As we approach the Feast of Christ the King, when all parishes will (I trust) have a period of Eucharistic Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, the following will, I know, be of interest to those who, like me, pray the Holy Rosary particularly at this time. It is one of the great privileges of our Faith to spend such precious time in the presence of Our Blessed Lord.
Another devotion that is becoming much more common than in post-conciliar days is Quarant Ore, when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for 40 hours.
Above all, the plea of Our Blessed Lord himself; “will you not watch with me for one hour?”
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the Praying of the Rosary
1. The conciliar Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, number 13, says: “Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See … But these devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons in such a way as to be in accord with the sacred liturgy, that they be in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church adds to this citation from Sacrosanctum Concilium: “These expressions are a prolongation of the liturgical life of the Church, but are not substitutes for it.”
Eucharistic exposition is a celebration related to the liturgy as understood in the Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium, number 62, from the Roman Ritual: Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass and from the Ceremonial of Bishops which dedicates chapter XXII to this same topic.
The Holy Rosary is, without doubt, one of the pious exercises most recommended by ecclesiastical authority.
(See also The Catechism of the Catholic Church numbers 971, 1674, 2678, 2708).
A Catholic sensitivity never separates Christ from his mother or vice versa.
2. The Apostolic Letter Vicesimus quintus annus, number 18, says: “Finally, to safeguard the reform and ensure the promotion of the Liturgy it is necessary to take account of popular Christian devotion and its relation to liturgical life. This popular devotion should not be ignored or treated with indifference or contempt, since it is rich in values, and in itself it gives expression to the religious attitude towards God. But it needs to be continually evangelized, so that the faith which it expresses may become an ever more mature and authentic act. Both the pious exercises of the Christian people and also other forms of devotion are welcomed and encouraged provided that they do not replace or intrude into liturgical celebrations. An authentic pastoral promotion of the Liturgy will build upon the riches of popular piety, purifying and directing them towards the Liturgy as the offering of the peoples.”
II. Relationship Between Eucharistic Exposition and the Holy Rosary
One quote from each of the three most important documents follows:
1. “During the exposition everything should be so arranged that the faithful can devote themselves attentively in prayer to Christ Lord …” (Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium, number 62)
2. “To encourage a prayerful spirit there should be readings from Scripture with a homily or brief exhortations to develop a better understanding of the Eucharistic mystery.” (Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, number 95)
3. The Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus indicates that the rosary “as a prayer inspired by the Gospel and centered on the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption should be considered a prayer of deep Christological orientation.” (Number 46)
III. At this time it is important to note:
From the Second Vatican Council until the present, the following have been observed:
In the first two decades after the Council, more or less, there arose within the Catholic Church a tendency to suppress adoration before the exposed Blessed Sacrament within the Christian community.
In recent years, prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament has been increasingly appreciated once more. Two phenomena have been observed with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, namely: adoration takes place according to the same style and mentality and with the same prayers as before the Council, or it is celebrated in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Church’s documents.
Pastorally, this is an important time to encourage the prayer of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament according to the spirit of the Church documents. An opportunity to reorient this popular practice should not be wasted.
The restoration of the rosary should be promoted in its authentic form, that is, with its Christological character. At times, the traditional manner of reciting the rosary would seem to be limited to a recitation of the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Currently in some places the stating of the mysteries is accompanied by a reading of a brief biblical text to assist in meditation. This is very positive. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Cf. 2708) indicated that Christian prayer ought to go further. It should lead to a knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him, finding great encouragement and support in liturgical prayer before the Eucharist.
One should not expose the Eucharist only to recite the rosary. However, among the prayers that are used during adoration, the recitation of the rosary may certainly be included, emphasizing the Christological aspects with biblical readings relating to the mysteries, and providing time for silent adoration and meditation on them.
“During the exposition, the prayers, songs, and readings should be arranged so as to direct the attention of the faithful to the worship of Christ the Lord. To encourage a prayerful spirit, there should be readings from the Scriptures with a homily or brief exhortations to develop a better understanding of the Eucharistic mystery.” (Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass, number 95) In the area of popular piety there is still much to be done so that pious exercises will support liturgical life and vice versa. There is a need to educate the Christian community to deepen the understanding of this pious exercise in order to appreciate fully its true worth.
I hadn’t realised, Gertrude, that it is customary to have Eucharistic Adoration on the feast of Christ the King.
In our parish we have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for several hours every Friday. On the first Friday of each month there is a night vigil from ten o’clock in the evening until six in the morning. We are very blessed. For the first time this year we also had the Quarant Ore leading up to Corpus Christi, and on the Feast itself well over a hundred people joined in a Eucharistic procession through town. Words can’t express how moving and powerful that was.
How sad that Eucharistic Adoration was not encouraged in post-conciliar days! So many graces lost! As this was the period when I was growing up, I really only came to appreciate the mystery and value of this beautiful and all-important devotion in adult years.
For anyone who is unused to Eucharistic Adoration, and perhaps finds it difficult at first, my advice would be to keep at it and not give up. Relax, try to keep focused on the fact that you are in the presence of the Almighty and Everloving God sacramentally exposed before your eyes; you are indeed watching with Him in prayer and adoration. Sometimes a good book with special prayers for this purpose can help, especially when distractions interfere with your meditation.
Even after years of practice there will be times when there is dryness interspersed with times of deep peace and spiritual consolation, but the need to spend this time alone with Our Blessed Lord will become a real necessity.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta says:
“Nowhere on earth are you more welcome. Nowhere on earth are you more loved than by Jesus living and truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time you will spend on earth.”
And Pope John Paul II:
” It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast, like the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the “art of prayer”, how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brothers and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support! “
The Holy Rosary may be prayed at any time and in any place. Yet without a doubt, if one has the opportunity, the ideal place for this Christologically centred prayer is kneeling in front of the Most Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar.
The great Bishop Sheen passed away while on his knees praying in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, as he did every day. It gave him strength and centered his life as did a great many saints (of whom I am sure Bishop Sheen is in their company). Yet we have a class of thinly veiled heretics within the Church like Fr McBrien of NCR who call Eucharistic Adoration a theological step backwards.
I am a great fan of Fulton Sheen, and if I were to ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’ in the way that the good Bishop did, then I would consider myself abundantly blessed.
One has to wonder how any Catholic can consider Eucharistic Adoration ‘a theological step backwards’. It is the remark of the ignorant. I can, in charity, say no more.
“One has to wonder how any Catholic can consider Rucharistic Adoration ‘a theological step backwards’.”
More of a step sideways, I suggest.