THE SERVICE OF ADORATION
Saint Peter Julian Eymard
Adoration is the first form of the Eucharistic service of Jesus Christ. Let us begin by understanding its greatness and its excellence.
1. Greatness and excellence of the service of Adoration.
I. Adoration is the highest act of the virtue of religion; consequently, it surpasses all the other acts of piety and virtue.
The adoration of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, is the end of the Church Militant, just as the adoration of God in His glory is the end of the Church Triumphant. A holy rivalry, a concert of prayer, a harmony of divine service should exist between the heavenly court and the Eucharistic court here below, between the adorer and his mother the Church.
II. Eucharistic adoration is the greatest triumph of faith, for it supposes the entire and perfect surrender of man's reason to God. It is adoration by all the Christian truths at once, by all the mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ; for every truth, every virtue of Jesus Christ prepares, establishes or perpetuates the reign of the Divine Eucharist. All the rays come from the sun or lead back to it; in like manner, every truth comes from Jesus Christ and leads to Him. And so the Most Holy Eucharist is the last grace and perfection of truth; for it is the last form of love Jesus has taken, which He will leave only when the time comes for Him to judge man and manifest His glory to him.
III. Eucharistic adoration is the greatest act of holiness on earth. It is prayer according to the four ends of the sacrifice, a prayer which brings into play all the virtues, of which it is a summary. It is the perfect homage of man, of his body and of his soul, of his freedom and of his heart, of his works and of his thoughts at the Eucharistic service of Jesus Christ; it is the holocaust of the entire man.
Adoration is the summary of all the virtues.
Humility adores its God reduced to nothing as it were, and it wants to lower and abase itself to honor and join Him in His state of abasement.
Gratitude adores its sovereign Benefactor and, borrowing the voice and love of every creature, the thanksgiving of the Church, of the heavenly court, of Mary His Mother, it offers to Jesus Hostia a universal homage of gratefulness and love. Furthermore, eager to make its thanksgiving infinite like the gift it received, it takes the Divine Eucharist and offers it to God the Father—the source of every perfect gift—as the most perfect homage He can receive, since it is Jesus Christ Himself.
The virtue of penance also adores this divine Victim Who is in a state of immolation for the redemption of man and, from the four corners of the earth and wherever it has an altar, asks forgiveness and mercy for sinners.
But as Jesus, the adorable Host, can no longer suffer or die, He needs a substitute victim that completes Him, that suffers in His place, and to that purpose He unites Himself with the penitent soul. Jesus will always be the ransom price of infinite value, and the faithful soul will, by its actual suffering, complete this new Calvary. This atoning soul weeps over the ingratitude of men, their crimes against the God of the Eucharist, Who is ignored, despised, and outraged by the majority of men and even by the closest and most honored friends of His Heart. It weeps over its own sins, which must be particularly displeasing to a Savior from Whom it receives only goodness and love.
But the soul is not content with reparation; it wants complete reconciliation with God, the triumph of mercy over justice, the salvation of sinners, the conversion of the persecutors and executioners of Jesus Christ, and hopes thus to see renewed the repentance and pardon of Calvary.
Charity adores the God of love on His throne of grace and pleads with Him to pour upon all men the blessings and gifts of His Infinite Goodness. The adorer assumes the office of mediator for all the needs of his brethren. He exposes with an eloquence born of confidence all the miseries of the poor children of the Cross of Jesus. He unfolds them for this inexhaustible mercy to set. He opens the wounds of the Savior to draw therefrom treasures of grace on each one of these miseries. He thus brings joy to the Heart of Jesus by giving Him the occasion to exercise His goodness and mercy.
Prostrate at the foot of the Eucharistic throne, he prays with filial devotion for the Church his mother, that God may sustain her in her struggles, protect her against her enemies, prosper her in her works, and sanctify her in all her children.
Zeal for the glory of God urges him to pray above all for priests, through whom Jesus Christ gives Himself anew to men; for priests who should be the light of the world, the salt of the earth, other Jesus Christs.
He delights in praying for the religious orders, a family dear to the Church, consecrated to a life of prayer and penance, and thereby so powerful in bringing about the triumph of right. For a soul of prayer is worth more than a soul all afire with zeal; an interior soul gives more glory to God than one busy with external works; one perfect soul is sufficient to obtain the conversion, the sanctification of an entire nation.
He prays for the powers of this world that they may fulfill their mission faithfully towards Jesus Christ and His Church, and, above all, establish the reign of Him by Whom kings rule and command; that they may be the soldiers of His glory and the defenders of His Church, who is the divine mother of all nations, the heavenly foster-parent of all the children of God
He prays for all the masters of this world that they may use their authority and power over their families and servants to secure the observance of the law of God and of His Church, the love of God and of neighbor.
The adorer does not limit his charity to this world. He visits the poor suffering souls in purgatory, brings them the help of his prayers, of his indulgences, of the Holy Sacrifice. He pours a few drops of Divine Blood on their pain, on their sins yet to be atoned for, in order to comfort them and open sooner to them the gates of their heavenly country.
Thus the adorer at the foot of the Most Blessed Sacrament fulfills a universal and perpetual mission of prayer, continues the divine work of propitiation, offers to God a fervent and unceasing thanksgiving, adores Him with his whole being, with every being that exists, with every possible grace, and thus offers Him the most perfect homage He can receive from a creature.
2. Adoration in practice.
Adoration should be a real meditation.
In order to follow a natural order in his thoughts and sentiments, the adorer should look upon adoration as a visit to a king. Such a visit comprises three steps: the preparation, the subject to be treated, and the conclusion.
The first step is preparation.
There are the remote preparation and the immediate preparation.
The first consists in preparing the subject matter and disposing in good order the ideas we are to expose to the King; and then in dressing properly for the occasion.
The immediate preparation is our introduction into the apartments of the King. We must be on time for our reception and not keep the King waiting. On being introduced to the King, we bow profoundly and then thank Him in a few words for His gracious kindness in granting us an audience, wretched and poor though we be. If we are to pay him any compliments, we do so immediately. Before treating of the subject of our visit, we apologize for our lack of experience and competence, all the while protesting our good will. We try to get the ministers and the Mother of the King interested in our case. Such is the introduction, and such should be that of our adoration.
The remote preparation of our adoration consists in preparing the subject to be dwelt upon in our adoration, in determining two or three points, that is, two or three truths or key ideas. As to the sentiments, they cannot be foreseen, as they are the spontaneous outcome of the contemplation of the truth and goodness of God—the outcome of meditation itself. But we, should foresee the homage we are to offer at the conclusion, what we shall present Or promise to our Lord, as also the requests we are to make before leaving His Presence.
After having prepared our subject of meditation, we should attend to our personal appearance to make sure we are decent and respectable. The Church requires neither elegance nor splendor in adorers, but seemliness in their person. Adoration is, in a very special manner, a festive form of worship in keeping with which both the dress of the adorer and the devout homages he presents should be in harmony.
The immediate preparation consists:
a. in making our adoration-hour punctually;
b. in recollecting ourselves even before
coming into the presence of the King of kings, surrounded on His throne by the entire heavenly court and waiting before us in His great goodness;
c. in making the five following acts which serve as an introduction of the soul into the presence of Jesus:
The first act is one of respect. On coming before the Blessed Sacrament, the adorer prostrates himself to the ground like the Magi Kings, moved thereto by the sentiment of a lively faith in the personal presence of his Lord and God; thus he adores Him with his whole being by this profound act of respect and, as it were, of self-annihilation before the divine Majesty.
The second act is one of gratitude. The adorer thanks our Lord for receiving him as one of His angels, as the child of His predilection; for having invited him to His court, and entrusted him with the most beautiful of all functions close to His adorable Person. The adorer ought to praise our Lord's goodness, bless this day, this hour of heaven, and thank Him for the grace of his vocation.
The third act is one of humility and contrition: "But who am I, O my God, to be so honored and loved? Do you forget that I am but nothingness and sin?" And this act of sorrow and humble love purifies the soul.
The fourth act is the oblation of the adorer's self, of his mind, of his heart, of his will, of his senses, of his liberty, of his life to the service of his Good Master and to His greater glory, with the will to serve Him well during this hour of adoration, to devote to Him all the attention of his mind, all the love of his heart, and to place himself exclusively at the disposal of His will and of His grace in order to honor, love and serve Him acording to His good pleasure.
The fifth. and last act is one of union with the adorations of the Church and of each one of her members; with the adorations of the Blessed Virgin when she was on earth, especially when she knelt before the adorable Host. The adorer should also unite himself with his Angel Guardian, and with some special saint; he then takes up the subject of his adoration.
2. Subject of adoration.
The important point about adoration, as also about meditation, is to know well how to consider one's subject, to draw therefrom natural affections and practical acts of virtue. To that purpose, meditation, which is the soul and life of contemplation, should have five characteristics. It should be:
I.Natural, that is, according to the nature and character of the subject;
II.Simple, seeking out the truth, the grace and the sacredness of the subject with a calm and recollected mind;
III.Particular, proceeding from the general down to the particular, from a broad viewpoint down to details. A merely general consideration of truth effects nothing;
iv. Personal; in mental prayer the adorer should appropriate and apply everything to himself if he wants to fix his mind on his subject and awaken the affections of his heart;
v. Practical; this point is essential; the adorer meditates in order to become better; he adores in order to offer to God a special homage of praise and of love.
As to the subject itself, any topic can become a fruitful subject of meditation. That depends on the actual disposition of the soul, on its state and mood, but especially on the grace of the moment, on the ray of light that strikes the soul and penetrates it to its depths. A subject with consistency of thought will always prove ready matter; it is usually easier to follow and more fruitful.
Once meditation has begun, we must not easily set aside the subject prepared; that would lay us open to inconstancy and sterility. We should then adhere to our topic of meditation and recall the mind to it constantly, unless of course the grace of the Holy Spirit substitutes a better one. But we must not change too easily, so as to test the genuineness of the inspiration. This rule is very important.
We should also retain a truth, a thought, as long as the soul finds nourishment in it, jusi as a bee does not readily leave a flower that is rich with honey. The interior recollection of the soul resulting from a thought is a sign of the richness of that thought, just as a certain agitation, or restlessness, or frivolity over a prepared topic is a sign of temptation.
As to the choice of topics for Eucharistic adoration, it is fitting that they be drawn from the Eucharist and that everything in them be related to its service and glory.
The Most Holy Eucharist abounds in subjects of meditation. All the truths converge towards the Eucharist and spring from it like the rays from the sun; all the virtues of our Lord are continued and glorified in it, and every mystery of the life of the Savior is wonderfully represented. The Divine Eucharist is the ineffable summary of the mortal and glorious life of Jesus Christ, placed at the disposal of the Christian, so that he may honor his Good Master in these two states and benefit by the grace and virtue of both.
After having meditated on a truth, or even while meditating, (for one must follow the impulse of grace and submit, as it were, to the mood of the subject), make the acts of the four ends of the Sacrifice in a spirit of adoration.
a. Adore our Lord in the truth under consideration; praise His goodness, bless His love for you and for all men.
b. Give fervent and tender expression to your gratefulness for this truth, this gift, etc.
c. Make reparation for the infidelities and sins brought to mind in this meditation, and for the sins of all men.
d. Offer yourself to our Lord in order to adore Him better in the future; offer Him the gift of a special sacrifice; pray for faithfulness, generosity and perseverance.
The affections grow out of meditation. They are the flame of the hearth; the love of the truth, of the goodness revealed to the mind. These affections express themselves in diverse sentiments.
Sentiment follows no rule other than the impression made under the enlightenment, the grace of the moment; we should follow it and nourish ourselves with it. This is a simple and natural rule.
I. Thus once we have understood the truth, the goodness, the virtue of Jesus Christ, it is natural for us to love them, to delight in contemplating them, to praise them, to exalt them above everything, to long for them, to become attached to them, to unite ourselves with them. That is the contemplation, the adoration of love.
II. Upon this first act there naturally follows a second one: thanksgiving. The adorer thanks our Lord for His having manifested Himself to him; for having given him in preference to so many others, this proof of love, this gift of His grace; for having placed him on a level with His closest friends. And that is the gratitude of love.
III. It is then natural for the adorer to look into himself and to say to himself: "But who am I to be the object of so much love and favor? Who am I to be thus loved and singled out by Jesus? Is not my soul lax and lukewarm in His service? Has not my heart been unfaithful to Him, and my will rebellious? Has not my body given itself over to sloth, sensuality, and vanity?" Under this conviction, the adorer humbles himself, prostrates himself at the feet of Jesus like Saint Peter, and tells Him: "Leave me to myself, Lord, he said; I am a sinner" (Luke 5:8). He weeps at his feet with Magdalen; he begs forgiveness like the publican; he is now resolved to serve his Master better. He promises it, and he will do it with His holy grace. That is the repentance of love.
iv. The adorer goes beyond the tears of repentance; he wants to wash his cowardice in his own blood; he wants to atone for his sin, to be reinstated in his place of honor, to restore to His Master the glory he deprived Him of. And to dedicate himself to a more perfect service of Jesus, to procure His greater glory, he gives himself entirely, absolutely and perpetually to Him. He will serve His Lord out of love, out of sheer devotion. Jesus Christ will be His Master, and he will be His happy servant; Jesus will be His King, and he will be the soldier of His glory; Jesus will be his Savior, and he will be His grateful freedman; Jesus will be his God, the God of his heart, the God of his life, the God of his eternity. That is the devotion of love.
Keep well in mind these four points: love adores, then gives thanks, weeps over its sins, and consecrates itself entirely to the greater glory of Jesus. "Love, render thanks, repent, and give yourself."
In order to give each one of these sentiments its full scope and force, we will do well to associate ourselves to the acts of adoration, of thanksgiving, and of love of the saints, especially those who have been the most devoted to the Most Blessed Sacrament, and above all the Most Blessed Virgin, Mother and Queen of the children of the Cenacle, and Saint Joseph, the first model of adorers.
These four acts correspond to the four ends of the sacrifice, and at the same time answer the needs of the soul; they are the natural expression of love, which is precisely the aim of mental prayer.
These acts can be adapted to any subject of mental prayer or of adoration. It often happens that the adorer, in moments of aridity and helplessness, needs I an easy method to guide and spur him on. He starts by using that method quite mechanically; then gradually the mind is enlightened, the heart quickened, and the will strengthened. And the adorer finds himself actively and lovingly steeped in prayer. He gave proof of good will, went ahead blindly, out of obedience, and God rewarded him immediately by manifesting Himself to him in His love, as He did to Magdalen at the tomb.
In order to fix the mind and prevent it from wandering, it is advisable to divide into four quarters the subject of one's adoration. The adorer will thus spend the hour fruitfully and delightfully and will often be surprised to see it come so soon to an end. For by varying its acts, the soul will never run short of ideas and will be, as it were, always in a new state; it will find itself with our Lord in the grace of its prayer, and not with itself, in the distraction of its mind and the sadness of its heart.
3. Models of adoration.
The purpose of Eucharistic adoration is to offer to Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament the same divine homages he received on earth during His mortal life and still now receives in the glory of heaven.
The Holy Gospels speak of the homages the Savior received in His lifetime, and Saint John describes those of the Heavenly Court. Let us meditate on both these homages in order to find in them the model of our own adorations.
I. The homages offered Jesus during His lifetime were in keeping with His condition.
On earth, Jesus received first of all the homages of His most holy Mother. How holy and perfect were the adorations of Mary as she adored the Incarnate Word in her virginal womb, as she adored Him before everyone else at His coming into the world, into the palace of poverty, on the throne of love of the crib, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid on the straw! Never had the Word been greater in His love, but also never had He received such sweet and tender homages!
How devout and humble must have been the adorations of Saint Joseph, the guardian and first servant of Jesus! With what faith he served our Lord, with what humility he rendered Him the services due to His tender age, with what fervor he adored Him, with what love He suffered for His sake every sacrifice, the exile in Egypt, the poverty of Nazareth! Saint Joseph is then the first model of true adorers.
For a long time the Word Incarnate had as His only adorers Joseph and Mary; but He was more pleased with their homages than with those of all the other creatures.
The adorations of the Magi Kings are also worthy of our admiration; they are perfect models of visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Magi came from a great distance; they left everything and came with joy. They sought Jesus, and when they had found Him, they surrounded Him with honor, proclaimed His excellence, adored Him with profound humility and great reverence. They contemplated the sacrifices of His love with wondering tenderness. They became the disciples of that love, and offered themselves to serve Him. They presented Him their crowns and all the precious things they owned. They then returned to their country to be the apostles of the Incarnate God Who had made Himself little, poor and suffering for the love of man.
How ardent was the faith of the man born blind, throwing himself at the feet of Jesus, his Benefactor, as he heard the words, "It is he who is speaking to thee," He is the Christ (John 9:37).
How humble and penitent was the adoration of Magdalen at the feet of the Savior!
How touching was the faith of the Centurion, saying to Jesus Christ: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive thee under my roof; my servant will be healed if thou wilt only speak a word of command" (Matt 8:8).
How great and eloquent was the faith of the Chananaean woman, begging on her knees for a crumb of bread fallen from the table of the Master.
But one of the most beautiful adorations is that made on Calvary. There, Jesus was adored under all His titles, in all His virtues, in the kingliness of His love. The Good Thief adored Him as his Savior King, Magdalen as her beloved Master, John as the God of love, and Mary under all these titles and in all these states. Finally, the converted executioners adored Him; they proclaimed Him the Son of God, and, prostrating themselves at the foot of the Cross, they made the first public solemn act of adoration on the very place of their deicide.
Such were the adorations He received on earth. The adorer must continue them before the Most Blessed Sacrament, this perpetual Nazareth of the Hidden Life of Jesus, this undying Calvary, this permanent Cenacle. He must copy the virtues and the piety of these first adorers.
II. The homages of heaven are still more magnificcnt. It is adoration in glory, in the eternal and full possession of God Himself.
Listen to Saint John as he describes in the Apocalypse the adorations of the angels and saints.
"Round the throne were twenty-four seats, and on these sat twenty-four elders (the Prophets of the Old Law), clothed in white garments, with crowns of gold on their heads. . . . And in the midst, where the throne was, round the throne itself, were four living figures (symbols of the four evangelists), that had eyes everywhere . . . . Each of the four figures had six wings .... Day and night they cried unceasingly, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who ever was, and is, and is still to come. And as often as these figures gave glory and honour and blessing to him who sat on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fell down in worship before him who sat on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, and threw down their crowns before the throne, crying out, Thou, our Lord God, claimest as thy due glory and honour and power; by thee all things were created; nothing ever was, nothing was ever created, but in obedience to thy will.... Then I saw," again says Saint John, "in the midst, where the throne was amid the twenty-four elders, a Lamb standing upright, yet slain. . . . He now came, and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne, and when he disclosed it, the four living figures and the twenty-four elders fell down in the Lamb's presence. Each bore a harp, and they had golden bowls full of incense, the prayers of the saints. And now it was a new hymn they sang, Thou, Lord, art worthy to take up the book and break the seals that are on it. Thou wast slain in sacrifice; out of every tribe, every language, every people, every nation thou hast ransomed us with thy book and given us to God. Thou hast made us a royal race of priests, to serve God; we shall reign as kings over the earth. Then I heard, in my vision, the voices of a multitude of angels, standing on every side of the throne, where the living figures and the elders were, in thousands of thousands, and crying aloud, Power and Godhead, wisdom and strength, honour and glory and blessing are his by right, the Lamb that was slain. And every creature in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all that is in it, I heard crying out together, Blessing and honour and glory and power, through endless ages, to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. Then the four living figures said, Amen; and the twenty-four elders fell prostrate, worshipping him who lives for ever and ever" (Apoc.4:4-11, and 5:6-14).
Such are the adorations of Heaven, the homages of the saints, their praises, their thanksgivings. Here again we find models to study and to copy. Let us endeavor to reproduce in the presence of the Host the majesty and grandeur of worship of the Heavenly Court, the generosity and humbleness of its adoration.
An extract from Eucharistic Handbook: For the Members of the People's Eucharistic League, from the French of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, founder of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers.
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