Raphael's Disputation Concerning the Holy Eucharist
Fr. Richard McBrien has a column this week in which he expresses his belief that the rise of eucharistic adoration in recent years is "doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward, not forward."
He makes two valid points, but then he misses the point with his conclusion:
1) Eucharistic adoration needs to be liturgically grounded.
2) The Mass provides all that a Catholic needs, spiritually and sacramentally.
This emphasis on the centrality of the liturgy in the life of the Church is a correct understanding of Vatican II's teaching that the "Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith." Everything that we do as Catholics flows from the Eucharist and returns to it. Is not the Eucharist our participation in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ? We participate in the radical and transformative event which stands at the center of human history. We take part in the sacrifice of Christ whose passion has redeemed the us, redeemed all of creation--and which opens for us the possiblity of participating in the Trinitarian life as God's adopted children. Our entire life must be eucharistic--recognizing our need for redemption, and being grateful to our God for having "loved the world so."
Precisely because the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, ought it not to be revered not only within Mass, but also outside of Mass? Indeed, if the liturgy is truly for the "life of the world," then is not the world to also be affected by it? If this is true, then our participation in devotions, such as Eucharistic adoration, is ordered to the radical truth about the liturgy--that in it, we encounter the work of the Trinitarian God who has sanctified all of creation. This is why we can enter into a chapel outside of Mass, and in an encounter with what appears to be a host, give thanks to the Eucharistic Lord for having redeemed matter and all of creation. Much more could be said here...
Another point that the column misses is love. The Eucharist is the sacrament of charity, by which those who receive it with the right intention and properly disposed become friends of God, partakers in the divine nature. Christ's love for us did not end on the cross--it continues by our participation in that event in each and every Mass. It continues by our participation in Eucharistic adoration, in which Christ, through the ministry of His Church, makes himself present for us to contemplate. We can come to him as friends, and speak and converse with Him about our lives. Although he is closer to us than we are to ourselves, He waits for us in a sepcial way in the Eucharist, and by making an act of the will to come and be present with him in adoration, we ourselves express our love for Him. The great mercy of God--that by coming to spend time with Him in adoration, we ourselves grow in grace and virtue, because we become who we are by our actions. If we choose to spend time with Him, to take time from our busy schedules in order to be with Him, our intentions are purified, our hearts are enlarged, and our will is strengthened. We recognize the primacy of God's love in our lives--and by doing so, we are led more perfectly to participate in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the Christ whom we contemplate visually and eat spiritually in adoration enters into us physically, through our sacramental and spiritual eating in Holy Communion.
If one understands the love and mercy of God for us, He comes to understand the great gift of Eucharistic adoration, and its intrinsic connection to the Eucharistic liturgy.
On a side note, just because Fr McBrien is at Notre Dame, his views are not indicative at all of the attitude towards adoration on campus. Thanks to great priests such as Fr. Kevin Russeau, CSC and Fr Richard Warner, CSC, Eucharistic adoration at Notre Dame now totals about 50 hours a week, and is steadily increasing!