Adoration and Communion: What God has Joined Together, Let Us Not Separate
This weekend we are celebrating our annual Forty Hours Devotion here at Holy Cross. The Forty Hours has been kept by our parish faithfully for....a very long time! It is one of the greatest badges of honor for Catholicism in the Northeast. On behalf of Fr. Howe I can say it has become one of our greatest privileges since our assignment here to be able to take the torch passed to us by Fr. Glen Jenson and carry on this tradition.
The Forty Hours devotion, a tradition in the Catholic Church for at least five hundred years, commemorates the forty hours that Our Lord’s body was in the tomb. We adore this Body in its Eucharistic presence, because it is the essential instrument of our salvation. Eucharistic Adoration itself, in various forms, has been a devotion of unbroken tradition in the Catholic Church for over a thousand years, ever since the great Eucharistic controversies of the 10th and 11th centuries and the subsequent victory of the orthodox doctrine of the Real Presence over the heretics who denied the substantial change of the species of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at Holy Mass. The emergence of Eucharistic Adoration as a separate and recognizable devotion in the Church is a sign of the ever-expanding cognizance of the centrality of Christ in the Church, who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, “never leaves nor forsakes” us as we travel through this world. The Lord gives us his Body and Blood as “viaticum”—food for the journey.
In receiving holy Communion, we enter into the “Holy of Holies” which is Christ Himself, thus partaking of the high-priestly action which is the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith and the great dignity of the human race—to participate in the divine action of the Incarnate Word. Therefore, we must practice worthy reception, and so we should understand the practice of Eucharistic Adoration not as a substitute for receiving holy Communion, nor an alternative to it, nor a nice “ad-on” for certain extra-pious people, but rather as fundamental to the practice of worthy reception of holy Communion. In Adoration I practice that love of the Lord, that desire for him, that proper disposition I need in order to receive the graces of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. In Adoration I present myself before the Lord who is present by the Holy Spirit in his Body and Blood, so that I can be with him and thank him for his mercy and goodness, for the gift of salvation and transformation of life that he offers to me in the Eucharist. In Adoration I re-sensitize myself to this Real Presence, and this helps to assure that I will always be prepared to receive the Eucharistic Lord in proper reverence and disposition of heart.
Too often we make of our weekly procession to the altar for Communion something less than the magnificent action it truly is, by refusing to prepare ourselves properly in heart and mind. When this happens, our reception of Communion risks becoming a sort of rote exercise devoid of meaning for us, and thus without grace for us. Throughout what remains of Lent— and beyond—let us renew our devotion to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament by attending to Adoration with regularity (for instance: in our Adoration Chapel, and on Saturday mornings at 7:30 until before the 8:30 Mass). To the extent that we do this, we will see renewal in our lives, and in our parish.