Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is an extension of the celebration of the Mass, the source and summit of our Catholic faith. To pray before the Blessed Sacrament is to worship the Lord, sacramentally and truly present to us in His flesh. It is an honor and a privilege to worship Him. The beauty of Adoration is encapsulated in an anecdote about St. John Vianney. Fr. Vianney was at the back of his little French parish church in prayer, when a parishioner came to him and asked, "What are you doing here all day with this?" Fr. Vianney responded, "Nothing. I just look at Him and He looks at me." To be with the Lord is enough! Fr. Vianney knew this. We are invited to discover it.
The Church teaches that as the Eucharistic sacrifice is the source and summit of the whole Christian life, devotion both public and private, to the Blessed Sacrament is strongly recommended (Post-Vatican II document on the Eucharist, 249). Eucharistic adoration is a devotion wherein one spends time in adoration and prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. One may spend time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament while the Eucharist is exposed in a monstrance (Exposition) or one may pray in the presence of the Eucharist in the tabernacle. As this devotion of adoration has a venerable standing in the life and history of the Church, its practice was upheld and even encouraged at the Second Vatican Council. The Church has taught that Eucharistic adoration naturally flows from the Mass and thus should always remain ordered to the Mass.
The basis for this form of worship and adoration is rooted in the Catholic belief that Jesus Christ is really and truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. For two thousand years the Church has taught that through the power of the Holy Spirit and according to the Eucharistic prayer, the substance of bread and wine are transformed into the real sacramental presence of Christ. That our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is present among us is an incredible gift to His Church. That we would spend time in adoration of Jesus Christ is a noble and appropriate response to this incredible gift. The long-standing teaching of the Church regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is one of deep mystery and founded in the unfathomable love of God. We know that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to take our very flesh and dwell among us. God has continued to grace His Church by providing us with the on-going presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Catholics believe that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist remains after Mass. Therefore, in the early Church this presence was reserved in a suitable and reverent place after Sunday Eucharist. Originally the Eucharist was reserved not primarily for adoration, but so the Eucharist could be brought to those who were sick and unable to attend the Sunday liturgy. Over time Catholics began to spend time in prayer and adoration before the reserved Eucharist. That this from of worship began and was sustained in the life of the Church was a legitimate and reasonable liturgical development.
Further development saw prayers that were added as well as public communal worship of Christ in the Eucharist. For example, Benediction is a liturgical form of worship where the faithful recite prayers, read from Sacred Scripture and sing songs in adoration of the Eucharist. Hence its name, Benediction concludes when the priest takes the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament and blesses all those who are present.
The post-Vatican II Church has seen a profound increase in Eucharistic adoration. Taking her cue from the Holy Father, John Paul II, who has a strong personal devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Church has once again embraced this venerable form.