Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is a devotional ceremony celebrated within the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as in some Anglican Churches, Western Rite Orthodox churches , and Latinised Eastern Catholic Churches.
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament begins with the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (i.e., consecrated Host) in a monstrance set upon the altar. The liturgy includes singing the ancient Latin hymns written by St Thomas Aquinas, O Salutaris Hostia and Tantum Ergo, followed by the benediction proper. The celebrant holds the monstrance wearing a humeral veil covering his shoulders, arms and hands, and then blesses the faithful with the Blessed Sacrament by tracing the sign of the cross with the monstrance held steadily upright before him. The liturgy concludes with the Divine Praises and Psalm 117 with the antiphon, "Let us forever adore the Most Holy Sacrament."
Rite of Benediction
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
The priest or deacon takes the consecrated host out of the tabernacle and places it in the monstrance (which has already been placed on the altar) while the faithful sing O Salutaris Hostia. The faithful kneel at the moment of exposition.
When there is an extended adoration over the course of the day or days, an opening prayer suitable for the occasion collecting and offering the praise and the prayers of the faithful may be offered by the priest or deacon.
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is almost always done in silence. Where readings, songs, psalms, devotional prayers (such as the rosary, litany or a novena prayer) or a homily are incorporated, there are still usually lengthy periods of sacred silence for the faithful to be present to Christ in the Eucharist without distraction. Solemn Vespers or Evensong is often sung in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
Bringing adoration to a close and in preparation for the benediction while all kneel, the priest or deacon censes the exposed host while the faithful sing the Tantum Ergo. This is followed by a versicle and response:
V/ Panem de Caelo praestitisti eis.
R/ Omne delectamentum in se habentem.
V/ Thou gavest [or You gave] them bread from heaven.
R/ Containing within itself all sweetness.
Often Divine Praises are said, although this is not a prescribed part of the rite. After the benediction the priest removes the humeral veil and, while kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, leads the faithful in the recitation or chanting of the Divine Praises.
Psalm 117 is sung with the antiphon "Let us adore forever the most holy sacrament" while the priest returns the Blessed Sacrament to the tabernacle.
Adoration outside of Mass
The Blessed Sacrament is also adored by Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics outside of any liturgical rite. Some have cited reference to St. Basil in the fourth century , but Franciscan archives credit Saint Francis of Assisi (who died in 1226) for starting this devotion in Italy. The lay practice of adoration in France formally began in Avignon in September 1226. The adoration may also be nightly; e.g., the Venerable Leo Dupont initiated nightly adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in Tours in 1849, whence it spread within France. There are religious orders of monks and nuns committed to perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; some of their number (on a roster) always present in the chapel before the exposed Host.
The adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass (extra-eucharistic devotion) is attested in numerous Catholic writings and inspirations; e.g., significant portions of the writings of the Venerable Concepcion Cabrera de Armida are reportedly based on her adorations of the Blessed Sacrament . Cabrera de Armida did not represent her writings as interior locutions or visions of Jesus and Mary but as her meditations and inspirations during Eucharistic adoration.
Although the concept of the adoration of the Sacred Mysteries (Blessed Sacrament) outside of the context of Holy Communion is foreign to Eastern Christian (Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic) sacramental theology, veneration takes place during the Divine Liturgy even by those who are not receiving Communion. When the deacon brings the chalice out before the Communion of the Faithful, all either make a full prostration or bow, depending upon the day. A second veneration may be said to take place after Commuion when the priest elevates the chalice before taking it to the Table of Oblation.
Also, at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, during the Great Entrance, as the priest carries the chalice and diskos (paten) to the Holy Doors, everyone prostrates themselves in veneration before the consecrated Gifts.
- Franciscan Archives: http://www.franciscan-archive.org/patriarcha/opera/fwintro.html
- McMahon, Joseph H. (1913). "Perpetual adoration". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01152a.htm.
- Dorthy Scalan. The Holy Man of Tours. (1990) ISBN 0895553902
- Concepción Cabrera de Armida. I Am: Eucharistic Meditations on the Gospel ISBN 0818908904