Viewpoint: Corpus Christi and the “Blessed Sacrament of the Mass”

by M. Francis Mannion

Some time ago, I viewed with a small group a video by Fr. Robert Barron entitled, “The Blessed Sacrament of the Mass.” For a moment, I was taken aback by the title. Why would Fr. Barron refer to the Mass as “The Blessed Sacrament”? Surely, this terminology is used for devotions such as Benediction, Eucharistic exposition, processions, and congresses–but not for Mass.

I came to realize that Fr. Barron is, of course, quite correct in using the expression “The Blessed Sacrament of the Mass.” The exalted expression, “The Blessed Sacrament” should indeed refer primarily to the Mass, from which all Eucharistic devotions flow and to which they return.

What surprised me even more was that some members of the group–made up of liturgically well-educated and “forward-looking” Catholics–admitted rather sheepishly that they are often more attracted to Benediction than to Mass.

There is certainly something problematic in this. Benediction should always be seen as secondary to the Mass, as a prolongation of the sacrament, and as a preparation for the next Eucharistic celebration. When Benediction takes priority over Mass in popular Catholic spirituality, there is a clear and urgent need for corrective catechesis.

From further discussion, it emerged that what was attractive to those who spoke was that the style of celebration of Benediction is characterized by elements that are often missing in the celebration of Mass. The differences are as follows (I am summarizing here):

  • There is often more of an atmosphere of reverence in Benediction than is found in the celebration of the Mass;
  • “Traditional” music always accompanies Benediction, while much of the music at Mass nowadays is “too folksy”;
  • Silence and a contemplative atmosphere accompany Benediction more that they do Mass;
  • The focus in Benediction is always on the host in the monstrance, while many celebrations of Mass have distractions that scatter the mind;
  • The priest has a self-effacing role in Benediction, while at Mass there are many opportunities (inappropriate, of course) for the priest to draw attention to himself—and to talk too much (explanations, improper adaptations, etc.);
  • Incense is always used at Benediction, but rarely at Mass. Many people do not like incense, but the more “traditionally-minded” do;
  • Benediction is usually done with more beauty and solemnity (more candles, nicer vestments, and a consciously reverent handling of holy things) than is found in the average Sunday–not mind weekday– Mass.

It would be spiritually unhealthy if Benediction were promoted at the expense of the Mass. But I agree with those who want to bring into the celebration of Mass many of the elements traditionally, and still today, found in Benediction.

Yet, Eucharistic devotions are part of the liturgical heritage of the Church. Perhaps, we have gone from one extreme to the other: Before Vatican II, Eucharistic devotions seemed to have had undue emphasis in the Church; but since Vatican II, these devotions have been drastically curtailed. (Indeed, we are raising a whole post-Vatican II generation which has almost no knowledge of Benediction and other Eucharistic devotions.) There is, accordingly, a need for a new practical balance in Eucharistic theology and practice.

This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), the occasion each year when periods of exposition, adoration, and Benediction are most common. This would be a good time in which to reflect on the practice of Eucharistic devotion–and to ask what the Church might learn from popular attitudes toward it.

 

Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Salt Lake City. Reprinted by permission of Catholic News Agency.

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39 comments

  1. “Since Vatican II, these devotions have been drastically curtailed. (Indeed, we are raising a whole post-Vatican II generation which has almost no knowledge of Benediction and other Eucharistic devotions.) ”

    This would have been a very accurate statement about thirty years ago, but today, it’s an overstatement. Such devotions haven’t returned to their pre-Vatican-II popularity, of course, but they have come back. They have especially come back among young people.

    At 45, I’m of the post-Vatican-II generation, and we almost never experienced devotions like Benediction. But there’s another whole generation younger than mine, and it’s different for them. Perhaps more interestingly, they’re sometimes seeing these devotions with not-so-traditional trappings; more than once, I’ve heard of youth groups holding Eucharistic adoration with evangelical-style “praise & worship” music.

  2. Our world is starved for real, flesh and blood presence. When did any us last sit quietly with a friend? We communicate only virtually, via phones, screens, with no time for sustained conversation. Unpresent to one another we are equally out of tune with the presence of God. Rushed, noisy eucharists leave little space to savor the richest mode of divine presence in the breaking of bread.

    The Viaticum and Eucharistic adoration are two extensions of the Mass, and the latter is very important for recapturing a sense of Christ present in the eucharistic sign, present in the dynamism of the paschal mystery.

  3. “Since Vatican II these devotions [to the Blessed Sacrament] have been drastically curtailed,” Msgr. Mannion writes.

    Many parishes today have regularly scheduled if not perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and some of these parishes have even constructed special adoration chapels for this purpose. This was hardly the case prior to Vatican II. It seems to me devotion to the Blessed Sacrament has increased and become an established parish activity in many places.

    As for the term “the Blessed Sacrament of the Mass,” I recall hearing the late Kevin Seasoltz, OSB, monk of St. John’s Abbey and editor of Worship, once say that were St. Paul to time-travel to the present and hear the term “Blessed Sacrament,” he would no doubt immediately think “Baptism.”

  4. Thanks, Mr. LaPorte – my reading is along the same lines. Do like some of Mannion’s articles but this one landed with a *thud*, IMO.
    Beyond his overstatements about certain patterns of Eucharistic behaviors, he appears to focus on the *accidents* rather than the *substance* of this feast. He appears to contrast what the council fathers saw as reasons for reform with his experience – but the council fathers specifically stated that the eucharist was more than an object; that the *presence of Christ* was in both scripture and the body/blood; that it was communal action not a private devotion, etc.
    Some points:
    – the sacrament of the eucharist is a communal action – taking, breaking open, eating, drinking, and commissioning.
    – the eucharist is about actual symbols that the senses can see, touch, feel, and understand e.g. bread, wine, meal, procession
    – the eucharist is about a person, Jesus Christ whom the community encounters
    – the eucharist is not static; it is not an *object*; it is minimized if the focus is only on *edification* or *adoration*
    – look at the scriptures used today: none of Mannion’s points are connected to the readings today – OT -manna isn’t worshiped; rather it is food on the journey; Paul’s writings are about the community as the body/blood of Christ – a communal action and symbol best done in a meal (not a benediction service); John’s theological reflection constantly and consistently uses the phrase – LIVING bread, LIVING, etc. – an action; not something passive.
    – Mannion makes no connection to the historical and liturgical use and references to the poetry of Thomas Aquinas.
    – Even Thomas talks about a threefold meaning of eucharist including viaticum (food for a journey which means that it may be rushed, expedious, fast paced – vs. his benediction views); it is both body and blood (further VII reforms to emphasize a full and complete sign of the eucharist vs. benediction).

    Mannion appears to write an advocacy piece that misses the VII Eucharistic reforms (which included both the eucharist and benediction). He focuses on *accidents* such as *silence*; incense; solemn action; reverence; traditional music (again, all present in the best Eucharistic celebrations – why make this into a eucharist vs. benediction advocacy piece? If anything, eucharist is both/and.

    Like Mr. LaPorte – his citation about the lack of benediction is imprecise, at best; his appeal to some sort of Benedict *mutual enrichment* sounds more like a version of liturgical *junk science*.

    Two final responses:
    – keep in mind Paul’s admonitions to the Corinthians; they had taken eucharist and focused on worshiping the *head* – ignoring the *body*; ignoring the poor, the outcast, etc. (VII reformed benediction to try to expand and include this same Pauline emphasis)
    – we are never more the body of Christ than when we celebrate the eucharist (not benediction). As Augustine challenged us so well:
    “Be what you see and receive what you are!” (if this quote seems strange today, would suggest that this is the real issue and missing puzzle piece for the Body of Christ – not the accidents of reverence, silence, traditional music, incense, etc.)

    Suggest that if you are going to theologize about the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ – start with scripture;

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #4:
      I had a very different reading of Msgr Mannion’s article. I did not take him advocating any of the opinions you were reacting to so strongly.

      I think he made it clear that he was giving the consensus of “liturgically-educated” forward thniking group of Catholics and gave a summary of their ideas.

      One of his personal opinions that he stated is balanced and I think there are many who agree with him:
      “It would be spiritually unhealthy if Benediction were promoted at the expense of the Mass. But I agree with those who want to bring into the celebration of Mass many of the elements traditionally, and still today, found in Benediction.”

      I think that one of the reasons for the current grid lock in liturgy is this inability to just listen. the old battles are over, many people are frozen in their ideologies and this just creates a dead end. I think Msgr Mannion showed he was able to listen, hear what they were saying and agreed with points that were valid and still kept his own views.

      You mentioned in your post Mr deHaas, that “the eucharist is about a person, Jesus Christ, whom the community encounters.” I would think everyone agrees with that statement. This personal encounter takes place in the ecclesial celebration of the eucharist, but because it is a personal encounter, it will over flow and find expression in adoration and contemplation. To often it seems that people will use the term personal to mean “individualistic”, but personal means to be rooted in the actual I-THOU dimension of the encounter, which is the opposite of any individualistic approach. on the level of the personal and communal it is very hard to draw such a black and white line of demarcation. Is not the end of liturgy to enter the life of the trinity NOW? and this is a reality/mystery that is deeply personal and communal.

    2. @Bill deHaas – comment #4:
      A point well taken that theologizing about the Feast of the Body and Blood would best begin with scripture. I would also add that it ought to begin as well with history. Benediction and other such eucharistic devotions didn’t really exist in the first millennium. Nor is there any evidence that placing the sacrament for public view in exposition ever happened prior to the end of the fourteenth century. These new eucharistic devotions emerged largely because people felt distant from the Mass, rarely feeling worthy to receive Communion. The eucharist had evolved from a sacred action to a sacred object. All this interesting history should have an impact on how we view eucharistic devotions today.

      1. @Jan Larson – comment #13:
        Yes, but they don’t mean we can’t be aggregative (btw, there was a long gap between the plummeting of frequent communion and the advent of Eucharistic adoration – centuries; there’s a lot more history to account for). Treating the faithful as if their desire for Eucharistic adoration is to be viewed with condescension, skepticism or contempt* is not a good place to start from.

        * It’s hard for me to forget the scene I witnessed of a priest who, when encountering the end of a 40 Hours Devotion (with a specific intention for reducing urban violence in the neighborhood, along with other work being done by the community), loudly complained as he walked by those praying before the concluding Mass began: “We don’t do this any more!” (Well, in point of fact, we did and we do.)

      2. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #19:
        The loss of intimate contact with the eucharist occasioned by infrequent Communion in the early centuries, and spurred by the great eucharistic controversies, people gradually turned to eucharistic devotions separate from Mass. The point I would make is that the reasons for the emergence of these devotions a thousand years ago would not seem to be operative today.

      3. @Jan Larson – comment #30:
        Jan

        You’re welcome to try persuade the faithful at large, but the enduring popularity of these devotions indicates they continue to speak to needs of a non-marginal faction of the faithful.

      4. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #32:
        Wow! I checked both my comments (#13 and 30) and don’t see myself saying anything about “persuading the faithful at large” or “treating the faithful as if their desire for Eucharistic adoration is to be viewed with condescension, skepticism or contempt.” Perhaps you responded to the wrong post. I think history, among other factors, helps us interpret what is going on today. I might practice various forms of eucharisitic devotion, but that does not mean my motives for doing so match those of Christians a thousand years ago.

      5. @Jan Larson – comment #30:
        Jan,

        I’ve always wondered where such historical claims concerning the development of Eucharistic adoration came from. Did people at that time explicitly say that they established it so that the laity may have some contact with the sacrament since they cannot regularly receive it? Or is this an interpretation given by historians?
        I’ve always been struck by the fact that in the East frequent communion disappeared as well for the laity yet devotion to the reserved sacrament did not appear.
        At the same time, in the west, adoration was also performed by priests who would have been communing regularly. It just seems too simplistic to say that the practice can be reduced to a response to a very specific situation.

  5. Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Celebrations in two different churches today, neither church offered the cup to the people! Is that an East coast thing?

  6. Benediction in “the good old days” provided the more devout with an opportunity to experience a pious encounter with Jesus, the Bread of Life. The incense and the familiar hymns allowed them a participation in worship not available in Mass apart from the momentary elevations. There were no “folksy” songs because nobody thought they were free to compose them. And there was plenty of silence in the TLM. In a typical urban parish thousands of people squeezed into upper and lower churches for Sunday Mass while a fraction of them came for Vespers and Benediction on Sunday afternoons or after a weeknight novena devotion. Fr. Mannion is viewing the Blessed Sacrament through rose colored glasses. With the reform of the liturgy, everyone was provided with many interactions with The Lord through comprehensible songs of praise, through listening to the well proclaimed word of God, and through the worship AND reception of the Eucharist. There’s lots of reverential silence in the Masses I celebrate. What is added to Christ blessing the people while the priest is holding the monstrance over the blessing given by Christ through the priest at the end of every Mass?
    We have perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament because of the way we designed our tabernacle. Because it is not “exposed” people are free to come for prayer and adoration 24/7/365 without requiring scheduled adorers. Lots of people come, but nowhere near the number who participate in Mass. As today’s readings made clear Jesus gave himself to us as true food and drink. Take and eat, take and drink.

  7. It amazes me that rather than respond to Msgr. Mannion’s post the same tired condescending cliches are brought out as though they haven’t been addressed before (by theologians as diverse as Rahner and Marion), people who advocate adoration/benediction apparently believe that the Eucharist is just a static thing or don’t realize that the Eucharist is food an drink. Then there’s the “let me tell you how it was done in my day” attitude (as though benediction had completely disappeared everywhere, and people need to be told about what it’s like). Finally, there’s the attitude that there is nothing to learn from people who are drawn to this practice, there is no possibility that they have a shred of a valid point, or that it could highlight something missing in the celebration of the Mass.
    I for one can’t imagine that people who in principle reject adoration/benediction/processions have orthodox belief in the Eucharist regardless of what doctrinal formulas they explicitly uphold. It is a practice that has been validated by the prayer of the people of God for centuries.

  8. The viaticum is a hallowed extension of the Eucharist and reminds us that the sick and dying, though absent, are a part of the eucharistic community. The second extension, adoration of the reserved sacrament, is equally important, and gives the celebration of Mass a rootedness in a community of prayer and contemplation. The aesthetics of Benediction contrast with those of the average vernacular Mass. Perhaps rather than modernize Benediction we need to bring back to the Mass some silent contemplation and even some Latin.

  9. I am not opposed at all to Benediction for those who are drawn to it. I am sure it is of greatest comfort especially for those who may see something lacking in the OF Mass, and for those who love all things “traditional”. In the meantime, I will encourage parishioners to come and pray and to reflect on scripture in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

  10. You do realize that these bullet points basically describe the Mass celebrated with a mind toward tradition and continuity, right? No wonder it’s spreading…

  11. To often it seems that people will use the term personal to mean “individualistic”, but personal means to be rooted in the actual I-THOU dimension of the encounter, which is the opposite of any individualistic approach.”

    Patrick L. —

    You’ve hit the problematic nail on the head. Personal prayer can be about many, many persons, including oneself. I can’t think of a better time to pray for friends than at Mass.

    Further, personal, non-verbal prayer is not always passive, and certainly not always self-centered.. it’s active, and often includes prayer *for* the community.

    Can there be contemplative, simply Christ-centered prayer at Mass or the more complex I-Thou sort of contemplative prayer within the Mass? Why not? Masses are human meals, and sometimes at human meals some of the conversations are between two individuals. Meals are complex inter-actions.

  12. It seems Benediction is getting people to go to church for a change. And yet Mr deHaas puts all these roadblocks for the people. No need to tell them to stay home, as they will stay home if what Mr deHaas suggests is implemented. Why not just leave people alone. Why must all these “experts” have it their way all the time, like they did with the liturgy following Vatican II. Leave the people alone to worship God through their hearts as they have been doing for centuries.

    1. @Victor Wowczuk – comment #18:
      Mr. Kosala – who said: “……rather than respond to Msgr. Mannion’s post the same tired condescending cliches are brought out as though they haven’t been addressed before….”
      Mr. Wowczuk – who said: “…..Mr deHaas puts all these roadblocks for the people. No need to tell them to stay home, as they will stay home if what Mr deHaas suggests is implemented”
      and, then, of course, KLS who says – “…..to be viewed with condescension, skepticism or contempt* is not a good place to start from.”

      First, all of you might want to re- read what I wrote. My point was that on this specific Feast I questioned why a focus on Benediction and why write an advocacy piece about Benediction? Why not focus on the actual feast; the scripture for the day; the tradition of the church in celebrating the body/blood of Christ?

      In fact, word for word quote from # 4:
      “Mannion appears to write an advocacy piece that misses the VII Eucharistic reforms (which included both the eucharist and benediction). He focuses on *accidents* such as *silence*; incense; solemn action; reverence; traditional music (again, all present in the best Eucharistic celebrations – why make this into a eucharist vs. benediction advocacy piece? If anything, eucharist is both/and.”

      So, Kosala – Your comment above actually injects your own hangups; not mine. Nowhere was I being condescending *except in your over-reaction); and you assume things that I did not say

      So, Wowczuk – what roadblocks?: Did I name any? Where did I ask people to stay home? Did you even understand what I wrote or just went off on your usual traditional meme? BTW – Mannion sees himself as an *expert* – so, why can’t we respond? Reading what you wrote tells me that Mannion shouldn’t be writing at all – he is an expert. Yes, just leave the poor people alone.

      KLS – valid historical points (but it doesn’t change what was said) and we do aggregate our experiences but that is also true about VII and the Eucharistic reforms. Your personal ditty is nice but so what? I could relate more than a hundred stories about priests who preached that Benediction was more important than Sunday Mass – so what?

      Finally, in nothing I wrote in #4 did I ever state that Benediction is some old, antiquated liturgical expression that should be buried away. That comes from you who have agendas and read into things.
      Mr. Yanke probably summed it up best – yep, Mannion wrote his usual retro piece advocating to bring some tradition back……all for it as I wrote and the best liturgies already do the list Mannion sets out. My point – why not emphasize the actual feast, the sacrament of the eucharist, scripture, etc. – not a devotion.

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #20:
        With all due respect, Mr. deHaas, Benediction is part of the Corpus Christi Mass, with a procession following.
        As for the roadblocks:
        I think a lot of people are tired of this “community” mantra and having to act it out in the liturgy, unless you are a Hegelian.
        Those accidental things are very important for the laity because they speak the language of the sacred for them.
        Has it every occurred to you that the laity don’t give a hoot about the reforms of VII as you interpret them? It seems you like the antiquarianism of these reforms as if nothing has happened in the past 1500 years of evolution. The people are tired of the liturgists rolling back the clock.

      2. @Victor Wowczuk – comment #36:
        I think you’re right that there is something Hegelian about this dichotomy between event and object, community/thing adored. Thank you so much for pointing that out. Hegel critiques the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist precisely on this point, presenting the Luthern conception as superior because it makes the presence of Christ dependent entirely upon the faith of the community. It’s a notion that requires a very specific conceptual framework.
        I’ve always thought that when people accuse Eucharistic piety of reducing the sacrament to an object to be nonsense. The presence of Christ in the host has always been described as a personal presence, a who – not a what.

  13. They discussed eucharistic adoration outside Mass at the 2005 synod on the Eucharist. Just to add to the discussion, here’s some of what Benedict wrote on the topic in Sacramentum caritatis (no. 66), urging the legitimacy of the practice and its connection with the celebration of Eucharist, the social mission of the church, and the heavenly liturgy.

    “During the early phases of the reform, the inherent relationship between Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not always perceived with sufficient clarity. For example, an objection that was widespread at the time argued that the eucharistic bread was given to us not to be looked at, but to be eaten. In the light of the Church’s experience of prayer, however, this was seen to be a false dichotomy. As Saint Augustine put it: ‘nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit; peccemus non adorando – no one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.’ In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; eucharistic adoration is simply the natural consequence of the eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church’s supreme act of adoration. Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy. The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself. Indeed, ‘only in adoration can a profound and genuine reception mature. And it is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another.'”

    The relevant passage from the liturgy constitution (no. 13) highly recommends popular devotions when they “are in some fashion derived from” the liturgy and “lead the people to it…

  14. ‘He focuses on *accidents* such as *silence*; incense; solemn action; reverence; traditional music (again, all present in the best Eucharistic celebrations – ‘

    Bill deH. —

    You include silence, solemn action and reverence among the “accidents” of Mass, as if they weren’t essential aspects of the whole process which is the Mass. I think that is what some of us are objecting to in your position is that we think that the silence of parts of the Mass is essential to inner acts of adoration, and the reverence and solemnity of certain gestures and attitudes are expressive of that adoration. They aren’t “accidental” to the Mass.

    1. @Ann Olivier – comment #22:
      Thanks, Ann. Again, if you carefully read what I wrote in #4 – my point was that on this special Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, IMO, I would not have used the image of Benediction to convey my liturgical points about improving the eucharist. What I wrote predicted exactly what you have seen in almost all of these comments – a knee jerk to defending Benediction when that wasn’t Mannion’s point to begin with and yet it was inevitable given his use of the devotion of Benediction. (and he added insult to injury by making claims that don’t reflect what many of us experienced even 30 years ago much less today)
      Ann – as you can see, some over-reacted, mis-read what I wrote; one couldn’t resist an ad hominem attack based upon his own neurotic over-reaction and mis-read. Now you have Malcolm going on and on. Very simply – given my current experience of Eucharist in the local community, would have chosen to focus and emphasize very different things than what Mannion did (in order to continue his project on returning certain rubrics to help make eucharist better – which I actually agree with but, again, not sure that would be my focus on a column on the Feast of the Body/Blood of Christ).
      To your points, Ann – my reply had to do with what the Feast is about (thanks Deacon, at least you don’t try to split hairs on that phrase) and what I experience, see, feel, or understand by those Eucharistic communities that I pray in (and that includes some local clergy). What those communities most need is well celebrated eucharist that conveys the core about the communal Eucharistic actions (do you know how few folks could answer a question about the actions of eucharist; that the presence of Christ is both word and sacrament, etc.). So, may have over-read Mannion but my point was to stress the core of our eucharist starting with the scripture of the day. You cite my use of *accidents* – well, that fits into my overall reply. Mannion used the feast and the image of Benediction to emphasize some *rubrics* – those rubrics are not the core of our Eucharistic understanding and so I chose the descriptive word, *accidents*. (actually, as I wrote, all in favor of those rubrics and have complained to my pastor because these rubrics are missing in our communal liturgies).
      Hope that better puts into context my response and why I chose the words I did.

      Some other points in response to those who continue to mis-read me:
      – Malcolm…….fact, SC laid out principles and directives for the eucharist…..how these were actually developed, delivered, and implemented happened after the end of VII via Consilium, Paul VI, and most episcopal conferences working with the CDW. So, the actual reforms are seen in many ways – not just limited to vernacular….you really do appear to miss the reality that our Eucharistic experience and understanding was radically shifted after VII – scripture, vernacular, bread and wine, ministers, lectors, options for prayers, commons, facing the people, music, architecture, etc. And the core of this was a reformed and refound and implemented understanding that the eucharist is a communal celebration that is an action (not an object); that involves FACP, that the eucharist is both/and – communal and adoration.
      Finally, the reforms also impacted Benediction – use of scripture was recommended; that the prayers and intentions be for the world, church, poor, etc. and that this devotion needed an outward focus – not just inner focus.

      Some reading for you:

      http://www.tomrichstatter.org/eEucharist/e56worsh.htm

  15. Msgr Mannion:

    It would be spiritually unhealthy if Benediction were promoted at the expense of the Mass. But I agree with those who want to bring into the celebration of Mass many of the elements traditionally, and still today, found in Benediction.

    Yet, Eucharistic devotions are part of the liturgical heritage of the Church. Perhaps, we have gone from one extreme to the other: Before Vatican II, Eucharistic devotions seemed to have had undue emphasis in the Church; but since Vatican II, these devotions have been drastically curtailed. (Indeed, we are raising a whole post-Vatican II generation which has almost no knowledge of Benediction and other Eucharistic devotions.) There is, accordingly, a need for a new practical balance in Eucharistic theology and practice.

    Agreed in full.

    I can’t fully speak to whether Eucharistic devotions were overdone before 1962 – it’s before my time, and the evidence is conflicting (I am open to the possibility that this was the case in some places). But what *is* clear is that they took a nosedive after that point, such that they were virtually nonexistent in most places, at least in North America, by the 70’s. My sense is that they started to slowly make a comeback in the 90’s, beginning with the (re)emergence of adoration chapels in parishes here and there…in my diocese, however, processions for Corpus Christi (certainly outside the churches) still seem to be the exception, not the rule – though they do seem to be growing in number.

    There’s obviously a hunger for these things, judging by their growing popularity. And if it would be unpastoral for a pastor to draw the lesson from this group that he must immediately make every one of his Masses look as traditional as his Benedictions, it could still be worthwhile to make the effort to ensure that at least *one* of his Sunday Masses offers such a praxis. And see how people respond.

  16. Hello Bill,

    “Mannion appears to write an advocacy piece that misses the VII Eucharistic reforms (which included both the eucharist and benediction).

    Does he? What reforms are these, beyond the general provision for some use of the vernacular and harmonization with the liturgical seasons (not that I have sense that they were, in fact, in *disharmony* with those seasons before the Council)?

    The only passage in Sacrosanctum Concilium that I can find that even seems to speak to Benediction or similar devotions is #13: “13. Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See. Devotions proper to individual Churches also have a special dignity if they are undertaken by mandate of the bishops according to customs or books lawfully approved. But these devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them.” It does not seem that the Council Fathers wished to diminish such devotions – quite the contrary. To the extent that they wished to ensure that such devotions lead the people to the Mass itself, it seems that Msgr, Mannion is in full accord (“It would be spiritually unhealthy if Benediction were promoted at the expense of the Mass”).

    And yet the collapse in such devotions – “highly commended” by the Council Fathers – is precisely what happened in the years after the Council, for reasons that might be discussed at another time.

  17. Hello Patrick,

    You mentioned in your post Mr deHaas, that “the eucharist is about a person, Jesus Christ, whom the community encounters.”

    I’d add a caution that this is poor syntax by Bill, though perhaps he did not mean it in this way. The Eucharist is not merely *about* Jesus Christ; the Eucharist *is* Jesus Christ, full stop. It’s not just a symbol, though the ontological reality may partake of symbol in a certain sense to our human senses. And the Eucharist is Christ present in a way that is not true of the other ways in which He is present in other ways, i., the Word, the gathered assembly. This is why SC #7 lists the Eucharist first, and notes that he is present “especially under the Eucharistic species” (though the translation here is rather poor: the Latin says “tum maxime sub speciebus eucharisticis” – “especially” does not adequately capture maxime – it would be better to say “most of all,” at a minimum).

    1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #25:
      If by “Eucharist” Bill meant the Eucharistic liturgy as a whole — including the word, prayers, songs, etc. — then I think it’s fine to say that it is “about” Jesus, though of course you are right about the substantial mode of presence in the Eucharistic elements.

  18. From an “arm chair theologian:” is the sacred liturgy (Eucharist, daily prayer, sacraments) primarily “about” the presence of Jesus, or the action of Jesus himself as high priest, offering an eternal sacrifice of praise to the Father–himself the Victim, of course–and interceding before the Father for the life of the world–himself the means of redemption? It seems to me that Eucharistic theology falls short of its fullness (as it is expressed and prayed in the liturgy) when it is reduced to the worship of Christ as its object, rather than as the glorification of the Father, through, with and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

    Looking forward to the many more learned among us to clarify or set me straight on this.

  19. “And it is precisely this personal encounter with the Lord that then strengthens the social mission contained in the Eucharist, which seeks to break down not only the walls that separate the Lord and ourselves, but also and especially the walls that separate us from one another.”

    The tension between celebration of the Eucharist and adoration is handled well in the passage BillJ cited, better perhaps than we have managed in the last 50 years. Celebration demands that we overcome the walls that separate us from God and from each other. Adoration otoh demands almost the opposite, a separation of ourselves from the object of adoration. The drive after VII was toward full active conscious participation, uniting ourselves with Christ in celebration rather than toward a more passive adoration.

    This is a problem for the future. Sunday celebrations without a priest do not allow the same activity on our part that celebrations with a priest demands. As the absence of priests becomes more common, we need to avoid services that are simply adoration, and instead encourage services that enable us to fully express the royal, priestly prophetic character that we have from Baptism.

    The easy way out is falling back into a pattern of simple adoration. We are called to do more than just adore, and we should never let people believe that adoration is enough.

  20. you really do appear to miss the reality that our Eucharistic experience and understanding was radically shifted after VII…

    Rest assured, Bill, I didn’t miss it.

    Thanks, as always, for the reply.

  21. Nothing like sinking this discussion to the absurd and ridiculous – Hegel comes to the rescue. Geez!! Give me a break.

    Here is my idea of a much better statement or column for the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ:

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/peace-pulpit/jesus-not-only-present-bread-and-wine-gods-word

    Not one mention of *benediction*

    And, Wowczuk, you say: “Benediction is part of the Corpus Christi Mass, with a procession following.” Where did you come up with this one? Not in the sacramentary.

  22. What is it about the particulars that so fascinates us? Sometimes I wish that we had no need of theologians so we could focus on the task at hand – serving the person in front of us.

    Query: After his resurrection, Jesus fed his disciples bread and fish. What lesson can we learn from this?

    God cooked breakfast for his friends. Go and do likewise.

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