Eucharist (from εὐχαριστία, “thanksgiving”) here refers to Holy Communion or the Body and Blood of Christ, which is consumed during the Catholic Mass or Eucharistic Celebration. “At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood, … a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.'” As such, Eucharist is “an action of thanksgiving to God” derived from “the Jewish blessings that proclaim – especially during a meal – God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification.”
Blessed Sacrament is a devotional term used in the Catholic Church to refer to the Eucharistic species (the Body and Blood of Christ). Consecrated hosts are kept in a tabernacle after Mass, so that the Blessed Sacrament can be brought to the sick and dying outside the time of Mass. This makes possible also the practice of eucharistic adoration. Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he is to be honored with the worship of adoration. “To visit the Blessed Sacrament is … a proof of gratitude, an expression of love,… and a display of adoration toward Christ our Lord.”
Catholic doctrine holds that at the moment of consecration the elements of bread and wine are changed (substantially) into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ while the appearances (the “species”) of the elements remain. In the doctrine of Real Presence, at the point of consecration, the act that takes place is a double miracle: 1) that Christ is present in a physical form and 2) that the bread and wine have truly, substantially become Jesus’ Body and Blood. Because Catholics believe that Christ is truly present (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) in the Eucharist, the reserved sacrament serves as a focal point of adoration. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that: “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist.”
The practice of adoration itself developed in a climate of Protestantism and anti-Catholicism, and specifically the rejection of the doctrine of the Real Presence. As such, some Catholic leaders began to institute the practice of adoration in order to inspire confidence among the faithful in Catholic Eucharistic doctrine. It became a staple of the Western Church thereafter.
St. Faustina Kowalska stated that she was called to religious life while attending the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at age seven. Notable examples of conversion are Saints Elizabeth Ann Seton and John Henry Newman, both having converted from Anglicanism, and the Venerable Hermann Cohen (Carmelite), O.C.D., from Judaism, following Eucharistic adoration. Cohen went on to help establish the widespread practice of nocturnal adoration.
The practice of a “daily Holy Hour” of adoration has been encouraged in the Western Catholic tradition. Mother Teresa of Calcutta had a Holy Hour each day and all members of her Missionaries of Charity followed her example.
Since the Middle Ages the practice of Eucharistic adoration outside Mass has been encouraged by the popes.
In the midst of the Second Vatican Council, on 3 September 1965, a few days before opening the fourth session, Pope Paul VI issued the Encyclical Mysterium fidei whereby he urged daily Mass and communion and said, “And they should not forget about paying a visit during the day to the Most Blessed Sacrament in the very special place of honor where it is reserved in churches in keeping with the liturgical laws, since this is a proof of gratitude and a pledge of love and a display of the adoration that is owed to Christ the Lord who is present there.” St. Pius X used to say: “The daily adoration or visit to the Blessed Sacrament is the practice which is the fountainhead of all devotional works,”
In Dominicae Cenae Pope John Paul II stated: “The Church and the world have a great need of Eucharistic worship. Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and in contemplation that is full of faith.” And he added in Ecclesia de Eucharistia: “The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church…. It is the responsibility of Pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.”
From his early years, the Eucharist had a central place in the theology of Joseph Ratzinger and in his role as Pope Benedict XVI. In his book God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life he strongly encouraged Eucharistic adoration.
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