Q: Fr. Paul, I would be most grateful for clarification regarding incensation of the Blessed Sacrament during benediction.
The rubric (Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, #97) indicates that the priest or deacon incenses the sacrament before the prayer which immediately precedes benediction. There is no mention of incensing the Blessed Sacrament during the giving of the benediction itself; however, this practice seems be not only widespread, but also highly variable from place to place (i.e. number and frequency of ducti). Is it advisable for a minister to incense the Blessed Sacrament during the benediction, and, if so, what is the proper method for doing so?
Thank you for you time.
A: One of my liturgical principles is this: “Don’t do what it doesn’t say.” If the rubric seems to be missing, ask why it’s missing before assuming it should be inserted.
Therefore, I conclude that there is to be no incensation of the Blessed Sacrament during the blessing. Why would that be? I think it helps distinguish the purposes of blessing and adoration. The incensation during adoration shows respect for the exposed Sacrament, and its purpose is connected to that alone. The blessing is another matter: It supplies a benefit to the people. Incensing the Blessed Sacrament at that time conflates benediction with adoration, which are two distinct moments in the Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass.
Regarding the proper method of incensation, the instructions are found in GIRM 277, which calls for three swings of the thurible. The thurifer bows before and after swinging the thurible.
I’ve argued in my new book Ars Celebrandi that these ducti are three single swings, not three double swings, not three triple swings.