HEN giving benediction, the question sometimes arises among clerics of which direction to turn when lifting the monstrance from the altar and returning it there. The question does not apply when benediction is given while standing behind the altar, as is commonly done nowadays. Standing before the altar, however, raises the question of whether the presiding cleric should turn to his left or his right at two points: 1) when lifting the monstrance from the tabor, and 2) when replacing the monstrance upon the tabor.
Recently, I was interested to learn that O’Connell and Schmitz address this question directly in their Book of Ceremonies. With respect to the first turn, the correct method is always to approach the altar, lift the monstrance, and turn to the right.
For the second turn, O’Connell and Schmitz use a footnote to describe three potential methods, giving priority to the first:
There are three approved ways of placing the monstrance back on the altar after the Blessing. The most acceptable way—when the C[elebrant] is assisted by the D[eacon] or priest—is given above [to turn left to the altar after having given the blessing]. . . . Another accepted way is to place the monstrance on the altar immediately after completing the first swing to the right, i.e., to complete the circle as at the Orate, fratres. A third acceptable way is to return the monstrance to the center before the breast, after having completed the first swing to the right, pause momentarily, then turn right again, and place it on the altar. 1
In the Philadelphia area, we have a local custom of appending a short, devotional prayer to the end of the Divine Praises recited at benediction. The prayer is as follows:
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Laurence J. O’Connell and Walter J. Schmitz, The Book of Ceremonies, rev. ed. (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1956), 377, footnote 68.