Copes, Humeral Veils and Blessings

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

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Q1: Should a purple cope and humeral veil be used for Benediction during the Advent and Lenten seasons or should they always be white?

Q2: Is it correct that the priest or bishop should not impart a blessing in the presence of the exposed Blessed Sacrament (other than with the monstrance)? If the Liturgy of the Hours is being prayed, for instance, my understanding is that it should conclude with «May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen,» rather than «May almighty God bless you ….» — P.S., Montreal

A: Regarding the first question a distinction must be made. The humeral veil used to cover the monstrance during Benediction or to carry the pyx or ciborium is always white, in all seasons of the year. A partial exception is Good Friday’s celebration of the Passion of the Lord, in which it is permitted to bring the Eucharist for communion from the reservation chapel to the altar using a red humeral veil.

With respect to the cope the norms are different. White is normally used for Benediction. However, if a solemn celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours immediately precedes Benediction, then the celebrant may wear either white or the corresponding liturgical color of the day or season (red, violet, rose or green).</p>

In such cases it is sometimes necessary to change the normal seating arrangements of the ministers so that they preside at the liturgy turned toward the Blessed Sacrament exposed. This is done even if it means the ministers will not be facing the assembly.

With respect to the second question it is true that no public blessings are imparted in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed. Our reader expresses the correct procedure for ending a celebration of a lauds or vespers during exposition.

There is one slight exception to this norm. The current rubrics for exposition and Benediction indicate that the celebrant «blesses the incense without saying anything» (Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 1109). This is effectively a novelty and the only case of any blessing before the Blessed Sacrament exposed.

The probable reason for this change was to simplify and unify the rite of infusing incense by eliminating the differences among several ritual situations such as when incense in used during Mass or during a solemn celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours.

In recent years, however, quite a few liturgists have requested that the earlier practice of no blessings during exposition be restored.

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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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Fr. Edward McNamara

Padre Edward McNamara, L.C., è professore di Teologia e direttore spirituale

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