I’m convinced that something amazing has happening in the Church. Despite all the tales of woe and despair and things going from bad to worse in both the Church and the world – even before the pandemic struck – still something incredible was taking place. These days, we all need to hear some good news in the midst of all the bad, so what could possibly be going on that is positive?
Simply put, there is a resurgence of love and adoration of the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
This time of pandemic has proven that people are crying out for the Eucharist – our loss of access to the Eucharist seems to have had the positive effect of reminding many people just how priceless this heavenly treasure really is. Over and over as the pandemic has gone on, I have repeatedly heard people saying how much they miss the Eucharist more than anything else. Im not sure there are too many Catholics who watched the HolyFather’s extraordinary ‘Urbi Et Orbi’ in March last year and did not feel an intense pang of longing as the Pope blessed the world with the Eucharist in the Monstrance. It is certainly a moment I will never forget.
Sometimes, absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
But this isn’t the only evidence of something changing.
Even before the coronavirus – and all that came in it’s wake – descended upon the world, various dioceses seemed to be increasing the number of services which were intended simply to adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. This might be Benediction on a Sunday evening, or specific times arranged in Churches, where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for the faithful. The services may be solemn or simple, silent or sung. But the key feature is that souls were coming before the Lord in the Sacrament of His abiding Presence and Love.
So what is the value of such a service, such a moment spent in His Presence?
In his beautiful encyclical ‘Ecclesia de Eucharista’, St John Paul II reminded us that –
“the Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church”.
This Sacrament is the one around which we gather as Christians, the one which binds and holds us together in His Name, and the one which expressed the reality of what we believe, the reality of the words of the Lord in the Gospel – “this is My Body”. St John Paul touches on this explicitly when he writes – “For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself”.
The Holy Father notes some of the highs and the lows of recent decades –
“The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it. Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned. Unfortunately, alongside these lights, there are also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned.”
Speaking of Eucharistic Adoration, St John Paul goes on to say –
“The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church. This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The presence of Christ under the sacred species reserved after Mass – a presence which lasts as long as the species of bread and of wine remain – derives from the celebration of the sacrifice and is directed towards communion, both sacramental and spiritual. It is the responsibility of Pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species.”
St John Paul talks about a ‘profound amazement and gratitude’ when we contemplate the reality of Christ in the Eucharist. Realising before Whom we kneel in adoration, it is hard for the soul not to be filled with this sense – although we should bear in mind that at times, the Lord (for reasons best known to Himself) withholds this sense from us and we may feel little or nothing at all. However, it is important to remember that feeling (or lack of it) is purely sensory and changes nothing of substance. Describing something of his own personal experience, the Holy Father writes –
“It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf.Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the “art of prayer”, how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support! This practice, repeatedly praised and recommended by the Magisterium, is supported by the example of many saints.”
Moments spent adoring the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament are most definitely moments of great graces and mercy – we have the testimony of the Saints, both recent and from the more distant past, to assure us of this. Perhaps this has been your own experience, too. These moments are the closest we can be to Heaven whilst still living upon the earth.