Clarification of Terms - Adoration and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament

Adoration and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament

Blessed John Paul II reminded the Church:

The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church. This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The presence of Christ under the sacred species reserved after Mass – a presence which lasts as long as the species of bread and of wine remain – derives from the celebration of the sacrifice and is directed towards communion, both sacramental and spiritual. It is the responsibility of Pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species (Ecclesia de Eucharisia, 25).

Pope Benedict XVI homily on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, 2012:

Worship of the Blessed Sacrament is, as it were, the spiritual ‘context' in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth. Only if it is preceded, accompanied and followed by this inner attitude of faith and adoration can the liturgical action express its full meaning and value. The encounter with Jesus in Holy Mass is truly and fully brought about when the community can recognize that in the Sacrament he dwells in his house, waits for us, invites us to his table, then, after the assembly is dismissed, stays with us, with his discreet and silent presence, and accompanies us with his intercession, continuing to gather our spiritual sacrifices and offer them to the Father.

The Eucharist...

Is "the source and summit of the Christian life" (LG 11). "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch" (PO 5). "The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit."(Eucharisticum mysterium, 6) Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking. (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4, 18, 5). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324-1327)

Clarification of Terms and Practices

Adoration: The acknowledgment of God as God, Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists. Through worship and prayer, the Church and individual persons give to God the adoration which is the first act of the virtue of religion. The first commandment of the law obliges us to adore God. Adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God is to acknowledge him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love. "You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve," says Jesus, citing Deuteronomy (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2096. Lk 4:8; cf. Deut 6:13).

Eucharistic Adoration is silent private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament housed within in the tabernacle (USCCB, Thirty-One Questions on Adoration and Blessed Sacrament, #8). This practice is strongly encouraged in every parish and may be observed over an extended period of time.

Eucharistic Exposition is the public liturgical ritual, found in the document Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass (HCWEOM), whereby the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in the monstrance or ciborium and either placed upon an altar or carried in procession for the veneration of the faithful. By its nature as a liturgical ritual, Eucharistic Exposition consists of the liturgical rites of Exposition, Adoration, Benediction, and Reposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The period of Adoration includes song, prayers, and readings to mark the time and to help direct the attention of the faithful. Suitable periods of silence are also required (HCWEOM, 95). A homily or reflection is also appropriate. 

The rite requires a number of people to be present before this liturgy is appropriately celebrated (HCWEOM 86,Eucharisticum mysterium, 63, Canon 942). Exposition is not permitted when only two or three are present. When sufficient numbers are not present, the Blessed Sacrament is reposed. Reposition of the Blessed Sacrament may not occur more than twice in a day (HCWEOM, 88). The exposed Blessed Sacrament must never be left unattended, even briefly (Redemptionis Sacramentum, 138). It is also never permitted to simply cover the Blessed Sacrament with a veil when unattended or to lock the Blessed Sacrament in a closet or room when unattended.

Shorter periods of Exposition may be scheduled. However, the period of Adoration must be suitably long enough for readings, songs and prayers prior to the Eucharistic Blessing. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament solely for the purpose of giving the benediction is prohibited (HCWEOM, 89). 

A period of Exposition may not be held in the same part of the church or oratory when Mass is being celebrated (Canon 941). It is recommended that where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, that Exposition be held at least once a year, provided that a suitable gathering of the faithful is expected and the norms of the liturgical books are observed (Canon 942). 

Benediction: Reserved to a bishop, priest or deacon, Benediction is a concluding blessing rite for the rite of Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament which includes an appropriate hymn, incensation of the Blessed Sacrament, a closing prayer and Eucharistic Blessing.