Help, there’s a Monstrance in my Mass

As Roman Catholics know, we have officially entered our “National Eucharistic Revival,” as of the Feast of Corpus Christi (June 16, 2022).  This revival, a historic but not unprecedented occurrence, hopes to inspire new love for Christ in the midst of our muddling mis-hap of a modern world.  A new love for Christ might inspire us to live justly, embrace wisdom, and love and believe in God’s mercy for ourselves and for others.  I am hopeful.

With such hopes, I entered the Corpus Christi Sunday Mass on June 16 (rarely does anything trump a Sunday, but this is one of the exceptions).  I wondered what we might experience on this national kick-off day of Eucharistic revival.  This Feast might inspire the singing of so many wonderful hymns, the announcement of compelling devotions for the parish (like eucharistic processions or even mystery plays [!!!]), let alone the Word of the Gospel for this day, or the call to be transformed by the Eucharist to be as Christ in the world.  We could even remember the story of the unshakable faith of Saint Juliana of Liège, whose mystical vision inspired the Feast and its celebration in the first place.

But, if you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, get ready for it.  We did not receive an invitation for eucharistic devotion at some remote point in parish life.  After the homily, we stopped everything—and our presider pulled out the monstrance and put it on the altar, right smack dab in the middle of Mass.

It’s all a little blurry to me—I’m not sure if we actually said the Creed, or if petitions happened.  I do know that the congregation all stared rather dumbly while Father was affixing the monstrance with its host for adoration (he had to tell them to kneel).  Helpfully, he did explain where to find the appropriate prayers for exposition in the backs of our hymnals, and the faithful obediently followed his instruction.  I did, too, but I just felt…confused.  Celebration of the Eucharist.  Devotion to the Eucharist.  Which is better?  Which were we doing right now?!?

https://angelusnews.com/faith/adoration-is-like-radiotherapy-for-our-sinfulness-says-vaticans-new-liturgy-chief/

I knelt there, staring, and am ashamed to admit I had trouble focusing.  I found myself asking, “Does it make any sense to be conversing with your beloved, and say, ‘wait a minute, let me take a look at you for a minute,’ before going back to actually engaging in the conversation?”  This just feels awkward!!!

And, of course, as I sat there kneeling and wondering these thousand wonders, my four-year-old daughter started pulling at my sleeve asking “What are we DOING???”

“I have no idea,” I wanted to say, but bit my tongue and said how Father wanted to teach us some beautiful prayers for Jesus.  Liturgy is already tricky enough to explain to kids.

In the end, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament happened, Benediction happened, and we all put up our kneelers so we could begin…the Eucharistic Prayer.  So Mass happened, too.

Weeks later, I’m still bemused and befuddled.  What is our Eucharistic Revival all about?  Is it about turning from the Body of Christ to look and think about him—or to recognize him in the broken hearts and wounded souls of those gathered around the summit and font of our faith?

We need a Eucharistic revival.  But, when the Church calls us to refocus our vision on the Eucharist…I’m pretty sure we’re not just talking about putting our eyes on the monstrance.  Our vision is to partake of Christ’s Eucharist and, in doing so, come to see the world for what it could be: a place without suffering, sin and sadness.  A place where hearts might be mended, and changed.

If we’re worried about how devotions to the Eucharist and Mass go together, Sacrosanctum Concilium tells us what to do:  “[T]hese 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” (SC 13).

So let’s celebrate the Eucharist—and let’s honor our beloved Eucharistic devotions—by celebrating them where they belong: flowing from Mass, and leading the faithful to it.

38 comments

  1. Wow, that would have befuddled me. I would think it would also befuddle actual traditionalist Catholics.

    From the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia: “Another custom which seems to have been very prevalent in Germany and the Netherlands, before the close of the fifteenth century, was the practice of exposing the Blessed Sacrament during the time of Mass, apparently to add solemnity to the Holy Sacrifice thus offered. Numerous papal permissions for such Exposition will be found in the “Regest” of Pope Leo X. (See e.g. 3 Nov., 1514; 20 Nov., 1514, etc.) This practice is still a very favourite one in Belgium, though it seems directly to contravene the spirit of many directions in the official “Caeremoniale Episcoporum” prescribing that the Blessed Sacrament should, when possible, be removed from the altar at which High Mass is to be celebrated (Caer. Episc. I, XII, 8-9). Before the Council of Trent, the abuse of such frequent expositions, in Germany and elsewhere, seems to have been very much checked, if not entirely eliminated. In the sixteenth century and subsequently, the development of popular devotion in this matter have been much more restrained, and they have always been subject to strict episcopal supervision.”

  2. The Eucharistic Revival is about so much more than exposition, adoration, Benediction, and real presence. What happened at your parish was ridiculous!!

    1. Thanks for your comment! I’ll take my Midwestern parish pastor off the line, however: I was visiting family in New England!!!

  3. I am sure I remember Mass being celebrated before the exposed Blessed Sacrament in my youth. During the 40 hours. With all manner of extra genuflections, single and double.

    1. That is my recollection as well. I remember after the distribution of the Eucharist, the priest would be vested for Benediction with the monstrance and Adoration immediately after the Benediction.

      I, too, remember the double and single genuflections…and all in Latin too.

  4. This is just crazy. That priest needs to go back to school. Even the pre-conciliar custom of Mass before the Blessed Sacrament did not envisage holding a separate Benediction service during Mass. if he wanted to include Benediction, surely he could have done so at the end of Mass, using a host consecrated during the Mass.

  5. It’s common to insert extra things between the homily and rest of Mass (like blessings), so perhaps that is why he stuck Benediction there. Is it perhaps the same reasoning behind inserting the marriage ceremony into the middle of Mass when it was historically separate?

    I’m very familiar with Benediction immediately after Mass and absolutely love it, but it seems odd to literally suspend Mass to have Benediction.

  6. I have to admit: until I saw this post, the National Eucharistic Revival hadn’t pinged on my radar. So for that reason, I am grateful for the post.

    1. Katherine Harmon’s post inspired me to go find a little more info on the National Eucharistic Revival. This page had some useful info: https://www.eucharisticrevival.org/

      On that page, it tells us about this year’s focus:

      “This first year of the Revival invites diocesan staff, bishops, and priests to respond to the Lord’s personal invitation and equips them to share this love with the faithful through eucharistic congresses and events.”

      … which is all fine, I’m sure. But – I feel like they missed an opportunity to score a tap-in goal here: their list of participants in this stage conspicuously skips over deacons, whose tri-fold ministry of service includes service of the Eucharist. The deacon’s simple and humble service at the altar provides him with the healing and the grace to serve people in the community and the world. Or as Francis put it, “to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time.”

      This connection between Eucharist and service strikes me as something the world might wish to know more about – perhaps even experience.

  7. Eucharisticum Mysterium (1967), para 61, is quite clear:

    While the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, the celebration of Mass in the same area of the church (eadem aula ecclesiae) is forbidden, all concessions and contrary customs valid up to the present time, even those worthy of special mention, notwithstanding.

    If Mass cannot be celebrated when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, logically the reverse must also be true: the Blessed Sacrament cannot be exposed while Mass is in progress.

    1. Ceremonial of Bishops describes how the Blessed Sacrament can be exposed while Mass is in progress. Not before the Eucharistic Prayer, as above, but: “1105. In the case of more solemn and lengthy exposition, the host should be consecrated in the Mass which immediately precedes the exposition and after communion should be placed in the monstrance upon the altar. The Mass ends with the prayer after communion, and the concluding rites are omitted. Before the bishop leaves, he incenses the blessed sacrament, using the rite described in no. 1109.
      1106. If exposition takes places outside Mass, …”.
      How to interpret Canon 941§2 “Exposition of the blessed Sacrament may not take place while Mass is being celebrated in the same area of the church or oratory.”? How to interpret “Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass” n. 83: “During the exposition of the blessed sacrament, the celebration of Mass is prohibited in the body of the Church.”? Basically they are saying not to continue it from the beginning of Mass.
      Here is another complication, the last sentence of “Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass” n. 83: “Mass may be celebrated in a chapel distinct from the area of exposition if at least some members of the faithful remain in adoration.”
      What Katherine described was wrong because it was the wrong place (the main altar) and time (before the Eucharistic Prayer). But it is not as simple as “the Blessed Sacrament cannot be exposed while Mass is in progress”.
      [Extract from the English translation of the Ceremonial of Bishops ©1989, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). Extracts from the English translation of Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass ©1974 ICEL. All rights reserved.]

      1. Ceremonial of Bishops describes how the Blessed Sacrament can be exposed while Mass is in progress. Not before the Eucharistic Prayer, as above, but: “1105. In the case of more solemn and lengthy exposition, the host should be consecrated in the Mass which immediately precedes the exposition and after communion should be placed in the monstrance upon the altar. The Mass ends with the prayer after communion, and the concluding rites are omitted. Before the bishop leaves, he incenses the blessed sacrament, using the rite described in no. 1109.
        1106. If exposition takes places outside Mass, …”.

        This CB extract is not about exposition during Mass, but what happens if exposition is tacked on to the end of Mass, after Communion.

        The CCL and HCWEOM extracts both derive from EM 61, as cited in my previous answer.

    2. The 1983 Code of Canon Law says that

      “Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament is not to be held in the same area of the church or oratory during the celebration of Mass” (CIC 941.2).

      The 1917 Code permitted Mass coram sanctissimo on the Feast of Corpus Christi (and its Octave), but strictly forbade it at other times:

      “unless there is just and grave cause … and then with the permission of the local Ordinary” (1274.2).

      Exposition and Benediction whilst Mass is in progess is thus inconsistent with the 1983 Code, and whilst the 1917 Code doesn’t specifically forbid it, that was simply because it was never envisaged as something that people would want to do.

  8. My problem with the way this revival is playing out in practice is the it seems to be not a Eucharistic revival bit a transubstantiation revoval, understood in a realistic and not a sacramental way.

  9. Following Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 1105, the time permitted for a “Monstrance in my Mass” is from after Communion to the Prayer After Communion, when the Mass ends. Some things that may happen then: Consuming the remaining Precious Blood at the altar, the purification (insofar as possible at the credence table), consuming remaining consecrated hosts at the altar or putting them in the tabernacle. This activity from Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 166: “When the bishop returns to the chair after the communion, he puts on the skullcap and, if need be, washes his hands. All are seated and a period of prayerful silence may follow, or a song of praise, or a psalm may be sung.” There is a similar description of this part of the Mass in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 163-164 and n. 88.

    [Extract from the English translation of the Ceremonial of Bishops ©1989, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.]

  10. Vatican II reminds us that the liturgy is the summit and font of Christian life. It also emphacizes active participation. Unfortunately, many are promoting the Eucharistic Revival only as Eucharistic Adoration. Isn’t the Revival also an invitation to return to regular and full participation at Sunday Mass?

    1. Chris — I agree with your “unfortunately,” but I think those who were away (because of CoVid) have already returned, and full participation has always been a sticking point depending on several factors.

  11. Regarding Exposition in one part of the church and Mass in another, I would find it hard to imagine most churches being arranged to allow that to happen. It would be possible in the larger churches in Rome and so it does indeed happen here, or in a situation where a weekday chapel is quite distinct from the principal part of the church. I think one key question to ask is “can the prayers and chants of the Mass be heard where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed?”, and if “Yes” is the answer, then the parts of the church are not really all that separate to allow the two liturgies to take place at the same time.
    As for the situation described in the first place: “Father, please follow the liturgical books, especially the introductory material inside the front cover of each volume. Thanks.”

  12. I discern two primary motives for the “Eucharistic Revival” now underway. The first revolves around those Catholics (mostly clergy) who want clearer “rules” or practices governing who may receive Holy Communion in good conscience. This includes bishops who are strongly in favor of excluding from Communion Catholics who are known publicly to dissent from key teachings of the church especially regarding abortion.
    The second has to do with the manner in which Christ is truly present in the consecrated species. The introduction to the Roman Missal, inspired by the teachings of Vatican II, make it clear that there are four ways in which Christ is really present when the Eucharist is being offered: 1)In the members of the worshiping assembly who have gathered in his name. 2)In the Word proclaimed. 3)In the ministry of the bishop/priest who are icons of Christ leading his people in worship. 4)Most especially, he is present in the Holy Eucharist so that we can fulfill his command to “take and eat” , “take and drink” in memory of his paschal mystery. I find it regrettable that after 50 years of liturgical renewal many advocates of the Eucharistic Revival want us to focus on adoring/worshiping Christ only after the Words of consecration in the Mass or in the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a monstrance.
    I strongly believe that this revival affords an opportunity for a thorough catechesis on how and why the whole church offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Praise with an emphasis on both interior and exterior participation. Just some thoughts from an old priest who has vivid memories of offering that catechesis over many years in many parishes.

    1. I am an older priest too, and have over the last 42 years offered proper catechesis on the four aspects of the Presence of Christ in the the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And like Fr. Jack, have encouraged both interior and exterior participation in the Mass as well as the proper way to receive Holy Communion be it on the tongue or the palm of the hand. And until the pandemic, the Common Chalice was offered in every parish I have been assigned. Adoration at the elevations is not inconsistent with receiving Holy Communion. Yet, in those 42 years, despite excellent catechesis, we continue to bleed membership, Hosts are brought back to the pews, found on the floor or in hymnals or missalettes or brought home and not to someone who is sick. In some places only 5% to 25% of Catholics bother to attend Mass. That doesn’t sound like a successful 50 years no matter how well a parish or diocese has promoted the proper understanding of the Mass and the presence of Christ therein.

    2. There is a major difference between Christ being present in the worshipping assembly, in the Word proclaimed and in the ministry of the bishop/priest and the Eucharist being the actual Body and Blood of Christ. These are not equivalent. The latter is properly an object of worship; the former are not. I find it regrettable that anyone would object to reminding Catholics of this truth. Additionally the Eucharistic sacrifice is primarily the action of Jesus Christ, not of the gathered faithful. It is only through Him, with Him, and in Him that the faithful join themselves to this sacrifice. Just thoughts from another old priest.

      1. Of course the post is about Solemn Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament whilst Mass is in progress. I have never experienced that as a Catholic living in both the pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II Church. Certainly it is quite rare to say the least. But the loss of faith as it concerns the Mass, and yes, the multiple ways in which we encounter Christ, the most dramatic, the faith of the Church that the Bread and Wine actually become the Risen Lord, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, is not being sustained today as it had been prior to the Second Vatican Council. There are multiple reasons for that, of course, but certain changes in the liturgy and the manner of receiving Holy Communion can’t be ruled out. America Magazine online recently reprinted an article by Fr. Andrew Greeley written in the 1990’s about the RCIA which makes some very good, valid points. Here’s a money-quote:
        “Like most liturgical innovations of the years since the Second Vati­can Council…this rite is not particularly distinguished either by its artistic beauty or by its linguistic felicity or by its responsiveness to human needs. It is spun out of historicist and academic concerns and displays no sensitivity to either the nature of contemporary religious experience or the cultural environments where it is to be exercised.”

      2. The decree of the Council of Trent reads:

        … Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, verum Deum atque hominem, vere, realiter, ac substantialiter sub specie illarum rerum sensibilium contineri.

        which translates as:

        … our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the species of those sensible things.

        It seems to me that the use of “actual” and “actually” (in the Allan M. response) go beyond the sacramental understanding of the “real presence” prudently adopted by the Trent Fathers.

        The same could be said about the use of ‘being” and “becoming” since any transformation is not “actual” but of “substance,” in the metaphysical sense. The decree expresses the belief of the Church that the presence of the Lord is “contained under.”

        While Eucharistic adoration seems to be a pillar of a renewed Eucharistic fever in some circles, perhaps to the detriment of Eucharistic eating and drinking to which Jesus invites us during the Last Supper, I cannot but recall the words of an Eastern Catholic presbyter. Immersed as he was in the Latin rite world, and while discussing the true presence from the perspective of his tradition, he asked, about Eucharistic adoration: “I have always wondered what exactly they are looking at.”

        As I probably too simplistically think that Eucharistic adoration greatly stems from a need by the faithful to be connected to the Lord in a time of great decline of the reception of the Eucharist, I can only hope that Ed Foley’s upcoming book on Eucharistic adoration will shed some much-needed light on the practice.

      3. And Ed Foley’s book is now out – I just saw it on the display table at Liturgical Press!

      4. Despite its roots, in modern English “actual” and “actually” mean “existing in fact or reality” and “in fact or really.” Thus they are equivalent to Trent’s use of vere and realiter.

        Likewise, substantia, like essentia, is a Latin translation for the Greek οὐσία. Thus ὁμοούσιος is rendered in Latin as consubstantialis. Therefore “substance” indeed (or should I say “actually”) means “being”; it is what is. One would be mistaken to take it to mean “matter.”

        Finally, it is not merely “the presence of the Lord”—as is elsewhere—that is contained in the Eucharist but the essence or being of Christ, under the “species,” i.e. the appearance, of bread and wine. The bread and wine are changed into Jesus Christ. This reality that the Eucharist is Christ is unique to it and sets it apart from other forms of his presence.

  13. “Substantia” does not represent “ousia” but is instead the equivalent in Aristotle of “to hupokeimenon,” what lies underneath, the basis. Emphasis upon “being” leads to treat the “appearances” as the opposite of the reality. “No, it isn’t really bread or wine, it’s the body and blood of Jesus.” Through the lens of “substance,” though, the appearances become the means of revealing the reality. Jesus’s command is to “eat” and “drink” that we might become the reality of his living Body, not to gaze and adore. As has been said here before, the current eucharistic revival seems to be more about transubstantiation than the celebration of the Mass in which Christ is present in four modes, which are incremental.

    1. The emphasis should be on the Divine Person of Jesus Christ. Therein lies the gift of faith by the grace of God. Preoccupation with the objects of bread and wine, with eating and drinking and the biological aspects of doing so can become a distraction and the object rather than the Divine Person becomes our focus and God forbid the object is what we worship. It takes no faith to believe what is before our eyes is bread and wine meant for our eating and drinking. But yes, the focus of the Eucharistic Revival should be on the manner in which we (clergy and laity) celebrate the Mass and if the manner of such contributes to an increase of Faith in the Most Holy Trinity leading to hope and love. If it is blah, nonchalant and like a Toastmasters meeting with great refreshments to eat and drink, I think I would prefer the Toastmasters meeting.

      1. The purpose of the Ecuharist is not to produce a Divine Person to adore but to build up the living Body of Christ by eating and drinking a common Meal. The “accidents” are not accidental but lead us to the core of the mystery/sacrament.

    2. As I have shown above with “actual/actually” you cannot just look at a words etymology to know its meaning. You must also look at its usage. The Latin substantia has been used as a translation for the Greek οὐσία since Boethius. Thus Aquinas states:

      I answer that, According to the Philosopher (Metaph. v), substance is twofold. In one sense it means the quiddity of a thing, signified by its definition, and thus we say that the definition means the substance of a thing; in which sense substance is called by the Greeks ousia, what we may call essence. (Summa Theologia, I, Q. 29. A. 2.)

      Again I point out the Greek ὁμοούσιος in the Nicene Creed was translate into in Latin as consubstantialis.

      Trent declared that the whole substance of the bread and wine, after the consecration, are converted into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, only the species or appearance of bread and wine remaining. Thus the statement is true that “it is not really bread and wine, it is the body and blood of Jesus.”

      Finally, it is only because the Eucharist is indeed the true body and blood of Jesus Christ that the reception of holy Communion has any value. Nor is communion to be opposed to adoration. Thus Trent declares:

      Wherefore, there is no room left for doubt, that all the faithful of Christ may, according to the custom ever received in the Catholic Church, render in veneration the worship of latria, which is due to the true God, to this most holy sacrament. For not therefore is it the less to be adored on this account, that it was instituted by Christ, the Lord, in order to be received: for we believe that same God to be present therein, of whom the eternal Father, when introducing him into the world, says; And let all the angels of God adore him; whom the Magi falling down, adored; who, in fine, as the Scripture testifies, was adored by the apostles in Galilee. (Session 13, Ch. V.)

      1. And perhaps the mediaevals misunderstood the Greek ancients? Think of the translation process that Boethius himself sponsored. Second hand knowledge can be problematic.

      2. The question is how Trent intended to use the term substantia. The common usage was the underlying reality, what is. Thus the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus Christ, no longer bread and wine. This idea that the bread and wine are truly changed into the body and blood of Christ can be seen all the way back to Justin Martyr. This is Catholic teaching. The Eucharist not just a common meal which builds up the body of Christ among the gathered faithful. As such, as Trent clearly declared, it is a proper object of adoration.

  14. As in most things Catholic, it isn’t either/or but both/and. A literalist approach to a convivial meal probably isn’t the best approach as what you describe is better realized in an actual meal like a Seder Meal.

    1. I am sorry, but I don’t understand your reply. What I have been articulating is, I believe, the doctrine of the Church as articulated by an ecumenical council.

      1. MM, I only partially disagree with you and that is that the Mass is not about adoration (worship) of God the Father through the Divine Person of Jesus Christ made present under the sacramental signs of Bread and Wine and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Adoration and Meal are not mutually exclusive. But as it concerns meal, that is highly stylized and minimalistic when it comes to the the “accidents” we receive. Of course each speck and drop of the Consecrated Bread and Wine is the Risen Lord in these Sacramental Signs, but a meal I would not call it. But yes, Jesus whole and complete under even the specks and drops of Bread and Wine is received in that “meal.’ I adore that!

  15. I am not denying that, Anthony; I am pointing out–as Aquinas did in his Oration Super Oblata for Corpus Christi, that the reason/purpose/goal for the change of the elements was to celebrate a common meal in order to bring unity within the living Body of Christ. As Chrysostom said, if you don’t see Christ in the beggar at the church door, you won’t find him in the chalice.

    1. The purpose was not simply to celebrate a common meal but to make present the sacrifice of the Cross to which we are joined through the participation in a sacrificial meal, the new Passover. Reducing the Eucharist to simply the celebration of a common meal makes it the action of the faithful rather than that of God. The gifts of unity and peace spoken of in the prayer are the result of our union with God; love of God leads to the love of one’s neighbor. As Trent states it: Jesus Christ “would also that this sacrament should be received as the spiritual food of souls, whereby may be fed and strengthened those who live with His life who said, He that eateth me, the same also shall live by me; and as an antidote, whereby we may be freed from daily faults, and be preserved from mortal sins.”

      The almost exclusive emphasis on the Mass being a common meal to the exclusion of it making present the sacrifice on the Cross is the major reason for the present crisis of faith in the Eucharist today and is in no way supported by Vatican II.

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