Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Splendid Truth About Eucharistic Adoration

On March 13, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the Plenary Session of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the discipline of the Sacraments, the first such session of the new Prefect, Antonio Cardinal Canizares Llovera. He addressed the members of the congregation on the theme of Eucharistic Adoration. I take the opportunity the Holy Father provides by his initiative to address this beautiful devotion to offer our readers some of his teachings and a few of my own insights into popular myths regarding Eucharistic Adoration.

Myth No. 1: Reservation and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a medieval invention.
In fact, belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament have been part of the life of the Church from its earliest days. The history of Eucharistic Adoration is traced in an excellent study by Fr. John Hardon, S.J., where he indicates that “As early as the Council of Nicea (325) we know that the Eucharist began to be reserved in the churches of monasteries and convents.” Nicea occurred only 12 years after the Edict of Milan, when the Church was first free of persecution and able to live and worship as she was led by the Holy Spirit. Father Hardon continues, “The immediate purpose of this reservation was to enable the hermits to give themselves Holy Communion. But these hermits were too conscious of what the Real Presence was not to treat it with great reverence and not to think of it as serving a sacred purpose by just being nearby.” The earliest Christians knew Jesus was present in the Eucharist and they revered His sacred presence. In various ways, according to historical circumstances and under the guidance of the Spirit, the Church’s worship of the Eucharist outside of Mass evolved. The Church established processions, 40 Hours, Benediction, the vestments, rituals, vessels and hymns associated with the Eucharist, and the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Myth No. 2: The Mass is a celebration, not an act of adoration.
An attitude of adoration is essential to our Christian understanding of the Eucharist, both in the Mass and in worship of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass, as the Holy Father points out. There are four moments of elevation and adoration within the Mass before the reception of communion: after the consecration of the Host, after the consecration of the Precious , at the doxology, and immediately before communion at the words “Behold the Lamb of God…” These are moments when the gathered assembly gazes upon the divine presence of the person of Jesus Christ, and the most fitting attitude one can adopt is humble adoration and praise. As Saint Augustine has said, “No one may eat this flesh [of Jesus] if he has not first adored it, for we sin if we do not adore.” The Holy Father desires that pastors of souls “ensure the dimension of adoration to the celebration of Mass throughout.” The attitude of adoration begun in the Mass is extended and deepened in Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass.

Myth No. 3: Eucharistic Adoration detracts from the Mass, which is the real Eucharistic worship. It should be de-emphasized in order to put proper focus on the Mass.
In fact, while the Mass certainly comes first in significance and in the discipline of prayer for the whole Church, Eucharistic Adoration allows us to show our love for Christ when we are not at Mass. Adoration should not replace the Mass in one’s life but should always be seen as an extension of the devotion and prayer begun in Mass. Thus, when we come to Mass having rested in the Lord’s presence, we approach the Altar even more spiritually nourished. Balance is important but Eucharistic Adoration need not be de-emphasized or eliminated. The Holy Father desires that it be renewed and promoted even more.

Myth No. 4: Contemplative Eucharistic Adoration undermines active participation in the Mass.
In fact, while it might be historically true that Eucharistic Adoration was exceedingly popular in the Middle Ages when the faithful were less actively participating in the Mass, it is not true that Medieval Christians did not participate in the Mass. The beautiful prayers, hymns and sermons that come from these centuries indicate great faith and devotion to the Eucharist. In our time, when more active participation has been achieved, we must also remember that authentic participation in the Sacred Liturgy demands an interior disposition of devotion to and understanding of the mysteries of faith. Our actions are outward signs of our interior disposition but action in itself, without devotion and understanding, is empty. Jesus appreciated both active Martha and contemplative Mary, but He said that Mary had chosen the better part by resting at the Lord’s feet. Action and contemplation, ritual/words and silence, are both necessary in the Liturgy. A contemplative attitude is essential both to our celebration of the Mass and to our quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. In silence we hear the voice of God.

Myth No. 5: Contemplative Eucharistic Adoration is unnecessary private prayer that takes away from our work for God and the Church.
In fact, it is in prayer with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament that we offer our cares to Him, allow Him to speak to our hearts, and receive the grace we need to carry on our daily work. To truly live is to grow and change and be drawn ever more fully into union with God. We need a deep relationship with Him to be truly fulfilled as human persons. We cannot have a relationship with anyone, especially Jesus, if we do not spend time with Him. It is in the Eucharist, the source and summit of the life of the Church, that the whole Church and each soul truly lives and grows. From our Eucharistic Adoration, we receive the grace to work for God and His Church. Mother Theresa, the most notable laborer in the Lord’s vineyard in recent memory, while working constantly for the poor and sick, made a daily Holy Hour and required her sisters to do the same. She knew that contemplative Eucharistic prayer was the source of grace for her work and the summit of her loving devotion to Christ.

In this time of renewal for the Church, it is vital that we identify and set aside the myths about Eucharistic Adoration, that all members of Christ’s Mystical Body might embrace true devotion to His Eucharistic Body. In union with Christ our Eucharistic Lord, may the Church flourish as the sacrament of salvation for all peoples!

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