23 December 2009

Preaching coram Sanctissimo

It is a matter of great satisfaction to all right-thinking people that the English RC Church is increasingly recovering the extra-liturgical use of the Blessed Sacrament in Benediction and Exposition. I hope mention of one detail will not seem grudging.

I have seen Benediction which is interrupted after O Salutaris for a sermon. To my Anglican temperament, it seems highly inappropriate that the Blessed Sacrament, exposed in the monstrance, should be unregarded while the congregation sits down and attends to a homilist. O'Connell shares my instinct; sermons, he tells us, are discouraged during the Quarant'Ore although they may be tolerated if they are about the Eucharist. And he emphasises that it is unseemly for people to turn their backs on the Sacrament.

The old Anglo-Catholic practice was Evensong, Sermon, and Benediction. If it is desired to have a sermon at Benediction on its own, would it not be best to have it before the Sacrament is exposed? And, to give proper dignity to the Proclaimed Word, could not a passage of Scripture be read before the homily? Preceded, perhaps, by In nomine ... and Dominus vobiscum?


Acolyte said...

What is your view on Evensong/Eevening Prayer coram Sanctissimo. A nice idea perhaps, but with a lot of ritual moving around the focus moves away from the Host.

Kiran said...

Fr. John, this is slightly tangential, but what you wrote brought to the fore something which has been bothering me lately (though that concerns Pearson).

Have you ever written something in these pages about Bishop Gore? In particular about Gore on this matter. Why did he - who otherwise, I think, is so good - take the position he did?

I know you are not obliged, least of all at this time of year to answer this. But as a Catholic from an Anglican background, I'd be greatly indebted to you for an answer.

Michael McDonough said...

Fr. H,

In general, I think that what you are saying is proper. I would also say, as I have on other topics, that the US experience (which is certainly not normative) rarely, if ever, included anything like Lauds or Vespers for ordinary parishioners. We have been mostly missionary territory, and our homes are not typically clustered around villages or towns as would be the case in Europe and the Isles.

However, I have experienced meditations preached coram Sanctissimo where the priest not only did not stand at the ambo to preach, but rather sat off to the side, and where he directed his words to the Lord present in the Sacrament exposed. Essentially, he was helping the faithful to formulate prayer/meditation and direct their thoughts to Christ. I found it very edifying.

Christian said...

I do not like it very much either but the EWTN practice of having the homilist standing at right angles with the Blessed Sacrament so the laity see both at the same time seems a neet solution if it must happen.

Dale said...

To be honest, just about everything modernist Roman Catholics do simply makes me cringe.

But having people sit and listen to a sermon whilst the Blessed Sacrament is exposed on the altar, along with hiding the tabernacle in some out of the way alcove according to new liturgical directions, all seem directed, in some manner, in a lack of true belief in the Real Presence.

The lack of respect shown by the very reception of Our Lord's Body and Blood in the average Roman Church all seems to point to this lack of belief on a popular level.

Joshua said...

Tsk, Tsk!

We go all ecumenical to conciliate you Prods, and then you tell us off for doing as you do! Don't you know imitation, however grotesque, is the sincerest form of flattery?

After all, wasn't it Cranmer who brought us communion in the hand*, and Luther who brought us facing the people at Mass?

(* Please no clever-clever about the primitive Church, we all know that...)

Joshua said...

On a more serious note, here's Bp (then Mgr) Elliott, in his "Liturgical Question Box", writing about preaching during Exposition:

12.7 Preaching during Exposition of the Bl Sacrament

Q: In the past, the priest was forbidden to preach during exposition of the Bl Sacrament, unless it was a brief talk on the Eucharist. A small banner ("bannerette") was placed in front of the monstrance during such a short sermon. Does all this still apply?

A: Preaching in the presence of the Bl Sacrament exposed is mentioned explicitly in the current rite: "To encourage a prayerful spirit, there should be readings from scripture with a homily or brief exhortations to develop a better understanding of the eucharistic mystery" (Eucharistic Worship outside Mass, no. 95). Therefore homilies and "talks" are allowed, but the emphasis on a brief discourse remains in force. Too much preaching during adoration is discouraged. It is interesting to note, in the context of the spread of adoration in parishes, that our people are rediscovering the inestimable value of silence before the Lord.

Obviously the theme of preaching in this situation should be related to Our Lord in the Eucharist. In his comportment, words and gestures the preacher should show a devout awareness of the Presence of our Eucharistic Lord. Reverence would also suggest that the preacher should observe the custom of never turning his back on the monstrance. Naturally, he would make the appropriate reverence whenever passing in front of the altar of exposition. But there is no need to place anything in front of the monstrance during this kind of homily or sermon. In my opinion, such a practice would even detract from the intended effect of the words of the preacher.


So there you have it; Elliott opposes the reintroduction of the bannerette - but was it (unlike the maniple) ever abolished?

Mark M said...

Interesting discussion; thank you.

I have seen it done, just once, by an old Monsignor, who is always Very Correct about things. He did it well, but I do not know who else could pull it off the same.

God bless!