Vespers And Benediction

"Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day" (Ex. xx. 8).

THIS commandment teaches us that God wills the whole Sunday to be spent

in His honor. We should sanctify it by good works, and by assisting at

divine service. On that day servile works and improper amusements are

forbidden. A salutary rest and moderate recreation are allowed, but

never at the expense of duties of obligation. After hearing Mass on

Sunday morning, which is obligatory on all Catholics, there is no better

way of sanctifying the remainder of the day than by attending Vespers

and Benediction.

The Vesper service is a small portion of the divine office, which

priests must recite daily, for God's honor and glory. It consists of

five of the psalms of David (Dixit Dominus, Ps. 109; Confitebor tibi,

Ps. 110; Beatus vir, Ps. 111; Laudate pueri, Ps. 112; In exitu Israel,

Ps. 113, or Laudate Dominum, Ps. 116), a hymn, the Magnificat, or

canticle of the Virgin Mary, from the first chapter of St. Luke, and

some prayers. Is it not reasonable thus to praise God in psalms and

hymns and spiritual canticles?

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament usually follows Vespers. The

Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ is really present in the

Blessed Sacrament. The reasonableness of this teaching will be seen in

the following article.

Since Jesus Christ is present, He ought to be adored by the faithful.

Faithful adorers frequently visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament and

worship Him in "spirit and in truth." Hence, the Blessed Sacrament is

kept in the Tabernacle on our altars to soothe our cares, answer our

prayers, and be ready at any time to be administered to the sick and


Besides our private devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Church has

appointed solemn rites to show publicly our faith and devotion toward

the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. These rites are processions on Corpus

Christi, the Forty Hours' devotion, and, especially, the rite called


When it is time for Benediction many candles are lighted on the altar.

This is done to show our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. If

He were not present, this display would be unreasonable, unnecessary,

and meaningless. But the candles we light, the incense we burn, the

flowers and other ornaments we use to decorate the altar, and all that

we do for Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ can not be too much.

Everything being prepared, the priest takes the Blessed Sacrament out of

the tabernacle, and, placing it in the ostensorium, exposes it on an

elevated throne, while the choir sings in honor of the Blessed Sacrament

the hymn "O Salutaris Hostia," "O Saving Host." The priest incenses Our

Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, as, according to the Apocalypse, angels

do in heaven. Another hymn or a litany follows; after which is sung the

"Tantum Ergo," "Down in adoration falling," followed by a prayer by the

priest. Then in the midst of a solemn silence (except that a small bell

is tinkled) the priest takes the monstrance, or ostensorium, containing

the Blessed Sacrament, and, turning toward the people, makes with it the

sign of the cross over them, thus blessing the faithful with the Most

Holy One.

This is certainly a most touching and impressive rite even to those who

do not believe in it. Cardinal Newman calls it one of the most

beautiful, natural, and soothing practices of the Church. No one will

deny that this practice, or rite of the Church, is reasonable, if Jesus

Christ is really present in the Blessed Sacrament. That He is really

present is our belief. This being our belief, is it not reasonable to

light candles as a sign of spiritual joy, and thus to show our faith in

Him who is the light of the world? He gave us all that we have. He gave

us the beautiful world we dwell upon with its variety of scenery--with

its snow-capped mountains, its green-carpeted hills, and its blooming

valleys. He has no need of our gifts; for the earth is His "and the

fulness thereof." Yet as He was pleased to receive the gifts of the Magi

and the precious ointment of Mary, so, too, is He pleased to receive our

offerings. And is anything too good, too beautiful, too precious, for

Him? Can the altar on which He dwells be too richly adorned? Are the

pure candles we light, the sweet incense we burn, the choice flowers and

costly ornaments with which we decorate the altar, too much to use in

honor of Our Lord and our God? Yes, the Catholic practice or rite of

Benediction is dictated by right reason. Everything connected with

Benediction is reasonable, beautiful, and suggestive of the noblest

sentiments of the heart of man.