Save time (and paper!) and pay bills online! Sign-up now at


December 13, 2022

The liturgy and eucharistic Adoration

The liturgy and eucharistic Adoration

Cards on the table––there is some reticence about eucharistic Adoration among perfectly good Catholics. Why? During the Middle Ages, active participation by ordinary worshipers largely disappeared. The priest performed the liturgy for a passive, mostly silent “audience.” Out of a sense of unworthiness, people stopped receiving communion. They worshiped Christ in the Eucharist not by receiving it but by gazing upon it. You could say that active participation in the liturgy, including Holy Communion, was replaced by adoring the consecrated host with the eyes.

Though this was a distortion of the liturgy’s true nature, countless worshipers undoubtedly found nourishment in reverencing the Eucharist in this way.

But The Second Vatican Council made full, active, conscious participation with reception of Holy Communion normal. This is the every Sunday heart of Catholic worship and spirituality. In light of this, how might we understand eucharistic Adoration today? When I think of this devotion, I think this: being present to Christ in a posture of grateful and self-offering love. But Christ is not only an object of our love, he is the way of our love, the way to the Father. So grateful self-offering love of Christ also means self-offering through, with and in him to the one who sent him. This self-offering love is the heart of Christian spirituality and worship wherever it happens. It can happen in many ways and places in addition to the eucharistic liturgy––in centering prayer, praying the rosary, prayer with icons, Taizé prayer around the cross, celebrations of the word, the liturgy of the hours, to name a few. And, yes, it can happen when you offer your gratitude and love before the eucharistic presence of Christ.

When you do so, whether fully aware of it or not, you are entering the gravitational pull of the liturgy. For the liturgy is the source of this devotion’s basic elements. It is by celebrating the liturgy that the sacramental presence of Christ comes to be in our midst. Not only that, your worship as gratitude and self-offering love comes from the very heart of the liturgy. It is the posture of Christ. So when you hear the words “Eucharistic Revival,” the first thing that should come to mind is the liturgy itself. That is why, while affirming the value of worshiping the Eucharist outside of the Mass, St. John Paul II wrote: “This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, paragraph 25).

Let us reflect for a few moments on this link. What is the Eucharistic Sacrifice? It is the sacrifice of the cross, which Christ anticipated at the last supper: my body, given up for you––my blood, poured out for you. But this sacrifice is not what you might think. It is not the unjust and brutal violence perpetrated on Jesus. It is rather the resolute self-offering love by which he endured the violence forced upon him. Out of love for his Abba and compassion for us, Jesus met violence with fidelity and love and turned it into redemption. This is what we glory in when we glory in the cross (Galatians 6:14). The Letter to the Philippians calls this sacrifice kenosis or self-emptying: “he emptied himself . . . and became obedient to the point of death––even death on a cross” (2:7-8). This self-offering in death was the culmination of self-offering in life. All his teaching, preaching and healing was kenotic––a matter of pouring himself out in love for others and in loving obedience to the one who sent him. Gregory Boyle writes in Tattoos on the Heart, “compassion was the wallpaper of Jesus’ soul, the contour of his heart, it was who he was . . . This was how Jesus was moved, from the entirety of his being” (p. 62-63). Or as Eucharistic Prayer IV says, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

This is crucial for understanding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This presence is also an action, Jesus offering his living and dying for love of his Father and humankind. As Boyle says, it is who he was. And Christ intends his action for us to become an action by us. He calls us to participate in his person and action; we are meant to become other Christs. Paradoxically, when we consume the body and blood of Christ, we are putting on his self-emptying. Through, with and in him we are caught up in an attitude and movement of pouring ourselves out in gratitude and love of God and neighbor. The Letter to the Philippians introduces the passage about Christ’s self-emptying love with the words: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (2:5). This is the mind, the attitude, the gift of Christ we receive and learn in the liturgy and bring to eucharistic Adoration.

Bob Hurd
Bob Hurd

Bob Hurd has served as a teacher, composer and liturgist in various pastoral and academic settings, including Loyola Marymount University, the Franciscan School of Theology and St. Patrick’s Seminary. He currently teaches in the summer program of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry. With more than 45 years of composing under his belt, his songs for worship have become classics in the repertoire.