ROME, 31 JAN. 2012 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: At our church, exposition begins after the 8 a.m. Mass with the proper ritual. For five years our priests have followed the guidelines to repose the Blessed Sacrament during the 7 p.m. weekday Mass, and then after Mass the priest places the Host in the monstrance for an additional hour and a half so people who work could attend exposition. Our new pastor put the following in the bulletin. I am confused. Were our other priests wrong? This is what our new pastor wrote:
"Finally, I am reminded of an old Latin axiom from the Church: Lex orandi, lex credendi. The translation is the law of praying is the law of believing. It basically means that prayers express belief. A change that I will have to make concerns the exposition of the Eucharist on Wednesdays. Currently, solemn exposition begins after the 8:00 AM Mass and continues until 9:00 PM with benediction. Eucharistic adoration is a good and holy act which I fully encourage and support. The problem is that the 7:00 PM family Mass becomes an 'interruption' to Eucharistic adoration when it should rather be the culmination. The Church's introduction from the Order of the Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist states: 'Exposition of the Holy Eucharist, either in the ciborium or in a monstrance, leads us to acknowledge Christ's marvelous presence in the sacrament and invites us to the spiritual union with him that culminates in sacramental communion .... In such exposition care must be taken that everything clearly brings out the meaning of Eucharistic worship in its correlation with the Mass.' The highest act of Eucharistic adoration, therefore, is the Mass itself and the ultimate blessing comes from actually receiving the Eucharist in communion. Having the Mass sort of interjected within exposition obscures what we truly believe and does not follow the liturgical norms of the universal Church. These concerns were also acknowledged by our diocesan office of worship. As a result, we will change the practice slightly by moving up benediction to 6:30 PM. and then to follow it with the family evening Mass at 7:00." — A.B., Florida
A: The tone and content of the pastor's message leaves little doubt that the priest is sincerely desirous of following correct norms. The question is one of interpretation of the law.
The former pastors obviously considered that offering those who worked late the opportunity of sharing in adoration merited prolonging it beyond the time of the Mass. The present pastor gives more weight to what he believes to be liturgical coherence.
While both views merit due respect, I do not believe that the norms cited in the message necessarily imply that adoration has to end before the 7 p.m. Mass. Nothing in the norms would impede adoration being prolonged until midnight, or all night long, provided there were sufficient adorers present at all times. The only thing absolutely required is that adoration must be interrupted for the celebration of Mass.
The text quoted from the introduction to the Order of Solemn Exposition enunciates general principles regarding the relationship between adoration and Mass and is not meant as a practical norm to be applied rigidly.
There are many ways to bring out the “meaning of Eucharistic worship in its correlation with the Mass” without having to necessarily conclude the adoration before Mass. For example such correlation can be highlighted through appropriate prayers, reflections and songs.
There are also some practices to be avoided so that this correlation is not obscured and especially that it remains clear that, as the pastor said, "The highest act of adoration is the Mass itself."
This is why it is no longer permitted to celebrate before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. The Mass, as the infinite sacrifice of Christ, cannot be made more holy by the presence of the monstrance, and this practice can easily detract attention from the Church's supreme act of worship.
While this is true, I see no difficulty in attending to the spiritual needs of those who may not be able to arrive at the 7 p.m. Mass and yet desire some time before the Lord.