Even if you are already Catholic, outside of receiving the Eucharist at Sunday Mass (or daily Mass), you may be unfamiliar with the practice of sitting before our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament. After Each Mass, the remaining Eucharistic hosts are reserved in the tabernacle, the normally beautiful, solid, locked, immovable box that you usually find in a central, hopefully prominent (they are supposed to be) location in the mid portion of the main altar or on a side altar. Rarely is the Sacred Blood of our Lord reserved, and thus ordinarily, when the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament is being discussed, it is the Body of Christ that we are speaking about. Whether we receive the Eucharist under the appearances of bread or wine, we are in either case receiving the whole Christ undivided, body, blood, soul, and divinity under either form.
Receiving our Lord present in the Eucharist comprises the pinnacle of the Christian Life, for it is there that we have an intimate communion with Christ Jesus that transforms us to the extent that our souls are receptive to these great graces. But people often forget that we can stop by a Catholic Church on any day of the week, and simply converse with our Lord present really and truly just feet away from us. We must always remember that without the Mass, there would be no Eucharist, and therefore, no Jesus to visit in the Blessed Sacrament. Receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is of primary importance. Nonetheless, the second best thing is at least coming close to our Lord in the Eucharist, firstly in Eucharistic Exposition when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed to our eyes, and secondly when it is hidden, and remains behind the locked door of the tabernacle. In either case, it is known as Eucharistic Adoration, though the exposed form is preferable.
You may be surprised that we call this is adoration, but one Truth leads to another. If the Eucharist is really God, and it is, then Eucharistic Adoration makes sense. Many centuries ago, reserving the Blessed Sacrament in a dignified and respectful location first began in order to keep at the ready the Eucharist to be given to the sick and those who could not be at Mass. In fact, very early on, the Eucharist was reserved in homes because of the threat of persecution. As the Church became more aware of the astounding significance of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a deeper and deeper appreciation surfaced of the adoration due to our Lord present as the Eucharist. Because the Eucharist is truly our Lord under the veiled appearances of bread and wine, we offer to the Eucharist the adoration owed to God alone, because the Eucharist is God himself. That is a fact, that, if we really meditated upon it, could, would, and should have enormous impacts on how we conduct ourselves in the aisles and pews of our churches, and in everything we do inside and outside of the walls of our houses of worship. Saint John Paul The Great recognized and repeatedly emphasized that Eucharistic worship is certainly needed in the Church and World. In Ecclesia Eucharistia #25, he, then known as Pope John Paul the II (Oh how I love being able to call him a saint!) told us that “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us.“
Why is it of such great benefit to us? And why is it so dear to God? Our Lord promised us that he would be with us to the very end of the world, a very consoling statement, and one that I think many a Christian underappreciates. We were also promised by Jesus that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all Truth, another promise that is more and more fulfilled as the ages of the Church march onward, and we understand more and more clearly Christ’s coming among us and the various facets of the diamond that is our Catholic Faith, including the “facet” of Eucharistic Adoration. Our Lord never intended that he would be only spiritually present unto the very end of time, though that in itself is a remarkably grand thing. No, he intended to be sacramentally present to us, even outside of Mass. Our God truly is present in our Catholic churches, the same Lord Jesus who walked and talked in the Gospels 2000 years ago. He is really there on the altar in the tabernacle! It is really him that we genuflect to, that we direct our attention to their near the burning tabernacle light that reminds us constantly of our Lord’s living presence in the Eucharist.
It is Christ Jesus himself, our Lord and God that both Catholics and non-Catholics alike often note sensing when they walk in a Catholic church, not realizing how awesomely present he really is. He grants us unimaginable graces when we visit him, increasing in us the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love, and inciting within us a greater and greater appreciation, reverence, awe and hunger for the Holy Eucharist. As Jesus consoles us there in the tabernacle “hiding”, we in turn also console him, for not only did our future sins contribute to his suffering on the Cross, it was acts of ours such as visiting him in the Blessed Sacrament that consoled him as he hung on the wood of our salvation, he seeing from afar how we would seek him out in the centuries after he died for us. He yearns and thirsts for our love. As God he does not absolutely need our love, but He who created us knows that we need to realize that we need him. When we seek Him, we find him in the Blessed Sacrament and this consoles his Sacred Heart even now in Heaven, he who desires that no soul should perish.
Jesus loves us with an everlasting love, and just as we draw closer to our loved ones by spending time with them, we can foster our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in a very personal and intimate way in visits to the Blessed Sacrament. In such visits our Lord stokes the fires of our hearts to love him more and more, to make amends for the offenses committed against him, to see the things of this world as fleeting, and to realize his great and tender love and mercy for us that pervades every fiber of our being. The Blessed Sacrament melts the fears that freeze us, and fills us with warm trust in God’s mercy. I have even heard, though I cannot remember where, the analogy of the divine radiation of Blessed Sacrament being like unto the radiation directed at cancer. Whereas radiation destroys cancer plaguing the body, the divine radiation of Eucharistic Adoration destroys our enslavement to sin and our desire to sin inasmuch as we advance in deeper friendship with our Lord. In gazing at the Lord’s beauty, the ugliness of sin becomes ever more apparent. Repulsed by the darkness of evil, we are drawn towards the light of God himself.
At the end of the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we pray “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like to yours.” Nothing makes our hearts more like unto Jesus than the Eucharist. Besides receiving the Eucharist often, meaning at daily Mass whenever we can, in addition to obligatory Sunday and Holy Day masses, it is praying before the Blessed Sacrament and uniting ourselves in Spiritual Communion with our Lord in the tabernacle or exposed in the Monstrance that is the most accessible, easy, profound, and wonderful way to reach out to Jesus that he might transform us to be more and more like him. St. Faustina, a frequent Eucharistic adorer, even states that spiritually “I have enclosed myself in the tabernacle together with Jesus.” Let us therefore, as did St. Faustina, come to our Eucharistic Lord as often as possible, the same God present in every tabernacle, in all the Catholic churches, small and large across the globe, from St. Peter’s in Rome, to mountainside churches in Austria to your own home parish just down the way. Jesus is there waiting. Go, keep watch with him! What are you waiting for?
As the Prayer of Reparation which you may be familiar with (or if you are not, now you will be)states: “May the Heart of Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored, and loved with grateful affection at every moment in all the tabernacles of the world, now and until the end of time. Amen.