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The Hours at Eucharistic Adoration

Date: June 5, 2022
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.

Question: Can we integrate the Liturgy of the Hours during the Eucharist adoration? -- R.M., Meghalaya state, India

Answer: The rites of “Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass” mention the following criteria for the prayers to be used during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament:

"95. During the exposition there should be prayers, songs, and readings to direct the attention of the faithful to the worship of Christ the Lord. To encourage a prayerful spirit, there should be readings from Scripture with a brief homily or exhortations to develop a better understanding of the eucharistic mystery. It is also desirable for the people to respond to the word of God by singing and to spend some periods of time in religious silence."

"96. Part of the liturgy of the hours, especially the principal hours, may be celebrated before the blessed sacrament, when there is a lengthy period of exposition. This liturgy extends the praise and thanksgiving offered to God in the eucharistic celebration to the several hours of the day; it directs the prayers of the Church to Christ and through him to the Father in the name of the whole world."

Therefore, since the official liturgical books contemplate this possibility, it is possible to integrate Eucharistic adoration and the Divine Office.

There are also some worthy subsidies published by competent authorities that suggest practical means of carrying this out. For example, the Liturgy Office of the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales presents interesting suggestions at https://www.liturgyoffice.org.uk/Resources/Adoremus/Office-Notes.pdf.

Among the suggestions offered by this body are:

“The celebration of one of the Hours would be appropriate either as part of a short period of exposition or a prolonged one. Preference should be given to the ‘hinge hours’ of Morning and Evening Prayer which are considered the chief hours (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 89), though other hours may be celebrated.”

As to the structure of this celebration during adoration, one possibility would be:

Introduction, office hymn (if the exposition hymn has immediately preceded the office, then the office hymn may be omitted), psalmody, reading (homily), responsory, Gospel canticle (Benedictus or Magnificat), intercessions, Lord’s Prayer, closing prayer.

If adoration is to continue after praying the office, the blessing is omitted, although one of the other concluding formulas may be used.

If Benediction follows immediately after the office, then this may commence after the Lord’s Prayer.

A more detailed description of the rites and several alternatives are offered at the above-mentioned website. The site also offers suggestions as to the most appropriate choice of texts and offices, the appropriate postures, gestures, pacing, silence and music depending on the experience of the concrete congregation engaged in adoration.

As an aside, it is also permitted to pray the rosary during exposition.

In 1998 the Holy See clarified this point through a response and explanatory note published in Spanish in Notitiae, the official organ of the Congregation for Divine Worship (Notitiae [1998] 507-511). In January-February 1999 the newsletter of the U.S. bishops' Liturgy Committee published an unofficial translation of the Vatican congregation's notes, explaining the reasoning behind its decision. This says in part:

“In recent years, prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament has been increasingly appreciated once more. Two phenomena have been observed with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, namely: adoration takes place according to the same style and mentality and with the same prayers as before the Council, or it is celebrated in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Church's documents.

“Pastorally, this is an important time to encourage the prayer of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament according to the spirit of the Church documents. An opportunity to reorient this popular practice should not be wasted.

“The restoration of the rosary should be promoted in its authentic form, that is, with its Christological character. At times, the traditional manner of reciting the rosary would seem to be limited to a recitation of the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Currently in some places the stating of the mysteries is accompanied by a reading of a brief biblical text to assist in meditation. This is very positive. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Cf. 2708) indicated that Christian prayer ought to go further. It should lead to a knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him, finding great encouragement and support in liturgical prayer before the Eucharist.

“One should not expose the Eucharist only to recite the rosary. However, among the prayers that are used during adoration, the recitation of the rosary may certainly be included, emphasizing the Christological aspects with biblical readings relating to the mysteries, and providing time for silent adoration and meditation on them.

"During the exposition, the prayers, songs, and readings should be arranged so as to direct the attention of the faithful to the worship of Christ the Lord. To encourage a prayerful spirit, there should be readings from the Scriptures with a homily or brief exhortations to develop a better understanding of the Eucharistic mystery (Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, number 95). In the area of popular piety there is still much to be done so that pious exercises will support liturgical life and vice versa. There is a need to educate the Christian community to deepen the understanding of this pious exercise in order to appreciate fully its true worth.”

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Readers may send questions to zenit.liturgy@gmail.com. Please put the word "Liturgy" in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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