What are the benefits of adoring the Lord in the Eucharist outside of Mass? And can you tell me about the things I see at Eucharistic Adoration?
by Father Gregory Haman
“It does good for the
soul to spend time with Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. He has made himself
available to us in the Eucharist for 2,000 years. He will continue to do so
until the end of time.” –Father Gregory Haman
I am writing this article in the midst of the bustle of Holy Week. Another Lent has ended, but we are also wrapping up a particular devotion we have been practicing this year in one of my parishes: 24 hours of Eucharistic Adoration each week.
I wish I could say it was my own initiative to extend the six weekly hours of Adoration we were already keeping, but no, it (happily) came from some enthusiastic ladies during their Tuesday-night Bible study. They thought our parish should have more time honoring the Lord by keeping vigil with him in the Eucharist, and they were ready to make it happen. We all know we need quiet in our lives, but we rarely take it. Sometimes it takes a commitment (like writing our name on a list—in ink—to take a weekly hour in Adoration) just to do it.
Though the primary reason to keep the consecrated Eucharist between Masses is so that it may be brought to the sick, it is natural for the faithful to honor Christ’s presence as it remains in the tabernacle. There are even written accounts (though the object itself has been lost to history) that an ornate tabernacle made in the shape of a dove and set with over 150 pearls was suspended over the altar by the Roman emperor Constantine for the newly-constructed St. Peter’s basilica in Rome in the 300s.
The practice of placing the Eucharist in clear, visible case for viewing by the faithful does not go back as far in Christian history, though it has a long pedigree of its own. There are 800-year old monstrances, much like the star-burst kinds we are familiar with today, in churches and museums across Europe. Such vessels are used to process the Eucharist through city streets for various festivals of the year. Members of different groups would take their places in the procession and sometimes even take their turns carrying the Eucharist in elaborately-made shrines.
It is from the 1200s that we received some of the rituals we are familiar with in Eucharistic Adoration. When Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), he commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to write prayers for the occasion. It is from these that we have the hymns “O Salutaris Hostia” (“O Saving Victim”), which is often sung at the beginning of Eucharistic Adoration, and the “Tantum Ergo,” (“Down in Adoration Falling”), from Benediction.
Sometimes people ask about the monstrance itself. They are often ornate and beautiful works of art in their own right, though there are not a lot of laws that govern their shape or their materials. Today, all vessels that hold the Eucharist should be made from materials “that, according to the common estimation in each region, are precious.” (General Instruction for the Roman Missal, #329) Therefore, one may see monstrances that contain gold or even jewels, but often they will be made of less expensive, though still beautiful, materials. When the priest or deacon closes a period of Eucharistic Adoration with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, he places what is called a humeral veil over his shoulders (so-called after the Latin word, humerus, for the shoulders) and blesses those present by making a cross over them with the monstrance. It is hard not to notice at Benediction that the priest or deacon is careful to lift the monstrance only through the veil draped over his hands. That emphasizes that Christ himself is blessing everyone present through the Eucharist. It is not from the hand of the priest or deacon.
Now that Easter is here, my parish will go back to its earlier practice of having Eucharistic Adoration for several hours on Wednesdays. It won’t be for a full 24-hour period like we did for a while, but there is no lack in that. It is a great thing to have any period of Eucharistic Adoration in our parishes, even from time-to-time. Nonetheless, Christ is no less present and ready to receive us in any parish tabernacle, and time spent with him there is no different than time in formal Eucharistic Adoration. It does good for the soul to spend time with Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. He has made himself available to us in the Eucharist for 2,000 years. He will continue to do so until the end of time.
Father Haman serves as pastor of Holy Rosary Church in LaMoure, Assumption Church in Dickey and St. Raphael’s Church in Verona.
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