ROME, 30 MARCH 2010 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Is it permissible to kneel (priest, deacon and people) during
the penitential rite of the Mass during Lent? It seems to me to
be adding a rubric that is not there.
J.T., Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Q2: I've been told by priests who studied in Rome and observed
this in Rome that on Holy Thursday to transfer the Blessed
Sacrament to the altar of repose one may use the monstrance and
have exposition until midnight. Is this permitted? The sense
I've gotten from reading the rubrics is that the Blessed
Sacrament is transferred in a ciborium and then placed inside
the tabernacle and the door closed. If that is correct, though,
what does the rubric mean that there is to be no solemn
adoration after midnight? If the Eucharist, for adoration on
Holy Thursday, is kept inside the tabernacle, what makes it
solemn and what therefore must change after midnight?
J.S., Mobile, Alabama
A: With reference to the first question, I would say that
kneeling during the penitential rite is adding an unnecessary
rubric to the prescribed rites and should not be done.
If the Church is satisfied with leaving the penitential rubrics
unchanged during Lent, pastors should follow suit and not add
This is especially true for Sundays in which penitential or
impetrative kneeling, unlike kneeling as an act of adoration,
has not been in use since being banned by the Council of Nicaea
in A.D. 325. For this reason, when celebrations in which the
litany of saints is sung on a Sunday (for example, during
ordinations), the congregation remains standing.
On the other hand, the whole congregation may optionally kneel
during the great general intercessions on Good Friday. This may
be for the entire general intercessions or, if so decreed by the
bishops' conference, the deacon can direct the people to kneel
and rise for the common period of silent prayer between the
introduction to each intercession and the priest's solemn
Regarding the second question, I have lived in Rome for more
than 20 years and have never seen the monstrance used on Holy
Thursday. Rome being Rome, it is always possible that some
church or religious order has some immemorial privilege to
practice this usage. It could also be
since living in Rome does not per se concede infused knowledge
old-fashioned ignorance of liturgical law.
In this respect the law is very clear. The Congregation for
Divine Worship's circular letter on the Easter celebrations says
in No. 55: "The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a closed
tabernacle or pyx. Under no circumstances may it be exposed in a
The prohibition of solemn adoration after midnight when Good
Friday begins is because the liturgy's focus moves away from the
altar of repose and turns toward the Cross. Therefore, all
community activities before the altar of reposition such as holy
hours, the Liturgy of the Hours, community devotions and the
like should cease after midnight.
The faithful may continue to privately venerate the tabernacle
after this hour and until before the celebration of the Passion
on Good Friday, but community activities should be held
This is one reason why the place of reposition should not be
situated in the sanctuary area. It may be the usual tabernacle
if the church has a special Blessed Sacrament chapel, a side
altar, or a place set up especially for the occasion.
* * *
Follow-up: Extra Kneeling; Monstrance on Holy
Related to our replies on Holy Thursday adoration (see March 30)
was a question from Mumbai, India, regarding private adoration
during the night.
Our reader, a young layman, asked: "Our new parish priest [...]
pointed out that this practice of adoration through the night at
the altar of repose on Maundy Thursday/Good Friday was
'un-liturgical' and so our parish pastoral council decided to
stop it. In my copy of the Sunday Missal referring to the
instructions on the Holy Thursday, evening Mass liturgy, I found
the following at the end: 'The faithful should be encouraged to
continue adoration before the Blessed Sacrament for a suitable
period of time during the night, but there should be no solemn
adoration after midnight.' Therefore, here is my question: Is it
proper or permissible to have people gather together informally
for personal or collective prayer/adoration in vigil around the
altar of repose of the Blessed Sacrament continuing after
midnight through the night of Holy Thursday until Good Friday
I would say that it is proper and even recommendable for the
faithful to gather informally and privately during the night at
the altar of repose. It is even possible to organize turns so
that someone is always present during the night.
However, public activities such as songs, Bible reflections and
the like should cease after midnight.
Another reader, from Toronto, asked about the use of two
thuribles for the Holy Thursday procession of the Eucharist. He
wrote: "There still seems to be some question as to whether this
is indicated anywhere in the rubrics or simply a matter of each
individual pastor's choice. I found the use of two befitting of
the solemnity of the occasion, but a newer pastor I spoke with
said, and I quote, 'Just too much
too over the top!' Also, we discontinued the use of the
ombrellino to cover the celebrant carrying the Blessed
Sacrament in the solemn procession. Again, I found this fitting
The use of a second thurible on this day is recommended in the
description of the Mass of the Lord's Supper found in the
Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 297-311. Both censers immediately
precede the celebrant carrying the Eucharist. Therefore this
practice is most certainly not "over the top."
The use of a canopy is not mentioned in the rubrics for this day
but is still customary in some countries and is not forbidden.