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Some pointers of what to do & NOT to do . . . during eucharistic adoration, based on the meaning & purpose of prayer before the blessed sacrament.
If you haven’t noticed, the traditional practice of Eucharistic Adoration is making a comeback. Many were given the impression in the seventies that adoration was passe, a relic of pre-Vatican II spirituality. But all the Popes since the Council have emphasized its importance, and we see more and more parishes organizing regular, even perpetual, exposition and adoration.
But what do you do when praying before the Blessed Sacrament? First, let me point out what not to do. There are two extremes to avoid. At one end of the spectrum is hyper-busyness. This happens when a person feels so uncomfortable with quiet that they fill up every minute of adoration with nonstop reading or talking to God; this leaves no room for silent attentiveness to God’s voice. The other extreme I’ve encountered is the idea that it’s inappropriate to do anything except gaze on the Eucharist and be still. The problem here is that most of us aren’t equipped to walk in from our busy life, sit still, and be focused. Our minds are everywhere but on the presence of the Lord.
So how does one pray before the Blessed Sacrament? Since Eucharistic adoration is essentially a matter of lingering over the mystery of the Mass in a moment of contemplation, everything that happens at Mass is appropriate to do during adoration. In fact, church documents on the subject teach that we should take the Mass as our guide.
Notice that at Mass, we don’t jump into Communion right away. We prepare ourselves with repentance, with listening to God’s word in Scripture, with offering praise and thanks in prayers like the Gloria and the Eucharistic Prayer. We intercede for the needs of all. Finally, we receive the Lord and rest in his presence, giving ourselves to him and enjoying a deep union with him.
Each of these types of prayer is suitable for our times before the Blessed Sacrament. Certainly, there’s no obligation to always use them all or to follow the exact sequence in which they appear in the Mass. At the same time, our adoration should culminate as the Mass does, with simple resting in the arms of the Lord.
Silently repeating a word or short phrase can be a great aid in keeping us focused as we gaze on the Lord. One great tradition in the church is to repeat the name of Jesus or the well-known Jesus Prayer: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” Also, certain Scriptures are especially effective in helping us recall that we’re in the Lord’s magnificent presence. One of my favorites is Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Another is Psalm 63, which speaks of thirsting and pining for God as in “a dry and weary land” and goes on to evokes the joy of gazing on God “in the sanctuary” and being filled, as with a banquet (verses 1-8). This, of course, is truly what happens in adoration: it’s a spiritual communion that fills our soul, as with a banquet.
For me, adoration is like spiritual sun bathing: I put myself in the presence of the Lord and allow myself to bask in the healthful rays of the Sun of Righteousness. I’ve spent many moments in adoration over the last thirty years and have received tremendous grace and healing of some very significant wounds. The Lord has also used these times to guide me in some remarkable ways. It was in front of the Blessed Sacrament that I discovered my vocation to become a theologian.
I must also confess that there have been many times when my adoration has wandered off into daydreams, distractions, and even sleep! Not every moment before the Blessed Sacrament is glorious, I’ve discovered, but if you persevere, you will have moments when the Lord touches you profoundly. They make all the struggles worthwhile.
For more on the Blessed Sacrament, see the EUCHARIST SECTION of the Crossroads Initiative Library.
For Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching on the relationship of adoration outside of mass to the Eucharistic liturgy, see #66 of 2007 Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis
MaPosted at 17:13h, 30 January
Hello, I am newly baptized Catholic. Is it okay to pray the rosary when inside the Blessed Sacrament? Thank you!
Marcellino D'AmbrosioPosted at 17:13h, 30 January
First of all, congratulations on your new birth in water and the Holy Spirit! Yes, praying the rosary is one of the wonderful things one can do during adoration time, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
Pingback:This Week’s Top Resources for Getting Closer to Jesus – GenuflectPosted at 22:12h, 15 February
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Glynn TrahanPosted at 14:20h, 18 May
Dr. – I am a newly ordained Deacon – just after my ordination a few months ago, a Hispanic group in my parish ask me to lead Exposition and Benediction on the first Saturday night of the month. While i love to help them, the desire for the adoration to go from 7PM to midnight. While this is not a problem as i don’t mind coming late for Benediction, while the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, other activities go on as group activities – faith/”witness” talks, children’s stories for the children, multiple music groups coming and going. The majority of the time, actually little of it, is silent adoration time. After reading your article above, I would appreciate your comments as to if some or all of these activiteis would be considered appropraite when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. Thank you and God bless!
Dr. Marcellino D'AmbrosioPosted at 15:05h, 18 May
I would say that activities qualifying as prayer, such as singing, reading the Word of God, praying the Liturgy of the Hours or the Rosary, would be appropriate to do while the sacrament is exposed. I think it much more appropriate to repose the sacrament during talks and group discussions.