Adoration at Liturgy

I’d like to continue this site’s close examination of Msgr Marini’s address to clergy in Rome. Some internet commentators are satisfied enough to just cut and paste and use the ctrl-B key to highlight cheer-worthy passages. While I don’t agree with the man’s reform2 leanings, I do think that addresses like this should be pondered, engaged, and used to further the liturgical discussion. The third of five parts treats “Adoration and union with God.”

On one hand, we acknowledge that as mortal beings we are entirely dependent on God’s grace for our sanctification. There is nothing we can do: sing, dress, act, be silent, be charitable, be evangelical–that can in any way earn God’s grace. And yet, something doesn’t quite ring true about the emphasis on adoration at Mass. Msgr. Marini quotes Augustine, “nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit; peccemus non adorando – no one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.”

Yet instead of appealing for silence, Msgr Marini and the pope promote outward signs: kneeling to receive Communion on the tongue, for example. Is that really a sign of adoration–the external manifestation of piety?

And yet, I wonder if the quality we’re seeking isn’t a withdrawal from the crassness of human social gatherings. We don’t need priests and cantors booming on the microphone. We need a measured silence in which the texts of the liturgy can settle in and rest in us. We don’t need rush and hurry to get one crop of people out so the next shift can enter in for their fifty-two-minute Mass. We need lots of reflection time after the readings, the homily, the reception of Communion. We don’t need clergy and lectors rushing through words like adolescents. We need the texts proclaimed as if we all were praying Lection Divina. We don’t need communicants bowing to the butt of the person in front of them. Encounter the Lord for real; don’t go through the motions like they’re some magic gesture.

On this point I feel somewhat sympathetic to Msgr. Marini, though I think the real opponent of “adoration,” as he terms it is pragmatism, not creativity or standing communicants. And I think we need something more than “adoration” at Mass. Adoration is part of it. Mindfulness is the phrase I use in training liturgical ministers. Be mindful of all that is going on around you. Celebrate and sing when the rite calls for it. Reflect and adore at other times. Listen and ponder at others. Feel enlivened to live the example of Christ in the world when it’s time to come down from the mountain.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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13 Responses to Adoration at Liturgy

  1. Jim McK says:

    “The One whom we adore is not some distant power. He has himself knelt down before us to wash our feet.” God is near Us p 113

    This insight from the pope is critical to understanding adoration. It connects the two halves of the hymn in Philippians, so that the “form of a slave” echoes when “every knee must bend.” Adoration is also imitation of the love God has for us, and is inspiration for us to wash each other’s feet.

    In the Eucharist we become what we eat. We leave the Church as the Body of Christ, ready to kneel down in service as Christ knelt. We offer others the love that was offered to us.

    When kneeling is presented this way, it makes sense to me. When it is presented as if it were an imitation of idol worship, I am bewildered. I can go along with it, since it is not worship of an idol but of God, but it doesn’t make sense; more than that, it becomes a distraction, which is what I think you are describing.

  2. Rob F. says:

    “We don’t need communicants bowing to the but of the one in front of them”. Great quote!

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to queue up for communion like we were making a withdrawal at the bank? Something like an altar rail might help with this problem, wouldn’t it?

    • Liam says:

      Well, when we knelt before altar rails, there was still a queue. There’s a queue regardless. And the emphasis on getting in and getting out (both ministers and recipients) remains an ever-present temptation regardless of the form it takes.

      That said, I have nothing against altar rails, and would not remove ones of notable historical or significant artistic merit.

      And, absent a rail, I would not begrudge a prie-dieu type kneeler being available for those at appropriate locations who wish and are able to receive kneeling; I think the efforts of some to stamp that out have been misguided.

      • Tony says:

        I enjoy the rich symbolism of Christ (in the “accidents” of the priest, Alter Christus) coming to me and feeding me like a baby lamb.

  3. Todd says:

    I don’t think an altar rail is at all necessary. Have the communicants stand in a wide circle around the altar, and have communion ministers serve as they approach each person. My sense is that the altar rail is mostly clutter.

  4. Jimmy Mac says:

    Tony pointed this out on 8 January and it still seems the odds-on favorite for absolute efficiency at communion time. We wouldn’t need no stinkin’s queues or altar rails, with or without doilies:

  5. Andrew W says:

    “Yet instead of appealing for silence, Msgr Marini and the pope promote outward signs: kneeling to receive Communion on the tongue, for example. Is that really a sign of adoration–the external manifestation of piety?”

    You seem to think that these are in most cases just empty gestures – as if placing an emphasis on them is somehow deemphasizing the internal disposition. For me, I find that these “external manifestations of piety” often help unite my body to what my mind professes and my heart experiences. Sometimes, dare I admit it, it actually helps develop my internal disposition when it is lacking. I find my mind comes around when my body submits in this way.

    This is also an implementation of “lex orandi, lex credendi.” External gestures during our worship, which engage our bodies, serve as a reflection of what we profess to believe with our minds and in our hearts. I also find that where these are not found, disrespectful external dispositions have often flourished – common talk in the church before and after mass, no acknowledgement of the Real Presence in the tabernacle, flippant reception of the Eucharist, leaving right after communion, etc..

    You would likely be turned off by my parish. Everyone receives communion kneeling, at an altar rail, and always on the tongue. We also genuflect when crossing the axis of the tabernacle, out of respect for our Lord. Believe it or not, most who come to our Parish to visit mention how they left with a heightened appreciation of the Real Presence – upon the altar, in the tabernacle, and at communion. I would say that most everyone here I know (can’t speak for everyone, since I can’t possibly know everyone) has a deep faith and love of our Lord. They practice many devotions, including praying the divine office and holy rosary. They go on regular spiritual retreats and pilgrimages. We have often have visiting priests to give conferences and preach missions. I don’t express this to compare in anyway to yours or anyone else’s faith or parish life, but to simply point out that they are not empty gestures for us. It is an important way we express with our bodies what we believe in our hearts and minds.

    God Bless,
    Andrew

  6. Andrew W says:

    Also, one additional comment and then a question.

    I agree about the need for silence. One of the things I hate about the liturgies at many of the parishes I have been to is the near total lack of it. It feels like we must be listening, singing, or doing something other than interior reflection. I love the silence at the Holy Mass of my parish.

    Now the question: Do you disagree with emphasizing adoration of the Eucharist, especially at communion?

    Andrew

  7. Todd says:

    I would say that the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction is the liturgy in which adoration is and should be strongly promoted.

    The rite prescribes singing during Communion.

    I also look to the silent times of the Mass to listen for God, either to contemplate or meditate on the texts of the Mass or during daily Mass (in which we usually have no Communion singing) on the text and mental memory of a song or psalm.

  8. Tim says:

    On the subject of adoration…as a cradle Catholic of 53 years I have never found adoration to be an essential part of my spirituality. (I have respect for those who do partake in adoration.) I do not feel a need to visually see the tabernacle in order to pray, meditate, etc. For me I find just being “present” in the quiet sacred space of church enough in order to pray and meditate on God’s presence in my being, and in my life.

    I guess for some people however there is a need to visually see a tabernacle and/or host to find solace in the presence of God.

    Catholic Christians can argue until we are blue in the face about the importance or non importance of adoration/exposition. But when all is said and done neither side has cornered the market on what is truly important. Maybe we can all find a shared belief in the words, “Be still and know that I am God.” Be it in a church in front of the tabernacle, in the beauty of nature, in the silence of one’s home, or in the loving embrace of two persons.

    • Andrew W says:

      Tim,

      I believe you are thinking only of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that is either exposed or reposed in a tabernacle.

      Adoration goes hand in hand with prayers of thanksgiving and supplication during communion. Do you not adore the Lord once you have received Him in holy communion?

      This adoration is at the essence of Benediction and adoration of the exposed Blessed Sacrament, but is not reserved for those times alone. Adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, whether once received in communion, exposed in a monstrance, or inside the tabernacle, is an expression of deep love and an offering of worship to the God of all creation.

      For me, as a convert to the Catholic faith, by acknowledging the Eucharistic Presence (and there should be no doubt on the Real Presence for a Catholic), my orthopraxic sensibilities demanded that my actions match my belief. If I Love the Lord, I will adore Him, most especially in the Blessed Sacrament.

      A more general comment on physical acts of reverence:
      While kneeling and reception on the tongue are outward acts of reverence to the sacrament, they should reflect a spirit of interior adoration. This is what Msgr Marini is speaking of. The collective atmosphere at Holy Mass should reflect what we believe, not as a display of empty externals, but as a harmonization of the exterior with the interior. I see it as in how the harmonization occurs with fasting and prayer – conforming the flesh so that the spirit of prayer may flourish. While not strictly necessary, it is most efficacious for the soul.

      • Tim says:

        “If I Love the Lord, I will adore Him, most especially in the Blessed Sacrament.”

        Andrew W, Yes, I was speaking specifically of the act of adoration in relation to exposition of the host and meditation in the presence of the tabernacle.

        The quote I have pasted above is from your post. I would add to that by saying not only does love of the Christ be shown through adoration but the love of the Christ also demands from believers a call to love in action. In other words we cannot adore the Christ by an internal reverence alone by having received the Eucharist. It calls us to live that adoration in daily life.

  9. Tony says:

    Adoration is part of it. Mindfulness is the phrase I use in training liturgical ministers. Be mindful of all that is going on around you. Celebrate and sing when the rite calls for it. Reflect and adore at other times. Listen and ponder at others. Feel enlivened to live the example of Christ in the world when it’s time to come down from the mountain.

    I think you’ve just defined “active participation”. :)

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