Disputation of the Eucharist, Raphael, 1510

Tabernacle, 1493

Ciborium, 1302

13th c. illum .ms.

Monstrance, 1580






(Ox.D.C.Ch.) FOR more than a thousand years of the Church’s history it was not customary to show public devotion to the Reserved Sacrament. From c. the 11th cent., however, in the W. there were the beginnings of a public manifestation of faith and love of the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This showed itself in the desire of the people to look at the Host when elevated during Mass (see elevation); to have it exposed for veneration outside Mass, and carried in solemn processions. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament as a service apart from Mass is first found in the late 14th cent.

In modern practice there are two forms of exposition: (1) the solemn form when a large Host is exposed to view in a monstrance, placed on or above the altar, surrounded by lights and often by flowers, and censed; and (2) the simple form in which the ciborium containing Hosts for Communion is shown at the open doors of the tabernacle. Since 1967 in the RC Church exposition may always be by either form; it takes place in accordance with the regulations of the bishop. In either case there are biblical readings, hymns, prayers, and a time of silence, and sometimes a homily. The rite concludes with the blessing of the people with the Host (veiled in the simple form of exposition). In the past the blessing was often given after only a brief period of exposition, in a form of the service popularly known as ‘Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament’; it is now forbidden to give the blessing on its own. See also forthy hours’ devotion.

J. B. Thiers, Traité de l’exposition du St Sacrement de l’autel (Paris, 1673). F. Raible, Das Tabernakel einst und jetzt: Eine historische und liturgische Darstellung der Andacht zur aufbewahrten Eucharistie (1908), pp. 150–316 passim. H. Thurston, SJ, ‘Our Popular Devotions’, no. 4, ‘Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament: Part II, Exposition’, The Month, 98 (1901), pp. 58–69; id., ‘Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament’, ibid. 99 (1902), pp. 537–40. E. Dumoutet, Le Désir de voir l’Hostie et les origines de la dévotion au Saint Sacrament (1927), pp. 75–98. The current RC legislation on Exposition and Benediction is contained in the section of the Rituale Romanum, De Sacra Communione et de Cultu Mysterii Eucharistici extra Missam (1973), nos. 82–100 (pp. 38–42); Eng. tr., Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, 1, Rites (1978), pp. 44–54, with supplementary appendix on the ‘Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction’, pp. 64–95. N. Mitchell, OSB, Cult and Controversy: The Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass (Studies in the Reformed Rites of the Catholic Church, 4; New York, 1982), esp. pp. 176–81, 211–13, 337–40. H. Thurston, SJ, in CE 5 (1909), pp. 713 f., s.v., with bibl.





(Ox.D.C.Ch.) A SERVICE in the W. Church culminating in the blessing of the people with the Reserved Sacrament. A comparatively late form of worship, it developed from the fusion of the veneration of the Host exposed outside Mass, which dates from the 14th cent., with the custom of the confraternities and guilds singing the Salve Regina or other antiphons to the BVM on Saturday evenings. The Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament concluded (as it normally still does) with the blessing of the people with the Host. The giving of such a blessing was in keeping with the medieval practice of ending popular devotions by blessing with a sacred object (e.g. a crucifix or relic) those who took part in them. The blessing or benediction with the Blessed Sacrament came to be regarded as the focal point of the service, and from about the 16th cent. it often followed a comparatively brief period of exposition, giving its name to the devotion which was the most common form of evening service in RC churches until the introduction of Evening Masses after 1953. It is now forbidden to give such a blessing except at the end of a service including biblical readings and a reasonable period of exposition. For details of the service, see exposition of the blessed sacrament. A comparable service came into use in parts of the Anglican Communion in the late 19th—early 20th cent., sometimes called ‘Adoration’ or ‘Devotions’.

For current RC legislation on Benediction and Exposition, see bibl. to exposition. Series of arts. by H. Thurston, SJ, in The Month, 97 (1901), pp. 587–97; 98 (1901), pp. 58–69, 186–93, 264–76; and 106 (1905), pp. 394–404. Id., ‘Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament’, in Report of the Nineteenth Eucharistic Congress, held at Westminster from 9th to 13th September 1908 (1909), pp. 452–64. N. Mitchell, OSB, Cult and Controversy: The Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass (Studies in the Reformed Rites of the Catholic Church, 4; New York, 1982), esp. pp. 181–5 and 322–31.





(OX.D.C.Ch.) THE vessel, also known as an ‘ostensorium’, used for exposing relics or, more usually, the Eucharistic Host for veneration. In its modern form it normally consists of a disc-shaped receptacle, framed by gold or silver rays, with a glass window through which the Host may be seen by the people. When the cultus of the Blessed Sacrament began to spread in the later Middle Ages, the Host was at first venerated in a closed ciborium, but later a transparent cylindrical container became customary, and by the late 15th cent. the monstrance had assumed its present shape.

Braun, AG (1932), pp. 348–411, with pls. 62–78. M. Andrieu, ‘Aux origines du culte du Saint-Sacrement. Reliquaires et monstrances eucharistiques’, Anal. Boll. 68 (1950), pp. 397–418. L. Perpeet-Frech, Die gotischen Monstranzen im Rheinland (Bonner Beiträge zur Kunstwissenschaft, 7; Düsseldorf, 1964). C. C. Kovacs, ‘Monstrances’, in Eucharistic Vessels of the Middle Ages: Exhibition Catalogue, Busch-Reisinger Museum (Cambridge, Mass., 1975), pp. 97–109.



On The Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission
  Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of Benedict XVI.
February 22, 2007






Interior participation in the celebration




   Mystagogical catechesis


64. The Church's great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated, offering one's life to God in unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world. For this reason, the Synod of Bishops asked that the faithful be helped to make their interior dispositions correspond to their gestures and words. Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism. Hence the need to provide an education in eucharistic faith capable of enabling the faithful to live personally what they celebrate. Given the vital importance of this personal and conscious participatio, what methods of formation are needed? The Synod Fathers unanimously indicated, in this regard, a mystagogical approach to catechesis, which would lead the faithful to understand more deeply the mysteries being celebrated. (186) In particular, given the close relationship between the ars celebrandi and an actuosa participatio, it must first be said that "the best catechesis on the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself, celebrated well." (187) By its nature, the liturgy can be pedagogically effective in helping the faithful to enter more deeply into the mystery being celebrated. That is why, in the Church's most ancient tradition, the process of Christian formation always had an experiential character. While not neglecting a systematic understanding of the content of the faith, it centred on a vital and convincing encounter with Christ, as proclaimed by authentic witnesses. It is first and foremost the witness who introduces others to the mysteries. Naturally, this initial encounter gains depth through catechesis and finds its source and summit in the celebration of the Eucharist. This basic structure of the Christian experience calls for a process of mystagogy which should always respect three elements:

a) It interprets the rites in the light of the events of our salvation, in accordance with the Church's living tradition. The celebration of the Eucharist, in its infinite richness, makes constant reference to salvation history. In Christ crucified and risen, we truly celebrate the one who has united all things in himself (cf. Eph 1:10). From the beginning, the Christian community has interpreted the events of Jesus' life, and the Paschal Mystery in particular, in relation to the entire history of the Old Testament.

b) A mystagogical catechesis must also be concerned with presenting the meaning of the signs contained in the rites. This is particularly important in a highly technological age like our own, which risks losing the ability to appreciate signs and symbols. More than simply conveying information, a mystagogical catechesis should be capable of making the faithful more sensitive to the language of signs and gestures which, together with the word, make up the rite.

c) Finally, a mystagogical catechesis must be concerned with bringing out the significance of the rites for the Christian life in all its dimensions – work and responsibility, thoughts and emotions, activity and repose. Part of the mystagogical process is to demonstrate how the mysteries celebrated in the rite are linked to the missionary responsibility of the faithful. The mature fruit of mystagogy is an awareness that one's life is being progressively transformed by the holy mysteries being celebrated. The aim of all Christian education, moreover, is to train the believer in an adult faith that can make him a "new creation", capable of bearing witness in his surroundings to the Christian hope that inspires him.

If we are to succeed in carrying out this work of education in our ecclesial communities, those responsible for formation must be adequately prepared. Indeed, the whole people of God should feel involved in this formation. Each Christian community is called to be a place where people can be taught about the mysteries celebrated in faith. In this regard, the Synod Fathers called for greater involvement by communities of consecrated life, movements and groups which, by their specific charisms, can give new impetus to Christian formation. (188) In our time, too, the Holy Spirit freely bestows his gifts to sustain the apostolic mission of the Church, which is charged with spreading the faith and bringing it to maturity. (189)


   Reverence for the Eucharist


65. A convincing indication of the effectiveness of eucharistic catechesis is surely an increased sense of the mystery of God present among us. This can be expressed in concrete outward signs of reverence for the Eucharist which the process of mystagogy should inculcate in the faithful. (190) I am thinking in general of the importance of gestures and posture, such as kneeling during the central moments of the Eucharistic Prayer. Amid the legitimate diversity of signs used in the context of different cultures, everyone should be able to experience and express the awareness that at each celebration we stand before the infinite majesty of God, who comes to us in the lowliness of the sacramental signs.




Adoration and Eucharistic devotion





   The intrinsic relationship between celebration and adoration


66. One of the most moving moments of the Synod came when we gathered in Saint Peter's Basilica, together with a great number of the faithful, for eucharistic adoration. In this act of prayer, and not just in words, the assembly of Bishops wanted to point out the intrinsic relationship between eucharistic celebration and eucharistic adoration. A growing appreciation of this significant aspect of the Church's faith has been an important part of our experience in the years following the liturgical renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council. 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." (191) 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. (192) 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." (193)


   The practice of eucharistic adoration


67. With the Synod Assembly, therefore, I heartily recommend to the Church's pastors and to the People of God the practice of eucharistic adoration, both individually and in community. (194) Great benefit would ensue from a suitable catechesis explaining the importance of this act of worship, which enables the faithful to experience the liturgical celebration more fully and more fruitfully. Wherever possible, it would be appropriate, especially in densely populated areas, to set aside specific churches or oratories for perpetual adoration. I also recommend that, in their catechetical training, and especially in their preparation for First Holy Communion, children be taught the meaning and the beauty of spending time with Jesus, and helped to cultivate a sense of awe before his presence in the Eucharist.

Here I would like to express appreciation and support for all those Institutes of Consecrated Life whose members dedicate a significant amount of time to eucharistic adoration. In this way they give us an example of lives shaped by the Lord's real presence. I would also like to encourage those associations of the faithful and confraternities specifically devoted to eucharistic adoration; they serve as a leaven of contemplation for the whole Church and a summons to individuals and communities to place Christ at the centre of their lives.


   Forms of eucharistic devotion


68. The personal relationship which the individual believer establishes with Jesus present in the Eucharist constantly points beyond itself to the whole communion of the Church and nourishes a fuller sense of membership in the Body of Christ. For this reason, besides encouraging individual believers to make time for personal prayer before the Sacrament of the Altar, I feel obliged to urge parishes and other church groups to set aside times for collective adoration. Naturally, already existing forms of eucharistic piety retain their full value. I am thinking, for example, of processions with the Blessed Sacrament, especially the traditional procession on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Forty Hours devotion, local, national and international Eucharistic Congresses, and other similar initiatives. If suitably updated and adapted to local circumstances, these forms of devotion are still worthy of being practised today. (195)


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