by Ethan Mack
Eucharistic adoration is a practice that has been a part of the Catholic tradition since roughly the 11th century. It entails the exposition (or removal from the tabernacle) of the Eucharist so that it can be adored by the faithful. The practice was said to come out during a time when people began to doubt the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Popes during this period, especially Pope Gregory the VII, worked to promote a stronger sense of the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament. Thomas Aquinas, the great theologian and doctor of the church, was commissioned by the Pope to write several hymns about the Eucharist, including O Salutarius Hostia and Tantum Ergo, both of which are customarily used during adoration to this day.
The ritual of adoration (or a “Holy Hour” as it is typically called) is pretty strait forward. Adoration begins with the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. This usually entails the singing of a hymn followed by the priest removing the Eucharist from the tabernacle. The priest places the host in a tall container called a monstrance. The monstrance is then left on the altar for a designated period of time. This is the point at which everyone engages in their own preferred method of silent prayer. At the end, the priest returns to the altar leads the faithful in what’s called Benediction. This is simply a blessing given with the Eucharist. The priest makes the sign of the cross with the monstrance containing the host. After this has taken place, the Eucharist is returned to the tabernacle.
What exactly does the Church ask the faithful during adoration? Well that is pretty much entirely up to the adorer. Some people pray a rosary, others like to read scripture, and still others simply try to have a conversation with Christ. There really is no right way to adore Christ. The only thing asked of adorers is that they are focused on Christ during their time with Him.
The objection has been made throughout the centuries that adoration takes away from the celebration of the mass. However, the Popes have continually said that this is not the case. Pope Benedict said on this issue: “In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; Eucharistic adoration is simply the natural consequence of the Eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church’s supreme act of adoration. Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy. The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself.”
If you are interested in adoration at BC, the Saint Thomas More Society holds a holy hour on Monday from 6-7 in the Gasson Chapel.