Sunday, November 22, 2015

A little bit about Holy Hour...

'Content re-use' of an article I wrote for the parish bulletin of the tradition of Holy Hours:

The tradition of making a 'holy hour‘ before the Blessed Sacrament is an ancient practice. Of course, anyone can make a private holy hour in our parish adoration chapel, but Sacred Heart Church also has a monthly public holy hour on the first Friday of each month, as part of the first-Friday devotion in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As Catholics, we have two kinds of public prayer: liturgy and devotions. Liturgies, such as the Mass and other sacraments, are structured worship services governed by the Church‘s liturgical books. Public devotions, such as processions and rosary rallies, are freer in form—the organizers decide the specific prayers and devotions that will be used. A parish holy hour is unique in that it contains both liturgy and devotions.

The two liturgical portions of the holy hour are called Solemn Exposition and Benediction and they form the 'book-ends‘ of the hour. During the Solemn Exposition, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is processed into the church by a priest or deacon while a Eucharistic hymn such as "O Salutaris" is sung. The Eucharist, in a special display called a monstrance, is placed on the altar and solemnly incensed. At the end of the holy hour, the Benediction is given: the priest or deacon, after singing another Eucharistic hymn such as "Tantum Ergo" and praying the benediction prayer, incenses the Sacrament once more and then blesses the congregation with the exposed Eucharist. After a series of prayers called "The Divine Praises," Jesus is then reposed (placed back into the tabernacle or adoration chapel).

Between these two liturgical 'bookends‘, the congregation spends time with the Eucharistic Lord in prayer. These prayers are devotions and vary between parishes and presiders. At one extreme, I have attended holy hours where the entire time was simply spent in silence! Most of our parish holy hours, though, contain more organized devotions.

For example there may be scripture readings, a sermon and prayers of the faithful—much like at Mass. There can also be singing or music played; I personally like to sing the "Adoro te devote," a simple but beautiful hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas, before the readings. There may also be other devotional prayers; I prefer the Divine Mercy Chaplet, but other will say the Rosary or lead other common prayers. Because of our parish's devotion to the Sacred Heart, the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is also usually included. For those that are new to the idea of making a public holy hour, don‘t be intimidated! We provide worship aides for the congregation to make it easy to follow along...most other parishes do to.

Each parish holy hour varies in content and theme. Some are offered for particular intentions—for example I offered the November holy hour for the healing of the wounds caused by sin and division in our families, parish and community. In my sermon I talked about how these divisions are caused by the spiritual battle we all face as Christians: a battle that, as St. Paul says, is "not against flesh and blood", but the "world rulers of this present age of darkness" (see Eph. 6:12).

The remedy for those divisions is Jesus himself, who gives us the power to face the full force of the enemy (see Luke 10:19). Yet we must first realize that our true enemy is not something or someone outside, but inside our own hearts—only then can we accept that the victory has already been won for us by Jesus on the Cross. We simply have to claim that victory in our own lives!

So, if you are in the area and haven‘t made it to one of the parish holy hours, I would encourage you to join us: 8:30pm on the first Friday of each month in the church. Come down and spend an hour with Jesus!

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