|ROME, 26 JULY 2005 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: Is it permitted to have adoration by simply opening the door of the
tabernacle, and leaving it open for an hour? I was told that this was
OK, and that it was in the "book." Could you please tell me what book,
and where this came from?
P.P., Miami Springs, Florida. Q: During solemn exposition of the Blessed
Sacrament I have seen so many different signs of adoration that I am
confused. Is it supposed to be the single genuflection, just as you
would before the closed tabernacle? Or is it the long, solemn, single
genuflection, more pronounced than before the tabernacle? Or is it the
double genuflection (getting on both knees)?
M.P., Columbia, Maryland
A: Before the Second Vatican Council, opening the tabernacle door was
more common as a simpler form of adoration, especially in convents and
oratories. In some cases the abbess or mother superior had special
permission to open the tabernacle and expose the pyx.
Sometimes, especially in convents that practiced perpetual adoration,
the Blessed Sacrament was permanently exposed in a small monstrance
within the tabernacle or in a large monstrance above the tabernacle
which was veiled from view during Mass and other ceremonies by an
ingenious swivel door. This method, which is still used in some places,
allowed for exposition to be interrupted and restored on a regular basis
without recourse to incense or other ceremonies.
In a present parish context, or even in religious houses, exposition by
opening the tabernacle is no longer necessary, since any minister who
has the faculty to open the tabernacle, either in virtue of the
sacrament of orders or by special permission of the bishop, may also
place the pyx on the altar or place the host in a monstrance upon the
While there is no express prohibition to exposition by opening the
tabernacle, the directives of the liturgical books actually in force
make no mention of this option and presume that both solemn and simple
exposition is upon an altar.
Only an ordained minister may give Benediction. Another approved
minister simply replaces the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle without
ceremony when the period of adoration has concluded.
With respect to the genuflection: Since a genuflection is, per se, an
act of adoration, the general liturgical norms no longer make any
distinction between the mode of adoring Christ reserved in the
tabernacle or exposed upon the altar. The simple single genuflection on
one knee may be used in all cases.
However, some bishops' conferences have voted to retain the use of the
double genuflection for the Blessed Sacrament exposed, and it would be
required in these countries. In this case, those who make the double
genuflection kneel briefly on both knees and reverently incline the head
with hands joined.
Needless to say, the simple genuflection should never be reduced to a
sudden spasm in the right knee. The right knee should touch the place
where the right foot stood while head and back remain straight. The
gesture of adoration should be performed with due pause.
When I was young a wise priest taught me to recite the invocation "My
Jesus, I adore you in the sacrament of your love" so as to gauge a
reasonable time to remain knee to floor. One could stay longer perhaps,
but it is a fairly safe rule of thumb. ZE05072627
* * *
Follow-up: Tabernacles and Adoration [08-23-2005]
Several questions have arisen regarding the tabernacle, adoration and
proper reverence (see July 26).
Some readers asked if, after adoration, it were sufficient to place a
cloth over the monstrance or draw a wooden screen before the altar in
order to reserve the Blessed Sacrament.
For example, an English reader writes: "I was told that it was OK for
the door to the Blessed Sacrament chapel to be left ajar as no one is in
room, when others are still in the building even if they are not aware
of the Presence in chapel. Is it OK for a cloth to be placed over the
monstrance while alone and the next person to uncover it when the
building is empty? I myself am not happy with these ideas and would like
some advice and, if I am right, a document or suchlike that I can show
so this will not happen."
According to "Redemptionis Sacramentum," No. 131:
"Apart from the prescriptions of canon 934 §§ 1, it is forbidden to
reserve the Blessed Sacrament in a place that is not subject in a secure
way to the authority of the diocesan Bishop, or where there is a danger
of profanation. Where such is the case, the diocesan Bishop should
immediately revoke any permission for reservation of the Eucharist that
may already have been granted."
Note this norm refers to the security of the tabernacle, which is
generally locked and bolted or otherwise fixed in place so that even if
thieves were to enter the building they could not easily access the
tabernacle or remove it entirely.
If this is true of the tabernacle, it should be clear that it is totally
insufficient to simply cover or hide the monstrance. Once adoration is
over, the Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a secure tabernacle.
Regarding leaving the Blessed Sacrament alone during exposition, once
more "Redemptionis Sacramentum" is clear, in No. 138:
"Still, the Most Holy Sacrament, when exposed, must never be left
unattended even for the briefest space of time. It should therefore be
arranged that at least some of the faithful always be present at fixed
times, even if they take alternating turns."
Another question concerned the number of candles to be used during
Four or six candles may be used although widespread custom allows for
more. There are no special norms, such as the proportion of wax,
regarding the makeup of candles for adoration. Those candles should
follow the same general requirements as for altar candles.
Finally, a California reader poses the following question: "We have just
begun perpetual adoration in our parish and are extremely grateful to
our pastor for allowing us the opportunity to adore Our Lord 24 hours a
day, seven days a week. My only concern was the presence of a locked
tabernacle that contains consecrated hosts off to the side, but inside
the small room where Jesus is exposed on the altar in the monstrance.
The extraordinary ministers of Communion are now being instructed to
enter into the small chapel for consecrated hosts to bring to their
homebound. I was just wondering if the disturbance of them coming in to
retrieve the Sacred Hosts somehow takes away from our focus on Jesus on
the altar and if this is allowable according to the Church's
specifications? I am more concerned with the respect and reverence given
to the Blessed Sacrament ... and not so much for the convenience of the
homebound ministers. Any direction would be greatly appreciated and
While unaware of the structure of the church in question, I would
suppose that the pastor is seeking to be faithful to the general
liturgical norm that there not be more than one tabernacle or
I am sure that any "disturbance" caused by the entrance of the
extraordinary ministers of Communion would be momentary and would show
no disrespect to the Blessed Sacrament. After all, the primary purpose
of Eucharistic reservation is to be able to bring Communion to the sick.
Indeed, it could also serve as a reminder and an opportunity for the
adorers to unite their thoughts and prayers to those members of the
community who, due to illness, are unable to avail of the privilege of
A reader from Kalgoorlie, Australia, asked what is the proper act of
reverence for those who are physically unable to make a genuflection.
This is a difficulty experienced even by young people who have suffered
sports injuries, and in this case the general principle "ad impossibilia
nemo tenetur" (the impossible obliges nobody) is applied.
It is enough for such people to do whatever act they are capable of: a
deep bow; slowly going down on the knee in a pew; or, if even this is
impossible, fulfilling the essential act of adoration which is an
interior and spiritual movement of which the external gesture is an
Our late great Holy Father John Paul II exemplified this reverence,
often pushing himself to heroic sacrifices in kneeling before the
Blessed Sacrament. Toward the end, when even this was impossible, he
adored with his eyes and his heart. ZE05082321