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Eucharistic Benediction and Exposition

Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction

Exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is not only a very old devotion in our Church, but one that highlights the fundamental mystery of the Holy Eucharist– that our Lord is truly present, body and blood, soul and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament. In his 1980 Holy Thursday letter to priests, Dominicae cenae, Pope John Paul II wrote, “Since the Eucharistic mystery was instituted out of love, and makes Christ sacramentally present, it is worthy of thanksgiving and worship. And this worship must be prominent in all our encounters with the Blessed Sacrament…” (#3). While emphasizing the importance of the Mass, the Holy Father then recommends various forms of Eucharistic devotion: personal prayer and periods of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, exposition and benediction, Forty Hours devotion, Eucharistic processions, Eucharistic Congresses, and a special observance of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. All of these devotions which focus on the Blessed Sacrament aid in our spiritual union with our Lord. As Jesus said, “I myself am the Bread of Life. No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in me shall ever thirst” (John 6:35).

The ritual for exposition and benediction as presented in 1973 by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship basically follows this ritual: The priest places the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance or ostensorium on the altar for adoration. (A ciborium containing the Blessed Sacrament may also be used, but the monstrance allows one to view the Holy Eucharist.) At this time, a hymn of praise (such as O Salutaris Hostia) is sung as the priest incenses the Blessed Sacrament. During the period of adoration, the faithful may pray in quiet and foster a deeper spiritual communion with the Lord. However, the adoration period should also include prayers, such as a novena or Liturgy of the Hours, and readings from Sacred Scripture accompanied perhaps by a homily or exhortation to increase the understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. At the end of the period of adoration, the priest again incenses the Blessed Sacrament as a hymn of praise is sung (such as Tantum Ergo), and then blesses the congregation with the Blessed Sacrament, making the sign of the cross. After the blessing, the priest reposes the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.

Eucharistic exposition and benediction are part of the Church's official liturgy and is a complete liturgical service in its own right. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton offers Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament first Fridays of the month from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

...The solemn exposition of the Holy Eucharist offers the opportunity to the people of God for prayerful reflection on their call to a deeper devotion to the Eucharist and a more faithful living of the Christian life. It provides them with an opportunity to become more aware of Christ's presence with his people and invites them to a spiritual communion with him. (SEHC #5)
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