Mass and Benediction

Author: Father Edward McNamara, LC


Mass and Benediction

ROME, 4 SEPT. 2012 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: One of our parish priests once said that in a Mass with Benediction the blessing and dismissal is not given, because the blessing will be done with the monstrance and that the Mass is not finished until after Benediction, when the "Ite missa est" is said. All other parish priests that we have had, including the current one, have never heard of this before. Please illuminate us. — J.M., Sydney, Australia

A: First, I think it is necessary to clarify that present norms do not contemplate a "Mass with Benediction." That is, it is not permitted to expose the Blessed Sacrament at the end of Mass for the sole purpose of imparting Benediction.

It is permitted to expose the Blessed Sacrament after communion, preferably with a host consecrated during Mass, if a more or less prolonged period of adoration or a Eucharistic procession is to follow the Mass.

In this case, since no public blessings are ever imparted in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed, it is correct to omit the blessing at the end of Mass.

In the case of adoration continuing after Mass, the following rite is observed:

— The Blessed Sacrament is exposed immediately after communion.

— The closing prayer is said at the chair. The final blessing and dismissal are omitted.

— The celebrants and ministers then line up in front of the altar, genuflect and kneel.

— A hymn of adoration is sung, the Blessed Sacrament is incensed as during normal expositions,and the celebrants remain kneeling for some moments of private prayer.

— All genuflect and return to the sacristy in silence. Adoration continues for some time after which Benediction is imparted.

The "Ite missa est" is not said after Benediction as the Mass has concluded well beforehand with the closing prayer. It is simply omitted.

* * *

Follow-up: Mass and Benediction [9-18-2012]

In the wake of our Sept. 4 comments on Mass and Benediction, a Wisconsin reader asked: "At a parish I attended this summer, the pastor would, on some days, expose the Blessed Sacrament at the end of Communion for a Holy Hour that would follow Mass. After returning to his chair, he prayed the post-communion prayer. He then said, 'The Lord be with you,' and the people responded, 'And with your spirit.' He continued, 'May Almighty God bless you …' but then he would stop speaking (that is, he did not pronounce the Trinity), approach the monstrance, and, using his chasuble as a humeral veil, impart Benediction. Returning to his chair, he said, 'Go in peace,' and the people responded, 'Thanks be to God,' and he processed out in silence. He does this because the Holy Hour is concluded with simple reposition by an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and because it allows people to leave with a blessing without staying for the Holy Hour. Could you comment on the propriety of this practice in light of the previous weeks' columns?"

While the priest is surely well-intentioned, this form of blessing does not correspond to any liturgical rite. It is for all practical purposes a Benediction immediately following Mass, which is contrary to liturgical norms.

As a general principle every solemn exposition should eventually end with Benediction. The simple reservation by an authorized extraordinary minister of Holy Communion is considered as an interruption in adoration, not its definitive conclusion.

For example, if some faithful desire to have adoration every day after Mass for a certain period of time, but there is no priest available for reservation, then it can be interpreted as a continuous or prolonged adoration with interruptions (see Eucharisticum Mysterium, No. 65). In this case the priest would expose after communion on the first day, omitting the blessing. The extraordinary minister of Holy Communion would reserve. On other days the priest would expose simply after concluding Mass as normal. Then, once a week or so, a priest or deacon should conclude the adoration with Benediction.

Another reader asked: "I see that you say that no public blessings are given while the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. I know this is the case with the extraordinary form (except in the rare case of Mass coram Sanctissimo), but I have never been able to find this in the current liturgy. In fact, in the renewed Caeremoniale Episcoporum it says to bless the incense at exposition. In our abbey we have compline during adoration each evening, and we go ahead and give the blessing at the end as usual, since we have never found a contrary indication. We wonder about this. Thanks."
As our reader correctly states, the current rubrics for exposition and Benediction indicate that the celebrant "blesses the incense without saying anything" (CB, 1109). This is effectively a novelty and the only case of any blessing before the Blessed Sacrament exposed.

The probable reason for this change was to simplify and unify the rite of infusing incense by eliminating the differences among several ritual situations. In recent years, however, quite a few liturgists have requested that the earlier practice of no blessings during exposition be restored.

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