Reservation and Exposition of Blessed Sacrament

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Reservation and Exposition of Blessed Sacrament

By Father Edward McNamara

ROME, 28 SEPT. 2004 (ZENIT) ...

Q: How is the procedure regarding the solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament? In one of the parishes in Malta, for example, on the first Fridays and first Saturdays, the priest exposes the Blessed Sacrament. When it is time for Mass, the priest reposes the Blessed Sacrament and exposes again after Mass. This is done during all the Masses celebrated during the day. Is it permitted to do this? — J.G., Gozo, Malta

A: The procedure described is perfectly correct, as liturgical norms do not allow the Blessed Sacrament to remain exposed in church during Mass.

The procedure followed is that described in the liturgical books for veneration of the Eucharist outside of Mass.

It may be possible to have perpetual adoration if there is a separate chapel specially dedicated for this purpose.

Such a chapel should ideally be accessible without the adorers having to pass through a congregation participating at Mass and should be sufficiently soundproofed so that silent prayer is possible while Mass is being celebrated.

Finally, the exposed Host should not be visible to the congregation at Mass.

If these conditions cannot be met, then the proper solution is to reserve the Blessed Sacrament during Mass.

Both reservation and exposition after Mass are done in the simplest possible form with no need to use incense or song. ZE04092822

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Follow-up: Reserving the Blessed Sacrament [from 10-19-2004]

To a question from Malta about exposition (Sept. 28), I responded that reserving the Blessed Sacrament before Mass and exposing again after Mass with the minimum of ceremony was "perfectly correct."

Since the question doubted the propriety of the simplicity of the ceremonial, I concentrated on this aspect and in this respect the answer was correct.

However, as a kindly reader, a nun from Denver, Colorado, correctly pointed out to me, this answer could be interpreted to mean that it is all right to expose and repose the Blessed Sacrament during Mass several times a day. She said this would not be according to the mind of the Church.

"Eucharistiae Sacramentum," No. 83, forbids the celebration of Mass during exposition although if the exposition is to continue for one or more days, then it is interrupted during Mass.

No. 86 says that prolonged expositions should be held only if there is a congruous number of faithful so that the Blessed Sacrament is not left unattended.

No. 88 allows for brief interruptions in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a simple manner should there be insufficient adorers during the day. It also limits these interruptions to a maximum of twice a day, for example, at midday and at night.

Although No. 88 does not directly address the question of reserving during Mass, taken together with No. 83 I think that it is clear that it would not be correct to be constantly reserving and exposing the Blessed Sacrament on a Sunday, especially for brief periods between Masses.

It would be better to suspend the exposition completely during the most intense periods. In most parishes, that would mean the whole morning or, in very busy parishes, the whole day.

However, again based on the fact that No. 88's limit of two reservations refers to the lack of adorers and not reservation because of Mass, I would say that, at least hypothetically, in a parish that practices adoration for several days at a time, with sufficient adorers, and with several hours between Masses (for example, a parish with Eucharistic celebrations at 9, noon and 6 p.m.), then it should be possible to continue the exposition during the day even if it were necessary to reserve three times.

Another correspondent, from Houston, Texas, asked about the ritual for exposition immediately following Mass as she noticed that sometimes the dismissal and final blessing were omitted.

This would be the correct procedure for expositions after Mass.

The Host, usually consecrated in the same Mass, is placed in the monstrance after Communion.

Following the customary period of silence for thanksgiving after Communion, the priest recites the closing prayer and, omitting the blessing and dismissal, passes to incense the Blessed Sacrament while an appropriate hymn is sung.

After a brief period of adoration he withdraws in silence and no closing hymn is sung.

The omission of the blessing forms part of the Church's tradition in which no blessings are imparted by a minister in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed.

Another reader asks if it sufficient to draw a curtain separating those adoring the exposed Blessed Sacrament from the rest of the church while Mass and other activities are taking place.

I would say that this would be insufficient since the silence necessary for adoration would be well nigh impossible and it would undercut the purpose of adoration itself.

Finally, a reader from British Columbia presented an interesting dilemma: "In our parish, perpetual adoration takes places in a special chapel as described in your latest column. We have the hour of adoration immediately preceding one of our parish Masses. Since the Blessed Sacrament is never to be left alone ... it brings up a hypothetical question, What if a person were attending perpetual adoration, intending to attend the last available Mass, and no one showed up to replace him? Should he attend Mass and leave the Blessed Sacrament alone or stay with the exposed Blessed Sacrament and miss Sunday Mass? In other words, which obligation is greater, to attend Sunday Mass or to maintain the constant presence of adorers in the perpetual-adoration chapel?"

Of course, attending Mass would be more important. In this case the person would be justified in briefly leaving the adoration chapel just before Mass and asking the priest to reserve the Blessed Sacrament. ZE04101923

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