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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

The Monstrance, called also the Ostensorium and Portable Tabernacle, and sometimes, but less properly, the Remonstrance, is that large appurtenance in which the Blessed Sacrament is exposed at Benediction, and borne in solemn procession outside the church on certain occasions. It has a large stem something like that of the Chalice, and its upper part is so formed as to resemble the rays issuing from the radiant sun. In its centre there is a circular aperture in which the Lunette, with the Blessed Sacrament enclosed, is placed during exposition.

Monstrances date their origin from the institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi, which was first set on foot by Robert, Bishop of Liege, in the year 1246, at the instigation of a holy nun named Juliana, who frequently saw in a vision a luminous moon with one dark line on its surface. The moon, she was given to understand by special revelation, was the Church; and the dark line denoted the absence of a certain feast from those annually celebrated, and which she was afterwards given to understand meant one specially directed towards the Blessed Sacrament. This led to the institution of Corpus Christi, which Pope Urban IV., in 1264, extended to the universal Church. Other reasons, too, are given for the institution of this feast, such as an apparition that a certain priest of little faith had after the Consecration, when our Divine Lord appeared to him on the Corporal in form of a beautiful infant. Another legend says that the priest through some accident upset part of the Precious Blood on the Corporal, and that an image of a Host was seen wherever it fell (see Gavantus, Thesaur. Rit., p. 458; Kozma, 88 and 388; and Romsee, iii. p. 183).

For some time after the institution of Corpus Christi the Monstrance took the shape of those little towers in which the Blessed Sacrament used to be kept in ancient times.

In some of the churches of the Cistercian Order in France, instead of a regular Monstrance such as we use, there is employed a small statue of the Blessed Virgin, so constructed that the Sacred Host may be placed in its hand during the time of exposition (Kozma, 89, note 6).

The present shape of the Monstrance, imitating the radiant sun, forcibly recalls to mind the divine splendor of our Lord’s countenance on the occasion of his Transfiguration on Thabor, and that saying of the royal Psalmist: “He has placed his tabernacle in the sun” (Ps. 18:6; ibid.)

The material of the Monstrance is generally the same as that of the other sacred vessels mentioned. When borne in solemn procession, a large canopy, called a Baldachinum, is carried over it.








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