QUAERITUR: illuminating the Host during Exposition

From a reader:

Our TLM Chaplain has been severely reproached by his brother priests and parishioners for removing the spotlight/bulb that shines directly through the Blessed Sacrament in a Monstrance (in the context of an Adoration Chapel).
I remember reading somewhere that shinning light through the Blessed Sacrament to "illuminate" it is strictly forbidden. I see no reason why spotlights can’t be directed at the monstrance, but is there a real need to make the Blessed Sacrament ‘glow’?
This practice is prevalent in Asia and parts of Australia. I don’t believe it is neccessary to expose the Eucharistic Lord to a constant 70 degree celsius 24/7. Could you, or at least someone, provide some evidence (or Church documents) to show that this practice is not encouraged by the Church?

You are right about the illumination.  The Host is not to be back-lit.  Look in the Fortescue-O’Connell (for the 1962 edition of the Missal, etc., for the traditional form of Exposition during Forty Hours Devotion, p. 333) you read:


No light may be placed behind the monstrance, so as to shine through the Sanctissimum.

And in the accompanying footnote, which also cites the various old decrees of the SRC, …

Electric light is forbidden on the altar or within the throne of exposition.

That might help.


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  1. Martin says:


    What about a candle, placed behind the monstrance, which would achieve a similar effect? Is this also forbidden?

    Many thanks in advance,

  2. Martin says:

    Sorry Fr, I just re-read the post, it answers my question.

    ‘Think then post’ was my spam word just now…

  3. Dave says:

    This reminds me of one of my pastor’s arguments in favor of using a glass chalice: that when the light hits it at just the right angle, it looks as though the reddish-purple light is radiating from the chalice or its contents.

    It seems to me that if we feel a need for these kinds of enhancements, maybe that’s an indication that our faith in the Real Presence has become dangerously weak.

  4. Tyler says:

    Are there any newer sources that can be used? This practice happens sometimes where I am, usually if the Eucharist is being processed around the room(gymnasium). However, I do not know if they will accept quotes from the 62 missal, or simply dismiss them as, well its different now, or some such thing.

    On a side note, I did always think the practice weird, as Christ is the Light of the World, why should we shine light on Him, but I never would have guessed it to be wrong

  5. fxavier says:

    This reminds me of a practice I saw at a secular institute. At the Consecration, a member would turn off all the lights in the chapel, and turn on track lights in front of the altar that would shine directly at the host during the Elevation.

    All I could think of was: “tacky”.

  6. kat says:

    One thing that gives me hope for my non-Catholic mother’s soul is that when she was in the ICU, the TV was on the “chapel channel” during Eucharistic Adoration. She told me a few days later that she could see the Host “glowing.” There was certainly no spotlight on it and it made me think that during those last few weeks she had a conversion experience, that she meditated on the Eucharist and what it meant.

    I consider that the Body and Blood of Our Lord does not need any “extra” light, since He is the Light. It is only a matter of perceiving it in our hearts.

  7. Maureen says:

    It’s not wrong to illuminate the Host, per se. A lot of old churches were
    designed so as to get the benefit of the sunlight through the windows hitting the altar or the priest’s back or the tabernacle or whatever. (They don’t look right unless you’re using the old altar against the wall, but it’s very obvious when priests do.)

    But yeah, I can see where you don’t want to get too theatrical, either.

    You gotta love those old altars from the beginning of the electrical age with the huge lightbulbs outlining the wood all over the sanctuary, though.

  8. fr.franklyn mcafee says:

    When my father was choirmaster and organist at St.Mary’s downtown in Detroit in the 40s the assistant pastor was Fr.Ackerman (later Bishop) who had some experience in theatre.At 40 hours the monsrance was illuminated in an otherwise darkened church by a large spotlight .Above the monstrance hung a banner with the words ,IESU!,.

  9. Rob says:

    I know this isn’t the topic, but I would request the readers to please play for the soul of Fr Eldred Leslie, a traditional priest who was murdured at his home next to his chapel in South Africa Wednesday evening. They have arrested a 25 yr old suspect.
    Eternal rest grant unto him, o Lord, and let perpetual shine upon him. May he rest in peace.


  10. John Hudson says:

    If the Blessed Sacrament is lit from behind by a light, how will one know if favoured with a miraculous heavenly light emanating from the Host itself? I’d rather the lighting of the Sacrament were obscure, forcing me to look closely to attend His presence.

  11. Tyler, it was decreed by the SCR that electric light is forbidden on the altar or within the throne of exposition during Exposition of the Sanctissimum, not in the rubrics. Thus the regulation is still in force unless it has been specifically abrogated.

    Note that this does not prohibit a spotlight from in front or lights from the side directed on the monstrance. As long as the lighting is meant to call attention to or highlight the Blessed Sacrament and isn’t theatrical or distracting it can be most conducive to devotion. To go into a semi-dark church with light focused on the exposed Sacrament (or tabernacle, high altar, sacred image) is a wonderful and beautiful thing.

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