Holy Eucharist: May 2009 Archives

Adoration at Home

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P Mateo SSCC.jpg

Judging from some recent comments, I think it may be helpful to say something about the practice of Eucharistic adoration in the home for those who, for one reason or another, cannot go to a church or chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. The zealous apostle of this kind of adoration in the home was a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary of Perpetual Adoration, Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey (1875-1960). Father Mateo wrote:

Not every one is able to make the hour of Eucharistic Adoration in the church, particularly at night. Must they be deprived, then, of the honor and privilege of consoling the Divine Prisoner, alone and forsaken in so many tabernacles? By no means! In the sanctuary of their homes, let them prostrate themselves in spirit before the tabernacle, and, in union with the Priests who at that moment, in some part of the world, are offering the Sacrifice of Calvary to the Trinity, let them adore, praise, petition and atone in the name of their own and other families who offend and sadden the Sacred Heart by their daily denial of His rights as King.

It is helpful to make one's adoration at home in front of a blessed image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or of the Holy Face. There are many people suffering from chronic illnesses, who are unable to go to a church where the Blessed Sacrament is present. They are not deprived of the graces flowing from Eucharistic adoration, and their prayer, even if it is made from a sickbed or a chair, is all the more precious in the sight of Our Lord, insofar as they unite it with patience to His own sufferings. One might say something like this;

Lord Jesus Christ,
my desire and the intention of my heart
is to pray before Thy holy image as if I were in Thy Eucharistic presence.
Transport my soul before the tabernacle where
Thou art most forsaken at this hour,
and there let me offer Thee my desire to adore Thee,
and my love,
in a spirit of reparation.

Or, like this:

Receive this time before Thee
as an act of adoration and reparation directed to Thee
in the Most Blessed Sacrament,
especially in that tabernacle on earth where Thou art most forsaken.
Make me, especially for the sake of Thy priests and for their sanctification,
a faithful adorer of Thy Eucharistic Face
and of Thy Open Heart hidden in the Sacrament of Thy Love.
Trusting that faith, hope, and love abolish every distance
and transport the soul straightway to the object of its desire,
I will adore Thee now with the same sentiments
of thanksgiving, confidence, and pleading love
that I would have,
were I prostrate before the Sacrament of Thy Body and Blood
hidden in the tabernacle, or exposed to my gaze upon the altar.

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Canon 904: Remembering always that in the mystery of the eucharistic sacrifice the work of redemption is exercised continually, priests are to celebrate frequently; indeed, daily celebration is recommended earnestly since, even if the faithful cannot be present, it is the act of Christ and the Church in which priests fulfill their principal function.

The Work of God

A certain secular model of professionalism is pernicious when applied to the priesthood. The priesthood is a life, not a profession, and certainly not a career. While a weekly "day off" and an annual vacation are legitimate and healthy variations in the ordinary pursuits of priestly life, they do not dispense a priest from the "Work of God" -- the Divine Office -- into which the Church sets the daily offering of the Holy Sacrifice.

Desiring With A Holy Desire

The daily celebration of Holy Mass takes its place, in effect, within the living context of the daily Liturgy of the Hours to which every priest is bound (Can. 276 § 3); Canon Law also earnestly recommends daily celebration of Holy Mass (Can. 904). The priest who is faithful to the Divine Office, even on his "day off" or while on holiday, will desire with desire to complete and crown the daily round of praise with the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice, even if he must celebrate without the presence of the faithful. Thus will the word of Our Lord come to burn like a fire in the heart of the priest: " With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you, before I suffer" (Lk 22:15).

Trends

Certain trends holding sway over the past forty years have contributed in no small measure to a loss of attachment, among certain priests, to the daily celebration of Holy Mass. What theological suppositions and liturgical shifts of emphasis have shaped these trends or contributed to their entrenchment?

Sacrifice Offered to God

First of all, there has been a general weakening of adhesion to the essential character of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sacrifice offered to God in view of four ends: adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation, and supplication. This theological loss of perspective obviously goes hand in hand with the horizontalization of the priesthood to the detriment of its essential vertical (and mediatory) dimension. The priest, before being a man for others, is a man for God, a man who places himself upon the altar of the Holy Sacrifice day after day, offering himself through Christ and with Him as one victim (hostia) to the glory of the Father, out of love for the Spouse of Christ, the Church.

To the Altar

This reality is impressed upon the priest himself, and expressed to the faithful, when he alone ascends the altar, acting in the person of Christ the Head, with the body of the Church behind him, there to face God "on behalf of all and for all" (Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom).

Facing God vs. Facing the People

When, in fact, the trend of Mass "facing the people" came to be perceived as normative, a loss of awareness of the latreutic character of the Mass ensued. While addressing the Father in the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest found himself facing the people and, in some instances, was even led to believe that he should actively look at them. In most instances, this contributed, at least subjectively, to a loss of recollection, focus, and singlehearted devotion on the part of the priest. The physical change of direction led insidiously and almost imperceptibly to to a theological change of direction. Even without formulating it consciously, a question began to hang in the very air of the sanctuary: "Is the Mass a sacrifice offered to God or a service offered to the people?" A flashback to the Protestant Reformation.

I would argue, then, that the habit of celebrating "versus populum" has contributed significantly to the disaffection of many priests for the so-called "private Mass," or celebration of Holy Mass without an assembly. This is not the only factor to be considered. Although the Ordo Missae of Pope Paul VI specifically provides for celebration without an assembly, certain elements in it de-emphasize the theocentric direction of the Mass, actual communion with the intercession of the Mother of God and of the saints, and the benefits derived from the Holy Sacrifice for both the living and the dead.

The Rites Themselves

First among these elements would be the curious structure of the Introductory Rites with the salutation of the people being given before the Rite of Penitence, Kyrie, and Gloria, that is, before the Godward direction of the celebration has been unambiguously established. In no traditional Catholic or Orthodox liturgy does the celebration open with the salutation of the people followed straightaway by a monitio addressed to them. This is, I would suggest, the first "structural defect" in the Mass of Pope Paul VI. It is one that could, however, be remedied quite easily.

In the Liturgy of Saint Gregory, the Godward movement set in motion by the Introit and by the priest's private declaration at the foot of the altar, "I will go unto the altar of God," affects the entire theological direction and spiritual climate of the celebration. The place of the salutation after the Introit, Kyrie, and Gloria, and before the Collect, has about it a "rightness" that signifies and fosters the over-arching Godward direction of the celebration even before the Liturgy of the Word.

More could be said on the subject. For today I must limit myself to what I have written thus far. The commitment of priests to the daily celebration of Holy Mass, even on days off and while traveling, will be, I think, all of a piece with the ongoing reform of the reform. What must be recovered above all is a new appreciation for the latreutic character of the Holy Sacrifice. Readers comfortable with Italian will also want to read Cantuale Antonianum on this subject. I welcome comments.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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