Holy Thursday

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Vid Gajsek-Emblem na tabernakeljskih vratcih pri svetem Florijanu.jpg

The rubrics for the Sacred Mysteries create a set a standards by which a celebrant's performance may be evaluated. The bottom end of the performance scale is labeled, "As confused as a Jesuit in Holy Week."

Norms for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

"Paschalis Solemnitatis":
48. The Tabernacle should be completely empty before the celebration.[1] Hosts for the Communion of the faithful should be consecrated during that celebration.[2] A sufficient amount of bread should be consecrated to provide also for Communion on the following day.
49. For the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, a place should be prepared and adorned in such a way as to be conducive to prayer and meditation; seriousness appropriate to the liturgy of these days is enjoined so that all abuses are avoided or suppressed.[3]
When the tabernacle is located in a chapel separated from the central part of the church, it is appropriate to prepare the place of repose and adoration there.
51. The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came "not to be served, but to serve."[4] This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.
55. The Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a closed tabernacle or pyx. Under no circumstances may it be exposed in a monstrance.[5]
The place where the tabernacle or pyx is situated must not be made to resemble a tomb, and the expression "tomb" is to be avoided. The chapel of repose is not prepared so as to represent the "Lord's burial" but for the custody of the Eucharistic bread that will be distributed in Communion on Good Friday.
56. After the Mass of the Lord's Supper the faithful should be encouraged to spend a suitable period of time during the night in the church in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament which has been solemnly reserved. Where appropriate, this prolonged eucharistic adoration may be accompanied by the reading of some part of the Gospel of St. John (chs. 13-17).
From midnight onwards, however, the adoration should be made without external solemnity,[6] because the day of the Lord's passion has begun.[7]
57. After Mass the altar should be stripped. It is fitting that any crosses in the church be covered with a red or purple veil, unless they have already been veiled on the Saturday before the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Lamps should not be lit before the images of saints.


Fr. Edward McNamara, "More on Holy Thursday."
Emphasis added. MXM, SJ
There is absolutely no contradiction here because Eucharistic adoration is not synonymous with exposition in the monstrance. Christ is equally adored in the tabernacle and the pyx as in the monstrance. Adoration in the monstrance helps the adorers concentrate on the Eucharistic mystery but does not make the adoration essentially different from worship offered to Our Lord in the tabernacle.
Also, adoration in the monstrance usually unfolds into the joyous experience of Eucharistic Benediction, whereas in the concrete case of Holy Thursday the essential theme is accompanying him during his agony, and there is no Benediction.
The rule forbidding solemn adoration after midnight means that there should be no further public prayers at the altar of repose once Good Friday begins. This does not prohibit private prayer and private adoration at the altar of repose; these may continue until the beginning of the celebration of the Passion on Good Friday.
Fr. Edward McNamara, "Eucharist in Sacristy Safe."
In the following commentary, Fr. McNamara is critical of a traditional practice, i.e., removing the Blessed Sacrament from the altar of repose used after the Mass of the Lord's Supper until midnight on Holy Thursday. If I understand him correctly, he argues that such a removal is not required by the norms and, in fact, contravenes the intent that the Blessed Sacrament be available for non-solemn adoration when the Church is open on Good Friday. I'm not confident that a canon lawyer would rule that the passages in the rubrics of the Roman Missal strictly prohibit reservation in the sacristy or absolutely require the return of the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose when the Church opens on Good Friday. In other words, this may be something about which reasonable people acting in good faith might disagree. It is one thing to note that the norms do not require reservation in the sacristy and another thing to argue that the norms prohibit reservation in the sacristy.
The practice of withdrawing the Blessed Sacrament to the sacristy safe is not a correct interpretation of the norms of the Roman Missal.
Even if local circumstances don't allow for the church to remain open after midnight, the Blessed Sacrament should remain in the altar of repose until the moment of holy Communion during the Good Friday rites.
Placing the Blessed Sacrament in the safe would be a viable option only if theft of the tabernacle or closed pyx of the altar of repose was a positive danger. In this case it should be restored to the altar [of repose] either before the church is reopened or at least before the Good Friday services begin.
Finally, all the documents recall that it is totally forbidden to expose the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance at any moment of Holy Thursday.

A Plea for Peace

Please do not browbeat your pastor with arguments about liturgical norms during Holy Week. The time for a calm, thoughtful discussion of what must, can, or should be done in a particular parish church is some time after Easter. In my view, "unsolicited advice is criticism." Our Lord says that we should calculate the odds of winning a battle before going to war (Lk 14:31-32). The likelihood of changing your pastor's mind during Holy Week is vanishingly small. If your church does not or cannot provide a chapel for adoration after midnight on Holy Thursday, you may, perhaps, be able to find some other nearby church that does.

Be merciful to your pastors. "The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you" (Lk 6:38).


  1. Cf. "Roman Missal," Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, n. 1.
  2. Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy "Sacrosanctum Concilium," n. 55; SRC, Instr. "Eucharisticum Mysterium" (May 25, 1967), n. 31. AAS 59 (1967), pp. 557-558.
  3. SCR, Decree "Maxima Redemptionis Nostrae Mysteria" (November 16, 1955), n. 9, AAS 47 (1955), p. 895.
  4. Mt 20:28.
  5. Emphasis added. MXM, SJ>
  6. Emphasis added. MXM, SJ>
  7. Cf. "Roman Missal," Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, n. 21; SCR, Decree "Maxima Redemptionis Nostrae Mysteria" (November 16, 1955), nn. 8-10 AAS 47 (1955), p. 845.