Friday, June 19, 2009

Come, Let Us Adore Him

The words to a Christmas song ... in July.

Yet, they speak to a reality that we would do well to consider all the year round. The Real Presence of Jesus is waiting in the church, at Mass, in the tabernacle, and if we are very fortunate Jesus is exposed in the Monstrance for us to come to Him.

All of this presupposes that one understands that Christ's Real Presence means Jesus' body and blood, soul and divinity, are contained completely in the Eucharist. Now, I don't know about you, but if Jesus appeared before me physically, I'd likely fall on my face in worship and adoration, blown away by His Presence. So if we would do it under those circumstances then why wouldn't we do it for his very real presence in the Eucharist?

A very big reason is that poor teaching can leave even our priests not understanding this elemental foundation of our Catholic faith. This is witnessed to by the explanation given at a local church (handily typed up and ready to pass around) about why they do not have Adoration. Think of it. So many people ask about Adoration that they must have a handout ready as to why they deny it. The essence of the handout says these reasons that that particular church does not offer Adoration:
The basic reason is that it takes away from the true meaning of the Eucharist - the eating and drinking of the Lord as a Community during Mass. Adoration takes the Eucharist out of its true context - a dynamic action of the Community, and turns it into a thing, the Body of Christ. All other sacraments are actions; we anoint, we lay on hands, we pour water. The instructions of Jesus are clear - take and eat, take and drink. There is nothing in scriptures that supports adoration. Every mention is in terms of the eating and drinking. As the apostles remarked after encountering the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday .... "We knew him in the breaking of the bread".

Another important factor is that when we practice adoration, we are localizing Jesus. When we focus on the host in the monstrance as the real presence of Jesus, we tend to forget that Jesus is not confined to a host, but is really present in us when we leave the chapel and, most especially, he is present in other people as we encounter them in our daily life.

The historical roots of the practice of adoration are in the breakdown of the Eucharist as covenant meal. Very few were eating and drinking during an extended period of the Church's history. We had to do something with it, so we blessed people with it (benediction), carried it in processions, and prayed in front of it (adoration). But now that we have recovered the meaning of the Eucharist as covenant meal, we should not do anything to take our attention from it.
Now, this is so wrong it just plain hurts.

Before we mention anything else, it begs the question, why can't we do both Adoration and taking Christ into the world? Which would be the obvious and first answer to the overall objection raised above.

Let me toss out there a few things in refutation of the very wrong teachings contained above. I will go with my instinctive reactions, though there will be much more that could be said, I know.

First I must comment about the statement, "There is nothing in scriptures that supports adoration." This would only be true if one does not really believe it is Christ Himself present in the Eucharist. Which is heretical. The doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has been the constant belief of the Church from the time of the Apostles.

We are presented with myriad forms of adoration of Christ throughout the Gospels. I will just mention the most obvious one which would spring to mind for most people. The news of Christ's birth saw angels and shepherds adoring him as he was laid in a manger (from which animals eat grain) in the town of Bethlehem (one translation of the word Bethlehem: city of bread).

If I didn't know better, I'd think Someone was making a point.

I can't resist pointing out here that Jesus is not "active." His presence is enough to inspire worship and adoration for all that He simply is. Period.

Several modern popes point us squarely toward Adoration and do not seem to think it is better left in the past or "takes our attention" away from the true meaning of the Eucharist. Pope John Paul II, who was a great believer in the power of Adoration of the Eucharist spoke about it on numerous occasions. A few excerpts:
"I hope that this form of perpetual adoration, with permanent exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, will continue into the future."
International Eucharistic Congress in Seville, Spain June 1993

"Public and private devotion to the Holy Eucharist outside Mass is highly recommended: for the presence of Christ, who is adored by the faithful in the Sacrament, derives from the sacrifice and is directed towards sacramental and spiritual communion."
Inaestimabile Donum, #20, 1980

"The Church and the world have great need of Eucharistic adoration. Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and contemplation full of faith. And let us be ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world. May our adoration never cease."
Dominicae Cenae: Letter to Priests, Holy Thursday, 1980

"Closeness to the Eucharistic Christ in silence and contemplation does not distance us from our contemporaries but, on the contrary, makes us open to human joy and distress, broadening our hearts on a global scale. Through adoration the Christian mysteriously contributes to the radical transformation of the world and to the sowing of the gospel. Anyone who prays to the Eucharistic Savior draws the whole world with him and raises it to God."
Letter to the Bishop of Liege, Reported in L'Osserv. Romano, 1996
Finally, as a quick commentary, the 11th General Synod of Bishops called by Pope Benedict XVI was about the Eucharist. You can see the summary document of the meeting (issued by the Vatican) here.

Strikingly, this excerpt speaks directly to the handout's points:

It is widely held that Christ’s presence is a result of the community and not Christ himself, who is the font and centre of our communion and head of his Body, the Church.

Neglect of prayer, contemplation and adoration of the Eucharistic mystery has weakened the sense of the sacred in relation to this great Sacrament.

This situation can lead to compromising the truth of Catholic teaching concerning the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, traditionally called transubstantiation. It can also threaten faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a belief which suffers from ideas which intend to explain the Eucharistic mystery not so much in itself but rather from a subjective point of view, for example, in the use of terms like “trans-finalization” and “trans-signification.”
Specifically pointing out Adoration, the document says:
40. Furthermore, it must not to be forgotten that faith in the Real Presence of the dead and risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament has a culminating point in Eucharistic adoration, a firmly grounded tradition in the Latin Church. Such a practice—rightly highlighted in many Lineamenta responses—should not be presented as something apart from the Eucharistic celebration but as its natural continuation. The responses also indicate that some particular Churches are experiencing a reawakening in Eucharistic adoration, which, in each case, is to be done in a dignified and solemn manner.
There are books that can be written and, of course, have been written on this subject. I am not clever enough to cover every point and, in any case, that would take more time than I have now. However, I did want to give a few basics on this very precious privilege that should be made available to Catholics whenever the possibility exists.

I know that this local church is far from being the only one perpetuating wrong teachings. I pray for the priests and I pray for the parishioners who are being thus denied.

Note: Heather has some very good thoughts about the Eucharist as center and all of our Catholic faith and as the True Presence of Jesus.

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