Prof. Michael Ogunu
In 1916, during the third apparition of an Angel to the three shepherd-children to whom Our Lady later appeared in Fatima in 1917 (Lucia, Jacinta & Francisco), the children saw the Angel holding a chalice in his left hand and over it, in the air, was a host from which some drops of blood fell into it. Leaving the chalice and the host suspended in the air, the Angel prostrated on the ground and repeated this prayer three times:
Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly, and I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He Himself is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of you the conversion of poor sinners.
Then rising, he once more took the chalice and the host in his hands. He gave the host to Lucia and to Jacinta and Francisco, he gave the contents of the chalice to drink, saying as he did so: “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Offer reparation for their sins and console your God”. Once again, he prostrated on the ground and repeated with the children three times more the same prayer, “Most Holy Trinity …” and then disappeared. The children were deeply impressed by the Angel’s Eucharistic Adoration. Overwhelmed by the supernatural atmosphere that involved them, they imitated the Angel in every way, kneeling as he did and repeating the prayers he had taught them.
What is the Church’s position on adoration of Our Lord in the Eucharist apart from the Mass? The official teachings of the Church when one examines the writings and homilies of recent Popes shows a consistency that goes right back to the early Fathers of the Church.
Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Mysterium Fidei published during the Vatican Council II cites a number of Church Fathers. To quote one of these:
St. Cyril of Alexandria rejects as folly the opinion of those who maintained that if a part of the Eucharist was left over for the following day it did not confer sanctification. “For” he says, “neither Christ is altered nor His Holy Body changed, but the force and power and vivifying grace always remain with it”.
Such statements clearly refute any theologians who might maintain that Christ's presence is limited to the context of the celebrant of the Eucharistic liturgy and does not remain after Mass, and thus advocate that the bread can be disposed as one sees fit. In the same encyclical Paul VI stated: “The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers the cult of Latria (Latria is worship due to God alone) to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, not only during Mass but also outside of it, reserving Consecrated Hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to solemn veneration, and carrying them processionally to the joy of great crowds of the faithful”.
Pius XII not only strongly encouraged the faithful to adore the Eucharist but insisted that to fail in this regard is itself sinful. He wrote in his encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy, Mediator Dei in 1947:
The Sacred Councils teach that it is the Church’s tradition right from the beginning, to worship “with the same adoration the Word Incarnate as well as His own flesh”, and St. Augustine asserts that: “No one cats that flesh, without first adoring it”, while he adds that “not only do we not commit a sin by adoring it, but that we do sin by not adoring it”. (129, 130)
Paul VI exhorted the faithful to center their lives totally in the Eucharist by receiving every day and visiting the Blessed Sacrament daily. The Eucharist is the necessary “focus where all other forms of piety must ultimately emerge”.
In the course of the day the faithful should not omit to visit the Blessed Sacrament, which according to the liturgical laws must be kept in the churches with great reverence in a most honorable location. Such visits are a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, an acknowledgment of the Lord’s presence.
Pope John XXIII who is often misrepresented as “opening the windows” of the Church to all kinds of erroneous currents of thought when he called for Vatican Council II was very traditional in his love for our Eucharistic Lord. He derived his great love and compassion for others from the daily holy hour he made before the Blessed Sacrament. He wrote in his diary:
To keep me from sin and to prevent me from straying from Him, God has used devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament...Devotion to the Sacred Heart has grown with me all my life...Today everything which concerns the Sacred Heart of Jesus has become familiar and doubly dear to me. My life seems destined to be spent in the light irradiating from the tabernacle, and it is the heart of Jesus that I must look to for the solution of all my troubles.
The same year that Pope John XXIII announced the Second Vatican Council he also issued an encyclical commemorating the centenary of the death of St. John Marie Vianney (the Cure of Ars), in which he proposed the Cure of Ars as a model for all priests to imitate. Pope John XXIII pointed out that the holy Cure’s power was in his deep contemplative prayer, and this prayer was preeminently Eucharistic, as the following quote from this encyclical bears out:
The prayer of the Cure of Ars who, it could be said, spent the last 30 years of his life in church, where he was detained by his innumerable penitents, was above all a Eucharistic prayer. His devotion to our Lord, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament on the altar, was truly extraordinary.
“He is there”, he used to say. “He who loves us so much. Why should we not love Him?” And he certainly loved Him and felt himself drawn irresistibly toward the tabernacle. “To pray well, there is no need to talk a lot”, he explained to his parishioners. “One knows that the good Lord is there in the holy tabernacle. One opens one’s heart to Him, one rejoices in His presence. This is the best prayer”...
“The admirable example of the holy Cure of Ars has still today its complete value”, Pius XII said. In the life of a priest nothing could replace the silent and prolonged prayer before the altar. The adoration of Jesus, our God; thanksgiving, reparation for our sins and for those of all men, the prayer for so many intentions entrusted to him, combine to raise that priest to a greater love for the Divine Master to whom he has promised faithfulness and for men who depend on his priestly ministry. With the practice of this enlightened and fervent worship of the Eucharist, the spiritual life of the priest increases and there are prepared the missionary energies of the most valuable apostles.
The worship of Christ present in the Eucharist is not just a personal, solitary “Jesus and Me” experience but involves the entire Church. We are called upon to develop a greater awareness of the needs of the Church and to recognize our intrinsic role within Christ’s Mystical Body.
Pope Paul VI develops this thought in Mysterium Fidei:
The Eucharistic Sacrament, venerable brothers, is the sign and the cause of the unity of the Mystical Body, and it inspires an active “ecclesial” spirit in those who venerate it with greater fervor. Therefore, never cease to persuade those committed to your care that they should learn to make their own the cause of the Church, in approaching the Eucharistic mystery to pray to God without interruption to offer themselves to God as a pleasing sacrifice for the peace and unity of the Church, so that all the children of the Church be united and think the same, that there be no divisions among them, but rather unity of mind and purpose, as the Apostle insists. (1 Cor. 1:10).
Pope John Paul II also emphasized the social dimension of Eucharistic adoration. In fact, he writes, the ability to love one’s neighbour with profound respect for the uniqueness of each individual person is the fruit of Eucharistic worship.
... I wish briefly to reaffirm the fact that Eucharistic worship constitutes the soul of all Christian life. In fact Christian life is expressed in the fulfilling of the greatest commandment, that is, to say, in the love of God and neighbour, and this love finds its source in the Blessed Sacrament, which is commonly called the sacrament of love.
If our Eucharistic worship is authentic, it must make us grow in awareness of the dignity of each person. The awareness of that dignity becomes the deepest motive of our relationship with our neighbour. Dominicae Cenae (5, 6 Letter of John Paul II to all the Bishops of the Church on the Mystery and Worship of the Holy Eucharist for Holy Thursday, 1980)
Pope John Paul II has emphatically underlined the fact that devotion to the Blessed Eucharist is in full accord with Vatican Council II This Pope in his pilgrimage to Ireland in 1979 commended the Irish for their great tradition of Eucharistic devotion.
I wish also at this time to recall to you an important truth affirmed by the Second Vatican Council, namely: “The spiritual life, nevertheless, is not confined to participation in the liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 12). And so I also encourage you in the other exercises of devotion that you have lovingly preserved for centuries, especially those in regard to the Blessed Sacrament...
The visit to the Blessed Sacrament —so much a part of Ireland, so much a part of your pilgrimage lo Knock —is a great treasure of the Catholic faith. It nourishes social love and gives us opportunities for adoration and thanksgiving, for reparation and supplication. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Hours and Eucharistic processions are likewise precious elements of your heritage — in full accord with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. (John Paul II’s homily in Phoenix Park, Dublin on September 29, 1979, n.7).
In Spain, the Pope participated in Eucharistic adoration with many young people near midnight at the parish of Guadalupe in Madrid. He told them,
“I am happy to be here with you, close to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; as members of the Spanish Nocturnal Adoration Society, you have, with so many other Christians, who gather with you throughout the land of Spain, a profound awareness of the intimate relationship that exists between the Church’s spiritual and apostolic vitality and the Holy Eucharist. During your adoration vigils, your faith and love render an ardent tribute of honour to the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is present in this Sacrament with His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, through the Sacred Species.
This presence reminds us that the God of our faith is not a distant being but rather He is a God Who is very near, whose delight is to be with the sons of men”. (cf. Prov. 8:31). (October 31, 1983)
On that occasion the Pope also discussed the many benefits that one receives from Eucharistic adoration, in particular, an increase in the virtues of faith, hope and charity. We come to know experientially and in greater depth that “the crucified and risen Lord is really present in the Eucharist, not only during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice, but as He subsists in the sacramental species”.
Our life is rooted in this mystery of faith, the Pope insisted. It leads us to greater hope, for the Eucharist is “actually an ongoing proclamation of His second glorious coming at the end of time”. It is an essential “hope-filled encouragement for our advance to eternal life!”
Christ’s sacramental presence is also the source of love for both God and neighbour. “The authenticity of our union with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament ought to be translated into our genuine love for all persons” for it is truly “the bond of that unity desired by Christ for the Church”.
As a bishop who contributed greatly to the Second Vatican Council and who wrote a commentary on the Council for its implementation, he considers that “the encouragement and the deepening of Eucharistic worship are proofs of that authentic renewal which the council set itself as an aim and of which they are the central point”.
As the Vicar of Christ he pleaded for a renewal of Eucharistic adoration because it pleases Christ for us to be near Him in many ways through this sacrament, in which He is substantially present:
Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and in contemplation that is full of faith and ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world. May our adoration never cease (n.3).
John Paul II is reported to spend entire nights sometimes prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament, in prayer. He continually exhorted priests and the faithful to turn toward the Lord in this devotion because of the great fruit it bears for the Christian life, which he knows well from personal experience.
On December 2, 1981 he inaugurated perpetual daily adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Peter’s and invited the faithful to find there “the very source of life and holiness that gushes from our Lord’s Eucharistic Heart”.
According to Pope Benedict XVI (June 10, 2007), “Adoration outside Holy Mass prolongs and intensifies what has taken place in the liturgical celebration and makes a true and profound reception of Christ possible. I . . . warmly recommend, to Pastors and to all the faithful, the practice of Eucharistic adoration”.
Very dedicated to the Eucharist and Mary, Pope Francis sees devotion to both as inseparable. Here are some of his quotes on the importance of Eucharistic Adoration in our lives:
2001 - Letter From Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) To Catechists In Archdiocese Of Buenos Aires
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that in the Eucharist we find all the good of the Church. In it we have the certainty that God is faithful to His promise and stays with us until the end of time (Mt. 28.20)... In our visits and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, we experience the closeness of the good Shepherd, the tenderness of His love and the presence of a faithful friend.
Oct. 12, 2013 - Video Message To Marian Shrines Around The World
“This evening I am united to all of you in praying the Holy Rosary and in Eucharistic adoration under the gaze of the Virgin Mary. ... In the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Mary says to us: "Look at my son Jesus, keep your gaze fixed on him, listen to him, speak with him. He is gazing at you with love. Do not be afraid! He will teach you to follow him and to bear witness to him in all that you do, whether great and small, in your family life, at work, at times of celebration. He will teach you to go out of yourself and to look upon others with love, as he did. He loved you and loves you, not with words but with deeds" ”.
· In his Apostolic Letter, “Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)” of November 24, 2013, he says: “Without prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervour dies out”.
Professor Michael Ogunu is one of the leaders of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Africa and the National President of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites in Nigeria. (E-mail: mogunu at yahoo.com).
Copyright © Professor Michael Ogunu 2015
Version: 28th April 2015