Bring back Benediction!

Benedict XVI leading Benediction of the Eucharist after a Corpus Christi procession (Photo: CNS)

I have just been re-reading Sacrosanctum Concilium, which is the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, and the first document that the Second Vatican Council produced. It is online at the Vatican website, here.

Re-reading the document has been an eye-opening experience in many ways. A great deal of it is long-winded and verbose. The style must come from the way it was written, that is to say not by one person but by several, and at some junctures you can see the joins, where competing versions have been put together in the hope of not sounding contradictory. One of the most obvious examples of this is where it says the following:

36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.

3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighbouring regions which have the same language.

If you read that carefully, you will see that it is not really as clear as it might be. Latin is to be preserved, but the use of vernacular is to be expanded; the vernacular can only be expanded at the expense of Latin, though. So the above, to me at least, reads like a fudge.

But I particularly like this paragraph:

100. Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.

To that end I have ordered and received delivery of, in time for Advent, a set of office books, so now we can have Vespers on a Sunday, with Benediction. With regard to the latter, the following surely applies:

13. Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See.

It strikes me that we have all long lamented the lack of respect shown to the Blessed Sacrament in recent years and the great falling off in reverence and a sense of the transcendent in general. The late Cardinal Hume said as much shortly before he died. But what can we do about it? Certainly we can preach about it and talk about it, and even write about it: but the best thing of all is action, and the regular celebration of Benediction must be a step in the right direction.

As a youth, I always preferred Benediction to Mass, perhaps because the former took place in the evening, when the soul is more receptive to the idea of the majesty of God. Perhaps the singing was better then too. Perhaps I liked Benediction because it was short, a mere 15 minutes. Perhaps it was the incense, and the splendour of the vestments. Whichever way, there was something about it that raised the heart and mind to God, which is good for a teenage boy, indeed good for anyone of any age.

Isn’t it time Benediction was brought back (not that it has ever gone away), so that all youngsters can have a chance to experience what I experienced?