Down in Adoration Falling

‘You have given them bread from heaven … having within it all sweetness’

Frans Francken the Younger (1581-1642), “Disputation of the Holy Sacrament”
Frans Francken the Younger (1581-1642), “Disputation of the Holy Sacrament” (photo: Public Domain)

Eucharistic adoration is simultaneously the simplest and the most profound spiritual practice in the Catholic Church. And in its simplicity is the key to understanding God and loving him all the more. 

As Mother Teresa said of the Eucharistic adoration, when one sits and looks at the Blessed Sacrament, one is filled with the sense that the Blessed Sacrament looks back.

The Holy Eucharist, Christ himself, asks for nothing but to sit quietly with you. You might ask, “Why can’t I do this anyplace else?” That’s a good question. What’s missing is a good answer to the follow-up question, “Where else do you suggest?”

People often claim that they have profound spiritual moments with their family or in nature or during a baseball game. But they are confusing fun and thrilling times with truly spiritually profound moments. Mystics describe their experiences with the Divine as emptying, shattering, expansive and life-altering. Many people sit in nature or share meals with friends or watch star athletes, but these experiences are not particularly profound and none of them, as yet, have made anyone into a saint.

The experience of being with the God who called you into existence destroys your love of self and replaces it with a love of God. That new love then overflows from our hearts and calls us to love others with the same passion as God.

There are those, including some Christians, who insist the Holy Eucharist isn’t Christ’s body. This is patently false and contradicts the Scriptures:

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you’ (Luke 22:19-20).

Note that Jesus never said, “This is a symbol of my body.” Nor did he say, “This is like my body.” Nor did he say, “This is my body if you look at it in just the right light."

He was explicit and clear, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”

Jesus especially says his blood seals “the new covenant.” It would make sense to accept that God wasn’t fooling around with symbols but rather referring to this very real Passion and Atonement.

Christ does not refer to parables or engage in metaphors, similes, allegories, puns or wordplay here. Rather, he is using the last precious moments of his life and ministry to impress upon his Apostles of his eternal promise that he will always be present to them, “Step up to the tabernacle. Accept the Eucharist and you will meet me!” As St. Thérèse of Lisieux reminds us:

Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you, for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart.

The Holy Hour

Sts. Peter Julian Eymard, Charles Borromeo, Clare of Assisi, Faustina Kowalska, Jean Vianney, Thérèse of Lisieux, John Neumann, Anthony Mary Claret, Alain de Solminihac, Alphonsus Liguori and Benedict Joseph Labre have all practiced Eucharistic adoration. Sts. Elizabeth Ann Seton and John Henry Newman both converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism because of their experience before the Eucharist. St. Justin Martyr and Tertullian both described how first-century Christians referred to the Holy Eucharist in their daily prayers. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her Missionaries of Charity made a daily Holy Hour. St. Francis of Assisi was thoroughly devoted to the Eucharist. For him, the adoration of the Eucharist was the same thing as “seeing Christ.” Pope St. John Paul II called Eucharistic adoration the “very wellspring of grace” as he taught in his Dominicae Cenae:

The Church and the world have a great need of Eucharistic worship. Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet him in adoration and in contemplation that is full of faith.

Though it may look like a simple piece of bread, in reality, Jesus Christ — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — is really, truly and substantially present. To this end, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1377) specifically states:

The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist.

When we gaze upon the Holy Eucharist, we join all the billions of other Christians who have gazed upon the very same God, both in this moment and across the millennia, back even to the Apostles at the Last Supper.