Adoration is a type and mode of prayer in Christianity and has a special meaning for the Catholics. The Catholic faith hinges around the Holy Eucharist and the real presence of Christ in the sacred species. Thus, Catholics talk about adoration like no other Christian denomination talks about it. It also means more to us than it means for them. Hence, we find non-Catholics using the word “Worship” more often while Catholics talk about adoration. Adoration in the Catholic Church is essentially about Eucharistic Adoration.
A bit of History
The history of Adoration of the Blessed Eucharist in the Church goes a long way. Even in the Apostolic times, St. Paul already warned about trivializing the Eucharistic meal (see 1 Cor. 11:23-30). St Paul by his teaching here, believes that he who partakes of the Eucharistic Meal does not just partake in an ordinary meal, but takes part in a meal that has the power of giving life to those who worthily receive it and eternal damnation to those who receive it unworthily. As early as at the time of St. Basil, who died around 379 AD, it is noted that the reservation of the sacred species for adoration has started gaining ground. History has it that St Basil after celebrating the Mass, divided the Sacred Specie into three: One part that he consumed, another that he gave to the monks and the third he preserved in a golden dove suspended around the altar.
In the 16th Century, the Catholic faith in the Eucharist and the real presence was challenged by the Reformers who not only doubted, castigated but also ridiculed the doctrine on the Eucharist. The Council of Trent reaffirmed the Catholic belief and went further to expand and encourage Eucharistic Adoration. Hence Pope Julius III in October 11, 1551, gave assent to the declaration of the Council that “The only-begotten Son of God is to be adored in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist with the worship of latria, including external worship. The Sacrament, therefore, is to be honored with extraordinary festive celebrations (and) solemnly carried from place to place in processions according to the praiseworthy universal rite and custom of the holy Church. The Sacrament is to be publicly exposed for the people’s adoration.”
Down the line in 1592, 41 years after the Council of Trent, Pope Clement VIII instituted the Forty-Two Hours Devotion. He also explained how this was done, and approved it for the diocese of Rome. About a century later, Pope Clement XIII in 1731 gave specific instructions of how Eucharistic Adoration should be carried out. According to the instructions the following should be noted:
(1) The Blessed Sacrament is always exposed on the high altar, except in patriarchal basilicas.
(2) Statues, relics and pictures around the altar of exposition are to be removed or veiled.
(3) Only clerics in surplices may take care of the altar of exposition.
(4) There must be continuous relays of worshippers before the Blessed Sacrament and should include a priest or cleric in major orders.
(5) No Masses are to be said at the altar of exposition.
The Church has explicitly encouraged Catholics to visit the Blessed Sacrament daily and the practice of Holy Hour before the Lord has become common place among the clergy, religious and lay faithful.
Since then there have been formation of pious societies with special focus on Eucharistic Adoration. Eucharistic Congresses have been organized and more attention has been created around the Eucharist. The Cannon Law even states that unless there is a grave reason to the contrary, a church, in which the Blessed Eucharist is reserved, is to be open to the faithful for at least some hours every day, so that they can pray before the Blessed Sacrament (Can. 937). The power to carry the Blessed Sacrament in processions have also given the authority, even if not explicit, to expose the Eucharist in prayer sessions like we see in our Adoration Ministries organized by priests. To this effect we see people going to these ministries tell of themselves as going to “adoration.”
When ADORATION becomes more of CRUSADING
The normal practice in the Church is that Eucharistic Adoration in the Churches are done in quietness. In the spirit of Psalm 46:10 “Be Still and Know that I am God.” Be that as it may, with the rise of the Charismatic Movement in the Church, and with its emphasis on vocal and physically active prayer, the silent mode of adoration is on the decline, especially in group adoration. Hence in our “Adoration Centers” not one moment of silence is observed. It is all about vocalized prayer, loud praises, dancing and vigourous preaching of the word. These are good in themselves and can also serve as means of adoring the Lord, however, the contents of these prayers and praises matter. We must know when we move from Adoration into Crusading.
The word Crusade in history connotes the time of ecclesiastically sanctioned military campaigns to rescue the Church territories from the hands of the Turkish Islamic invaders. Some Crusades were also fought against paganism and heresy. In modern Christian terms, Crusade means a vigourous campaign against demon and his agents and revival for renewed Christian faith. In this sense, the prayers offered in a crusade will always be that of attack against the enemy. It is of little wonder that the emphasis in crusades are exorcism, attacking the attacker and use of belligerent words as in a spiritual warfare.
Listening to our prayers during our so called adorations, one can see that a little, if any, of Latria is done. The focus is on crusading. If then the aim is solely for Crusading, why then do we say we are having adoration? I am not saying we cannot ask the good Lord, truly present in the Eucharist, to save us from the hands of our enemies. It is part of the intercessory prayer which we are encouraged to say in our adoration, but whereby all that we do is attacking the attacker, and have no time to even offer words of adoration to God, we can as well recommend a change of nomenclature. Sometimes, in our bid to enhance our crusade, we do commit certain abuses against the “exposed Lord” as we try to use the Blessed Sacrament as a tool for making magic and miracles.
What about praises at “adoration” grounds, is that not adoration?
Understanding the difference between praise and adoration/worship can create a fresh approach to the way we honor the Lord. Across the Bible, the injunction to “praise the Lord” are many. Angels and the heavenly hosts are commanded to praise the Lord (Psalm 89:5; 103:20; 148:2). All inhabitants of the earth are instructed to praise the Lord (Psalm 138:4; Romans 15:11). We can praise Him with singing (Isaiah 12:5; Psalm 9:11), with shouting (Psalm 33:1; 98:4), with the dance (Psalm 150:4), and with musical instruments (1 Chronicles 13:8; Psalm 108:2; 150:3-5).
Praise is the joyful recounting of all God has done for us. It is closely intertwined with thanksgiving as we offer back to God appreciation for His mighty works on our behalf. We can praise our family, friends, boss, or cook. Praise does not require anything of us. It is merely the truthful acknowledgment of the righteous acts of another. Since God has done many wonderful deeds, He is worthy of praise (Psalm 18:3).
Adoration, however, comes from a different place within our being. Adoration (Latria) should be reserved for God alone (Luke 4:8). Adoration involves losing self in the adoration of another. Praise can be a part of adoration, but adoration goes beyond praise. Praise is easy; Adoration is not. To truly adore God, we must let go of our self-worship/adoration. We must be keen to humble ourselves before God, surrender every part of our lives to His control, and adore Him for who He is, not just what He has done. Worship is a lifestyle, not just an occasional activity. Jesus said the Father is seeking those who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). In this sense, we see that what we do more in our adoration grounds is praise and not adoration. It then still boils down that we can change the nomenclature.
We need to be careful. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as we have it now did not come easy. It survived a lot challenges before it got to us in the manner it is. Our Pentecostal materialism should not lead us into abuse. A crusade can be effectively conducted without the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament meant for adoration. If we are to adore the Lord as expected by the Church, certain activities and actions should not be witnessed.
We must refocus our attention of adoration to that surrender before the Blessed Sacrament. Crusading against evil and the devil is obviously a needed thing in the Church. However, we can do that without intertwining it with a different mode of prayer (adoration). Let us give adoration its due place and give crusading the place it also deserves in the life of the Christian.