Adoration and Mass

And More on «Cup» vs. «Chalice»

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ROME, JAN. 31, 2012 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university. 

Q: At our church, exposition begins after the 8 a.m. Mass with the proper ritual. For five years our priests have followed the guidelines to repose the Blessed Sacrament during the 7 p.m. weekday Mass, and then after Mass the priest places the Host in the monstrance for an additional hour and a half so people who work could attend exposition. Our new pastor put the following in the bulletin. I am confused. Were our other priests wrong? This is what our new pastor wrote:

«Finally, I am reminded of an old Latin axiom from the Church: Lex orandi, lex credendi. The translation is the law of praying is the law of believing. It basically means that prayers express belief. A change that I will have to make concerns the exposition of the Eucharist on Wednesdays. Currently, solemn exposition begins after the 8:00 AM Mass and continues until 9:00 PM with benediction. Eucharistic adoration is a good and holy act which I fully encourage and support. The problem is that the 7:00 PM family Mass becomes an ‘interruption’ to Eucharistic adoration when it should rather be the culmination. The Church’s introduction from the Order of the Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist states: ‘Exposition of the Holy Eucharist, either in the ciborium or in a monstrance, leads us to acknowledge Christ’s marvelous presence in the sacrament and invites us to the spiritual union with him that culminates in sacramental communion …. In such exposition care must be taken that everything clearly brings out the meaning of Eucharistic worship in its correlation with the Mass.’ The highest act of Eucharistic adoration, therefore, is the Mass itself and the ultimate blessing comes from actually receiving the Eucharist in communion. Having the Mass sort of interjected within exposition obscures what we truly believe and does not follow the liturgical norms of the universal Church. These concerns were also acknowledged by our diocesan office of worship. As a result, we will change the practice slightly by moving up benediction to 6:30 PM. and then to follow it with the family evening Mass at 7:00.» — A.B., Florida

A: The tone and content of the pastor’s message leaves little doubt that the priest is sincerely desirous of following correct norms. The question is one of interpretation of the law.

The former pastors obviously considered that offering those who worked late the opportunity of sharing in adoration merited prolonging it beyond the time of the Mass. The present pastor gives more weight to what he believes to be liturgical coherence.

While both views merit due respect, I do not believe that the norms cited in the message necessarily imply that adoration has to end before the 7 p.m. Mass. Nothing in the norms would impede adoration being prolonged until midnight, or all night long, provided there were sufficient adorers present at all times. The only thing absolutely required is that adoration must be interrupted for the celebration of Mass.

The text quoted from the introduction to the Order of Solemn Exposition enunciates general principles regarding the relationship between adoration and Mass and is not meant as a practical norm to be applied rigidly.

There are many ways to bring out the “meaning of Eucharistic worship in its correlation with the Mass” without having to necessarily conclude the adoration before Mass. For example such correlation can be highlighted through appropriate prayers, reflections and songs.

There are also some practices to be avoided so that this correlation is not obscured and especially that it remains clear that, as the pastor said, «The highest act of adoration is the Mass itself.»

This is why it is no longer permitted to celebrate before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. The Mass, as the infinite sacrifice of Christ, cannot be made more holy by the presence of the monstrance, and this practice can easily detract attention from the Church’s supreme act of worship.

While this is true, I see no difficulty in attending to the spiritual needs of those who may not be able to arrive at the 7 p.m. Mass and yet desire some time before the Lord.

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Follow-up: «Cup» Instead of «Chalice»

In the wake of our comments on the retention of the word «cup» in the new translation of the Roman Missal (see Jan. 17), an Indiana reader asked: «Would you please comment on the significance of the new word ‘poured’ to replace the former word ‘shed’ in the words of consecration of the Precious Blood? We have learned from your comments the reality that every one of these word-changes is for a reason. What is the reason for this one?»

There are probably several reasons. First, «shed» is a perfectly valid translation of the Latin «effundetur,» as this English word means to «pour forth.» The expression «pour out,» however, captures better the voluntary aspect of Christ’s sacrifice. Blood can be shed voluntarily but not necessarily so.

«Pour out» also recalls the text of Exodus 24:8 which the Lord invoked at the moment of instituting the Eucharist. In this passage Moses, after the people had accepted the Covenant at the foot of Mount Sinai, threw the blood of the oxen upon the people saying, «Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.»

The new and eternal covenant is also sealed by the pouring of sacrificial blood over the people.

Another reader wrote: «At the end of your commentary regarding the use of language in the Memorial Acclamation you speculate that another reason for retention of the word ‘cup’ may have to do with musical considerations. I respectfully disagree with this speculation because there are a number of places where the language-changes negatively impact the declamation of the text relative to the music, but clearly song traditions were not a consideration. While it is still just speculation on my part, I feel text declamation was not a factor. I say this from the perspective of a pre-Vatican II church musician!»

On the contrary, I know for certain that music, at least as referred to the celebrant singing a text, was taken into consideration when revising the translation. Some bishops revising the text even had a go at singing them according to traditional melodies during their meetings. I think that most texts can be managed with a little practice.

However, as our reader point out, there are surely going to be less felicitous results in some cases.

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Readers may send questions to 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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