Do you know where the greatest place to be is?

In a mostly empty church, before the Blessed Sacrament.

Just got back a little while ago from Adoration. One parish nearby has it during the week for a few hours, and I always try to make that, but another parish, a few towns over, has Nocturnal Adoration once a month, from 9PM to 6:30AM, and I always try to get there for it.

Some background:

Adoration is what we Catholics call it when the Blessed Sacrament is displayed in a Monstrance, (which is also called an Ostensorium, (from ostendere, “to show”) specifically so that we may adore and worship Christ, Present in the Holy Eucharist. The host is displayed in a monstrance to protect it, but also to raise it so that you can adore from anywhere in the church.

This is a VERY big deal for faithful Catholics. We take our cue from Christ in Gethsemane, when Jesus asked the apostles to wait with him, while he prayed. And yes, sometimes I do doze off, like Peter and the rest, but it sure feels like a holy and sweet rest, when I do!

So, we “watch” with Christ, usually for an hour at a time, and it is a time of great sweetness, consolation and awe. Speaking for myself, my prayer before the Blessed Sacrament usually begins with a plea for help, as I pour my heart out and remember all of the people for whom I have promised to pray. Then it becomes very quiet. Inside, I mean, in my heart, a wonderful stillness forms and grows, and then love comes in on the stillness, until my heart fills with such a swell of awe and gratitude that my closing prayer becomes a kind of mental litany of all the names of Jesus. Key of David, Daystar, Strong One of Jacob, Holy One, Mighty One…it seems that by then all I can do is praise and praise Him in all of his names.

And you hate to leave. I mean, two in the morning, and I hated to leave, even though I was very tired.

There are different sorts of Adoration. There is the informal sort that my nearby parish hosts, they expose the Eucharist, light the candles and let people wander in and out as their schedules permit and the spirit moves. At night, they have Benediction and it’s over until the following week.

Some parishes have a more formal and liturgical Adoration, called Nocturnal Adoration, which is what I participated in, tonight. People volunteer to watch for specific hours, and they show up in time to take up were the previous group is finishing. People sit on both sides of the aisle, and read aloud from the Office of the Blessed Sacrament, in a sort of call-and-response, dexter and sinister manner, modeled on the recitation of the Divine Office in monastic houses. An hour will consist of three psalms, a reading from scripture (my hour had Hebrews, 9), a lesson from a Father of the church (we had John Crystostom, tonight), and some time for quiet, reflective prayer. It’s not as quiet as the first, but it is very rich.

Nocturnal Adoration goes on all night, and ends with Benediction, before the morning’s mass.

Very lucky parishes have Perpetual Adoration, with an entire small chapel held in reserve for constant exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, 24/7. Usually members of the hosting parish and people from surrounding parishes will commit to specific hours, every week, and so someone is always “watching with Christ.”

So, anyway…that’s the greatest place in the world to be. You sit there, you look, you listen, you talk. Jesus looks back, talks, listens.

I like what Sr. Briege McKenna says about sitting before the Holy Eucharist: “it is like sitting out in the sun. You may not feel the effect at the moment, but a little while later, you KNOW you were exposed.”

It is a treasure of the church which got rather pushed aside in the 1970′s when the progressives were busy throwing out babies and bathwaters left and right “in the spirit of Vatican II.”

Thankfully, it is being re-discovered and re-embraced. Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is powerful, raw and real; it is a tremendous part of my life. I can’t imagine not having it, and I am SO grateful whenever I CAN take part in it.

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About Elizabeth Scalia