Monday, June 29, 2009

Encountering an hour of Adoration for the first time

(reprinted from a 2006 Catholic by Grace article)

Entering the Presence of Our Lord in order to worship him during an hour of Perpetual Adoration is a multi-sensory experience. Just minutes before eleven o’clock on Wednesday night, I walk up the steps to the little church and open the heavy wooden doors. I notice the way the place smells first, and it comes to me like a warm greeting. Old wood. Old books. The residual scent that lingers from decades of burning incense and candles in this place.

I try to shut the door quietly after I cross the threshold, so as not to disturb the one who has come before me. Candles quietly burn for the intentions of the faithful. I dip my fingers in the font which is half-filled with cool, refreshing holy water. The water feels good to my fingertips and forehead, and leaves a mark on my shirt where I touch. This act always reminds me of my baptismal vows. It brings to mind the day my father baptized me, and I thank God for the profound connection that remains to the father I loved so deeply and for the chance to renew my vows to my Heavenly Father.

The church is dimly lit in the eleventh hour, but the golden tabernacle and monstrance reflect the candle flame and soft overhead lights. I walk nearly to the front, eyes fully fixed on the Lord.

I kneel before the altar. I see what appears to be bread, but I think about how it feels to receive my Eucharistic Lord, and once again He pours grace upon me to see with eyes of faith.
Then it spreads over me, with the gentle aid of the Holy Spirit – a spiritual communion so sweet that I know He is glad I came for this hour.

I reflect back to the first time I participated in this kind of worship at the invitation of a friend. I didn’t think anything unusual was happening to me. In the preceding weeks, I had been given the grace to believe in the Real Presence. I knew the Lord was really up there on the altar. Perpetual Adoration seemed like something one would want to do out of obedience to and affirmation of the Real Presence; so I accepted the invitation. It was lovely, but I didn’t realize this unique form of worship was doing something inside of me.

For weeks after that night, every time I passed the little church, I felt a call to come back. I couldn’t shake the feeling. And I knew that something had happened to me. My RCIA leader calls it a grace. All I know is that my spirit had been awakened to the importance of Perpetual Adoration, and there was no denying the hunger in my soul to return to the source of peace.

This quiet worship has become part of my life. When I am sick or on vacation and am unable to spend my hour with Our Lord, that same hunger returns. And I think my RCIA leader is right. That hunger is a grace, a little gift, a gentle reminder that Our Lord loves me and wants me near.

Sometimes I sit with Our Lord and say nothing. Sometimes I sing a quiet song of praise (since there is nobody but the Lord and me at the eleventh hour). Sometimes I pray or read a religious book. Sometimes I leaf through the Missalette and see if the Lord has something to tell me through the day’s Mass readings.

When I get home, my husband always asks me how it went. “It was wonderful,” I say. How does one put into words what it is like to sit with the Lord?

I asked Jesus to come into my heart when I was eight. I know what it is like to fall in love with Jesus Christ with the simple heart of a child because that’s how it was for me. I was so young – and the Lord was so real.

Years later, I recognized the Eucharistic Lord as the Lord of my youth, but I realized that His Presence in the Eucharist is richer, deeper and purer than anything I’ve ever experienced. My heart says this is the same Lord. My spirit knows that, while that is true, it goes deeper.

When, by grace, a child of God is able to recognize the Real Presence in the Eucharistic Lord, there is no place to call home apart from the Catholic Church. That is why I make my way to that little church every week and spend an hour with Him.

Jesus said, Where I am, there shall my servant be also (John 12:26). Jesus is there; so that’s where I want to be.


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