As one who regularly attends the Sacraments of the Church each week I have noticed that there is a huge difference in numbers between those who attend Mass and those who attend Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and I have wondered how this could be. Admittedly, one would expect a greater number to attend Mass as there is a greater obligation placed upon them to do so. Also, one might assume that you receive more from the Mass than you would from Adoration, as in Holy Communion you actually partake of Jesus in a physical manner. However, the difference in attendance is so great that I believe Adoration is a practice that is not fully understood, or is possibly grossly under valued.
Adoration of the the Blessed Sacrament within the Catholic faith is a common practice among many churches and has been for a great many years. Like many church practices it has evolved and developed over time as the Lord has guided.
The belief that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament is not a teaching that has been developed over time, but one that comes directly from the teachings of Jesus Christ Himself and which He gave us whilst living on earth.
Jesus said: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (John 6:51)
He goes on to say: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (John 6:53-56)
The earliest Christians had no doubt about the true presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, among the many writings of Early Church fathers Justin Martyr writes: “We call this food Eucharist… not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these…the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
Jesus can be present in several ways: In His Word, in prayer and when two or more gather in His name, however, the Catechism teaches us that Jesus is present in a more unique way in the Host: 1374 The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.”201 In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.”202 “This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”203
Now if Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, wholly present, in a unique way, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, then obviously we wish to worship and adore Him, and Jesus wishes that we do this also:
“I so ardently thirst to be loved by men in the Most Blessed Sacrament that this thirst devours Me…” Jesus to St Margaret Mary
And again: “You do not yet understand the value and the meaning of what you are doing when you abide in adoration before My Eucharistic Face. You are participating in a divine work, in a work of grace. You are before Me as an empty vessel to be filled with the power and sweetness of the Holy Spirit, that souls might drink of My Love and, drinking, see that My Love is sweeter than any earthly delight.” Jesus From In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of a Priest
And finally: Here, I am entirely yours, soul, body and divinity as Your Bridegroom. You know what love demands, one thing only, reciprocity. (Diary 1770) Jesus to St Faustina.
So we know that Jesus is present in Holy Communion, and the need for Him is obvious, but why adoration? Why attend Adoration if Jesus is within us through receiving Him at Mass – especially when Adoration is very often directly after Mass?
Let me ask you a question: If you could go back to the time when Jesus lived upon the earth, and you heard that He was close to your village or town, would you go and visit Him? Yes? Okay, now let’s say you get there and you find Him feeding the multitude, would you stay and eat? Yes? And when you had finished eating, if Jesus said He was going to stay for a while and sit quietly listening to the prayers of those before Him, would you stay and speak with Him? Or having eaten would you leave?
I think the answer will be that you would stay with our Lord. Yes, so many would wish to spend time in the presence of Jesus for as long as possible. So why don’t we? Why when Mass is over and Adoration begins do so many leave Jesus sitting upon the Altar in the monstrance? Is it that we only have a certain amount of time? Or is it something deeper? Do we truly believe that Jesus is present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity?
I once heard the story of a Priest in the seminary who whilst giving his students a lesson on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist had a unique way of revealing to the students the depths of their own beliefs: The teacher would go to the Tabernacle in the Chapel, collect the Ciborium containing the Host and bring it before the students. “You know what I have here” he would exclaim! Then he would ask, “do you truly believe Jesus is present in these wafers of bread?” Then tipping the wafers onto the floor, he placed his foot down hard and trampled them into the ground! A gasp of shock and disbelief was heard from the bewildered students as they sat there in shock at what they had just witnessed.
The teacher would then explain to the students that the wafers he had brought from the Tabernacle were NOT consecrated and therefore where just bread and not the True Presence of Jesus. But he told the students that what they had felt in their heart’s at the time of his actions, had revealed to them the depth of their belief. This lesson may seem a bit drastic, but how do we know how deeply we believe in something unless our beliefs are tested?
We believe that in Adoration we come into the true presence of God, we believe that in staying in His presence, we receive grace and are gifted with many spiritual blessings. So why do very few remain with Him at this time? I think the answer to this question can only be found within each individuals heart. My hope in writing this piece is that one may be prompted to seek their own answer. “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
The Saints on Adoration:
Many people nowadays say, ‘I wish I could see his shape, his appearance, his clothes, his sandals.’ Only look! You see him! You touch him! You eat him!” St John Chrysostom
When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host, you understand how much Jesus loves you now. St Teresa of Calcutta
Heaven for me is hidden in a little Host Where Jesus, my Spouse, is veiled for love. I go to that Divine Furnace to draw out life, and there my Sweet Saviour listens to me night and day.” St Therese of Lisieux
Good friends find pleasure in one another’s company. Let us know pleasure in the company of our best Friend, a Friend who can do everything for us, a friend who loves us beyond measure. Here in the Blessed Sacrament we can talk to him straight from the heart. St Alphonsus de Liguori
The soul hungers for God, and nothing but God can satiate it. Therefore He came to dwell on earth and assumed a Body in order that this Body might become the Food of our souls. St John Vianney
This is the wonderful truth, my dear friends: the Word, which became flesh two thousand years ago is present today in the Eucharist. St John Paul II
Gaze upon him, consider him, contemplate him, as you desire to imitate him. St Clare of Assisi
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