ROME, 10 MAY 2011 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: During the evening Mass on Maundy Thursday, my parish priest consecrates in addition to the wine used for the Mass, wine placed in a transparent glass container, which afterward is transported to the altar of repose. There he places a monstrance with the consecrated host, along with this transparent glass container with consecrated Precious Blood. He places these high above the altar (about 3 meters high) so that everyone can see and adore. Do you think that this is liturgically correct to put the Precious Blood in a glass container? He goes in procession from the main altar, where the Mass has been celebrated, to the altar of repose, moving very slowly so as not to spill on the floor from this glass container filled with the Blood. I personally find this whole thing more like a show than respect for the Eucharist. I wish to have your comments. — J.B., Malta
A: Today's follow-up is also related to this theme in which we quote a Vatican document expressly forbidding exposition in a monstrance on Holy Thursday. To wit: "The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a closed tabernacle or pyx. Under no circumstances may it be exposed in a monstrance."
It logically follows that the "exposition" of the Precious Blood is simply not contemplated, on Holy Thursday or on any other day of the year. In specific cases it is permitted to briefly reserve a small quantity of Our Lord's Blood to bring to those whose illness prevents their consuming solid food. Otherwise, reservation of the Sanguis is never allowed and it must be consumed entirely during each Mass.
Therefore, both of these expositions on Holy Thursday are abuses and the bishop should be duly informed.
Finally, there are also some other violations contained in this practice in relationship with the style, quality and material of the sacred vessels used for this purpose. The instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum clarifies the law in this respect:
"106. However, the pouring of the Blood of Christ after the consecration from one vessel to another is completely to be avoided, lest anything should happen that would be to the detriment of so great a mystery. Never to be used for containing the Blood of the Lord are flagons, bowls, or other vessels that are not fully in accord with the established norms.
"117. Sacred vessels for containing the Body and Blood of the Lord must be made in strict conformity with the norms of tradition and of the liturgical books The Bishops' Conferences have the faculty to decide whether it is appropriate, once their decisions have been given the recognitio by the Apostolic See, for sacred vessels to be made of other solid materials as well. It is strictly required, however, that such materials be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region, so that honor will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate."
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Follow-up: Exposition of the Precious Blood [5-24-2011]
With respect to our May 10 article on exposition on Holy Thursday, a reader from Texas commented that although I correctly stated that the bishop should be informed of the abuse, this should be done only after having first taken up the issue with the parish priest himself. I agree with this point, since the error might be the fruit of honest ignorance of the law and might be resolved immediately without recourse to possible disciplinary actions.
Meanwhile, an Irish reader offered some informative observations:
"1. As you are aware, the equating of adoration of the Eucharistic species outside of Mass (especially organized periods of adoration) and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance is becoming more and more the norm. The terminology is being confused repeatedly and this is being shown up in discussions around exposition during the Paschal Triduum.
"2. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is permitted in Poland — by indult of the Holy See — during the Paschal Triduum. I understand that a semi-transparent veil is used to veil the monstrance from the end of the Holy Thursday Mass and right through to the Easter Vigil.
Secondly, on Easter Sunday morning the early Mass remains quite popular in that country — the night vigil has had great difficulty in becoming popular due to restrictions placed upon people in socialist times (the night vigil becoming obligatory from 1956) — and the early morning Easter procession outside the church with the Blessed Sacrament is also quite popular. The current Roman Missal for Poland contains the details of the indult and the details of the ceremonies they follow there."
Similar indults may also exist in some other countries, allowing for exceptions to the universal laws. I am grateful to our correspondent for this helpful information which furthers our own and our readers' knowledge of the liturgy.