WHY DO YOU DO THAT?
Two weeks ago we observed the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ on which we gave thanks for the gift of the Holy Eucharist. On that day we had the opportunity to gather for Eucharistic Devotions and a “Corpus Christi Procession.” In times past such practices were quite common they have now become somewhat rare and only a small minority of Catholics has a chance to participate in them. When our plans were announced I was asked, “Why do you do that?” Since I’m sure a number of people may wonder why, I’d like to draw our attention to how expressions of devotion to and worship of the Blessed Sacrament fit into our life of faith.
We know that Jesus instituted the Eucharist to be the way in which his followers would experience his presence among them (see 1 Corinthians 1: 23-26). Thus, the principal act of worship of the Church has centered in the Lord’s counsel to gather in his name to take, bless, and share bread and wine which are consecrated to be his very Body and Blood. As strange as it may seem to those who do not share our Catholic faith, we believe that the Eucharist is really the Risen Lord Jesus and so we show the same respect to the Eucharist as we would to Jesus himself. This is the origin of and reason for Eucharistic devotions.
Principal among these are Adoration, Benediction, and Processions with the Blessed Sacrament. Adoration centers on the Eucharist displayed in a monstrance for contemplation and prayer. A logical question to ask here is, “If the Eucharist is meant to nourish the Holy Spirit in us with the Risen Christ, why would we spend time staring at it?” The answer is that it is an expression of love for Jesus. I once explained it to middle school age children by asking them to think about how when they are attracted to someone (in their language, to someone they think is “hot”) they will spend a lot of time just looking at the person and thinking how they want that person to be part of their life. In this light, Adoration makes perfect sense in building our relationship with Christ!
But, what about Benediction, which involves making the sign of the cross with the Eucharist in the monstrance? Well, if the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus, then it is his very blessing that we are receiving. What about processions with the Blessed Sacrament? Again, if we truly believe it is what we say it is, then the act of carrying the Eucharist through and even outside the church building is a way of proclaiming and experiencing the Risen Christ moving among us.
Thus, if someone who is unfamiliar with Eucharistic Devotions should ask, “Why do you do that?” look upon it as an opportunity for evangelization and sharing how we experience the Risen Lord in our life of faith.
Be at peace,
Father Dennis Mende