Down In Adoration Falling

“Our lives must be woven around the Eucharist…fix your eyes on Him Who is the light; bring your hearts close to His Divine Heart; ask Him to grant you the grace of knowing Him, the love of loving Him, the courage to serve Him. Seek Him fervently.” -Mother Teresa

The practice of Eucharistic Adoration is a treasure of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. I think it’s one of the most miraculously beautiful ways that Jesus gives us to be with Him, along with receiving Him in Communion. Though it is definitely something that has to be experienced to be understood. The concept of physically worshiping, praying, singing and bowing to what looks like a piece of bread can be unnerving, to say the least.

My first experience with Adoration occurred when I was hanging out with my friend in college, and she invited me to a night of prayer and Adoration at their Catholic campus ministry. I went, not knowing what the night would entail. It was a Friday night, and there we were, a bunch of college students in the sanctuary. My memory is fuzzy on the details of it all, but I’m pretty sure there was a short presentation and a few worship songs. I was still in my research phase as a lifelong Protestant, hesitant and suspicious of nearly everything doctrinally Catholic. But I remember appreciating their emphasis on communal prayers.

Then all of a sudden everyone started singing in Latin, and the pastor walked up to the front of the room, holding a big circular golden object (I found out later that it’s called a monstrance, and that it holds the transubstantiated host for Adoration). I was freaked out, and didn’t stay for the exposition of the Sacrament. I left the sanctuary and asked my friend who was sitting outside in the hallway what was going on. What were they doing?

He did his best to quickly summarize the belief of the Real Presence and how Adoration works. After the miracle of transubstantiation occurs during Mass, when the substance of bread and wine change into the substance of Christ’s body and blood, His substantial Presence remains in the preserved hosts. Catholics often spend time in prayer and worship in front of Jesus in the Sacrament, commonly called Adoration. I then asked him if it was okay if I didn’t believe in it; if it was wrong to be inside that room and not believe it. He didn’t think so, and neither did my other friend. She asked if I wanted to come back inside with her, and so I did.

I sat in the back and watched with cautious curiosity as a bunch of my friends, who love Jesus and have given their lives to follow Him, kneeled, prayed and stared with love at what I perceived to be mere bread inside the monstrance, in complete silence, for over an hour! It made no sense to me, but the love and joy in the room was palpable.

A few weeks later, while attending their campus ministry retreat, I broke down. The moment Adoration began, complete with worship music and candles, I started crying and asked my friend to tell me how what looks like a piece of bread could really be not bread but Him. She graciously prayed over me and told me that it takes faith to believe.

Adoration lasted three hours that night, and the rest of the time I spent praying and talking quietly with other friends, asking them to explain more about the Real Presence. I read John 6 over and over. Could this be true? If it was, it would change everything. It surprised me to see the amount of genuine adoration that was going on; college students on their knees right in front of the monstrance, singing and staring up at the host.

Looking back, I’m continuously thankful for Christ’s patience and grace with me. He was right there, drawing me to Him with His truth, but I was too scared to accept it. Later, after Jesus  gave me faith to believe, I finally went to Adoration to adore Him. I was so excited about this divine revelation that had been veiled from me for so long, this integral truth that followers of Christ have believed for thousands of years since the beginning of Christianity. That night He overwhelmed me with how He has chosen to so radically display His love and lavish His grace over us.

It took a while for me to incorporate this belief into my view of God’s work in the world and my life, and there were times when I really struggled to do so. But over the last year, I have had some of the sweetest moments with Christ in His sacramental presence. I’ve found myself craving time to sit and just be with Him. Most times I’ve been to Adoration, I don’t typically feel a major indication that I’m in His bodily presence, but there is always a definite sense of peace. He has led me to spend hours with Him in prayer and worship, and almost every time there has been an other-wordly experience of peace that really does pass all understanding.

Our Savior promised to never leave or forsake us, and He has been faithful to that through the Eucharist. I’m humbled by His humility, and so grateful that He desires to be truly present with us in such a miraculous and mind-blowing way. It’s honestly amazing to sing worship songs with brothers and sisters in Christ, when the One you’re singing to is right in front of you! I think it’s an awesome glimpse of what heaven will be like. There we will sing His praise as we see Him as He is in glory, face to face, with unmediated access to His full presence. While we wait for that day, Christ gives us the gift of His substantial, bodily presence. Love is here.

If you haven’t yet spent time worshiping Jesus through Adoration, I want to encourage you to. He can transform your life and relationship with Him through it. I’ve heard that many amazing conversions happen when He reveals Himself through the Eucharist. Even if you aren’t sure of the Real Presence or are wavering in your faith, go to Him. Ask Him to show you Himself and He will show up. The door will be opened when we knock (Matthew 7:7-8), even if it takes a lot of knocking. Trust me, it’s worth it. He is worth it; and you are worth it to Him. In the words of Mother Teresa, “When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host, you understand how much Jesus loves you now.”

You can go here to see a list of scheduled Adoration locations and times in your area. Many parishes have it weekly, and some even have it 24-hours-a-day. Adoration can be a variety of different types. There are silent holy hours in chapels of church sanctuaries, holy hours with communal praise and worship, perpetual adoration in chapels, overnight silent vigils, or just times to sit by the tabernacle when the Sacrament isn’t exposed in the monstrance. The hymn below, written by St. Thomas Aquinas in the early 1200’s, was created in honor of the Blessed Sacrament and is often sung during communal Adoration.

“Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.

Genitori, Genitoque
Laus et jubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio. Amen.”

“Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail;
Lo! o’er ancient forms departing,
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father,
And the Son who reigns on high,
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,
Might and endless majesty. Amen.”

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