Lo! the sacred Host we hail

BENEDICTION was at 5.00 pm.  At half past four the Church was full, the benches crowded, the people kneeling in the aisles … it is in Benediction that hundreds find the only visible beauty that shines out on the drabness of their lives, like stars burning into a grey twilight.

It is an easy and sweet ceremony, with the singing of hymns (my favourite has always been the “Tantum ergo sacramentum …”), and the relief of prayers spoken out loud, a sweetness, a gentleness, a goodnight to the little flock …

Father Christopher unlocked the Tabernacle door and lifted out the Sacred Host.  Walking carefully and slowly, as St. Joseph might have done when Our Lady put the Divine Child into his arms to carry, he went up to the Altar, up the tiny steps, and set the great Monstrance on its throne.

1Again there was a lurching forward, a rattling and creaking and dropping as the congregation plunged and dived down into adoration.

The heads of the children went down, the rows of the boys’ heads, like round knobs of unpolished wood. One tiny little girl, a First Communicant of the year, squinted through her locked fingers, and screwed up her eyes, to see the gilded rays of the Monstrance blurred as if they were real glory …

Again the bell rang out, loud and sweet and solemn, the bell of Benediction.

It shivered into silence.

3Silence possessed the people.

Silence possessed our souls.

Not the silence of emptiness, but of fullness, of a crescendo of expec-tation, like a towering wave, gathered to the whole of its strength, lifted up to its full height, pausing in the moment of its utmost integrity, before rolling on, to fling itself forward and break upon the rocks.

Father Christopher lifted the great Monstrance above the bowed heads, held it up for a moment before his plain face, suffused with love, as if he held the sun up, burning in his hands.  Slowly he made the Sign of the Cross with it, lowered it onto the Altar and knelt before it.

The flowers on the Altar breathed the shimmering breath of the candle flame.

The incence rose in straight blue lines through the haze of gold.

2“Blessed be God”, said the priest, and the wave broke, surging, tumbling, rushing forward in a torrent of praise.

“Blessed be God”, roared the people …

Now the “Adoremus” rose, gentle as a caress and flowing over the Sacred Host, as Father Christopher lifted It from the Monstrance, put It back into the Tabernacle and locked the door.

That’s how I remember Benediction.


14 Responses to “Lo! the sacred Host we hail”

  1. 1 Katherine Jane July 29, 2009 at 14:51

    Gabriella, this is very different from the ‘Quiet Prayer’ or ‘Adoration’ we have at our NO parish church 🙂
    We don’t have Latin hymns, of course, and the little incence used doesn’t give out the classic ‘incence smell’ (probably it’s made of chemical stuff) and a priest in a cope is virtually unthinkable. This time of silent prayer is guided by some invocations concerning vaguely political issues (if not personal issues of the few faithful present) — the economic relationship of Europe with the Third World, for example — or by someone announcing references to news events of the past week, such as bombs in Northern Ireland or discussions about the need for world peace.

  2. 2 Brian July 29, 2009 at 15:19

    Dear Gabriella,

    As always, your words are beautiful. I have not found such profound insight on the net as I find here. I too find Benediction, after Holy Mass, to be the most special of liturgies. In my parish, every forth Monday is “Respect for Life” day. We begin with Holy Mass at 11:30am. After Mass the Blessed Sacrament is exposed until 7:30pm, then begins Benediction. We are blessed with a most holy priest in our parish who celebrates Benediction – just as you recall in your post, “Lo! the sacred Host we hail.” Our priest was educated in Rome – he sings beautifully in Latin. The problem we have is that there are not many people who attend Benediction. It is very sad. We have to find ways to invite the young people – many have never experienced Benediction. I believe they would fall in love with Benediction, and as a matter of course, fall in love with Jesus.

    Thank you so much!

  3. 3 Deanna July 29, 2009 at 18:22

    Eucharistic adoration is a great blessing! Since we believe that Jesus is actually physically present in the Eucharist, we can go and spend time with Him, adoring Him. Many churches have adoration chapels (I’m blessed that my church has it 24 hrs a day/7 days a week) and you can sign up and commit to being there at a certain time for an hour each week so that Jesus is never left alone. The hour commitment is urged/offered as an acceptance of Jesus words in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Could you not spend one hour with Me?”. Working full-time and having a young child it’s a bit difficult for me to commit to an hour right now so I just go whenever I can for whatever amount of time I can. (I especially like being in adoration after going to confession.)

    As far as how you do it, there are many ways: you can pray the Rosary, the chaplet of Divine Mercy, or any other prayers; you can read books by/about saints, the Church, etc.; or you can simply sit in the presence of Jesus and quiet your heart and mind and let Him do the talking. I find when I go (which isn’t nearly as often as it should be) a combination of prayer and quiet is good. It’s a beautiful blessing.

  4. 4 Kieran July 29, 2009 at 18:30

    Deanna, just to get the terminology absolutely clear, Adoration is when the host is placed in a monstrance (a specially designed glass-and-gold display case) and placed on the altar for parishioners to visit and adore.

    Benediction, is a beautiful little ceremony where the faithful, with the priest, adore and pray God and receive a blessing.
    The priest wears a special vestment called a humeral veil for this because, although he picks up the monstrance and makes the sign of the Cross with it, it is not himself giving the blessing.


  5. 5 Cinzia July 30, 2009 at 01:12

    Gabriella – how do you do it? All I can say is “wow” yet again!

    I remember Benediction from my childhood days, but could I ever have described it, felt it, written about it with such insightfulness, love and beauty as you have?

    Not in a million years.

    What a magnificent post! It has given me this yearning to drop everything right here right now and go to Benediction just like this one, fall on my knees and be a part of all its splendour and wonder …. but where?

  6. 6 anne bender July 30, 2009 at 02:51

    Gabriella-this is gorgeous! Just gorgeous! I love your descriptions of the the children, your descriptions of the whole adoration and benediction experience. It is the most beautiful experience in the world next to the Mass. I am so excited to go to Mass, Benediction, Adoration and Rosary this Friday night. Thank you so much for the wonderful post! I have a friend who just shared a story with me about an extremely large Monstrance and Host in Chicago. I will be posting about it this weekend hopefully. God bless you Gabriella, you are so wonderful!

  7. 7 Antonella Oliver July 30, 2009 at 09:08

    Gabriella we too have Benediction here at our church and yes we still sing the Tantum Ergo and O Salutaris Hostia……definitely the Adoration is really beautiful etc. I agree with Deanna too……Eucharistic Adoration also takes part in our Church on Holy Thursday.

    Cant help feeling for those priests who are/were in concentration camps and in prisons who have to hide the host and perform Mass in secret. Many in China and elsewhere have and are suffering for their faith………..and Christ is still adored in the prison walls etc etc.

    The beautiful ceremony that Kieran talks about is not always possible in many countries where the faith is being destroyed by Communism etc.

    (Everything is pure to those who are themselves pure)

  8. 8 Kieran July 30, 2009 at 11:47

    Antonella, glad you sing the beautiful hymns written by St. Thomas Aquinas 😉
    However, your confusion and Deanna’s comment are typical of todays’ faithful attending the NO parishes.

    ADORATION is when a priest or deacon puts the Blessed Sacrament on the altar and returns it to the tabernacle when adoration time is over (no layman or woman is allowed to do this) but does not have to be present while the faithful come in to adore the sacrament in silent prayer.
    AND there is NO difference at all in kneeling in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle or kneeling in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance on the altar. The ONLY difference is that when it is exposed it is vulnerable to vandalism.

    BUT only a bishop, priest, or deacon can give the BENEDICTION rite of the Blessed Sacrament.


  9. 9 anne bender July 30, 2009 at 12:51

    Gabriella, I just had to come and look at this again. I love it! Re-reading it, I am struck by your description of the silence. How I long to be there in that beautiful silence with the Lord!

    I copied this to share with some friends. I hope your don’t mind!

  10. 10 Gabriella July 30, 2009 at 12:57

    No, Anne, I don’t mind at all 🙂
    Thank you.

  11. 11 Raman Chakravorthy July 30, 2009 at 16:00

    IT IS INDEED a tremendous miracle to see God taking flesh and becoming man, and a greater miracle still to see Him suspended on the cross. But the highest of all miracles, O Christ our God, is your ineffable presence under the mystic species. Truly You did institute, through this great Sacrament, a remembrance of all your marvels. How merciful of You, O God, to give Yourself as food to those who fear You! To recall your covenant forever, and to remember your passion and your death until the day of your glorious coming! Let us, O faithful, receive our food and our life, our King and our Saviour, and cry out: “Save, O Lord, those who worship your glorious and venerable presence”.

  12. 12 Brian July 31, 2009 at 00:18


    I am praying for you always –
    God bless you – You know, the good words you post for all of us, they are a prayer. And prayer is what we need to deepen our faith – to get closer to the Lord, to know Him. So – thank you! I thank the Lord for letting me find “Gabriella’s Blog” !

  13. 13 Mary Nicewarner August 1, 2009 at 21:34

    For the second time today the Lord has given me a “word” for someone I don’t really know except as a fellow blogger. The 1st word was for Anne; the 2nd is for you. You are one of the “little ones” that the Lord is using his in army of spiritual warriors to “confound the proud”. I know this sounds strange, but I am just doing what he tells me to do.Please read my posting for Aug.1st for a better understanding of this call.

    May God bless you!

  14. 14 Javier September 10, 2010 at 00:24

    I Adore gabriella blog because she is very good at making me think… usually i dont think and this time i met her and it got me thinking a lot… usually the painful kind of thinking… so i did a lot of unwinding and then the response came through… everyone is zealous of christ the lord and the adoration makes you be passionate of your own mistakes so you can forgive and be forgiven, just check out the namesake… i would like to see this person again but it would sound pretty strange to me if it went any further. I think now that if she got me thinking so much before what would happen now… love perhaps who knows? oh and tell her i want to go to knossos to see the great light of the well i dont really know because i’m not thinking again

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