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Priest holding the Blessed Sacrament

Eucharistic Adoration, Exposition, and Benediction

What Is Eucharistic Adoration?

Eucharistic Adoration is time devoted to intimate and deep prayer before Our Lord in His real sacramental Presence. It is our pious and devout adoration of Our Savior, Who is truly present in the Eucharistic Host.

As Catholics know, it is the infallible teaching of Holy Mother Church that the bread and wine consecrated at Mass each become and remain the Sacred Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Thus, when we pray before the Eucharistic Host during Eucharistic Adoration, either in a monstrance or in the tabernacle, we are praying before Our Lord Himself.

There are no set prayers during Adoration. People can pray the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the Litany of the Sacred Heart, practice mental prayer, follow prayers from the traditional ‘Forty Hours’ Devotion,[1] offer an Hour or Reparation or even render their own personal prayers. One should make the effort to include prayers of adoration and praise, of thanksgiving, of reparation, and of intercession.

Unless any of these devotions are formally organized, one should pray silently so as to render respect to His Divine Majesty and out of consideration for others who are adoring Our Lord. Also, when one enters or leaves a church with the Blessed Sacrament exposed, one should kneel on both knees.[2]

As the Real Presence Association states:

“Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration is the adoration of Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist. In the many churches that have this adoration, the Eucharist is displayed in a special holder called a monstrance, and people come to pray and worship Jesus continually throughout the day and often the night. Christ’s great love for us was shown when He was crucified on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and give us eternal life. He loves us without limit, and offers Himself to us in the Holy sacrament of the Eucharist. Can we not give Jesus a few minutes of love and adoration in return?”[3]

If you are not familiar with the method and prayers of St. Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868), a great champion of Eucharistic Adoration, spend some time to print and save the prayers he recommends.

What Is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament?

We can always pray to Our Lord present in the tabernacle. But sometimes the Blessed Sacrament is taken out of the tabernacle by a priest and placed in a monstrance for adoration.[4] Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament traditionally begins with the singing of the hymn, O Salutaris Hostia. After this, there is often a period of silence during which we have the opportunity to adore and pray before Our Lord. This is called Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

Many saints would adore Jesus in the Eucharist for one hour a day. Each of us can consider Our Lord issuing those heartfelt words to us which He directed to His Apostles during His Agony in the Garden of Olives: “Could you not watch one hour with me?” (Mt 26:40).

One of the most important life changes you can make is finding one hour each week to leave work or school or friends aside and just be present in adoration before Jesus. It can be a tremendous source of grace for you and those you love!

Some parishes periodically hold “Forty Hours” devotions or have perpetual adoration chapels where you can visit and adore Our Lord Jesus Christ at any time. Find out if your parish has a scheduled time for public Adoration. If not, find a nearby parish or chapel that does.

What Is Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament?

Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament often ends a period of Exposition. To conclude the period of silent prayer, the priest will often initiate the singing of the hymn, Tantum Ergo. He will then have placed over his shoulders (by an altar boy) a special garment called a humeral veil. Using this sacred cloth, the priest grips the monstrance and then blesses the kneeling faithful with the Blessed Sacrament within. It is a pious and holy thought for us to see Jesus Christ Himself blessing us at this moment.

This unique blessing is followed by the priest leading the people in the recitation of the Divine Praises, usually after which a final hymn is sung while the priest restores the Blessed Sacrament to the tabernacle. Benediction also usually involves the adoration of God through the use of incense.

Exhortation

There are special indulgences associated with Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction. Find out if your parish offers Adoration and Benediction. Some churches do, usually on Sunday afternoons or Thursdays. If not, consider asking your local priest to make this available and/or find a parish or location in your area that does.

Our Lord longs for us to visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament. It is why He humbles Himself and willingly confines Himself under the appearance of bread – so that He can remain close to us! What a great act of love, yet an act which is so horribly ignored and underappreciated – even by people of faith! Let us return the love of Our Savior by spending time with Him.

If we are generous with God and dedicate some time to this powerful form of adoration and prayer, then rest assured He will bless you abundantly in kind. Our good and great God is never outdone in generosity!


[1] It is not a long-standing custom to have continuous periods of “24 Hours Adoration” at a chapel. This is because it can be difficult to make sure a chapel is physically secure (from criminals or vandals) and because there should always be at least two people present when Our Lord is exposed in the Monstrance. The Forty Hours Devotion, however, has been a long-standing tradition. It was popularized by great saints like St. Philip Neri and St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century. This is an intense period of prayer by a particular group (parish, monastery, congregation, etc.) when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed and adored for forty consecutive hours. Many traditional parishes still foster this devotion.

[2] It is customary to genuflect (kneel on the right knee) when one enters or leaves the church, or if one passes before the Tabernacle, since Our Lord’s Real Presence is there. However, if the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in the Monstrance, we should make a double-genuflection (kneeling on both knees). Incidentally, kneeling on the left knee was normally reserved for honoring secular rulers, such as a king.

[3] http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/pea/a2.html

[4] It is important to note that only the priest should touch the Most Blessed Sacrament. Only the priest’s hands have been consecrated. The laity should not touch the Sacred Host. This is part of our Catholic tradition. Unfortunately, this practice has fallen by the wayside and has led to countless abuses and many sacrileges against Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

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