The centerpiece of your faith as a Catholic is your relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. This relationship becomes more profound and richer as you grow in your faith through prayer, Scripture readings, visiting your local parish, singing and partaking in Holy Communion.
Part of maturing as a Catholic is understanding the various holy symbols and practices used in the faith to grow closer to Jesus. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the monstrance, which is one of the most important items you can know about when it comes to drawing near to Jesus and worshipping Him.
The Purpose of a Monstrance
The monstrance is one of the most essential elements of Eucharistic Adoration, besides the Eucharist host, of course. Eucharistic Adoration is the opportunity for faithful Catholics to pray to Jesus in His very presence through the Holy Eucharist, which is on display. By approaching the Holy Eucharist, you can meditate on the blessing of being in Jesus’ presence. You can also pray the Rosary, write in a prayer journal, read Scripture, read a religious book, listen to music or whatever else helps you draw nearer to Christ.
The monstrance plays an important part in Eucharistic Adoration because it houses the consecrated Eucharist host where Jesus’ presence dwells. This gives Catholics the opportunity to enter the presence of Jesus and adore the Eucharist fully and without distraction.
Eucharistic Adoration is possible for today’s Catholics because of the monstrance. The priest needs the monstrance in which to house the Eucharist during Adoration. Catholics need the monstrance because it gives them something to look to that honors and displays the Eucharist, allowing them to fix their eyes, minds and hearts on the presence of Christ.
The Origins of Adoration
Eucharistic Adoration dates back to the early days of Christianity. Monastic hermits would keep the Eucharist and take it to their cells, where they would venerate the blood, body, soul and divinity of Jesus. In a sense, these early hermits were the first to participate in Eucharistic Adoration as we know it.
Eventually, monasticism would become more communal, and Christians would gather to adore the Eucharist together rather than taking the reserved Eucharist to their individual cells. Priests would place the reserved Eucharist in a vessel called a tabernacle, which was on display in a separate room where the community could gather and adore the Eucharist. A red light would be visible when the consecrated host was present.
In the Middle Ages, Catholic priests began moving the Eucharist from the tabernacle to a monstrance, where it could be displayed for Adoration. This gave Catholics a chance to participate in Eucharistic Adoration at their parish or during feasts and processions. The monstrance helped make the Eucharist more visible for everyone gathered.
Many hundreds of years would pass with changes along the way, but these early experiences would pave the way for modern Eucharistic Adoration. Today, priests place the reserved Eucharist in the monstrance within their parish as a way to protect and display it. Catholics gather to behold the Eucharist host in its position within the monstrance and adore Jesus Whose presence is in the Eucharist.
The Elements of a Monstrance
The monstrance is one part of the whole experience of Eucharistic Adoration. Here are the elements you should know about:
- Consecrated host: This is the physical element that has been divinely transformed into the blood or body of Christ, a doctrine Catholics know as transubstantiation. In the case of Eucharistic Adoration, the consecrated host that houses the presence of Christ is the Holy Eucharist. While it may look like regular bread, Catholics have faith that through transubstantiation, the host truly is transformed into the body of Christ.
- Tabernacle: This is a locked container that contains the Eucharist within a parish. The priest must retrieve the Eucharist from the tabernacle during Eucharistic Adoration as well as Communion.
- Luna: The monstrance luna, also known as the lunette, is the glass compartment that houses the Eucharist. It’s often in a place of prominence within the monstrance, displaying Christ’s glorious presence within the Eucharist.
- Forms of the monstrance: Monstrances can take many forms. While older Monstrances often take the shape of a tower, most Monstrances today use the popular and recognizable shape of a sunburst atop a stem with a wider base.
Different Types of Adoration
Several different types of adoration may be available at your parish. Here are the three main types of Eucharistic Adoration:
- Private: When the red light is on near your parish’s tabernacle, that means the Blessed Sacrament is present within it. You can privately and prayerfully adore the Eucharist during these times.
- Public: Some parishes offer Eucharistic Adoration at certain times throughout the week. These are set times when the Holy Eucharist is on display in the monstrance and Catholics can come and participate in Eucharistic Adoration. These times may be throughout the week according to your parish’s schedule or on traditional Catholic holidays and special occasions.
- Perpetual: Perpetual adoration is when a parish has the Holy Eucharist on display in the monstrance 24 hours a day, seven days per week throughout the year. This requires a great deal of commitment from many parishioners, making it less common than regular times of public adoration.
At Catholic World Mission, we know how important Monstrances are to the growing faiths of Catholics around the world. Priests are able to offer times of Eucharistic Adoration to their congregation, and Catholics can grow in their faith as they approach the presence of Christ on display in the Eucharist within the monstrance. That’s why we have been donating Monstrances to parishes in need for years, and our commitment to donating Monstrances is only growing.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have been able to fulfill the need of many parishes with Monstrances of their own. As a result, more people can experience the blessing of Adoration and grow in their faith as Catholics seeking a richer relationship with Jesus Christ.
Help Us Deliver Monstrances Around the World
We need your support to help Catholics worldwide participate in Eucharistic Adoration. With your help, Catholics in spiritual need can discover the spiritual benefits of Eucharistic Adoration and grow closer to God and experience a deepened Catholic faith.
Every donation helps, whether you choose to contribute to the purchasing of a monstrance or give the generous gift of a full monstrance, luna and a carrying case. Please donate to our cause today to help us give more Monstrances to parishes in need!
Deacon Rick Medina is the Executive Director of Catholic World Mission and oversees the management of all of Catholic World Mission's projects in over 35 countries. He was ordained a deacon of the archdiocese of Atlanta in 2013. He currently serves at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody, Georgia, and is active in several ministries, including RCIA, baptism preparation, Life Teen, Altar Server group, Grief Share, and Adult Faith Formation.