Tuesday, January 01, 2019

How to Imitate the First Adorers of the Body and Blood of Christ

(Mary, the Mother of God 2019: This homily was given on January 1, 2019 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 67:2-8; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:16-21.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Mary, the Mother of God 2019]

When did Adoration of the Body and Blood of Christ take place for the first time?  And who were the first adorers?  Since Eucharistic Adoration as we know it today didn’t begin until the Middle Ages, many historians would probably say the first instance of men and women adoring the Lord’s Body and Blood took place sometime between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, in a monastery or convent somewhere in Europe.

But they would be wrong—by over a thousand years!  In reality, the very first time people adored the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ was on Christmas Day, in the hours after Jesus was born.  And the first adorers were none other than our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph—who were joined later on by the shepherds we heard about in today’s gospel.  And the adoration they engaged in was, at least in part, nocturnal—something we’re starting here at St. Pius on the first Friday of every month, beginning this Friday.

How timely!

Fr. Dean Perri came up with this insight, and he shared it with me the other day.  And it makes perfect sense, does it not?  In fact, isn’t this how we portray Mary and Joseph and the shepherds in many of our crèche scenes (like the one we have here at St. Pius)?  Jesus is there in the manger and his mother and foster father are kneeling beside him, their heads bowed in prayer.  Some of the shepherds are usually portrayed in that same pose. 

They’re all adoring the Son of God, the Savior, who has just been born into the world.

So here’s a way that we can all imitate our Blessed Mother, whom we honor in the Church on this New Year’s Day: We can resolve to make Adoration a part of our life (if it’s not already).  And we can begin this Friday, by coming here to church to spend some time (an hour if possible) in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, which will be exposed in the monstrance on the altar from 8pm until the Saturday morning Mass, which will begin at 8am.  We have all the hours covered by at least one person; so if you didn’t sign up for an hour already you can come anytime during that 12 hour period.

What do you do during Adoration—besides praise and adore Jesus (which would certainly be enough!)?  But what else can you do?  Actually, you can do many things.  I made a list the other day of some possibilities:

  • ·         You can read the Bible (which, generally speaking, Catholics need to do more often).   My suggestion is to start with the New Testament; it’s easier to understand.
  • ·         You can pray a Rosary
  • ·       You can tell your problems to the Lord, and then try to listen for his response—which   might come in a Scripture passage you read.
  • ·         You can pray the Liturgy of the Hours or some devotional prayers.
  • ·       You can intercede for all the people you’ve promised to pray for, or who’ve asked for   your prayers.
  • ·         You can read a spiritual book that will help you to grow stronger in your faith.
  • ·     You can reflect on your life and try to discern God’s will on some personal matter.  (That’s a very important thing to do in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.)

Or you can just sit quietly in the presence of your Lord and Savior and try to open your heart to his grace.  This is something my grandfather, Nick Suriani, used to do.  My grandparents’ house was located directly in back of Holy Angels Church in Barrington, and my grandfather would often walk over during the day and make visits to the Blessed Sacrament.  Well one afternoon Fr. Giudice happened to meet my grandfather as he was making one of his many visits, and he asked him, “Nick, what do you do when you come here to church during the day?”

My grandfather said, “I sit here and look at God, and God looks back at me.”

Contemplative saints like John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila couldn’t have said it any better!

My grandfather found strength in Adoration—which definitely helped him to deal with the crosses he experienced in his life, especially the deaths of three of his four children.  Both my grandparents lived well into their nineties, but they lost three children to cancer before the age of 60—including my father, who died at the age of 46.

Adoration of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ was good for my grandfather, as it was good for Mary and Joseph, and as it’s been good for millions of other believers throughout the centuries.

May it also be good for us—beginning this Friday.