Part 5 Eucharist in Special Circumstances

Chapter 56 Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass

Preliminary Questions


EJWU #12 Devotions

Benediction:  Ten Finger History

Theological Expressions

Pastoral Sensitivity

Benediction in Today's Parish

Popular Religion

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

What are your thoughts, emotions, prayers during Benediction?

Why is benediction celebrated less frequently than during the first half of this century?

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For online perpetual adoration of the blessed sacrament see

Martimort pp 231-253; Mitchell pp 201-267, 310-426

DOL. pages 689 and following, Section 10. "Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass"

Huels, John M. "Eucharist Reservation in Special Circumstances" FDLC Newsletter. Volume 16, No. 4, July-August 1994.

Diocese of St. Petersburg. Guidelines regarding Eucharistic Adoration and Exposition, (September 2000)   Click “Diocesan Directory” | click "Worship." | click link entitled "Eucharistic Adoration" on the right side.

Latin Mass Society. Solemn High Mass and Low Mass, Tridentine Rite, Missale Romanum 1962; Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Video Cassette. Bayswater, London, 1986.

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Beyond the Mass

Eucharist Jesus With Us #12, February 2006. Q0206

The following is a draft of a published article ©2005 by St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 w. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.  1-800-488-0488.  The article may not be reproduced or sold without written permission from the publisher.

A draft of the article will be placed here shortly.


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Benediction: Ten Finger History

1. Apostolic [0-399] — none. [Remote origins: The priestesses would show the sacred sheaves from the temple, the temple is enclosed and the god within; the priestesses would wave the sacred sheaves over the people and thus give them some contact with the hidden god.]

2. Patristic [400-799]



3. Early Medieval [800-1199]



4. Medieval [1200-1299] — when shift comes to the individual, scholastics put theology in language of the time. Trans-substantiation, emphasis on the host.


5. Late Medieval [1300-1499]–Corpus Christi–supplements (overshadows) Holy Thursday. (Lent and not the time for external celebration, fasting, etc–and still cold in Germany). Thursday (Sunday) after first Sunday after Pentecost–once Easter is over.

6. Reformation [1500-1699] — Benediction develops from the seventh century on as an increasingly standard addition to Sunday Vespers and even as an independent service.


7. After Trent [1700-1899]



8. Before Vat II [1900-1959] — Corpus Christi. Processions. 40 hours and mass. no communion at mass, but ocular communion at Consecration. Benediction = longer elevation, better than Mass.

9. Vatican II [1960-1999]



10. Tomorrow [2000-2099]

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Theological Reflections

Holy Thursday–Eucharist and Washing Feet – context of Last Supper, Scripture, Exodus, people, and service to others (foot washing)

Develops to place the stress on presence "in" host apart from presence in assembly, word, meal, world.

Eucharist something only Catholics had, not protestant: tied to Catholic identity

Benediction: hungering for eucharist

looking at the menu before eating,


Monstrare = Latin verb to show. Ostensorium = Latin to show.

Vessel to enable the host to be seen from a distance by a larger number of people.


Sunburst–king of creation

A Church

A Cross

Held in the arms of the Blessed Mother, or the womb of the Blessed Mother

Notice the historical relationship between a reliquary to display a part of the body of a dead Saint and a reliquary to display the consecrated host.

Model Eucharist

Gathering Rites

Story Telling

opportunity to explain eucharistic theology

Meal Sharing

hunger for the eucharist


social justice concerns -- bread for the world

Video: Benediction

[Benediction video = 15 min.]

This video was recorded in1986 at St. Mary of the Angels, Bayswater, London, England. The ceremony on this video looks pretty much like the way we celebrated Benediction when I was a child, a seminarian, and when I was first ordained. While watching the video, try to answer the following questions:

What parts of Benediction are liturgical and which are devotional?

Compare Mass and Benediction: Which rite has more external solemnity: number of candles and flowers, ministers, participants, cost of vessels, amount of music, vestments, etc.

What elements of Benediction reflect the relationship between the celebration of the Eucharist and the reserved Sacrament?

How is the theology of Eucharist as Meal and as Sacrifice expressed during Benediction? Which ritual actions should be emphasized and what should be avoided?

How is the relation between the Glorified Christ in heaven and the presence of Christ in the Church, the Baptized, and the Eucharist expressed during Benediction?

What picture of Christ is offered to the religious imagination? (The "Sun King;" Jesus, son of Mary; Food for the world?) What are the theological meanings of the monstrance, ostensorium, the way in which the bread is shown. In those communities which observe the directive that "The nature of the sign demands that the material for the eucharistic celebration appear as actual food" (GIRM 283) how is the bread to be displayed?

Why is the wine not shown? Can the wine be shown? If Benediction is directed toward "making us hunger for the Eucharist" should the wine be shown? "The sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the eucharistic meal appears more clearly. The intention of Christ that the new and eternal covenant be ratified in his blood is better expressed, as is the relation of the eucharistic banquet to the heavenly banquet." (GIRM 240).

Text for concluding hymn:

O Jesus Christ, remember, / When thou shalt come again,

Upon the clouds of heaven, / With all thy shining train; —

When every eye shall see thee / In deity reveal'd,

Who now upon this altar / In silence art concealed; —

Remember then, O Savior, / I supplicate of thee,

That here I bow'd before thee / Upon my bended knee ;

That here I owned thy presence, / And did not thee deny,

And glorified thy greatness / Though hid from human eye.

Accept, divine Redeemer, / The homage of my praise ;

Be thou the light and honor / And glory of my days.

Be thou my consolation / When death is drawing nigh ;

Be thou my only treasure / Through all eternity.

Perpetual Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament

See the Response from the Holy See reprinted in the NCCB Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter, June 1995, pp 21-22.

When Mass is celebrated in a chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, the Eucharist must be replaced in the tabernacle before the celebration of Mass begins.

Under no circumstances may perpetual exposition take place during the Easter Triduum.


The "Divine Praises"  are prayers of reparation for profanity and blasphemy, are a sequence of acclamations, chiefly composed by Jesuit Luigi Felici in 1797.   It is a custom, but not required, that they be recited at benediction.

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Pastoral Sensitivity

Questions: Why look? opaque tabernacle. ostensorium, monstrance, seeing.

First Friday

Perpetual adoration

Benediction with bread and wine? Why? Why not?

How to show "real bread" in the monstrance

Preforming before the Sacred presence

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Benediction in Today's Parish

In the past I have asked the participants in the course to list the reasons why a parish should or should not have weekly Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. Some of the responses are listed here. Read their reasons for and against. Do you agree or disagree with these reasons? Add three new reasons to each column. (Use the back of this page as needed.)

A parish should not have Benediction

1. Benediction focuses the attention of the parish on the Eucharist as an static object and I am trying to help them focus on Eucharist as a dynamic community action.

2. Benediction does not help the parish understand the unity of the epiclesis. It stops short by emphasizing only the first change, that of the bread.

3. In my parish I am trying to help the people understand the Eucharist as a common meal rather than simply "receiving Holy Com-munion" and to this end I have been explaining why we not only eat but drink. Benediction with bread but without wine does not help me in this catechesis.

4. At our parish we use bread for the Eucharist that has the appearance of bread. The people's devotional memory is of a host in a monstrance. Showing a basket of bread does not evoke the same response. Yet I don't want to use bread for Mass and a host for Benediction.

5. Now that afternoon and evening Masses are permitted, I would rather invite the parish to Mass than to Benediction. And if they have already celebrated Eucharist, I would rather invite them to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours.

6. Only a few people show up and I must ration my time (I have 3 parishes to care for).

7. Benediction takes us back to St. Paul's pastoral problem in I Cor 11: People want to worship the Glorified Head without discerning the Body (the poor, the foreigner, the prisoner, etc.)

8. In our new parish church the tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is transparent and people can come and pray before the blessed sacrament whenever they want and there is no need for Benediction.

A parish should have Benediction

1. Benediction is something only Roman Catholics do and I think it strengthens Catholic identity.

2. Benediction is a good way to teach the doctrine of "Real Presence."

3. Benediction connects young people with the devotional tradition of their grandparents.

4. The host functions as a mantra and enables the faithful to focus their attention on one spot and achieve a special type of contemplation.

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Popular Religion

Comparison of Liturgy and Popular Worship 

The root source for this table is Carl Dehne, S.J., "Devotions, Popular" in The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship (Peter Fink, editor) Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1990, p 334.


Popular Devotions

Give ecclesial identity [Lex Orandi]. Text usually long, 94% from Scripture

Personal devotion [not ecclesial identity]; Text relatively brief, little scripture

Thematically diffuse [e.g. Mass with three readings, psalm, eucharist etc.]

One obvious theme [e.g. Devotion to St. Anthony]

Trinitarian: to God through Christ in the Spirit

Christocentric / staurocentric. Often addressed to a saint.

Move in a straight line: e.g. Gathering, Story Telling, Meal Sharing, Commissioning.]

Move in a spiral: e.g. passo of the suffering Christ, passo of the Virgin, of Christ, of Virgin, of Virgin, of Christ, etc.

transcendent / eternal [e.g. Do this in memory of me.]

specific, transient [e.g. for rain!]

Full of variety: Lectionary, Sacramentaries, 4 vols of Hours books etc.

Much repetition: One card with prayers used every Tuesday throughout the year.



motionlessness, closed eyes, posture of repose

motion, open eyes, open mouths, open arms, movement, kneeling, standing


Scope of the study: Human Religiosity; Popular Religiosity; Pious Devotions.

No liturgy/devotion distinction before Trent. e.g. 4th century devotional veneration of cross is now liturgy; 16 century devotional Way of the Cross is now pious devotion.

8th century monastic reforms: Monastic and Cathedral Offices.

1958: Catholic devotions are those prayers which are not liturgical [negative definition]

Text in the official, universal, Latin book. Official prayer; "Prayer of the Church" otologically; Lex credendi; highly regulated; rubrics; liturgical law from above.

Performed by an officially deputed minister who acted "in the name of" the whole Church; prayer of the professionals. Pious devotions by the "merely Baptized."

Universal: Latin language / Roman culture

Prayer of Christ, Mystical Body, to God

Vatican II

Subsidiarity: Universal books with local adaptations


Latin Language / Roman Culture

Vernacular Language / Roman Culture

Evening masses were not permitted and if you were going to have something in the evening it was a devotion. -- fasting from midnight.

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To Think About

What positive function can Benediction serve today?

What elements of Benediction should be stressed for the devotion to be pastorally effective today?

A person asked the following question:  "Is a layperson allowed to remove Jesus from the tabernacle, place him in the monstrance and process him into the main church for adoration? (The tabernacle is in a remote chapel.) I think only our priest has the privilege to do this. Am I wrong?"  How would you answer this question?  How would you respond to the language used in the question?

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© Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 03/20/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at