In Chicago, Eucharistic exposition and adoration has been restricted as part of an agreement to allow a Eucharistic pilgrimage to pass through as part of the national Eucharistic Revival. No explanation was really given for the restriction, but a recent article released by the archbishop in Chicago points to why it might have happened. The archbishop says in a five article series on the Eucharist that a fellow bishop once reminded him that Vatican Council II taught that the Eucharistic celebration, and not the Sacred Host in the monstrance, is the source and summit of Christian life and that “the rites of the Church insist that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament must lead to and draw from the celebration of the Eucharist in the Mass.” This is true, but that does not mean that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of the Mass is prohibited or should be frowned upon, and Vatican Council II also did not take away from the importance of adoration, but rather encouraged it.
In its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Vatican Council II did state that the Eucharistic sacrifice is the source and summit of the Christian life. However, this does not imply that the Sacred Host in the monstrance is not part of that. We believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ at all times, not just during the Mass. And so even outside of the Mass, in Eucharistic processions and during adoration, we acknowledge the sacrifice that Jesus made by giving His life for us and giving His Body and Blood to us at the Last Supper. We do not adore something separate when we have a Eucharistic procession or go to adoration, but we draw from what the Eucharist is and the sacrifice that was made for us and we reflect on why we are doing this form of adoration. Furthermore, in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Council once again emphasized the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and reiterated that we should increase our devotion to it. Other than receiving the Eucharist at Mass, we show devotion by outward expressions of honor and veneration. Doing this does not take away from the importance of the Mass, but rather adds to it by further pointing to Who we are receiving when we receive the Eucharist.
In an article on the importance of Eucharistic adoration on the St. Paul Center’s website, Dr. Lawrence Feingold, a professor of theology and philosophy at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, says that since Christ became man for us and has made this way to remain substantially present with us on earth, it should follow that adoration of and having an intimate encounter with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is an essential aspect of the Eucharist. Yes, we of course get this intimate encounter when we physically receive Him at Mass, but Eucharistic adoration is a different kind of intimate encounter that helps nurture our desire to receive Him so that we grow in our hunger and thirst for Him, which in turn greater prepares us for the celebration of the Mass and our reception of Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Feingold also points out that adoration strengthens in us an attitude of self-gift, so that we are more prepared to fully give of ourselves to Christ, particularly as we receive Him at Mass.
When we go to adoration and sit in the silence and listen to God speak to us, it also helps foster an intimate relationship with Him, which He wants with each one of us. Eucharistic adoration gives us more time for this silent prayer and meditation than we have during and even after Mass when we might have family obligations or work to get to. Taking the time out of our day to adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament strengthens the relationship that He wants to have with us and also fulfills the obligation we have to give adoration to God, since He is really and truly present in the Eucharist. During this month of the Blessed Sacrament, take time to adore Him in adoration and to educate those who may think that adoration and other sorts of devotion to the Eucharist take away from the Mass.