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Why Adoration is more complete than meditation

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I look at the Master, and the Master looks at me. And the love bounds and abounds.

If you walk into my parish church on any given Thursday between 5 and 6 p.m. you might be confused. In the dim light of early evening, you will find four to 20 people sitting in silence, at a polite distance from one another, heads bowed, or gazing at the altar. Some might even be reading.

You could think they were waiting for something to happen. The start of a church service, perhaps?

But, no, not at this time.

Instead, each person will sit for the entire hour in silence. And yes, you will see a core group of the same people every week.

I’ve become one of them. Apart from Mass, this is the hour I look forward to most each week.

In our weekly church bulletin, it’s listed simply as “Adoration.” It’s also known as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, an hour of contemplative prayer as we sit in the presence of God with the exposition of the consecrated Host displayed in a starburst monstrance on the altar.

After attending sporadically, I began to realize how much I was receiving within this hour, and have tried to make it every week.

Here’s the thing: I have devotional time with God every morning at home. I read the Bible, then a devotional, and I pray. But there is something palpably different going on during Adoration, and there is no other way to say it except that when sitting in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and allowing my mind to become still, I sense the presence of God in a way that is altogether different than when I pray at home.

I look at the Master, and the Master looks at me. And the love bounds and abounds.

Pope Saint John Paul called it the “wellspring of grace.”

In the beginning, I thought Adoration and contemplative prayer served a similar purpose to meditation, a quieting of one’s mind. However, after reading a slim volume by Henri J.M. Nouwen, unfortunately titled Clowning in Rome, my understanding shifted.

In meditation, the goal is to attain an emptying of the self. During the hour of Adoration we quiet the mind, empty ourselves, but only so that we can become filled with the Holy Spirit. We do not remain empty. Rather than sitting in isolation, we are joined by God; we form a relationship and an understanding that He is as interested in our concerns as we are.

Weekly Adoration has changed my whole approach to prayer. It has taught me the value of spending an extended time in prayerful conversation with God. The hour is needed because when we first arrive our head is full of chatter, and we bring that harried state – and the last thing we were dwelling on – right into Adoration with us. For about the first 20 minutes, my Adoration conversation is all about me.

Eventually, around the 30-minute mark, my mind clears, and I can finally turn my attention toward God. In prayer I will sometimes repeat the name of God, or Jesus, or breathe out to the Holy Spirit, as a means of focusing both my attention and intention on God’s presence.

When I finally let go, I am able simply to worship.

From this foundation, this hour of contemplative prayer, we can grow into what Nouwen describes as the practice of “unceasing prayer.” We can turn the never-ending thoughts that fill our mind during the day into an ongoing dialogue with God, by opening our heart and mind to His continual presence always with us, by offering our thoughts to Him.

As our thoughts move from a “self-centered monologue to a God-centered dialogue” we go from “fearful isolation into a fearless conversation with God.”

This connection has helped me enormously. I encourage you to try it: set aside one hour a week for contemplative prayer and dialogue with God.

If you cannot make it to a Catholic church to participate in weekly Adoration, there are two keys to bringing this practice into your own home.

Setting aside at least one hour where you can sit in silence, undisturbed, is optimal; it allows for the quieting of the mental chatter which is so necessary to get past.

Second, to bring your mind into God’s presence, it is helpful to read a passage or two from the Bible before you begin. For this the Psalms are particularly helpful.

As Nouwen writes, “…solitude is the place where God reveals himself as God with us, as the God who is our creator, redeemer, and sanctifier, as the God who is the source, the center and the purpose of our existence, as the God who wants to give himself to us with an unconditional unlimited and unrestrained love…

“In solitude, we meet God. In solitude, we leave behind our many activities, concerns, plans, and projects, and enter into the presence of our loving God. There we see that he alone is God, that God is love.”

King Badouin of Belgium remarked that sitting before the Blessed Sacrament was like sitting in the sun; nothing is required of you but to come out of the shade, and you only feel the strength of its effects, later. — Sister Briege McKenna

 

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