Eucharistic Adoration: A Window to Heaven
by Father Raymond T. Gawronski, S.J.
There is no monitor or video screen at eucharistic adoration, no
figures or colors shifting across the screen. We simply sit and
look at a round piece of bread encircled by light. That bread is
the Body of Christ, the consecrated Host, before which countless
Catholics gaze in rapt adoration throughout the world.
Why? There is no action here: here the action is being, the very
being of God. Martha goes busily about, tending to all the needs
of the world. Here, before Jesus in sacramental form, Mary finds
her place, seated at the feet of the Beloved.
"Jesus Christ: body, blood, soul and divinity." If anyone ever
seems unsure about just what happens to the bread during Mass, I
repeat this phrase taught Catholics from time immemorial,
indicating precisely what-or rather, Who-is present in what
appears to be bread, but is bread no longer.
There is no want of corrosive doubt these days. Yet much doubt on
the seemingly lesser mysteries of our faith reveals a lack of
faith in the central mysteries. "Do you really mean to tell me
that the consecrated bread Jesus Christ?" It flows from the
question: "Do you really mean to tell me that this man, Jesus
Christ, is " "Yes," witnesses the Church: "God has become
man in Jesus Christ."
And if we read chapter 6 of John's Gospel, with the mind of the
Church, it is perfectly clear that He, the Son of God, extends His
incarnation in the world by transforming bread and wine into
himself for us. The statement stands boldly and nakedly at the
heart of our Catholic worship: "This is My Body .... This is My
Blood." At that moment, heaven and earth become one in this bread
and wine, which are God become food for His world.
Mystics throughout history have experienced tremendous graces in
the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. And so have ordinary
people, the eyes of whose hearts are opened by faith.
Recently, a friend told me he found himself in one of the periodic
bouts of restlessness we all, I suppose, experience. "Ah," he
thought, "if only I were in a hermitage or a monastery, removed
from the pressures of worldly life, how close I could be again to
the Lord!" Yet one morning as he said Mass, his heart heard an
admonition, as from the Host on the altar, saying: "I am right
here and you have no need to go anywhere else." Incredible.
I sometimes ask my students where they can find Jesus Christ. True
to the radical humanism of our day, they like to point to
themselves, or point to other people. Well, yes, I say, in a way
that is true. "But," I ask, "if you wanted to be with Christ
directly, personally: if you wanted to pour out your heart to Him-
just you and He-if you wanted to adore Him Who is God made man,
where would you go?" Eventually, one hand is sheepishly raised in
the classroom and a witnessing voice quietly says, "He is in the
tabernacle in church."
He is as much present in the tabernacle near our homes as He is at
the Vatican, or Jerusalem, at Lourdes, Fatima or any other holy
place to which people travel. In fact, no place on earth is more
holy than the tabernacle in our local sanctuary. Every Mass, every
consecration, is a miracle, greater by far than any other, really:
for God to come into matter and transform it into himself is far
greater than His creating that matter in the first place.
That is why, of course, Catholics have always shown a special
reverence in their churches by genuflecting when entering the
presence of the sovereign King who is really and truly there; by
assuming stances of adoration, kneeling, for it is in fact God who
is present there; by keeping silent in His presence, so that He
might speak and they might hear what He has to say.
His presence is called "real," for in the end it is not we who are
real, the piece of consecrated bread a mere symbol; no, our
reality in this earthly form is passing away. Right now we have
this human form, but what we shall be is up to God, and none of us
has seen it, this side of death (1 Jn 3:2). We, who seem so real,
are really mere phantoms of a day, our flesh grass that will pass
away as we fall into the inscrutable mercy of God. But now He
comes to us as nourishment, as the food of life. And as we change,
we shall come to see the face of Him who has chosen to be among us
as one who serves, and who serves by giving us His Body to eat, Es
Blood to drink, Es presence to adore.
The doctrine of the Real Presence means that Jesus is no less
present in the Eucharist today than He was at the home of Martha
and Mary. "Oh," someone might say, "we have the Eucharist on
earth: the historical Jesus lived back then; the risen Jesus is in
heaven." But don't you see? In Jesus, earth and heaven became
fully one, fully wed: the risen Jesus is earth taken up into
In Him, the wedding feast has begun. And Jesus is God, the Lord of
heaven, made visible and tangible for us: seeing Him, we see the
Father (Jn 14:9). Our fleshly eyes see bread, for being earth all
they see is earth. But cloaked beneath that form of bread and wine
is Jesus Christ, whose risen Body is the heart of heaven. About Em
dance all the company of angels and saints in mirthful adoration.
And some children of earth kneel and sit at this gate to heaven,
looking up longingly through the circle of light that is heaven's
heart, and while they are there, all of earth gives way like husks
that yield a flower: in His presence all is peace, all is light.
The Eucharist is a real, ongoing presence, not just a moment of
communion, but an ongoing being with, and abiding, the eternal
reality of the Incarnation, present "in every tabernacle of the
world until the end of time," as the prayer puts it. In our day,
eucharistic adoration has become an evermore popular way to be in
the presence of Jesus, to adore Him: a way to be in heaven while
The greatest peace, calm and joy comes from being in the presence
of the "Bridegroom of our souls." No one, certainly nothing else
on this earth, will ultimately satisfy our deepest longings. In
all creation, in all the beautiful things -and people-He has made,
we see something of Him.
In the Eucharist, we see . Not as we shall see Him when we
leave this world, not as He wants to be known by us in eternity,
but in the form in which He has chosen to come to us on our
earthly journey. Someday, when this present darkness ends and God
is "all in all," we shall see His beloved face, and we shall be
embraced by and love the One Who made us out of love, redeemed us,
gave himself to darkest death for us.
For now, we gaze up at Him as our food encircled by light. The
Eucharist we adore is the window to heaven, the true Body of Our
Lord. He, and none other: here, if anywhere. "Oh come let us adore
Father Gawronski is assistant professor of theology at Marquette
University in Milwaukee, Wis. His hook "Word and Silence" was
recently published by Wm. B. Eerdmans of Grand Rapids, Mich.
This article appeared in the June 1996 issue of "New Covenant"
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