Vol. XI,   June 2005


Eucharistic Adoration Outside the Mass

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Some priests may ask in this year dedicated to the most Blessed Sacrament: What more can be done, when already the entire congregation goes to Holy Communion, even during the week? In his letter Mane nobiscum Domine John Paul II answered this question. He said: “I am not asking the individual churches to alter their pastoral programs, but to emphasize the Eucharistic dimension which is part of the whole Christian life” (MnD 5). “I do not ask, however, for anything extraordinary, but rather that every initiative be marked by a profound interiority… It is good to aim high, and not to be content with mediocrity, since we know we can always count on God’s help… If the only result of this Year were the revival in all Christian communities of the celebration of Sunday Mass and an increase in Eucharistic worship outside Mass, this year of grace would be abundantly successful” (MnD 29).


1. Growing in depth.      

What should be done to help towards “profound interiority” and the desired “revival”?

a) Removal of Hindrances.         It is necessary to lead the people to a greater depth of piety rather than set about trying to create new forms of activities. In a conversation about the Eucharistic Congress (cf. Last Circular), some one said: How great it would be if at the end of such a Eucharistic Week all the parishioners would have prepared themselves for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi by making a good Confession. We reflected already about deeper faith in the real and therefore demanding Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament: What is needed according John Paul II is a deeper consciousness of God along with a keener awareness of sin (cf. Circular Feb. 05). Through a clearer knowledge of God, of His will for man and His rights, the faithful will again find how far they may have fallen short of the will of God, how they may have failed to respond to His expectations, His requests and even to His commandments. A clear catechesis will help them form their conscience, to examine it with greater facility, and consequently to make a lucid self-accusation of their fault, to repent sincerely and make effective resolutions of amendment.

b) Active Participation.       As John Paul II had explained the correct understanding of the much quoted “active participation” in the liturgy (cf. II Vat., Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14ff.), so too did Benedict XVI, while still a Cardinal, in his fundamental work, The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000; pp. 171-177). The primary agent is God, and this is especially true during the Eucharistic Prayer (ibid., 172-173). Therefore, the Fathers of the Council did not have in mind a merely external participation of the faithful, as manifested, say, by constant singing, moving and speaking. Their intention was the faithful’s personal and conscious “participation” with soul and body, mind and will, faith and love. “Doing really must stop when we come to the heart of the matter… because it provides a space for the action of God” (ibid., 174). Such participation requires preparation through liturgical catechesis that will properly dispose the faithful.

c) Silence and Respect.      Being aware of the real event of the Paschal Mystery and being willing to be part of it, that is, to “participate” in it, will draw the faithful more deeply into the Mystery, such that there will naturally follow “a more lively and fervent celebration of the Eucharist” and “a Christian life transformed by love” (MnD 29). It requires ordering our external behavior or our “body in prayer” towards Christ, as well as ordering all our external behavior and even our life in the world towards Christ. Thus, it allows Christ to become present in us. An overly external interpretation of the “active participation” would lead to a certain triviality in dealing with the Sacred. Many of the faithful, especially among the young, are looking with John Paul II for more silence and respect before the Mystery: “I recently reaffirmed the importance of moments of silence both in the celebration of Mass and in Eucharistic adoration. The way that the ministers and the faithful treat the Eucharist should be marked by profound respect” (MnD 18).  

2. “Eucharistic worship outside Mass”.

John Paul II seems to have seen linked deeper Eucharistic celebration with “an increase in Eucharistic worship outside Mass”. “The presence of Jesus in the tabernacle must be a kind of magnetic pole attracting an ever greater number of souls” (MnD 18; cf. EdE 25). We mentioned the different forms of worship in the last meditation (cf. May Circular). Today let us look at the simplest and easiest to practice, that is, at Eucharistic adoration.

With respect to this let us recall that the angels of love, the Seraphim, help us to offer ourselves with the Son to the Father in the Holy Mass (cf. Isa 6:1-8). Similarly, the angels with the fullness of wisdom, the Cherubim, assist us in adoration as we “deepen through adoration our personal and communal contemplation, drawing upon aids to prayer inspired by the word of God and the experience of so many mystics, old and new” (MnD 18; cf. Ex 25:8,17-22).

a) Confession of Faith.         The Eucharistic Jesus is a “mystery of faith”. His real Presence has entirely replaced the substance of the Bread which was consecrated into His Body. In virtue of the transubstantiation, Jesus remains physically present as long as the species (accidental signs) of the Bread remain. Therefore, when, after the Holy Mass some consecrated Hosts are placed in the tabernacle, then Jesus remains there with His divinity and humanity as He was on earth and as He was in the Holy Mass on the altar between the Consecration and Holy Communion. Therefore, we owe Him our adoration also “outside Mass”, because “He is here…and He remains here” (Ratzinger, Liturgy, 89). It is the confession of our faith in the Holy Eucharist: “JESUS awaits us in this sacrament of love” (John Paul II; CCC 1380).

b) Transformation of Heart.          Jesus is ready to receive us at any time; He is willing to listen to us. And He enjoys also if we come to listen to Him, if we are before Him for no other reason than just to be with Him. “I look at Him and He looks at me”—this is “a gaze of faith”. “His gaze purifies our heart; the light…illumines the eyes of our heart…. [I]t learns the ‘interior knowledge of our Lord,’ the more to love Him and follow Him” (CCC 2715), “enamoured of Him, ready to wait patiently to hear His voice and, as it were, to sense the beating of His heart. ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’ (Ps 34:8)” (MnD 18). This, “of all devotions…the greatest after the Sacraments” (EdE 25), is certainly the easiest and securest way to a deeper faith,   to “profound interiority,” to “a more lively and fervent celebration of the Eucharist” and to “a Christian life transformed by love” (MnD 29)!

c) The Secret for a Change.         Eucharistic Adoration is such a personal encounter with Jesus, from heart to heart, in silence. Faith is enlivened, hope increases, love burns and the interest in the Holy Mass grows. The then Cardinal Ratzinger explains: As the Eucharist “is not ‘ordinary bread’…eating [it]…is a spiritual process…. [I]t means worshipping it. Eating it means letting it come into me… Communion only reaches its true depths when it is supported and surrounded by adoration” (Liturgy, 90; cf. 85-91). He continues: “A church without the Eucharistic Presence is somehow dead, even when it invites people to pray. But a church in which the eternal light is burning before the tabernacle is always alive… In this place the Lord is always waiting for me, calling me, wanting to make me ‘Eucharistic’” (ibid.). Is there a parallel between the churches with and without the tabernacle and the Holy Communion with and without adoration? Ought not Eucharistic adoration before (or after) each Holy Mass support and surround Holy Communion and become the secret for growth in faith and zeal of the entire parish?

When the Blessed Sacrament is exposed already before Mass (in silence or with the praying of the Rosary), thisopens the mind of those who come to Mass. It challenges their heart and faith, and helps them to focus on the real center which is the LORD. All would start to practice the sacred silence and personal conversation with our beloved Jesus already before Holy Mass (cf. 3GIRM, 56), a practice which many priests today try so hard to bring back into their churches and which many faithful earnestly desire as well.


3. Guidelines for Eucharistic Adoration

John Paul II, as expected from a good pastor (cf. PO 5), teaches his people how to pray: “Let us not refuse the time to go to meet Him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world” (CCC 1380; cf. 2096-2097; 2709 – 2719).

These elements we find in the Holy Mass, so that the Rite of the Mass can be considered the best guide for Eucharistic adoration. Like in the Holy Mass, the adorer starts with a short examination of conscience and an act of contrition. Then he renews and deepens his faith in Jesus truly present through a biblical reading and meditation, preferably concentrating on the personal relationship between man and God (cf. e.g. Ex 3 and 33:12ff; 1 Kings 19:9-12; Mt 2:1ff; 17:1-9; 26:36-46; Jn 20:11-29; Rev 5). In this contemplation, he closes the book(s), opens his heart and is drawn nearer to Jesus. He offers himself to Jesus and desires Jesus’ gift for him. Then, as he remains in silent love and spiritual communion, the Lord rewards this love of the adorer with His graces, especially with deeper faith, trust, and love.  


4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood.

First, we ourselves have to nurture the solicitude that our own Holy Communions reach greater depths through the support of adoration. John Paul II says first to us: “Let us take the time to kneel before Jesus present in the Eucharist” (MnD 17). “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. …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!” (EdE 25; cf. MnD 30; Letter on Holy Thursday 2005).

“Consecrated men and women, called by that very consecration to more prolonged contemplation: never forget that Jesus in the tabernacle wants you to be at His side, so that He can fill your hearts with the experience of His friendship which alone gives meaning and fulfillment to your lives” (MnD 30).

Let us call upon the holy angels, especially the Seraphim and Cherubim, that they educate us in prayer, and help us to lead our sheep in it also. “May our adoration never cease” (John Paul II, CCC 1380).

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC