Exposition of the Precious Blood

And More on Holy Thursday

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ROME, MAY 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: During the evening Mass on Maundy Thursday, my parish priest consecrates in addition to the wine used for the Mass, wine placed in a transparent glass container, which afterward is transported to the altar of repose. There he places a monstrance with the consecrated host, along with this transparent glass container with consecrated Precious Blood. He places these high above the altar (about 3 meters high) so that everyone can see and adore. Do you think that this is liturgically correct to put the Precious Blood in a glass container? He goes in procession from the main altar, where the Mass has been celebrated, to the altar of repose, moving very slowly so as not to spill on the floor from this glass container filled with the Blood. I personally find this whole thing more like a show than respect for the Eucharist. I wish to have your comments. — J.B., Malta

A: Today’s follow-up is also related to this theme in which we quote a Vatican document expressly forbidding exposition in a monstrance on Holy Thursday. To wit: “The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a closed tabernacle or pyx. Under no circumstances may it be exposed in a monstrance.”

It logically follows that the “exposition” of the Precious Blood is simply not contemplated, on Holy Thursday or on any other day of the year. In specific cases it is permitted to briefly reserve a small quantity of Our Lord’s Blood to bring to those whose illness prevents their consuming solid food. Otherwise, reservation of the Sanguis is never allowed and it must be consumed entirely during each Mass.

Therefore, both of these expositions on Holy Thursday are abuses and the bishop should be duly informed.

Finally, there are also some other violations contained in this practice in relationship with the style, quality and material of the sacred vessels used for this purpose. The instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum clarifies the law in this respect:

“106. However, the pouring of the Blood of Christ after the consecration from one vessel to another is completely to be avoided, lest anything should happen that would be to the detriment of so great a mystery. Never to be used for containing the Blood of the Lord are flagons, bowls, or other vessels that are not fully in accord with the established norms.

“117. Sacred vessels for containing the Body and Blood of the Lord must be made in strict conformity with the norms of tradition and of the liturgical books The Bishops’ Conferences have the faculty to decide whether it is appropriate, once their decisions have been given the recognitio by the Apostolic See, for sacred vessels to be made of other solid materials as well. It is strictly required, however, that such materials be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region, so that honor will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate.”

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Follow-up: Combining Stations and the Passion Liturgy

A reader from Kazakhstan asked about the following point in our April 19 article on Holy Thursday: “You have said that Eucharistic adoration in a monstrance is totally forbidden. Where is it documented that it is forbidden? Nobody believes when I say it is not allowed, but all over Europe I have seen Eucharistic adoration in the monstrance up until midnight, and then the monstrance is veiled at midnight, and adoration continues until the morning. And then I don’t know exactly what to make of an article by a priest when he speaks about the Holy Father saying that Eucharistic adoration is a part of Holy Thursday. How does all of this work together?”

Apart from the rubrics, this norm is contained in several documents. For example, the 1988 “Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts” issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship 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.”

Second, the aforementioned article correctly quoted the Pope’s recent homily in saying that Holy Thursday “ends with Eucharistic adoration, in memory of the Lord’s agony in the garden of Gethsemane.”

There is absolutely no contradiction here because Eucharistic adoration is not synonymous with exposition in the monstrance. Christ is equally adored in the tabernacle and the pyx as in the monstrance. Adoration in the monstrance helps the adorers concentrate on the Eucharistic mystery but does not make the adoration essentially different from worship offered to Our Lord in the tabernacle.

Also, adoration in the monstrance usually unfolds into the joyous experience of Eucharistic Benediction whereas in the concrete case of Holy Thursday the essential theme is accompanying him during his agony and there is no Benediction.

The rule forbidding solemn adoration after midnight means that there should be no further public prayers at the altar of repose once Good Friday begins. This does not prohibit private prayer and private adoration at the altar of repose; these may continue until the beginning of the celebration of the Passion on Good Friday.

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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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