Benediction of the
Most Blessed Sacrament
by Father William Saunders
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,
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:
Personal Prayer and Periods of Adoration
before the Blessed Sacrament,
Exposition and Benediction,
Forty (40) Hours Devotion,
Eucharistic Congresses and a
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).
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
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
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.
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'.