Eastertide Holy Water and Statues

And More on Holy Thursday

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ROME, APRIL 20, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: I am hoping you can help me with two Eastertide questions. 1) At my parish, we use the sprinkling rite at the beginning of Mass on Sundays during the Easter season. The water used is taken from the font that was blessed during the Easter Vigil. Before the sprinkling begins, the presider blesses the water again. The reason given for this practice is that in the sacramentary, there are only two options for preparing the water, a blessing during ordinary time and a blessing during the Easter season. Is there no other option, especially one that would allow using, throughout the Easter season, water that has been most solemnly blessed during the Easter Vigil? 2) Many parishes (not ours) place a statue of the Risen Lord in a prominent place in the church during the Easter season. I have even seen some places that keep their altar-of-repose decorations up during Eastertide, replacing the actual repository with the statues. It has always been my understanding that the paschal candle is the primary symbol of the Risen Lord during Eastertide. Would not the use of the statue detract from the sign/symbol value of the paschal candle and be equivalent to introducing something new into current liturgical practice? — S.P., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A: With respect to the first question, I would say that the liturgical norms already presuppose a form of sprinkling with this water without a second blessing — but only on Easter Sunday itself. Thus the Holy See’s circular letter on the Easter celebrations states: «97. Mass is to be celebrated on Easter Day with great solemnity. It is appropriate that the penitential rite on this day take the form of a sprinkling with water blessed at the Vigil, during which the antiphon ‘Vidi aquam’ or some other song of baptismal character should be sung. The entrance stoops to the church should also be filled with the same water.»

On the other Sundays the rite would appear to presuppose that the water blessed during the Easter vigil is not the water used during the rite of blessing and sprinkling before Mass. Since the rite is called that of «Blessing and Sprinkling Holy Water,» it can be surmised that both elements are necessary and that Easter Day is an exception due to its particular character.

During other times of the year, previously blessed holy water is not used during this rite, even if readily available. So it is probable that the rite does not contemplate its use during the 50 days of Easter.

Likewise, it is not correct to bless water a second time. The water blessed during the vigil is above all reserved for the celebration of baptisms during Eastertide. In this case the rite of blessing the baptismal water is omitted.

Regarding the second question, I would say that while it is true that the Easter candle is the primary liturgical symbol of the Risen Christ, it need not exclude other devotional symbols.

Displaying a statue or pennant of the Risen Lord during this period can help to inculcate devotion and awareness of the mystery. In this sense it is analogous to the Christmas crèche. It is important to note that we are dealing above all with a devotional practice and not a liturgical object supplanting the paschal candle.

For this reason, care should be taken regarding the placement and location of these images so that they serve to enhance the message of Easter while not obscuring the primary liturgical symbol.

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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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Readers may send questions to liturgy@zenit.org. Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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