Adoring the Lord in the Year of the Eucharist
by Fr. Wade Menezes
St. Mary Joseph Rossello (1811- 88), the Foundress of the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy, once gave her spiritual daughters the following instruction concerning the importance of Eucharistic adoration: “Go to Jesus. He loves you and is waiting for you to give you many graces. He is on the altar surrounded by angels adoring and praying. Let them make some room for you and join them in doing what they do.” Not a bad piece of advice from a canonized saint.
Mother Mary Rossello knew the importance of Eucharistic adoration and of the abundance of graces received whenever a truly humble and contrite heart approaches Our Lord in His Eucharistic Majesty—truly present in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Mother Rossello also knew full and well that to visit the Blessed Sacrament is not to visit “it,” but rather to visit “Him”—Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.
Pope John Paul II had declared October 2004 through October 2005 the “Year of the Eucharist,” a proclamation made in part because of what he terms “a crisis of faith” in the modern Catholic world. What our Holy Father poses as the remedy to this crisis of faith is precisely that Catholic doctrine which takes such a profound faith to believe in: the doctrine of Transubstantiation—Christ’s Real Presence in the Most Holy Eucharist. This doctrine, too, is so deeply rooted in Sacred Scripture (especially in John 6), Sacred Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium, that Catholics must know it in order to defend it. All of this should lead us to ponder the theology of Eucharistic adoration and its importance for the individual believer, the Church, and the world.
Source and Summit
During his homily at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome on the great Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) on June 10, 2004, the Holy Father announced this special Year of the Eucharist. Its beginning coincided with the World Eucharistic Congress held in Guadalajara, Mexico, October 10-17, 2004, and its ending will coincide with the next Ordinary Assembly of Synod of Bishops to be held at the Vatican October 2-29, 2005. The overall theme of this Synod will be “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.”
In line with the Church’s theology of the Eucharist is the Church’s theology of Eucharistic adoration—again, we don’t adore “it,” we adore “Him.” In Redemptionis Sacramentum (The Sacrament of Redemption, “RS”), the companion document to the Holy Father’s 2003 Holy Thursday letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church), the Church’s teaching is clearly explained. “‘The celebration of the Eucharist in the Sacrifice of the Mass is truly the origin and end of the worship given to the Eucharist outside the Mass. Furthermore the sacred species are reserved after Mass principally so that the faithful who cannot be present at Mass, above all the sick and those advanced in age, may be united by sacramental Communion to Christ and His sacrifice which is offered in the Mass.’ In addition, this reservation also permits the practice of adoring this great Sacrament and offering it the worship due to God. Accordingly, forms of adoration that are not only private but also public and communitarian in nature, as established or approved by the Church herself, must be greatly promoted” (RS, no. 129, emphasis added).
These reasons stand as the very impetus behind the Church’s mandate of reserving the Blessed Sacrament after Mass, and Eucharistic adoration is an integral part of this mandate. This reality, then, leads us to ponder the very theology of Eucharistic adoration—that is, the “why” of Eucharistic adoration—its benefits, the Church’s teaching on the subject, and the wisdom to be derived from the saints who practiced it.
A Visit to a Friend
To visit “Him” in the Most Blessed Sacrament is to visit not only God Himself, but to visit a friend. The great Carmelite mystic, reformer, and doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582), once defined prayer as “conversation with God.” This definition should be our guide whenever we adore the Most Blessed Sacrament within the Mass or outside of it. After all, reservation of the Sacred Species in the tabernacle following Mass is commanded by the Church—and with good purpose and reason.
The Blessed Sacrament receives latria: worship due God alone. Whereas the saints and angels receive dulia (veneration) and the Blessed Virgin Mary receives hyper-dulia (the highest of veneration), the Triune Godhead alone receives latria which is “worship” properly speaking (and not veneration). And because the Blessed Sacrament is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity— truly Present in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity—the Eucharist, too, receives latria.
In his 1965 encyclical Mysterium Fidei (The Mystery of Faith), Pope Paul VI echoes this teaching of the Church: “[T]he Catholic Church has held firm to this belief in the presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist not only in her teaching but also in her life as well, since she has at all times paid this great Sacrament the worship known as latria, which may be given to God alone” (no. 55).
St. Peter Julian Eymard (1811-68), the so-called “Apostle of the Eucharist” who was canonized during the Second Vatican Council, once wrote: “Go to your adoration as one would go to heaven, to the divine banquet. Tell yourself . . . ‘In one hour Our Lord will give me an audience of grace and love. He has invited me; He is waiting for me; He is longing for me.’”
St. John Vianney (1786-1859), the patron saint of parish priests, also offered sound instruction to souls in his charge concerning the importance of Eucharistic adoration. He once posed this question: “What induced Jesus Christ to condescend to be present in our churches every day and every night? It was that we might be able to come to Him whenever we wanted to. What an immense privilege we Christians enjoy . . . we should consider those moments spent before the Blessed Sacrament as the happiest of our lives.”
Quoting both the Council of Trent (1545-63) and Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Redemptionis Sacramentum stresses clearly the importance of Eucharistic adoration outside of Mass: “‘The worship of the Eucharist outside the Sacrifice of the Mass is a tribute of inestimable value in the life of the Church. Such worship is closely linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.’ Therefore both public and private devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist even outside Mass should be vigorously promoted, for by means of it the faithful give adoration to Christ, truly and really present, the ‘High Priest of the good things to come’ and Redeemer of the whole world. ‘It is the responsibility of sacred pastors, even by the witness of their life, to support the practice of Eucharistic worship and especially exposition of the Most Holy Sacrament, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species’” (RS, no. 134, emphasis added).
Holy Mother Church suggests that the faithful “‘should not omit making visits during the day to the Most Holy Sacrament, as a proof of gratitude, a pledge of love, and a debt of the adoration due to Christ the Lord who is present in it.’ For the contemplation of Jesus present in the Most Holy Sacrament, as a communion of desire, powerfully joins the faithful to Christ, as is splendidly evident in the example of so many saints” (RS, no. 135). Pastors, too (especially bishops), are exhorted to promote Eucharistic adoration: “The Ordinary should diligently foster Eucharistic adoration, whether brief or prolonged or almost continuous, with the participation of the people. For in recent years in so many places ‘adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness’” (RS, no. 136).
St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696- 1787), bishop and doctor of the Church, once stated that “the churches are always open: all can go to converse with Jesus whenever they wish. He desires that we speak to Him with unbounded confidence. It is for this purpose that He remains under the appearance of bread.”
Basking in the Son
While Catholic churches may not always be open during the day in the 21st century as they were in the 18th century, one can still find innovative ways to make a visit sometime during the week to the Blessed Sacrament outside of ordinary Mass time. For example, stopping by your parish church and asking the secretary for the church key is one way, while arriving at Mass early to pray in Our Lord’s presence is another. Remember: The Blessed Sacrament doesn’t have to be exposed in a monstrance in order for one to efficaciously adore Our Lord. Simply gazing upon His hidden Presence within the tabernacle suffices.
Also, while one’s parish church may not have daylong, weekly, or even perpetual adoration, a neighboring parish just might. Call your diocesan chancery office for a list of those parishes in your diocese that offer some form of Eucharistic adoration during the week. Redemptionis Sacramentum actually states: “It is highly recommended that at least in the cities and the larger towns the diocesan bishop should designate a church building for perpetual adoration” (RS, no. 140).
In my own pastoral direction of others, people often ask me for spiritual exercises they can do to improve their spiritual life. One of the surest suggestions I offer them is to develop a very real and very personal relationship with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Because this relationship has to be real and personal, it requires actual “visitations” as one would make to any loved one. Indeed, weekly and faith-filled Eucharistic adoration can be the cause of numerous graces, benefits, and even miracles in one’s life. So, while the Blessed Sacrament is reserved for those persons especially who are sick or advanced in age and who therefore cannot attend Mass, let those of us who are able make frequent visits to Our Lord truly present in the Eucharistic species, and at the same time serve well those who are not able to visit Him. Our Lord calls and yearns for us to develop such a relationship with Him. On this point we can take our cue from St. Jose María Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei, who died in 1975 and who is thus one of our own contemporaries. Regarding Eucharistic adoration, he once stated very simply: “When you approach the tabernacle, remember that He has been awaiting you for 20 centuries.”
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Fr. Wade L. J. Menezes, C.P.M. is a member of The Fathers of Mercy, a missionary preaching community based in Auburn, KY. This article reproduced with permission of Lay Witness magazine. Copyright © Catholics United for the Faith
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