Would you believe we’ve already arrived at the penultimate post on Eucharisticum Mysterium? Let’s delve into five sections that outline some principles for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament:
62. For brief exposition, the ciborium or monstrance should be placed on the altar table; for a longer exposition a throne can be used and set in a prominent, but not too elevated or distant position.
Note the importance given to avoiding a great elevation or distance when setting up for a “longer exposition.”
During the exposition everything should be so arranged that the faithful can devote themselves attentively in prayer to Christ the Lord.
To foster intimate prayer, readings from sacred Scripture, together with a homily or brief inspirational words lead to a better understanding of the eucharistic mystery, are permitted. It is proper for the people to respond to the word of God with singing. There should also be suitable intervals of silence. At the end of the exposition, benediction is given.
This prescription for readings, homily, and even music is a bit of a surprise for many Catholics.
When the vernacular is used, another eucharistic hymn, at the discretion of the conference of bishops, may be substituted for the Tantum ergo as the hymn to be sung before the benediction.
Tantum Ergo is traditional, but not the only possibility here.
63. In churches where the eucharist is regularly reserved, there may be an annual, solemn exposition of the blessed sacrament for an extended period of time, even if not strictly continuous, so that the local community may meditate on this mystery more deeply and adore.
Exposition of this kind may take place only if the participation of a reasonable number of the faithful is ensured, the local Ordinary consents, and the established norms are followed.
This seems to have been something of a struggle for our parish. Monthly adoration has pretty much swamped our older efforts during Lent. The new pastor questioned the practice as we evaluated our Lenten offerings, and we’ve made the determination to suspend Tuesday adoration during Lent in 2008.
64. For any serious and general need, the local Ordinary may order prayer before the blessed sacrament exposed over a longer period (which may be strictly continuous) in those churches to which the faithful come in large numbers.
The bishop may … what was that? … order Eucharistic adoration.
65. Where there cannot be uninterrupted exposition, because there is not a sufficient number of worshipers, it is permissible to replace the blessed sacrament in the tabernacle at fixed hours that are announced ahead of time. But this may not be done more than twice a day, for example, at midday and at night.
This reposition can be simple without singing: the priest vested in surplice and stole, after a brief adoration of the blessed sacrament, places it in the tabernacle. At a set time, the exposition is resumed in a similar way, following which the priest, after a brief period of adoration, leaves.
Ever practical, Rome gives us a contingency plan.
66. Even short exposition of the blessed sacrament, conducted in accord with the norms of the law, must be so arranged that before the benediction reasonable time is provided for readings of the word of God, hymns, prayers, and silent prayer, as circumstances permit.
Local Ordinaries will make certain that these expositions of the blessed sacrament are always and everywhere marked with proper reverence.
Exposition merely for the purpose of giving benediction after Mass is prohibited.
My Illinois pastor almost twenty years ago used to provide for these shorter periods of exposition for kids from religious ed and the parish school. It was my introduction to this practice. I’m of the opinion it was also a good thing for the kids to experience. Eucharistic exposition is not every Catholic’s cup of tea, but it is a vital part of our devotional life.
For parishes that do have exposition, is the experience varied? Do you provide for the attendance of children and parish groups? Do you utilize the suggestions above for longer periods of exposition? Do you ever use readings and music? Any other comments?