Walking into Eucharistic adoration is always a transforming experience for me. To begin with, the Eucharistic chapel is an extraordinary environment. Illuminating the room, soft beams of light fall on the kneeling figures and the silence is profound. It is a place of great tranquility. The silent and peaceful atmosphere alone can be transforming since God is found in peace and silence. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
However, everything pales in comparison to the true significance of Eucharistic adoration: the True Presence of Christ. The gift of self, which Jesus has given to us under the appearance of bread and wine, is simply amazing. My faith journey has centered upon a gradual realization of the unfathomability of the depth behind the outward appearance of the Eucharist. I have always been told that it is really Jesus in those shiny vessels, but it has only been in the last few years that my understanding of and belief in the mystery has begun to grow.
In July 2016, I attended Catholic Charities Summer Institute (C2SI). At C2SI, participants learn about social justice through the eyes of the Church and volunteer at homeless shelters and food pantries throughout Little Rock. Since I had never had contact with the homeless and impoverished before, it was an enlightening experience.
What does this have to do with Eucharistic adoration? Before C2SI I was a much more close-minded person. New ideas and fantastic things had no place in me, but seeing the joy we brought to those people who we helped was humbling. I had entertained a fear of and repugnance toward the homeless, but at C2SI I saw Jesus in every one of them.
Unconsciously, I decided then that if God could exist in those people, he could exist in anything. Each night of C2SI we had Eucharistic adoration. I had been to adoration before, but it was at C2SI that I embarked on my journey toward a deeper understanding of the Eucharist.
In the two years since, I have grown tremendously in the gift of understanding. One can never fully comprehend the mystery behind the power and presence within the Eucharist, but I truly believe in it. I have realized that it is not merely that Jesus is inside of that piece of bread or that he is only spiritually present; that piece of bread is Jesus in all his mercy, humanity, majesty and divinity.
How is it that he is physically present? I will never understand how, but he is there, for with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26) St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “The actual effect of the Eucharist is the transformation of man into God.”
Because the Eucharist has played an indispensable role in my faith journey, I try to spend as much time as I can in Eucharistic adoration. I spend this time with Jesus, because I have realized that I cannot do without him, and I need him to heal my brokenness. Eucharistic adoration is a primary source of strength in my life. Without it, so much is missing.
I adore Jesus because he deserves it. He deserves all we can give him. Who can be more deserving of our homage than he who was beaten, ridiculed and crucified to save us?
No wonder St. Paul wrote, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
St. Tarcisius is an example of one who wished to give everything back to Jesus and showed heroic love for the Eucharist. Tarcisius was a young Christian boy during one of the great Roman persecutions of the third century. He was carrying the Eucharist to the imprisoned Christians, when he was stopped by a group of pagan boys. Curious, they asked him to reveal what he was carrying. When Tarcisius refused and tried to push past them, the boys threw him to the ground and beat him to death.
Many would say that this was a wasted life, but in reality Tarcisius made his life more meaningful by this final act than most of us can ever hope to do.
Truly, Eucharistic adoration is infinitely important, especially in today’s society, where noise and distraction reign supreme. We need that quiet, holy place where we can go to collect ourselves, quiet our minds and lay down our troubles before the Lord. As the source and summit of Christian life (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324), the Eucharist must become and remain the center of our focus in order for us to live full and fruitful lives.
Every time I push God away, I experience a darkness in my soul, but as soon as I humble myself before him, I find the road again. It is the same way with the world. As long as the world deifies itself, it will abide in darkness and all will seem lost, but Eucharistic adoration is a spark in the darkness — a spark which can set the world ablaze.
Sam Stengel is a homeschooled junior. He attends St. Joseph Church in Paris.
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