From the beginning Christians have believed that the bread and wine become his very Body and Blood, given to the church for the celebration of our being brought back to God by Jesus’ death and resurrection. In the course of time, in the same spirit as the honoring of icons and the crucifix, followers of Jesus began to adore the bread and wine of the Eucharist, commonly called the Blessed Sacrament, connecting this adoration with their participation in the Mass. The Cathedral of Lugo in Spain, for example, has had perpetual adoration of the Eucharist for fifteen hundred years. It was St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), expert in the style of prayer called compositio loci (putting yourself in the place of sacred events) and the one responsible for the Christmas crib, Christmas carols, and the Stations of the Cross, who promoted popular devotion to the Blessed Sacrament by crawling into whatever church he came across and kneeling at the tabernacle with the words, “We adore Thee O Christ and we praise Thee, here and in all Thy churches throughout the world, because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.” St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) contributed further to the practice of Eucharistic adoration with the mass prayers he wrote for the new church feast of Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of the Lord). Christians as diverse as Mother Theresa of Calcutta, the mystic Charles de Foucauld, the activist and Catholic radical Dorothy Day, and the Hollywood director and priest Father Ellwood Kieser, have made Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament central to their prayer.
Eucharistic Adoration consists of placing oneself in a deeply contemplative spirit before the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament (the host consecrated at Mass is placed in a sun-shaped display case called a monstranceone of Jesus’ ancient titles is the “Sun of Justice”). The primary atmosphere should be one of silence and profound reverence, although meditation on Sacred Scripture, hymns, and vocal prayers can also be included. Imagining oneself with Peter, James, and John beholding Jesus at the Transfiguration (see Luke 9:28-36), echoing with Peter “Lord, how good it is to be here!” that is the attitude to embrace during one’s time with the Lord. Allowing yourself to be loved by Love itself is another helpful image. Such adoration is meant to inspire the Christian to connect himself or herself to the actual celebration of the Mass. In our heads eucharistic adoration should never be separate from the Mass but flowing from and leading to that which the Second Vatican Council called “the summit and font of the Church’s spiritual life.”
Fr. Bruce Nieli, CSP
The chamber where leftover Eucharist is reserved for the sick or dying. If the consecrated bread and wine is present, there is a lit candle above or beside it. Most Catholic churches and some Episcopalian/Anglican churches observe this. Catholics usually genuflect before the tabernacle as a sign of reverence.
Second Vatican Council
The gathering of all the world’s Catholic bishops in the early 1960’s to renew the Catholic Church. It was called by Pope John XXIII who called its purpose aggiornamento which means “updating.”