The "A" in Advent is for "Adoration"

After Jesus breathed His last, the Roman soldier, St. Longinus, did the unthinkable: He stabbed Christ in His side.1 He was neither attempting to hasten the Lord’s death nor ascertaining proof of His expiration; Sacred Scripture firmly asserts that Jesus, at that moment, was already dead.2 Yet out of this inexplicable act of posthumous debasement came the birth of the new Eve, the Bride of Christ, the Church. Water and blood gushed forth from Christ’s open side: Water, symbolic of Baptism that gives us spiritual rebirth and makes us Christians; and Blood, symbolic of the Eucharist that keeps us together as a body, as His Mystical Body.

The Eucharist weds and unites us together as Catholic Christians. The Pope with all the Bishops declared most famously and provocatively in the documents of Vatican II that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life,”3 in other words, everything flows from the sacrifice of the Mass and returns to the same source. One of the beautiful ways of extending the graces of the Mass beforehand and afterwards is Eucharistic Adoration.

“I Look at Him and He Looks at Me”

“O Come, let us adore Him”: These words form the refrain for the classic Christmas carol O Come, All Ye Faithful. But what does it mean to adore the Lord? Adoration is the prayer of rapturous love. It doesn’t seek a reward or a reciprocal response. It is devoid of all utility and bartering. It is pure affection. To adore a person is to love his or her very being. It is the strong desire to simply be with the subject of our delight; even more, it is the passionate yearning to be in complete union with this source of attraction and longing. To adore God is no different.

No doubt you have heard the famous account of St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who noticed one of his parishioners constantly at prayer in the church: “‘I look at him and he looks at me’: this is what a certain peasant of Ars used to say to his holy Curé about his prayer before the tabernacle.”4 Could prayer be that simple? Could it really just be a choice to spend time in His company? “One need not say much to pray well,” – St. John Vianney explained to his parishioners – “we know that Jesus is there in the tabernacle: let us open our hearts to him, let us rejoice in his sacred presence. That is the best prayer.”5 Adoration is the purest form of prayer. It is that contemplative gaze of faith that fixates upon Jesus. It need not even utilize words. It is the choice to be in and remain in love.

Nocturnal Adoration Society

We are blessed at Christ the King to have a long and robust tradition of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament that continues on to this day. In 1961 Msgr. Hupp, the founding pastor of Christ the King Church, petitioned our Knights of Columbus Council #5045 to create a Nocturnal Adoration Society under the leadership of parishioner George Rosness. Some 61 years later the Nocturnal Adoration Society of Christ the King continues to meet monthly in order “1. To make atonement for all the sins committed against the Holy Eucharist. 2. To petition God’s blessings on the Archdiocese of Omaha and on the City of Omaha, 3. To offer members a quorum to work at returning a reverential awe and respect for the Blessed Sacrament.”6

Members of the Society attend one hour of Eucharistic Exposition – in exposition the Blessed Sacrament is visibly displayed in the golden monstrance on the altar – throughout the night on the first weekend of each month: First Saturday at 10:30 p.m.-First Sunday at 6:30 a.m. Every hour during this period includes communal, liturgical prayer in which the Psalms are prayed, the proclamation of treatises regarding the Paschal Mystery and the Real Presence, the observance of silent prayer, and the offering of orations of adoration, thanksgiving, reparation and supplication. These nocturnal adorers desire to respond to Jesus’ request in the Garden of Gethsemane: “‘My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me’.”7 Once a month, in the middle of the night, these loving parishioners elect to stay up with Christ for an hour and to accompany Him when Christ needs us the most.

Perpetual Adoration

Perpetual Adoration began in our parish on April 1st, 1991.8 Perpetual Adoration is a program in which parishioners select an hour once a week to physically be with the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. It is “perpetual” because it includes 24/7 coverage: there is never a moment when the Eucharistic Christ is left alone. In the very beginning, parishioners would enter by way of the east door of the church – long before there was the connecting hallway between the Rectory and the east side of the church building. They pushed the button marked “door” and entered a code that briefly allowed admittance. To maintain the perpetual nature, each day of the week had a captain who recruited new adorers, initiated them, and monitored their commitment. The adorer would check in by signing his or her name in a notebook on a bookcase in the northeast area of the church where the gold, cylindrical tabernacle was kept. Today that area features our St. Joseph statue.

Perpetual Adoration eventually moved over to the Hail Mary Chapel – the present-day location of our Candle Grotto to Mary – and later became Perpetual Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. In the mid ’90s a façade wall composed of stained glass was erected to separate the area of Eucharistic Exposition from the rest of the church. In the church renovation of 2008, the intimate and serene Patricia J. Koley Adoration Chapel was constructed on the north side of the church and the Perpetual Adoration program moved into it. In addition to our own parishioners, people from all over Omaha make stops to our little Eucharistic “portiuncula” throughout the day and night. Across from the Adoration Chapel is an enormous plaque that lists the hours and corresponding names of committed adorers. There are still plenty of vacant hours to fill. Is the Lord calling you to a deep intimacy with Him and to keep watch with Him for one hour?9

“Newer Rites of Grace Prevail”

Initiated approximately seven years ago, our five-day school began to offer yearly and eventually quarterly experiences of Eucharistic Exposition for our students. The age-appropriate periods of adoration include interactive prayer with Scripture, journaling, and a sharing of graces. It is breathtaking, precious, and edifying to hear our school children at the end of these hours reveal the unique details of their personal encounters with the Living Lord.

Borne from the Year of Mercy instituted by Pope Francis in 2015-2016, our parish has also begun to offer the Mercy Hour, an hour of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction that occurs on the First Saturday of every other month at 7 p.m. Including devotional and inspirational songs, both contemporary and traditional, as well as brief periods of silence and Lectio Divina, the Mercy Hour is a time for physical, spiritual, and relational healing. Participants seek the Lord’s restorative graces in praise and worship, in attending the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and through intercessory prayer for each other. An appetizer and dessert potluck afterwards continues the spirit of the evening through shared fellowship and community.

In this coming year Christ the King will also resurrect and host the custom of “Forty Hours” – a prolonged, parish-wide period of continuous Eucharistic Exposition – and later a Eucharistic Procession on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. On the weekend of June 2-3 in 2018, we will process around the entire Christ the King Parish property with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance, briefly stopping at various temporary, outdoor altars to offer Benediction. Beautiful music, strewn flower petals, and art along the route will accompany this timeless tradition.

“Stay With Us, O Lord”

Towards the beginning of his pontificate, St. John Paul II wrote:

The worship given to the Trinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit... must fill our churches also outside the timetable of Masses…This worship must be prominent in all our encounters with the Blessed Sacrament… Adoration of Christ in this sacrament of love must also find expression in various forms of Eucharistic devotion: personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, hours of adoration, periods of exposition – short, prolonged, and annual (Forty Hours) – Eucharistic benediction, Eucharistic processions, Eucharistic Congresses… The encouragement and the deepening of eucharistic worship are proofs of that authentic renewal… Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet him in adoration and in contemplation that is full of faith and ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world. May our adoration never cease.10

May we as a parish draw strength and love in our adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist: the source and summit of our worship and the very gift that ever unites us as a parish and keeps us connected to our Catholic Faith.

- by Fr. Damien J. Cook

1 - John 19:34.
2 - John 19:33.
3 - Lumen Gentium, §11.
4 - Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶2715.
5 - Le curé d’Ars. Sa pensée – Son coeur. Présentés par l’Abbé Bernard Nodet, éd. Xavier Mappus, Foi Vivante, 1966, p. 85.
6 - Msgr. Hupp, The Dawn of a New Parish, 2003, p. 60.
7 - Matthew 26:38
8 - Interestingly, the 27th anniversary of this holy enterprise will fall on Easter Sunday itself in 2018.
9 - Matthew 26:40
10 - Dominicae Cenae: On The Mystery And Worship Of The Eucharist, February 24, 1980, §3.