A monstrance is the vessel used in the Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, and Anglican Churches to display the consecrated Eucharistic Host, during Eucharistic adoration or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The word monstrance comes from the Latin word monstrare, meaning "to show", and is cognate with the English word demonstrate, meaning "to show clearly". In Latin, the monstrance is known as an ostensorium (from ostendere "to show"), and in England it is called a monstre/monstral.
PurposeIn the Catholic tradition, at the moment of Consecration the elements (or "gifts" as they are termed for liturgical purposes) are transformed (literally transubstantiated) into the actual Body and Blood of Christ.
Catholic doctrine holds that the elements are not only spiritually transformed, but rather are actually (substantially) transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The elements retain the appearance or "accidents" of bread and wine, but are indeed the actual Body and Blood of Christ. This is what is meant by Real Presence; the actual presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Because of this belief, the consecrated elements are given the same adoration and devotion that is accorded to Christ.
Because Catholics believe that Christ is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, the reserved sacrament serves as a focal point of devotion. During Eucharistic adoration, the sacrament is displayed in the monstrance, typically on the altar. When not being displayed, the reserved sacrament is locked in the Tabernacle.
Use and designIn the service of Benediction, the priest blesses the people with the Eucharist displayed in the monstrance. This blessing differs from the priest's blessing, as it is seen to be the blessing of Christ, rather than that of the individual priest. The exposition of the monstrance during Benediction is traditionally accompanied by chanting or singing of the hymn Tantum Ergo.
The monstrance is usually very elaborate in design, with the preferred form being a sunburst on a stand, usually topped by a cross. (The sunburst is post-medieval. Medieval monstrances usually take the form of a crystal cylander in a golden stand or a crystal window in a flat-faced golden construction that can stand on its base.) It is most often made of gold or other precious metal, and decorated with intricate sculpture work or other highly detailed designs. The monstrance is often made by hand by local or regional artists. In the center of the sunburst, the monstrance normally has a small round glass the size of a Host, through which the Blessed Sacrament can be seen. Behind this glass is a round container made of glass and gilded metal, called a luna, which holds the Host securely in place. When not in the monstrance, the Host in its luna is placed in a special standing container, called a standing pyx, in the Tabernacle. Before the current design, earlier "little shrines" of various shapes and sizes were used in different churches.
Whenever the monstrance contains the Host, the priest will not touch it with his bare hands, but instead out of respect holds it with a humeral veil, a wide band of cloth that covers his shoulders (humera) and has pleats on the inside in which he places his hands.
Controversy over the Monstrance in the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic ChurchIn recent years, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has embarked on a campaign of de-Latinization reforms consisting of the removal of the stations of the cross, the rosary and the monstrance from their liturgy and parishes. In response a schismatic group, the Society of Saint Josaphat (abbreviated as SSJK) has formed with a seminary in Lviv, at which currently thirty students reside, and is affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X. Critics claim that the SSJK's liturgical practice favours severely abbreviated services and favours imported Roman devotions over the traditional and authentic practices and devotions of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Proponents counter that these symbols and rituals, borrowed from their Roman Catholic Polish neighbors have been practiced by Ukrainian Greek Catholics for centuries now, and to deny them is to deprive themselves of a part of their sacred heritage.
The Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka, one of Chicago's famed Polish Cathedrals is home to the largest monstrance in the world, a nine foot wide Iconic Monstrance of Our Lady of the Sign that is part of the planned Sanctuary of The Divine Mercy that is being constructed adjacent to the church. The Monstrance will be found within the sanctuary's adoration chapel which will be the focus of 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration and where there will be no liturgies or vocal prayers, either by individuals or groups as the space will be strictly meant for private meditation and contemplation.
ostensorium in Czech: Monstrance
ostensorium in Danish: Monstrans
ostensorium in German: Monstranz
ostensorium in Spanish: Custodia
ostensorium in French: Ostensoir
ostensorium in Luxembourgish: Monstranz
ostensorium in Italian: Ostensorio
ostensorium in Lithuanian: Monstrancija
ostensorium in Dutch: Monstrans
ostensorium in Polish: Monstrancja
ostensorium in Portuguese: Custódia
ostensorium in Slovak: Monštrancia
ostensorium in Slovenian: Monštranca
ostensorium in Swedish: Monstrans
ostensorium in Chinese: 圣体匣