a rubric that is not there. — J.T., Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Q2: I've been told by priests who studied in Rome and observed this in Rome that on Holy Thursday to transfer the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose one may use the monstrance and have exposition until midnight. Is this permitted? The sense I've gotten from reading the rubrics is that the Blessed Sacrament is transferred in a ciborium and then placed inside the tabernacle and the door closed. If that is correct, though, what does the rubric mean that there is to be no solemn adoration after midnight? If the Eucharist, for adoration on Holy Thursday, is kept inside the tabernacle, what makes it solemn and what therefore must change after midnight? — J.S., Mobile, Alabama

A: With reference to the first question, I would say that kneeling during the penitential rite is adding an unnecessary rubric to the prescribed rites and should not be done.

If the Church is satisfied with leaving the penitential rubrics unchanged during Lent, pastors should follow suit and not add novelties.

This is especially true for Sundays in which penitential or impetrative kneeling, unlike kneeling as an act of adoration, has not been in use since being banned by the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. For this reason, when celebrations in which the litany of saints is sung on a Sunday (for example, during ordinations), the congregation remains standing.

On the other hand, the whole congregation may optionally kneel during the great general intercessions on Good Friday. This may be for the entire general intercessions or, if so decreed by the bishops' conference, the deacon can direct the people to kneel and rise for the common period of silent prayer between the introduction to each intercession and the priest's solemn prayer.

Regarding the second question, I have lived in Rome for more than 20 years and have never seen the monstrance used on Holy Thursday. Rome being Rome, it is always possible that some church or religious order has some immemorial privilege to practice this usage. It could also be — since living in Rome does not per se concede infused knowledge and wisdom — old-fashioned ignorance of liturgical law.

In this respect the law is very clear. The Congregation for Divine Worship's circular letter on the Easter celebrations says in No. 55: "The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a closed tabernacle or pyx. Under no circumstances may it be exposed in a monstrance."

The prohibition of solemn adoration after midnight when Good Friday begins is because the liturgy's focus moves away from the altar of repose and turns toward the Cross. Therefore, all community activities before the altar of reposition such as holy hours, the Liturgy of the Hours, community devotions and the like should cease after midnight.

The faithful may continue to privately venerate the tabernacle after this hour and until before the celebration of the Passion on Good Friday, but community activities should be held elsewhere.

This is one reason why the place of reposition should not be situated in the sanctuary area. It may be the usual tabernacle if the church has a special Blessed Sacrament chapel, a side altar, or a place set up especially for the occasion.

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Follow-up: Extra Kneeling; Monstrance on Holy Thursday [4-20-2010]

Related to our replies on Holy Thursday adoration (see March 30) was a question from Mumbai, India, regarding private adoration during the night.

Our reader, a young layman, asked: "Our new parish priest [...] pointed out that this practice of adoration through the night at the altar of repose on Maundy Thursday/Good Friday was 'un-liturgical' and so our parish pastoral council decided to stop it. In my copy of the Sunday Missal referring to the instructions on the Holy Thursday, evening Mass liturgy, I found the following at the end: 'The faithful should be encouraged to continue adoration before the Blessed Sacrament for a suitable period of time during the night, but there should be no solemn adoration after midnight.' Therefore, here is my question: Is it proper or permissible to have people gather together informally for personal or collective prayer/adoration in vigil around the altar of repose of the Blessed Sacrament continuing after midnight through the night of Holy Thursday until Good Friday morning?"

I would say that it is proper and even recommendable for the faithful to gather informally and privately during the night at the altar of repose. It is even possible to organize turns so that someone is always present during the night.

However, public activities such as songs, Bible reflections and the like should cease after midnight.

Another reader, from Toronto, asked about the use of two thuribles for the Holy Thursday procession of the Eucharist. He wrote: "There still seems to be some question as to whether this is indicated anywhere in the rubrics or simply a matter of each individual pastor's choice. I found the use of two befitting of the solemnity of the occasion, but a newer pastor I spoke with said, and I quote, 'Just too much — too over the top!' Also, we discontinued the use of the ombrellino to cover the celebrant carrying the Blessed Sacrament in the solemn procession. Again, I found this fitting and proper."

The use of a second thurible on this day is recommended in the description of the Mass of the Lord's Supper found in the Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 297-311. Both censers immediately precede the celebrant carrying the Eucharist. Therefore this practice is most certainly not "over the top."

The use of a canopy is not mentioned in the rubrics for this day but is still customary in some countries and is not forbidden.


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