“The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.”
(Lumen Christi, 11)
The Second Vatican Council recovered the Church’s liturgical roots and reframed its Eucharistic theology. The emphasis of the Council’s documents was on regular active participation of all the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist. Nevertheless a number of eucharistic practices were encouraged outside the celebration of Mass. Among those practices are: private visits to the Blessed Sacrament; processions of the Blessed Sacrament (e.g., Forty Hours and Good Friday processions); exposition of the Blessed Sacrament; and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Eucharistic adoration began in the 13th century when the laity rarely received the Eucharist. Among the reasons for this were a general feeling of unworthiness, the use of a foreign language (Latin) in the services, the gradual separation of the clergy from the laity, and a loss of the sense of the Eucharist as a shared meal.
Because the celebration of the Eucharist became the privileged realm of the clergy, the participation of the laity was focused on viewing the consecrated host from afar – both during the Eucharistic celebration and during processions and exposition.
Through the 19th century most Catholics became involved in private prayers, such as praying the rosary, during the celebration of Mass.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Pope Pius X called for a return to the practice of frequent communion, which had been greatly abandoned in the prior centuries. This led to a wider use of missals by the laity during Mass and a greater sense of participation in the celebration. The liturgical reform that had begun in Benedictine monasteries in the 20th century provided the impetus for the renewal that was chartered in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
Although the focus of Vatican II was on a wider participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist and the reception of communion, Eucharistic devotion was not forgotten. Eucharist adoration continues to provide opportunities for the faithful to seek a deeper union with Christ in this sacrament.
- Sacrosanctum concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), Vatican Council II, Dec. 1963
- Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), Vatican Council II , Nov.1964
- God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Ignatius Press, 2003)
- The History of Eucharistic Adoration, John A. Hardon, S.J. (1997)
- Praying in the Presence of Our Lord, Benedict Groeschel, CFR, (Our Sunday Visitor, 1999)
- Deepen your personal union with Christ by participating in various forms of Eucharistic Devotion at a church near you.
- Increase your faith and devotion by joining yourself more fully and more consciously in the great prayer of thanksgiving that is the Eucharistic prayer celebrated at Mass each day.
See also Eucharist in the Mass