Eucharistic Adoration

The Virgin of the Host, by Ingres, 1854


3 Kings 7:48 "And Solomon made all the vessels for the house of the Lord: the altar of gold, and the table of gold, upon which the loaves of proposition should be set..."

2 Paralipomenon 2:4-2 "So do with me that I may build a house to the name of the Lord my God, to dedicate it to burn incense before him, and to perfume with aromatical spices, and for the continual setting forth of bread, and for the holocausts, morning and evening, and on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and the solemnities of the Lord our God for ever, which are commanded for Israel."

Luke 22:19 "This is my body, which is given for you."

John 1:29  "Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who taketh away the sin of the world."

John 6:32-36 ... "Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say to you; Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven and giveth life to the world. They said therefore unto him: Lord, give us always this bread. And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life. He that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst. But I said unto you that you also have seen me, and you believe not."

Apocalypse 2:17 "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches: To him that overcometh I will give the hidden manna and will give him a white counter: and in the counter, a new name written, which no man knoweth but he that receiveth it."

 
 
 
Reverence is shown to the Blessed Sacrament (the Eucharist) by our posture and gesture in the course of the Mass, and in countless other ways outside of Mass -- the genuflection toward the Tabernacle (in which the Sacrament is kept) upon entering a Church, the kneeling in the presence of the exposed Sacrament, women covering their heads and men uncovering theirs when in the presence of the Sacrament, by crossing oneself when passing by a church to honor the Blessed Sacrament therein, etc. There are other ways of honoring Christ in the Eucharist, however, some formal, others not so formal. Below I will describe the following:

Click to jump to:
Visits to the Blessed Sacrament
Holy Hour
Forty Hours Devotion ("Quarant' Ore" or "Quarantore")
Perpetual Adoration
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
Processions


 

Visits to the Blessed Sacrament

The simplest, least formal, and most common way that Catholics honor Christ in the Eucharist outside of the Mass is by making simple visits to a Church to be near the Blessed Sacrament. They may go to pray, to sit quietly, to meditate, pray the Rosary, read Scripture, etc. As churches lock their doors now in response to the paganization of Western culture, it's become much more difficult to randomly visit a church and find it open to pay our respects, but one can possibly arrange with one's priest or with the parish office to be allowed inside during off-hours.

The Blessed Sacrament should be kept in the Tabernacle on the High Altar in the sanctuary, and with a sanctuary lamp ("ner tamid" to the ancient Israelites) burning nearby, but sometimes you might find the Tabernacle in a side chapel (often called a "Blessed Sacrament Chapel" or, if your parish offers Perpetual Adoration, a "Perpetual Adoration Chapel"). The tabernacle itself is the receptacle that holds the vessels that contain the Blessed Sacrament. It is lined inside with either gold or white silk, and is covered outside with a veil called a "canopeum."

Note: A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, under the usual conditions, who visit the Most Blessed Sacrament to adore it; a plenary indulgence is granted, under the usual conditions, if the visit lasts for at least one half an hour. Note also that when women make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament (or any time they enter a church), they should cover their heads; men should uncover theirs.


 

Holy Hour

"Holy Hour" is a form of Eucharistic adoration made in response to a revelation by Christ to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), as a part of our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Our Lord promised various things in return for receiving the Eucharist frequently (especially on the first Friday of each month for nine consecutive months, called "First Friday" Devotions), celebrating the Feast of the Sacred Heart, and spending one hour on Thursdays in Eucharistic adoration; this last is "Holy Hour."

Holy Hour at a particular church can be designated officially by one's priest, or it can be made privately if one's parish doesn't offer it as a public devotion. The focus of Holy Hour is Christ in the Garden of Gethsemani. In response to His question, "Couldst thou not watch one hour?" (Mark 14:37), we respond, "Yes, Lord, we are here with Thee." Pope Pius XI, in Miserentissimus Redemptor (1928), writes of these reparative acts of consolation to the Sacred Heart:

But how can these rites of expiation bring solace now, when Christ is already reigning in the beatitude of Heaven? To this we may answer in some words of St. Augustine which are very apposite here, "Give me one who loves, and he will understand what I say" (In Johannis evangelium, tract. XXVI, 4).

For any one who has great love of God, if he will look back through the tract of past time may dwell in meditation on Christ, and see Him laboring for man, sorrowing, suffering the greatest hardships, "for us men and for our salvation," well-nigh worn out with sadness, with anguish, nay "bruised for our sins" (Isaias liii, 5), and healing us by His bruises. And the minds of the pious meditate on all these things the more truly, because the sins of men and their crimes committed in every age were the cause why Christ was delivered up to death, and now also they would of themselves bring death to Christ, joined with the same griefs and sorrows, since each several sin in its own way is held to renew the passion of Our Lord: "Crucifying again to themselves the Son of God, and making him a mockery" (Hebrews vi, 6). Now if, because of our sins also which were as yet in the future, but were foreseen, the soul of Christ became sorrowful unto death, it cannot be doubted that then, too, already He derived somewhat of solace from our reparation, which was likewise foreseen, when "there appeared to Him an angel from heaven" (Luke xxii, 43), in order that His Heart, oppressed with weariness and anguish, might find consolation. And so even now, in a wondrous yet true manner, we can and ought to console that Most Sacred Heart which is continually wounded by the sins of thankless men, since - as we also read in the sacred liturgy - Christ Himself, by the mouth of the Psalmist complains that He is forsaken by His friends: "My Heart hath expected reproach and misery, and I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none" (Psalm lxviii, 21).

14. To this it may be added that the expiatory passion of Christ is renewed and in a manner continued and fulfilled in His mystical body, which is the Church. For, to use once more the words of St. Augustine, "Christ suffered whatever it behoved Him to suffer; now nothing is wanting of the measure of the sufferings. Therefore the sufferings were fulfilled, but in the head; there were yet remaining the sufferings of Christ in His body" (In Psalm lxxxvi). This, indeed, Our Lord Jesus Himself vouchsafed to explain when, speaking to Saul, "as yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter" (Acts ix, 1), He said, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest" (Acts ix, 5), clearly signifying that when persecutions are stirred up against the Church, the Divine Head of the Church is Himself attacked and troubled. Rightly, therefore, does Christ, still suffering in His mystical body, desire to have us partakers of His expiation, and this is also demanded by our intimate union with Him, for since we are "the body of Christ and members of member" (1 Corinthians xii, 27), whatever the head suffers, all the members must suffer with it (Cf. 1 Corinthians xii, 26).


 

40 Hours Devotion, or "Quarant'Ore"

The 40 Hours Devotion, introduced into Rome by St. Philip Neri in 1548, is the collective adoration of the exposed Eucharist for a period of 40 hours, in honor of the time Our Lord spent in the tomb (no single person is expected to spend 40 hours in adoration). While we say in the Creed that Christ was in the tomb for "3 days," those days are in the reckoning of the Old Testament religion, which counted any part of a day as "a day." In other words, Our Lord died at 3:00 on Friday (day one), descended into Hell (the afterworld) to save the righteous dead and was laid in the tomb on Saturday (day two), and arose on Sunday morning (day three). In modern terms, we'd say He was in the sepulcher for "1 1/2 days or so" because some of those "days" are partial days, but those who practiced the Old Testament religion, and those who practice modern Judaism, would consider that time period "3 days." Counting the time by hours, however, we can see that from 3:00 PM Friday to 6:00 AM Sunday are 40 hours.

This devotion is often practiced during the Sacred Triduum (the three days before Easter which consist of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday), but is also offered in times surrounding other great Feasts, or on regular schedules not related to the calendar at all.

When visiting the Blessed Sacrament as the 40 Hours Devotion goes on, we are to recite a sequence of an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory be 5 times -- the last cycle being for the intentions of the Holy Father. If one does this after having gone to Confession and received Communion, one recelves a plenary indulgence (under the usual conditions).

 

Perpetual Adoration

Perpetual Adoration is, literally, perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, 24/7, all the way around the clock. Parishioners of a particular church volunteer to (or members of some religious communities are obliged to) take turns -- usually an hour -- to adore the Blessed Sacrament, working in "shifts." The adorer can pray, meditate, read Scripture, or simply sit in the Presence of Christ. This isn't offered at all churches and oratories, but if your parish doesn't have Perpetual Adoration, maybe you can get one started!

 

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

MonstranceBenediction (Blessing) of the Blessed Sacrament can be a "stand-alone" service (most often done in the afternoon or evening), or as a part of other services, such as the Stations of the Cross, at major Feasts, during the Divine Office (especially after Vespers and Compline), etc.

The priest, wearing a cope, removes the Sacrament from the Tabernacle and places it in a monstrance (or "ostensorium") -- a usually elaborate sacred vessel used in the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (see picture at right). The monstrance is placed on the Altar, which is adorned by (at least) six blessed candles. He will bless the Sacrament with incense, and O Salutaris Hostia is sung. Then all kneel in silent adoration. Other hymns, canticles, or litanties may be sung or said, or some of the Divine Office may be prayed, but always the Tantum Ergo is sung, usually as the priest once again incenses the Sacrament before the actual Benediction (Note: "O Salutaris" and "Tantum Ergo," two of the greatest Eucharistic hymns, were both written by St. Thomas Aquinas)

After the Tantum Ergo, the priest, wearing a humeral veil over his shoulders and hands, will raise the Monstrance over the congregation, making with it the Sign of the Cross to bless us. After this Benediction, the "Divine Praises" prayer is prayed, and the Sacrament is returned to the Tabernacle.

 
Processions
of the Blessed Sacrament

Blessing of the Wheat in Artois, by Jules Breton, 1857


A "procession" is a religious "parade" during which the priest and people walk a route in honor of our Lord, Our Lady (or other Saints), or for the purpose of beseeching God for some specific purpose.

There are many types of regularly scheduled processions -- the procession with candles at Candlemas (2 February), the procession with palms on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), the "beating of the bounds" on Rogation Days, processions with statues of various Saints on their special feasts, etc. And there are processions of the Blessed Sacrament.

There are also a few true processions of the Blessed Sacrament that don't seem too "procession-like," such as the taking of the Sacrament to the Altar of Repose after the Mass on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter), and the return of the Sacrament on Good Friday during the "Mass of the Presanctified" that takes place that day. But there is also a "parade-like" Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, a procession that can take place at any time of the year, but which always takes place on the Feast of Corpus Christi (the Thursday after Trinity Sunday).

After the Mass on Corpus Christi, all kneel and sing O Salutaris Hostia. The Host is incensed, and carried under an ombrellino (an umbrella-like canopy) to the baldacchino, a rectangular tent-like canopy that is rather like a Jewish chuppah.

Then the procession forms, led by the Crucifer (the acolyte who carries the processional Cross), who is flanked by acolytes carring candles. Then follow members of religious associations and orders, children strewing rose petals in the path of the Blessed Sacrament (they are customarily dressed in their First Communion clothes), clergy, and then two thurifers who incense the path. Then comes the Blessed Sacrament, carried at eye-level by a priest (with his hands veiled) in a monstrance, under the baldacchino, all flanked by torch bearers. The people walk behind.

Usually four stops are made, and at each come Gospel readings, prayer, the singing of Tantum Ergo, and a Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. After the last stop, all process back to the church and sing the Divine Praises.

Note: Those who own homes along the procession route decorate them for the occasion. While this isn't common in America and other nominally Protestant nations, you will still see it in southern European and other Latin countries. Also, if you ever see a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament pass by and you're unable to join in, you are to kneel on both knees in adoration, covering your head if you're a woman, and uncovering it if you're a man -- as always when in His Sacramental Presence -- until the procession passes.