Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

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Pope John Paul II celebrating Benediction

Exposition of the Eucharist


"What Wonderful Majesty! What Stupendous Condescension! O Sublime Humility! That the Lord of the Whole Universe, God and the Son of God, should Humble Himself like this under the Form of a little Bread, for our Salvation".

-Saint Francis of Assisi


Benediction of the
Most Blessed Sacrament

by Father William Saunders

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Unfortunately, the Lack of Familiarity with Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is not uncommon these days. I remember when I was "Growing up" in the 60s, that on Special Occasions, my Home Parish had Exposition and Benediction . Then, for whatever Reason, this Beautiful Ritual disappeared. I never remember Encountering the Practice, until I went to the Seminary in 1979, where we had Exposition and Benediction for Sunday Vespers, Wednesday Holy Hours and Forty (40) Hours Devotion. Nevertheless, when I was assigned as a College Chaplain, I met several College Students, who had never witnessed Exposition or Benediction, or even Understood what the Terms meant. A Sad Commentary indeed.

Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is not only a very old Devotion in our Church, but one that Highlights the Fundamental Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, i.e., that Our Lord is Truly Present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament.

In his Holy Thursday Letter to Priests, Dominicae cenae (1980), Pope John Paul II wrote, "Since the Eucharistic Mystery was Instituted out of Love, and makes Christ Sacramentally Present, it is Worthy of Thanksgiving and Worship. And this Worship must be Prominent in all our Encounters with the Blessed Sacrament" (No. 3).

While emphasizing the importance of the Mass, the Holy Father recommends various Forms of Eucharistic Devotion:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Personal Prayer and Periods of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament,
littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Exposition and Benediction,
littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Forty (40) Hours Devotion,
littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Eucharistic Processions,
littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Eucharistic Congresses and a
littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Special Observance of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

All of these Devotions, which Focus on the Blessed Sacrament, aid in our Spiritual Union with Our Lord. As Jesus said, "I Myself am the Bread of Life. No one who comes to Me shall ever be Hungry, no one who Believes in Me shall ever Thirst" (John 6:35).

monsanim2.gif (34634 bytes) The Ritual for Exposition and Benediction as presented most recently by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship (1973) basically follows this Ritual: The Priest places the Blessed Sacrament in a Monstrance or Ostensorium on the Altar for Adoration. (A Ciborium containing the Blessed Sacrament may also be used, but the Monstrance allows one to View the Holy Eucharist.)

At this time, a Hymn of Praise (such as "O Salutaris Hostia") is sung as the Priest Incenses the Blessed Sacrament. During the Period of Adoration, the Faithful may Pray in Quiet, and Foster a Deeper Spiritual Communion with the Lord. However, the Adoration Period should also include Prayers, such as a Novena or Liturgy of the Hours, and Readings from Sacred Scripture, accompanied by a Homily or Exhortation to increase the Understanding of the Eucharistic Mystery.

pope_small.jpg (3852 bytes) At the End of the Period of Adoration, the Priest again Incenses the Blessed Sacrament as a Hymn of Praise is sung (such as "Tantum Ergo"), and then Blesses the Congregation with the Blessed Sacrament , making the Sign of the Cross. After the Blessing , the Priest reposes the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle.

euch72-2.jpg (45023 bytes) This Ritual seems to have arisen around the Institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi by Pope Urban IV in 1264. On this Feast Day, the Holy Eucharist was carried in Procession in Vessels similar to our present day Monstrances, which allowed the Faithful to view the Blessed Sacrament, Eventually a Custom arose, especially in Germany, of keeping the Blessed Sacrament continually Exposed to view, in all of the Churches.

At the same time, Members of Guilds began to gather to sing Canticles in the Evening after work, in Honor of the Blessed Mother. In particular, the Singing of the "Salve Regina", composed in the 11th Century, became Popular in these Devotions . These Evening Services were called 'Salat', in France.

Over the next Two or Three Centuries, these Two (2) Services seem to merge. The Faithful would gather, usually in the Evening, for Chanted Prayers, particularly in Honor of our Blessed Mother. The Blessed Sacrament would be Exposed, more Prayers would be Chanted or Recited, and the Service would End with Benediction. Interestingly, Benediction is still known in France as 'La Salat'.



[Music of Benediction]