Thursday, September 10, 2009

Eucharistic Adoration: a Backwards Step?

Yesterday's National Catholic Reporter featured an essay by Richard McBrien decrying the spread of Eucharistic Adoration. Interestingly, Fr. McBrien does not know of any positive fruits of the spread of adoration; he seems only able to see it in the light of how it was practiced in the long lost past before Vatican II, and so he declared the practice "a doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward, not forward." (We can pass over the peculiar "Notwithstanding Pope Benedict XVI's personal endorsement of eucharistic is difficult to speak favorably about the devotion today.")

Not to be outdone, one Catholic blogger wrote from his experience discovering and practicing Eucharistic adoration as a step forward.

As the member of a congregation that was founded "on the Eucharist" who attempts to spend what Pope John Paul called a "suitable amount of time daily" in the presence of the Eucharist, who has given presentations on adoration and written a book introducing children to adoration, I have something to contribute to the conversation. I want to still offer those presentations (book a talk!), so I won't give away my whole talk here, but just to offer a little something, this is what I have to say for now:

In Thomas Aquinas' antiphon for the feast of Corpus Christi, we sing:
O Sacred Banquet in which Christ is eaten, the memory of his passion is recalled, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given us!

The antiphon is in Latin, of course, and all the verb forms are in the passive voice. The use of the passive is very telling here! It is a way of pointing to the hidden God: God is the one acting. So the antiphon is a canticle of praise to God who gives us Christ as food, brings the power of his Paschal Mystery to bear in our lives, fills our minds with grace and gives us, in the Eucharist, a promise and foretaste of the fullness of life. That means that we find the secrets of Eucharistic spirituality in the Eucharistic liturgy itself, in the Mass. (This is where McBrien is justified in claiming that the "Mass itself provides all that a Catholic needs sacramentally and spiritually.)

In the antiphon, we heard the Eucharist referred to as a banquet. What are the characteristics of a banquet?


For one thing, there's good food. A banquet is characterized by quality: people bring out the best.

At Mass,we approach the table of the Word of God and the Body of Christ. It doesn't get any better than this. (Eucharistic adoration, according to the norms established by the Church, must be carried out in a way that makes it clear that the Eucharist we venerate comes from the Mass and leads us back to the Mass.)


You don't leave a banquet hungry.

And Jesus assures us about the Eucharist, "No one who comes to me will ever be hungry; no one who believes in me will ever thirst."


Banquets involve lots of people. It's not a banquet if you're by yourself, no matter how much food there is. At a banquet, there's a kind of communion of people over the food; it's a primal form of nourishment. We even have expressions in our culture, food-language that speaks of our longing for communion, to be "one-life" with the object of our love. (My 11-month-old great-niece, Leah, is so cute I could eat her up. And have you ever heard anyone say that something—or someone—"looks good enough to eat?") This is the deep human hunger Jesus wants to satisfy. We are made to share our life with others: that's communion. Jesus brings us together in one body in himself. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Greek word for "assembly" is used as a name for the Mass. We can't telecommute to a banquet (what would be the point?). In the same way, we can't telecommute to Mass.


Banquets are given for a special reason. Back in 2003, my family gave a banquet to mark my 25th anniversary. In the Mass, it is Jesus' Paschal Mystery that sets the table. In the Eucharist, we celebrate the same mystery into which we were baptized.

A banquet may have a formal closing, but you don't see people streaming out to the parking lot. They linger, trying to stretch the experience as long as possible. In the same way, we're invited to treasure the word of God that we have heard. And because the Eucharist does not revert to bread and wine, we can linger with the Lord in his sacramental presence.We can even return to ponder the Word we heard at Mass, to bring him again our "joys and hopes" and intercessions.


Eucharistic adoration feasts on this "sacred banquet" and allows us to "linger at the table" Jesus has set for his Church. It gives us time to more deeply assimilate all we have "heard and seen" (and "touched with our hands and looked upon") of the Word of Life.

Sounds like a "step forward" to me. How about to you? Have any stories to share about how Eucharistic adoration shapes your living as a witness to Jesus? How were you introduced to adoration? How do you spend that time with the Lord?

1 comment:

takechildren2adore said...

Sister, you need to check his comments on that article because there is a comment by you saying you agree with him and a link to this website. Must be false but check it out because it looks like you agree with him. Good luck getting him to remove that post.