Monday, October 22, 2012

Adoration of the exposed Blessed Sacrament

While reading “In The Presence”, a book on Eucharistic adoration by Joan Ridley, OSB, I came across a few gems for spiritual reflection which I would like to share with my readers. 

Many churches around the world have adoration rooms where the faithful can spend time in adoration of the Eucharist.  The Church has always rightly encouraged us to the Eucharistic Lord to adore and to pray, and in the process of so doing, receive a grace that can only come about when we are in intimate contact with the giver of life. 

Unfortunately, it is a common lament that one doesn’t quite know what to do in the presence of the Lord in the Adoration Room. 

We often think that we are only as good as the things that we do in life.  The performance index that we are assessed by can easily be projected onto our spiritual life, and that can end up harming it in ways that we are unaware of.  Does the Lord really want us to “do” things when we are in his presence before the Blessed Sacrament?  Is there list that we need to check off certain acts and prayers after they are said or accomplished?  How can we fill up our time meaningfully in prayer if we don’t “do” much? 

Speak to any couple who are truly in love and they will tell you that some of the best moments are spent just being with each other, without saying or doing anything. Being in one another’s presence and knowing that one is giving all one’s attention in loving silence to the other is a very deep form of loving.  I hear this from couples who are very new to the dating scene, as well as from very old and mature couples who have gone through many years of married life. They don’t have to say much, but they know that their love is conveyed in loving gazes and silent presence. Perhaps it is this phenomenon of love that we need to appreciate and develop when we come before the Eucharistic Lord.    

We are easily captivated by things around us.  Lovely sunsets, alluring animals, or beautiful people can do this to us.  We are caught up in that moment with the object of beauty holding our gaze. 

Wasn’t Jesus “gazed upon” by the bystanders at his crucifixion?  We are also told that many different people “beheld” him on the Cross.  Not just the officials, but the bystanders and the women who were with Jesus as well.  Each had different reasons for doing so.  His persecutors mocked him, those watching beat their breasts, and the women watched intently.  Jesus, hanging on the cross, was open to their gaze.  He was exposed in the most giving way possible, and at the same time, he gave away his power in this act of surrender.  At the heart of this exposure was the display of his love and utter surrender to the Father. 

When we speak of being exposed, we tend to associate elements of vulnerability and risk.  We speak of being exposed to contamination, germs and disease.  When we are exposed to the elements, we need to protect ourselves.  In the Adoration Room, we also say that the Eucharist is exposed, and in a certain way, there is an element of vulnerability as well.  We are asked to gaze intently, with love, at the one who exposed himself in love for us.  Doesn’t the Lord take risks in being exposed this way for us sinful human beings?  Apart from the risk of possible theft or desecration, perhaps the far bigger risk would be that he would be once again rejected, mocked, ridiculed and given nary a hint of respect. 

As human beings, whenever we are exposed, we instinctively seek to cover ourselves, to minimize risk of shame and rejection.  But when we come before the Lord, we need to come before him with an attitude of surrender and humility. It is not so much that the Lord demands this of us, but rather, because we know that it is God we come before, that nothing really can be hidden from his gaze at our hearts.  I think we know this within the depths of our being, and that may be one reason why many fight shy of entering the sacred presence of God who sees and knows all.  But we need to know that it is because our Lord knows all, that he will also see the wounds that we bear.  When we allow his divine gaze to penetrate into our whole lives, we allow a healing grace to come upon our wounds, and only when we dare to bare all, can we become like the Samaritan woman at the well who said “He told me all that I ever did”, and allow a conversion after the encounter with the giver of life to change and mould us.

Gazing and allowing ourselves to be gazed at lovingly is at the heart of contemplative prayer, but this doesn’t happen overnight.  When we do learn to give of ourselves this way, we will realise that the real giver is not us, but God himself.    


  1. Dearest Fr. Luke,
    If I may, I would like to share a reflection I came across on the parable of the prodigal son, but this time round, the focus was on the Father and his elder son. The elder son representing the faithful community who though never strayed, yet was imperfect and also in need of grace. The Father said to the son – All that I have is yours…

    Indeed everything He can give, He has given.

    The faithful, as you wrote, “receive a grace that can only come about when we are in intimate contact with the giver of life.” The elder son, because by the default of been faithful, is withheld nothing of God’s grace. May we seek to grow ever deeper in love and faithfulness. He is the lavishly generous, extravagant (prodigal) God madly in love with his children like a new dad to his beloved new-born. Going all the way out, just to be with us, exposing His sacredness in the Blessed sacrament, waiting for us in the adoration room, becoming food to nourish us in the Eucharist. Giving us All the very Best, everything He could, withholding nothing from us.

    How can we not partake of this great blessed privilege we have been given, to approach God directly in the Blessed Sacrament, the precious treasure of the Catholic Church.

    Thank You Fr, God be with you always.

  2. This has to be one of your best posts, Fr. Luke. Many thanks.

    That part about “being in one another’s presence” and “giving all one’s attention in loving silence to the other is a very deep form of loving” is particularly moving; and can only be understood by one who has truly been in a deep, loving relationship. And what about that “loving gaze”?

    Dare I be so bold as to suggest, that at Cana, when our Blessed Mother said to her Son, “They have no wine” and Jesus answered that His time had not yet come, they exchanged loving glances - and that was enough to move Jesus to perform His first miracle. No pleading, no reasoning: just a loving gaze. After all, no other words were exchanged.

    Peace and Joy,

  3. Today Catholics are told that the central mystery of our lives is the Eucharist and so, apart from participation at mass, we are encouraged to pay visits to the Blessed Sacrament or to keep Holy Hours.........usually without much thought as to why or what is the point of this devotion? I remember my first initiation into this devotion - how I was told that Jesus is lonely or some such sentimentalism when what should have been apparent enough is that – Jesus, the Master is there ‘’let us go to Him’’ –for this after all is the Real Presence!

    Using your words, I would agree that this is a ‘’phenomenon of love’’ for “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son....’’ and so, beholding the Real Presence - there resonates only this constant refrain in our hearts ........ ‘’This is my body.....given for you. ‘’ It is seemingly unbelievable that Divine Love transcends space and time and comes to us in the form of lowly bread and wine so that we don’t have to wait an eternity to adore Him. The element of vulnerability which you mentioned applies to us as well, as we come before His presence. We know that He sees the darkest parts of ourselves, the areas of life we fear to touch or face – so we come in fear and trembling.......... we are so vulnerable! But in the Real Presence – we meet the forgiveness of God, the goodness of God, the compassionate kindness of God and - there is a knowing that His love never fails.

    So as we come into His presence in the Adoration room, perhaps our best form of prayer is the adoration of quietness, the prayer of utter silence.

    God bless you, Fr


  4. Thank you Fr. The problem is also when spending an hour or more in front of the Blessed Sacrament, the mind wanders and it's always frustrating when that happens. How I wish I could give 100% of myself to Jesus in adoration.