Last week, I sat in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at my church. We were holding a 24 Hours for the Lord, and I wanted to explore it and celebrate it in writing. It’s one of my favourite devotions because we can actually physically be in the same room as Jesus Christ. The real Jesus Christ from the Bible. In our lives, in a chapel in your local parish church down the road. The Actual Jesus.
I remember when I first went to Adoration as a teenager. I couldn’t believe it – as soon as I opened the door to the oratory I was hit with a warmth, a certain quality of the air, a glow almost. It was His presence.
At first, I felt like an animal exploring the parameters of a new freedom… what do I do here? What is this for? What does it feel like? And then slowly, slowly, it dawned on me that I could just ‘be’ with the one who knows me better than I know myself. Knowing that I could secret myself away with Jesus for an hour blew me away.
What does it mean to sit in adoration of Jesus in the form of the Blessed Sacrament?
During the Mass, the priest invites the Holy Spirit to make present Jesus’ body and blood in the form of bread and wine. To our human senses, we may feel and touch and taste mere bread and wine, whereas in substance, they have in fact become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.
Why would Jesus do this? It seems to us such a strange thing to do, and yet, if we look at it through the eyes of faith, and take Jesus at his word at the last supper, we must believe Him when He says: "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” It is the ultimate intimacy, for us to carry his body and blood inside us like Mary did during the first Advent; it is such a privilege.
In Fr Mike Schmitz’s brilliant video, he explains what kind of intimacy this is, and what it does for us as followers of Christ. Take some time to watch it if you can.
He also tells the story about St Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, a 19th Century French priest who once noticed a peasant come in to the church and stay for hours in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The priest asked this man “what do you say during all that time before Jesus in the Eucharist?” The peasant replied: "Nothing, I look at Him and He looks at me."
This is such an intimate description of what happens during adoration. We are invited to come and sit with Jesus, the Lord God who created the whole universe. He waits for us to come to Him. He does not force himself into our presence, but rather takes on the guise of humble bread and humble wine, after all, if we saw Him in all His risen glory, we would not be able to stand it in this life.
The humility of Jesus is staggering. He allows us to make the schedule, and He is faithful to it and to us. He gazes at the pinnacle of His creation when He looks at you. One Sister describes His heart beating a little faster as we arrive for adoration – simply because He is deeply in love with each one of us.
Imagine that – your creator God gazing at you. Knowing exactly how many hairs are on your head today – including the one that fell out earlier. He knows exactly what you had for breakfast, what you are thinking, the state of your heart. He knows your deepest fears, your wildest dreams and your hidden secrets, and He treasures all of you. He looks on you with kindness and longing. You actually don’t have to say anything at all to Him, because He knows it already, but He loves to hear your voice.
There’s something so comforting about the silence between two people who are deeply in love. It surpasses the need for words; a simple look is enough to express everything.
Have a look at this video of the moment artist Marina Abramovic receives her ex-boyfriend as a surprise visitor to her installation. The gaze is unmistakable. They do not need words; their history is in their hearts; the eyes say it all. This is just a fraction of what it is like to gaze into the eyes of Jesus, who knows more than anyone every could about each one of us.
Isn’t that something we’re all longing for deep down? To be comfortable in the presence of someone who completely ‘gets’ you and where you’re coming from, and what you’re feeling, and who is happy to stay with you even though your life is messy, or you are not wearing the latest fashion, or you didn’t get the grade in the test, or your crush doesn’t know your name. Jesus knows your name.
“It is pleasant to spend time with Him, to lie close to His breast like the Beloved Disciple and to feel the infinite love present in His Heart… How can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament?” – Pope John Paul II