ASK FATHER: Simple Exposition

From a reader…


My parish is looking into daily Eucharistic exposition. Our tabernacle is located in a small chapel away from the altar of sacrifice and the current plan is to have exposition take place in the monstrance located inside of the tabernacle with the door open. The ciborium will also remain in this tabernacle. Is it permissible for both exposition and reservation to take place in the same tabernacle?

Thank you for your wonderful blog, I read it every day with a cup of Mystic Monk!

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament by opening the tabernacle doors was a relatively common form of “simple exposition” prior to the Second Vatican Council. It was more common in some women’s religious communities where the Superior was sometimes given permission to open the tabernacle for adoration, but not to place the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance.

I’m not aware of this being done in any parish setting, but there may be anecdotes.

The current rubrics on Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament presume that the Eucharist (either in a monstrance, or simply a ciborium) will be placed on an altar. If a priest or deacon is not present, an acolyte or, in exceptional circumstances, another layperson specifically designated for this task, may expose the Blessed Sacrament (if not done by a priest or a deacon, there should be no incensation of the Blessed Sacrament at the time of exposition). The rubrics do not speak of exposition by simple opening of the tabernacle doors. Yet, they similarly do not forbid it. This could be an acceptable practice – though exposition on the altar is preferable.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. greenlight says:

    Our former pastor moved to a more rural parish. The original church is a very small, very simple country building. As the small town grew, they built a huge new modern church that is about as beautiful as a modern church can be. The tabernacle is directly behind the altar but it has doors that open from both sides, and an adoration chapel that sits directly behind the altar but isn’t visible from the pews! Seems like a wonderful feature.

    BTW, they kept the original small country church that sits next door and that’s where he says daily morning mass and saves the big church for the weekend.

  2. In the past adoration would take place with a ciborium inside the tabernacle with the doors open. One could assume that this was also the reserve. It is not unheard of for a monstrance to be used as some communities take their vows before a monstrance in the tabernacle.

    It would make more sense in this case though to use just a ciborium in the tabernacle or have a proper throne for the monstrance somewhere.

  3. knute says:

    There’s an oratory in the Diocese of St. Petersburg that does simple exposition in this manner, though there is no ciborium or other consecrated hosts present.

  4. rayrondini says:

    Fr. Z (or anyone else who knows): Out of sheer curiosity (and future reference), where can one find the rubrics for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament?

  5. The Clementine Instruction might be a good source for you rayrondini.

  6. ghp95134 says:

    Our Lady of Peace Church and Shrine has simple exposition 24/7/365 for 30+ years … except during Holy Mass when the curtains are drawn.

    “Our Lady of Peace Shrine” video:


  7. Chick says:

    for Rayrondini would be a good place to look.
    I’m beginning to think the move to widespread exposition has reduced in the minds of believers the benefit of time simply spent in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.Jesus doesn’t have to be out of the box in order for me to benefit from time spent in adoration.

  8. Several parishes in my area have perpetual adoration. One parish has a tabernacle with a glass door and the monstrance inside. Another has the monstrance in a wooden box with doors. The thinking is that, in case an adorer has to leave and his relief has not shown up, he can, as the case may be, draw a veil over the glass door or close the doors to the wooden box.

  9. I gather that a common arrangement in adoration chapels is a repository (instead of a tabernacle per se) permanently containing a monstrance exposing the Blessed Sacrament. The door of the repository is opened when adoration is in progress. Click here for a photo of such a repository. Although it’s not clear in this photo, a sheet of transparent glass across the front of the repository protects the monstrance while leaving it visible. The practice in this chapel is that when one enters for adoration, he kneels to open the doors on the repository, then closes them before leaving (if no other adorer is present).

  10. Uxixu says:

    It was fascinating to read Fortescue in 1920 say there weren’t any formal rubrics at the time instead of the prevailing custom and local regulations issued by the bishops in England & Wales. I like perpetual adoration, though it seems to… diminish that special ceremonial around Exposition.

  11. ppb says:

    I am blessed to have a church within walking distance of my workplace which has exposition every weekday during the noon hour. The Blessed Sacrament is placed on the altar in a monstrance. There are no ceremonies (i.e. no incense or Benediction), but a priest always does the exposition and reposition.

    I have never been comfortable with the “do it yourself” method of exposition which has become common in many parishes, with doors that people open or close themselves. I would rather just adore Jesus in the tabernacle than have this arrangement.

  12. APX says:


    The Blessed Sacrament cannot simply be veiled and left unattended if the next committed adorer doesn’t show up. If the wooden box isn’t actually a Tabernacle, the the Blessed Sacrament cannot be left alone. The same applies to having the Tabernacle behind glass (which can just as easily be broken). To do so is a grave sin and Redemptoris Sacramentum strictly forbids such things!

  13. Fern says:

    Father Z, please comment on the “do it yourself Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament”
    We have a two sided Tabernacle also. On the chapel side there is a repository in the door with a removable cover. Since sign-up for First Friday weekend Adoration hasn’t gone too well, one can now remove the cover for private adoration and replace the cover anytime. I, personally, have gone back to daily time spent with our Lord in the Church. Like ppb I am uncomfortable with the “do it yourself” method.
    Thank you, Father, for your comment.

  14. Supertradmum says:

    Well, in Ireland in the countryside and in the Davenport Diocese in Iowa, I have seen the open door approach. I find it odd. Also, I have a “thing” about Adoration without the proper number of candles, etc.

    I have not found a “correct” Adoration in Dublin yet.

  15. Random Friar says:

    I know that at our Dominican parish in Portland we have a two-tiered tabernacle. The bottom is for reservation of the Eucharist, and the top is dedicated solely to a monstrance with a Host for Adoration.

    The doors open, and it’s quite beautiful inside. I’m told the altar candles remain on, although there are lights inside the top portion to illuminate the monstrance.

    Here is a picture of it as it was created:

  16. Joe in Canada says:

    I’ve never understood Exposition with a ciborium. I thought the word ‘exposition’ referred to the Blessed Sacrament, not simply the container it is in.

Comments are closed.