A Fresh Look at Eucharistic Adoration

Although distinctly Catholic (or perhaps because of this), Eucharistic adoration can be a rather controversial practice among postconciliar Catholics.  As a professor of mine has observed, many assertions are made about why it is done, often without asking anyone who does it. 

This professor, Dr. Kimberly Belcher, is seeking to fill this gap with her current research.  She recently recruited me and a fellow graduate student to assist her in organizing a workshop for undergraduate women who practice adoration.  She has posted a summary reflection about the workshop on PrayTell.

For the six young women who attended this workshop, it seemed in my observation to be one of those delightful “oh, I’m not alone!” moments.  Their descriptions of their spiritual practices in connection with Eucharistic adoration defy easy categorization, and thus implicitly challenge certain common assumptions.  I will refrain from unpacking this statement for now and let the PrayTell post speak for itself, except to say that we were all impressed with the dynamism and maturity of these young women’s spirituality.

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  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Julia,

    The issue of the importance of Eucharistic adoration for the Catholic tradition has been arguably very underplayed precisely because of some of the notions of Vatican II. But if we take the historical record, both in terms of aesthetics and material culture (the actual physical goods of this practice) it is clear that it was much more central than many now understand. And perhaps there is still some vested interest in keeping the centrality of it out of focus, for it does beg the question also of how central the actual “sacrifice of the Mass” was compared to “adoration”.

    The facts are that many composers and artists spent a huge amount of time producing works specifically for “adoration”. There are Litanies for Adoration galore (and not just Masses, that is the point!). And though there are certainly artistic depictions of the active “sacrifice of the Mass”, without having done a scientific survey, I think we can safely conclude that “adorational” representations of the Catholic Blessed Sacrament are MUCH MORE popular in art for centuries, than any depiction of the Mass.

    And simply on the level of material culture, so called, there is a kind of evidence of numbers. If one tours the great churches of Europe, and enters their treasuries as well (that’s the part they usually get you to pay for — who can blame them to try to make money for upkeep?!) for every one chalice (or patten) you will find about ten (!) Monstrances bejewelled to the max, much more than the chalices.

    What this all means is another matter. At very least it has to mean that this all was vastly more central at one time than now, and it seems that such is proof of the power of persuasion of changing emphases in theology in this ancient faith. Mutatis mutandis, indeed in several directions.

  • Jordan

    To add to what Peter has said: the lavish decoration of monstrances also comments quite a bit on the very important communal and public function of the liturgical item. In many places still this day, Corpus Christi processions prominently feature the monstrance as the center of attention. This is certainly true of one of the parishes I attend, which shuts down a main city thoroughfare for their Corpus Christi procession. The canopy, strewn rose petals, and the cacaphonous competition between rosary-chanters and the adoration choir all converge on the monstrance and host. The prominence of monstrances in processions not only emphasizes the solemnity of eucharistic procession but, as Peter pinpoints, the wealth of a parish and its community.

    Do note also that eucharistic processions are also a time for community rejoicing. Our Corpus Christi procession is immediately followed by a parish barbecue. Ritual service is then followed by agape. Some might counter that an agape should follow a celebration of the eucharist and not public adoration. I would say that an agape is a fine conclusion to public adoration, as the enduring consecration of the city, the community, to Christ is followed by charity and fellowship.

  • tausign

    For the six young women who attended this workshop, it seemed in my observation to be one of those delightful “oh, I’m not alone!” moments. Their descriptions of their spiritual practices in connection with Eucharistic adoration defy easy categorization, and thus implicitly challenge certain common assumptions.

    For those who find controversy in this practice currently, isn’t this a case of people simply “not knowing what they don’t know”? It seems your professor/researcher was wise to prefer dialogue rather than debate with those who spend time in Eucharistic Adoration. I suspect that one commonality among adorers is the desire not only to ‘take and eat’ but also to savor and ponder the mystery of it all.

    I have always understood Eucharistic Adoration to be an extension of the Mass and never as something to substitue or compete with it. In some sense, even a silent hour of adoration is linked to Benediction which is itself a liturgical action: one that is derived from the Eucharist itself.

    Finally, though I don’t see any near term revival, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this practice someday flower, as the ground seems to be ripe when one considers (1) the shortage of priests and (2) the unrelenting clamor of modern life and technology that begs for a period of stillness and silence.

  • Melody

    I don’t know that Perpetual Adoration is really controversial. I have done an hour each week ever since our parish started it thirteen years ago. Well over half our parish is signed up for an hour. It has been a great source of strength and unity for us. There is a book for people to write down their prayer intentions. Some of what you read is heartbreaking, cancer, unemployment, bereavement, depression, addictions; you name it. But if you write it down you know that you’re not alone, others are holding you up in prayer. I have had the experience of people stopping in and asking me personally to pray for them, which I am glad to do; I’m sure others are as well. As they say, “A sorrow shared…”. In this way we can feel that we are sharing in an apostolate similar to the contemplative religious; it’s just that it’s part-time.
    As Dr. Belcher shared in her piece, we have many different kinds of prayer, some are like the Rosary, some are more spontaneous. Sometimes one feels lifted up almost in rapture, other times we have an itchy, twitchy hour when we wonder if the clock is stuck. Sometimes it is easy to pray and we experience much consolation; other times we are plagued by distractions. As one priest told me, “Pray your distractions. Your effort to rise above them is your prayer.” One thing I have learned is that God always meets you where you are.
    I do understand that in some times past, due to prevailing influences such as Jansenism etc., people did not receive Communion frequently, and Adoration became a kind of substitute for receiving; in this way they could find connection with the Eucharist. But I don’t think that’s why people are involved in Adoration now. It’s not a substitute for anything, it’s “both-and”. It only increases one’s love for the Mass, it’s an added bonus.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs

      Melody,

      “I do understand that in some times past, due to prevailing influences such as Jansenism etc., people did not receive Communion frequently, and Adoration became a kind of substitute for receiving; in this way they could find connection with the Eucharist. But I don’t think that’s why people are involved in Adoration now. It’s not a substitute for anything, it’s “both-and”. It only increases one’s love for the Mass, it’s an added bonus.”

      No! there is no support for that Jansenism angle.

      • Julia Smucker

        I don’t think Melody is saying there is support for Jansenism, if that’s what you’re reading. I see her saying that it is not accurate to dismiss Adoration as an expression of Jansenism or something similar, that such influences are not the primary source of contemporary Adoration practices. And for that, Kim Belcher’s research is already providing support – not to mention the anecdotal evidence given by several commenters on this thread, Melody included.

        • Peter Paul Fuchs

          Julia,

          What an interesting conceptual contretemps! Love it! Perhaps Melody will have to clarify her view, though I am quite sure I had her right. But I something may have been lost in my paraphrase. The reason that I am quite sure I had her gist, though, is that it resonates which views I have read, and even heard from “scholars” like Kevin Irwin. Namely, that Jansenism was a convenient grabbag blame-field for all sorts of tendencies one now wanted to keep at a distance. Specifically, the very historically evident Catholic tendency to see the Eucharist NOT in actu, but as a unifying act of identity even if profoundly spiritual. In this sense the “Adoration” of the Eucharist had for most of RC history EXACTLY the same valence as putting a little cape on the Infant of Prague, though obviously not as important. I really am not trying to be sarcastic here, but to make a deeper point. It is not that there cannot be deeper meanings for a religious practice like “Adoration”. Of course there can, and the ones you describe are interesting. But if we are trying to get at what the impetus actually was in the past we have to see the overriding meaning as one of identity. Again, identity with something very spiritual indeed, and open to deeper levels.

          So when later liturgical “scholars” like Irwin tried to deal with the entirely massive evidence of the liturgical material-culture side of this matter or its vast popular piety side, it clearly came far too close to the very heart of the RC Church’s central meaning for this sacrament. To wit, if the RC Church did literally everything in its power to encourage this popular identity and NOT the deep act (in the “sacrifice of the Mass”) then how could it be that there was always a continuity of theology about the Eucharist as claimed. Well, it couldn’t be some level of changeability in doctrine (which it obviously is to any fair historian of the matter) but it must be someone else’s fault. Whose fault? — the Jasnsenists! Those poor little nuns who apparently were sweet and blameless, and are still being blamed. Incredible!

          • Julia Smucker

            PPF, two questions:

            1) You’ve got me confused: are we arguing about whether Jansenism is responsible for deficiencies in popular piety, or whether it is unjustly scapegoated? What Melody said above was that although Jansenism has had its influence in certain circles, this is not the primary reason postconciliar Catholics practice Eucharistic adoration. I’m not sure what direction you are taking the conversation.

            2) On what grounds do you speak so dismissively of Irwin’s “scholarship” (in quotation marks) other than personal dispreference?

        • Peter Paul Fuchs

          Julia,

          Thank you for printing my comment, as I actually surprised it made it past the sieve. Postconciliar Catholicism can be anything it wants to be. That is the wonderful thing of living in an age that actually has made a few significant strides over the nastiness of the past. Whatever catholics decide is the ambit of their meaning and belief it there like a precious jewel (belng idealistic for once here) that they can protect and use as prism for their lives. That is not the issues, from the get-go. I want to clear about that with lapidarian focus.

          The issue is how Catholics see their beliefs in relation to history, which everyone shares. I don’t want to widen this subject and make it even harder to be tight about it. But I need a bit of amplitude to make one fact clear. Look, you won’t get any argument from me that the RC Church hasn’t an impressive intellectual tradition. But with all the ways one can admire the edifices of different philosophical systems therein, it seems Catholics often don’t return the favor to society in really being normal about how it all appears.

          To wit, there may be a lot of close reasoning in St. Thomas and the traditions that are heirs to him. But the notion of transubstantiated host is just NOT available as a matter to be considered as close reasoning. I say again, this should not stop Catholics from believing it. But it is just not fair to expect others to assent to your being mostly rational or coherent when such a belief is at the very heart of the system. It is not by definition.

          Now this has ramifications for the very topic we are discussing here, and the history of it. Melody was just parroting what others have said — like Iriwin to my recollection — that the de-emphasis in the past on the existential aspects of Eucharist were not to be laid ultimately at the RC Church’s doorstep, but at some putatively outside (in the sense of heretical) influence. Thus in that line of thinking people did not receive communion because of some pernicious misunderstanding that some fell into. It was those damn Jansenists, or somebody else, like lingering Catharism or something ridiculous like that.

          In fact there were significant historical reasons why the RC Church CHOSE to de-emphasize reception itself for a very long time. They are on a range of things, For instance (and I am am not kidding or being snarky!) — 1. An utterly forgotten aspect of Church history is that the sacraments were bound up with PAYING for them. Now, let me be clear, I do not know of evidence for the need to pay for Eucharist. But since so much else was a matter of payment, and the relationship of faithful to benefice was a financial one, it stands to reason simply that if you were not keeping up on payments, you might make yourself scarce either from Church altogether or from getting too close to the communion rail and thus drawing attention to yourself. 2.At various periods the RC church definitely encourage a vast amount of scrupulosity. Significantly, NOT as the Jansenists did based on good behavior, but based on loyalty to whatever was going on hierarchically in the Church. Hyper-scrupulous people don’t go to communion, historically. 3. Most important, especially with the Counter-REformation the emphasis was was definitely on sacred theater. I mean this seriously, as it produced some of the world’s greatest art and music. But what is better theater, a priest with his back to you, or a monstrance with a host making a big sign of the cross, with the priest dressed in a big old cope?

          This is all part of the very intrinsic desiderata of the RC church. When Vatican II came they tried to make it all sound like modern sensibilities of existential commitments. Ok, that’s fine. But it is NOT what went on before.

          My problem is simply with the idea that there has been not essential change. The modern idea of Adoration you describe sound lovely, but it is an mostly new creation for the age at least as to intent.

          As to Irwin. All he talked about in class was Bellah’s Habits of the Heart and polls. The class was really thin intellectually and historically. And I knew half of the historical explanations in class did not even jibe with history then. My later readings have only confirmed that sense, and his books — oy vey! He starts with polls and then just makes things up.

          On a personal level, I was personally treated incredibly shabbily and abusively by that faculty there at CUA. If they had any shame I would have long ago received an apology. But it is clear from how the RC church deals with abuse much more serious than I received, that they are essentially shameless, and delusional in their moral sense of themselves. I pity them for their personal and spiritual shallowness.

        • Julia Smucker

          Interpersonal issues aside, and granting your historical point about the deemphasis of reception (although it’s not as if some pope or priest or whoever just woke up one day and decided these things), part of the point I wanted to make (which I thought Melody’s anecdote reiterated nicely, as did a few others on here) was that the contemporary impetus for adoration is not, by and large, tied to any deemphasis of reception as it often was in the medieval period. Case in point: the vast majority of adoration-goers nowadays are also frequent partakers of communion at Mass.

        • Peter Paul Fuchs

          Julia,

          Yea, I get that, as to your last point. That makes sense, and it seems like that betokens a tradition coming into a mature relationship with its own traditional notions.

          Lastly, though I am not drawn to Catholicism as a faith anymore, I have to say two things. I love the whole idea of benediction and monstrances. you probably picked up on that. The other is that I would find it easier to believe in transubtantiation than in Paul Ryan’s budget.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs

        Julia,

        One more very interesting angle, and a fun opportunity, I think. If you go the website of the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, you will find a complete webcast of a Symposium on Peter Paul Rubens Triumph of the Eucharist series– the highlight of their collection. I recommend especially the lecture from Saturday by Susan Merriam of Bard College, as she elucidates some of the very issues we have discussed here. Very informative. Also, quite accurate in a very complex matter. Though she makes one surprising mistake in saying that monstrances are used during Mass. Otherwise, excellent in a very hard to summarize area, especially about Jesuit theatrical displays for the exposed host.

  • dominic1955

    I also do not think Adoration is really controversial. Some folks might not consider it their cup of tea but I do not see how one could be Catholic and totally disparage it, even if it isn’t their cup of tea or part of their own legitimate tradition.

    The only problem I have with it (specifically Perpetual Adoration) is that sometimes folks are sloppy with the rules. What I mean by this is that it leaves the possibility of desecration more likely and possibly breeds a certain contempt through familiarity. I do not think it is a good idea to have to have the monstrance out for this all the time. Praying before the tabernacle is just fine for usual cases. My traditionalist parish has Adoration w/ the monstrance only for brief periods right after certain Masses, Corpus Christi, and 40 Hours-all occasions which would have the appropriate number of people and degree of solemnity fitting for formal exposition. Otherwise, one is free to come in to the church whenever and pray before the tabernacle.

    • Melody

      Our adoration is in a small side chapel, the monstrance (which is a miniature one specifically for this purpose) is locked in a glass tabernacle. If for some reason an hour isn’t covered, a veil is pulled in front of the tabernacle.

      • dominic1955

        That is good, in that your parish’s arrangement would preclude desecration.

        Still, this practice of Perpetual Adoration (w/ the Blessed Sacrament exposed) in parishes is a new enough practice that needs to have some bugs worked out if it is going to be a legitimate development in Eucharistic piety.

        Orders of Sisters could do Perpetual Adoration properly as there would always be sisters present w/ the Sacrament exposed and all the proper accoutremont (i.e. the number of candles, etc.) would be well taken care of. It seems that the traditional use of the monstrance and formal exposition would necessitate the proper occasional pomp and ceremony (i.e. Corpus Christi and 40 Hours) or dedicated organizations (i.e. a religious order) to properly observe the protocols. Otherwise, I still have a hard time seeing why praying before the (closed) tabernacle is not good enough for most of the time.

        So, I’m not saying its bad but I think we need to flesh out some more of the implications and practices for parish Perpetual Adoration.

  • Julia Smucker

    Thank you all for sharing your experience. I love the connections that are being drawn here, some of which came up in the workshop as well: adoration as an extension of the Mass (they mentioned envisioning the celebration at which the host was consecrated), and emphasis on a strong communal dimension as well as the need for solitude. Melody’s example of adoration becoming a space for the supportive prayer of the community is powerful stuff! And I can’t think of anything better for a Eucharistic procession to lead into than agape (both in the ritual and quotidian sense). These experiences are illustrative of how adoration has evolved, in a very good way, along with sacramental theology in general. Of course, there is always the possibility of less healthy manifestations, such as a display of the wealth of a parish, or a personal piety disconnected from loving one’s neighbor, or what have you. But the mistaken assumption that is sometimes made is that Eucharistic adoration is always and only about these kinds of things, though the examples mentioned here show otherwise.

  • Thales

    I’ve always seen Eucharistic adoration as an extension of the Mass, because it seems clearly obvious to me that a short Eucharistic adoration happens during every single Mass. Of course, I’m referring to the period of time during which the Host is elevated. To me, Eucharistic adoration is just the taking of that moment of time, and elongating it for purposes of additional prayer.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Jordan, apropos Eucharistic processions:

    Cardinal Newman wrote, “When the Host is carried in procession, the Body of Christ does not move”.

    Sounds like a koan to me.

    • brettsalkeld

      A koan that highlights the precisely sacramental nature of the presence and dissociates it from any crudely materialistic or physical understanding.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    Brett,

    Caro Cardo salutis.

  • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

    What or whom is being adored in Eucharistic Adoration? And if Christ is everywhere, as acknowledged in the linked blog entry, in what way is he present in the Eucharist that makes Eucharistic Adoration special? Would a concerted effort to recognize Christ’s presence everywhere not be more valuable than an effort to recognize it in the Eucharist?

    Suppose a priest is concerned that vandals will break into the church and do something unfortunate, so he secretly keeps only an unconsecrated host in the monstrance. Does that change anything? If people found out after a long stretch of Eucharistic Adoration, would they be justified in feeling cheated of some spiritual benefit that would otherwise have been theirs?

    Is it questions like these that make Eucharistic Adoration, for some people, a controversial practice?

    • Julia Smucker

      David, the answer to your final question is yes. Questions like these are similar to what I had in mind when I referred to Eucharistic adoration as controversial. The young women who participated in the workshop seemed to have such questions in mind as well. It sounded to me like they were used to having to explain to people what they do and why, even as they struggle to fully articulate what draws them. I think it was precisely their unwillingness to dichotomize the omnipresence of Christ and his particular presence in the Eucharist that gave rise to their acknowledgement of these questions (“if he’s all around us, why go?”), adding that there is a reason it’s important even so, and admitting that, like faith itself, it can be hard to explain. As one of them put it, the Lord is everywhere, but I am weak and need to see him face to face. As they wrestled with these questions, I think they were getting at what really is a beautiful paradox, which I have occasionally thought about before: that the one who fills the universe is at the same time uniquely here, in this hour made holy so that every hour may be holy.

      • http://turmarion.wordpress.com turmarion

        Rober Farrar Capon, in his excellent book The Third Peacock, says that the Sacraments in general are “outcroppings” of God’s grace and presence that we can recognize, since we can’t usually see Him elsewhere. The analogy is outcroppings of minerals or rocks–we walk on the ground all the time without seeing the minerals, but we come to an outcropping and are reminded of their presence. Of course, Christ is present in the Sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, in a way unique and different from his presence elsewhere; but I still think that’s a good analogy.

        On a slightly different tangent: I think one of the best writings on the Eucharist, especially in the context of adoration, was by Simone Weil in Waiting for God. I don’t have the book to hand to get it verbatim, but she said two things that have always struck me. One, she says that it was necessary for God to hide Himself in the human flesh of Christ, since the world can’t bear too much of Him directly, but that even that wasn’t hidden enough; so after his relatively short life, Christ further hides himself in the form of bread and wine. This increases our faith and reinforces the need to wait patiently for God, as He is (from our limited perspective) present “by hypothesis”, as she puts it.

        Second, she says that as the one truly, completely pure thing in the world, only the Eucharist can absorb the stains of our sins without becoming profaned itself. Only infinite purity can absorb impurity without itself becoming impure. Thus, she says, if only we had enough time to spend in our mortal lives before the Eucharist, our sins would be completely cleansed and purged from us. I’ve always found that a beautiful thought, and try to remember it when I have the opportunity to attend Adoration.

        • Julia Smucker

          Beautiful thoughts, indeed. I would be a bit wary of the language about God hiding himself in the human flesh of Christ, ever since I heard another of my professors point out that the hymn line “veiled in flesh the godhead see” smacks of docetism. Otherwise, though, I find these reflections helpful as ways of thinking about Eucharistic presence; the “outcroppings” metaphor (with your added nuance) is particularly so by connecting the sacramentality of all of life with the uniqueness of the sacraments proper.

    • Thales

      Good questions, David. I hope that I’m not inadvertently saying anything heretical (sometimes it’s easy to do with these difficult topics that require precise distinctions :) ), but the Christ-in-the-Eucharist is different from Christ-everywhere, because the Eucharist is actually, substantially, essentially Jesus — the actual substance of the Incarnate Jesus, but only under the mere appearances of bread and wine. In other words, the Eucharist is as truly Jesus’s Body and Blood as if Jesus Himself in his risen body had come back to Earth and was standing physically on the altar. This is obviously quite different from the type of presence that Christ has when we speak about Him being present everywhere, spiritually.

      Thus, imagine if the risen and Incarnate Jesus, 2nd person of the Trinity, God-and-man, came back to Earth and was standing physically on the altar, just as actually present as he was with the apostles before His Ascension — what level of adoration would be appropriate to Him? Well, that’s the level of adoration also appropriate to the Eucharist. So, yes, the priest who presented unconsecrated bread to his parishioners for this level of adoration would have committed a great fraud upon them, and the parishioners would rightly feel cheated.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs

      David,

      Thanks, as I was hoping somebody would make exactly those observations. I did not want to do it, since an outsider with strong opinions about minute matters of Catholic Eucharistic theology must seem a kind of strange absurdity. But those issues you highlight seem exactly right. And I think that when mixed with the both the historical observations I made AND the Newman quote, you get a very forceful ground for an existential question. Because Newman is now the virtual imprimatur for reliable apologetics, and his quote about the Body of Christ not moving says it all, if you unpack it.

      Mind you, I not naive enough to get bogged-down in an historical debate about Eucharistic terms. I just suggest that if the vitality of actual lived-life is being invoked — which it always is in discussing this sacrament — then it is NOT those Eucharistic terms which are telling but the existential conundrum they suggest.

      To wit, if God’s presence is everywhere, and therefore does not move, in what sense is His actual locatibility in these species crucial? This is why I called it — I think charitably — a koan. It represents something that cannot be represented.

      Let me stress, seriously, that none of this amounts to a good reason NOT to believe anything one might to believe on this matter. It just amounts to a good reason for others to handle Catholic attempts at existential explanations with largesse. Yet, when one considers that many, many people died in prison or were killed for not having just the right assent to these matters, you get a context for all this that ranges from tragic to funny.

      But monstrances are terrific objets d’art in my view!

  • dominic1955

    God is everywhere, in a sense, but not in the same way in which He is present in the Blessed Sacrament. We distinguish between Creator and creature. The Council of Trent is very clear (as are a number of other sources) that the Eucharist is to be given the worship of latria-something that every other merely symbolic “presence of Christ” (i.e. the altar, the human person, etc.) is not and cannot be due.

    • http://www.religiousleftlaw.com David Nickol

      the Eucharist is to be given the worship of latria . . . .

      But what, precisely, does this mean? Surely what is being adored in the Eucharist is Christ himself, not a former piece of bread that has undergone transubstantiation. Worship is reserved for God alone.

      • dominic1955

        Yes, and the Eucharist is not merely a “former piece of bread that has undergone transubstantiation” but the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ-thus due the worship reserved for God alone. Describing it as “a former piece of bread” still implies that transubstantiation isn’t the complete substantial change that we say it is, thus implying that the Eucharist is somehow different from Christ Himself in some essential way.

        The other presences (i.e. in the altar, in another, etc.) are spiritual, more merely symbolic and thus not due worship but rather reverence. We reverence Christ’s spiritual and/or symbolic presence in another, in an icon, or in the altar but never are any of those given latria. They have never been considered by the Church to have the same status as the Eucharist.

      • Julia Smucker

        It might help to recall that the doctrine of transubstatiation developed as a sort of middle ground between annihilation (of the elements) and consubstantiation. That is to say, it’s not that the bread and wine have to move over or be annihilated completely to make room for Christ, but that they are actually transformed into him. A good way to think of it is as an extension of the incarnation: the Word becomes flesh. And this for a purpose: transformation of the bread for the transformation of the communicants for the transformation of the world. Because of this, Eucharistic adoration should never be totally disconnected from Eucharistic celebration, but it can refresh and remind us of its meaning.

        • dominic1955

          Except that transubstantiation, as a dogmatic definition, predates consubstantiation by centuries (cf. Lateran and Lyonese Councils) and the concept was held by the Fathers even earlier.

          It is, however, very much an “extension” of the Incarnation. Our Faith is very much incarnational, one of the most central mysteries of the Faith is that God became man, that’s why we genuflect at that part of the Last Gospel.

          As to disconnection from Mass, I don’t think this was ever really that much of a problem. I could be mistaken, but it seems like one of those “black legends” that is just taken for granted, kind of like the idea that the totality of the Pre-Vatican II liturgical experience was a 15 min. Low Mass. While their are certainly cases and experiences that served as seeds for this idea, the reality is not near as dire.

          I’ve heard from some people that are big fans of Adoration that they “don’t get” much out of Mass. I’m not throwing that out there as some sort of definitive study, but I’ve heard it. I doubt its only a couple people, I would bet others have similar thoughts. I would posit that the reason for this is that the Mass has become a cacaphony of banality in many areas. Eucharistic adoration provides a quiet harbor from this and in a way replaces what they should be getting (at least to some degree) from the Mass itself.

        • Julia Smucker

          Except that the terminology of transubstantiation was used in very different ways. Here is what I was thinking of, to quote Gary Macy:

          In fact, theologians at the time of the Fourth Lateran Council fell roughly into three camps in regard to the eucharistic change. 1) Some believed that the bread and wine remained present along with the Body and Blood of the Lord; 2) others felt that the substance of the bread and wine were annihilated, the substance of the Body and Blood alone remaining. Finally, 3) a third group argued that the substance of bread and wine was changed into the substance of the Body and Blood at the words of consecration. Modern terminology would categorize the first theory as “consubstantiation,” the second as “annihilation” or “succession” theory, and the third as “transubstantiation.”

          I don’t see how it can be argued that a disconnect between Mass and Adoration was never much of a problem, when “ocular communion” functioned at one time as a replacement for reception of the Eucharist for the majority of the faithful. But the point I wanted to underscore in this post, which we seem to agree on, is that such a disconnect is not in fact prevalent in current Adoration practices, and that therefore Adoration should not be feared or dismissed as some seem inclined to do.

  • jordan st. francis

    I was first introduced to Adoration by the Catholic chaplaincy at my university in 2006. Though growing up in a Catholic community, I had never heard of it before. I connected with it instantly and, like other commenters here noted, it felt like a very natural extension of the moment of piety observed during the consecration. Along with a small group of other students, we would gather in the chapel weekly for exposition and sing hymns together, then pray the Rosary while father offered confession, and conclude with benediction. At a time when I was struggling heavily to find my spiritual place in the world, I can’t say how impactful this weekly practice was. Finally, here was some time for quiet reflection among the monotones of repeitous prayer, candle light and sacramental consolation. I never thought to oppose it to the Mass, but I would honestly say I prefer it to a great many of the Masses I’ve attended in my time.

  • Kurt

    I think we have done a good job at renewing and reforming Eucharistic Adoration. Those here speaking of it consistenly express a renewed and postCounciliar piety and approach to this devotion.

    Prior to the Council, too often, it was preferred because: 1) it could be done in the language of the people, and 2) one didn’t receive at Mass anyway. Neither of these features are now commonplace except in extreme neo-traditionalist circles, allowing for a better approach.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/ Sofia Loves Wisdom

    Adoration is my food. It is so odd because for me it can be such a struggle to get to adoration, but once I am there I am so happy I made it. And when I leave, I feel like a weight that I did not know was present has lifted.