July 27, 2007

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Eucharistic adoration and devotion help us live our faith

(Eleventh in a series)

The apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis” (“The Sacrament of Charity”), written by Pope Benedict XVI as a summation of the deliberations of the 2005 International Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, includes a substantial section on interior participation in the celebration.

As a consequence, he also gives a detailed commentary on practices of devotion and eucharistic adoration.

The Holy Father writes: “The Church’s great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated, offering one’s life to God in unity with the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the whole world.

“For this reason, the Synod of Bishops asked that the faithful be helped to make their interior dispositions correspond to their gestures and words. Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism. Hence, the need to provide an education in eucharistic faith capable of enabling the faithful to live personally what they celebrate… . The best catechesis on the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself, celebrated well” (n. 64).

Eucharistic catechesis (referred to as a mystagogical catechesis) is characterized by three elements: 1. It interprets the rites in light of the events of the history of our salvation. 2. It takes special care to present the meaning of the signs and symbols contained in the rites. 3. It is concerned with bringing out the meaning of the rites for the Christian life in all its dimensions. The pope notes that the effectiveness of such teaching may be observed in a reverence of the Eucharist, particularly with regard to kneeling during the central part of the eucharistic prayer, expressing externally our reverence for “the infinite majesty of God, who comes to us in the lowliness of the sacramental signs” (n. 65).

Pope Benedict writes: “One of the most moving moments of the Synod came when we gathered in Saint Peter’s Basilica, together with a great number of the faithful, for eucharistic adoration. In this act of prayer, and not just in words, the assembly of bishops wanted to point out the intrinsic relationship between eucharistic celebration and eucharistic adoration. A growing appreciation of this significant aspect of the Church’s faith has been an important part of our experience in the years following the liturgical renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council” (n. 66).

The pope observes that in the early years after the Council, the relationship between Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not always perceived with sufficient clarity. He gives as an example the widespread objection that argued that the eucharistic bread was given to us not to be looked at, but to be eaten. This was a false dichotomy. He cites the quotation of St. Augustine that “no one eats the flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it” (from his commentary on Psalm 98).

“In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; Eucharistic adoration is simply the natural consequence of the Eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church’s supreme act of adoration” (n. 66).

The practice of eucharistic adoration, both individually and in community, should be “promoted by the pastors, and catechesis should be provided even beginning with those about to receive first Communion” (cf. n. 67).

The pope commends all those engaged in the apostolate of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, noting that parish and other groups should set aside time for adoration through processions, Forty Hours, eucharistic congresses, etc. “If suitably updated and adapted to local circumstances, these forms of devotion are still worthy of being practiced today” (cf. n. 68).

Happily, eucharistic adoration has been growing in our archdiocese. The consequent blessings are evident.

The Holy Father addresses the location of the tabernacle, a matter left, ultimately, to the diocesan bishop. The pope observes that:

“… the place where the Eucharistic species is reserved, marked by a sanctuary lamp, should be readily visible to everyone entering the church. It is therefore necessary to take into account the building’s architecture; in churches which do not have a Blessed Sacrament chapel, and where the high altar with its tabernacle is still in place, it is appropriate to continue to use this structure for the reservation and adoration of the Eucharist, taking care not to place the celebrant’s chair in front of it. In new churches, it is good to position the Blessed Sacrament chapel close to the sanctuary; where it is not possible, it is preferable to locate the tabernacle in the sanctuary, in a sufficiently elevated place, at the center of the apse area, or in another place where it will be conspicuous” (n. 69).

Our archdiocesan directives mirror the pope’s. †

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