Eucharistic adoration and Baudelaire
- a monstrance from Holy Cross Monastery (Wikipedia)
There's a post at In All Things about eucharistic adoration By coincidence, I'm also reading a novel right now in which the main character is a sister in a convent that practices perpetual adoration. This subject really disturbs me. I've tried talking to a few other Catholic bloggers about it but nobody's been interested in discussing it, so I guess I'll just babble away to myself here and maybe get it out of my system.
I think there's something not quite right with the emphasis given by B16 to eucharistic adoration. I'm not sure I can articulate why I believe this, and maybe part of the problem is that I don't understand what adoration means, but I think adoring Jesus in the form of a wafer is weirdly reductive. Seeing him as physically present yet not intentionally present leaves out everything about him that makes him him -- what he preached, what he did, and any chance of interaction. It puts God in a box and objectifies him in a way that I worry allows people to believe that through devotions they can control their level of holiness.
There's a story at NCR on this issue, Vatican tries to revive Eucharistic adoration, but the In All Things post links instead to a story at The Christian Century on this, which is essentially the same as the NCR story. Here's a bit from The Christian Century ...
[S]ome theologians object to adoration as outdated and unnecessary, warning that it can lead to misunderstandings and undo decades of progress in educating lay Catholics on the meaning of the sacrament.
Eucharistic adoration by the laity originated in the 13th century as a substitute for receiving communion at mass, said Monsignor Kevin W. Irwin, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America.
At the same time, he said, the church often encouraged a believer's sense of "personal unworthiness" to receive the sacrament—which Catholics believe to be the body of Christ—so many resorted to so-called ocular communion instead.
Eucharistic adoration was also used as a teaching tool to reaffirm the doctrine of the "real presence" of Christ in the Eucharist, said Richard P. McBrien, a noted theologian at the University of Notre Dame. .... According to McBrien, adoration distorts the meaning of the Eucharist: "It erodes the communal aspect, and it erodes the fact that the Eucharist is a meal. Holy Communion is something to be eaten, not to be adored." ....
One of the comments at the In All Things blog post defends eucharistic adoration by stating that it's beautiful. I know beauty is one of the transcendentals, but it's the weakest one -- not all that is beautiful is good or true -- if a wafer in a gold monstrance in some rococo chapel is worth worshipping because it's beautiful, what then will one feel about that eventually crucified Jesus who trudged around first century Palestine with his ragged followers?
I guess I just don't get it, but this all reminds me of a poem by Baudelaire
I am as lovely as a dream in stone;
My breast on which each finds his death in turn
Inspires the poet with a love as lone
As everlasting clay, and as taciturn.
Swan-white of heart, as sphinx no mortal knows,
My throne is in the heaven's azure deep;
I hate all movement that disturbs my pose;
I smile not ever, neither do I weep.
Before my monumental attitudes,
Taken from the proudest plastic arts,
My poets pray in austere studious moods,
For I, to fold enchantment round their hearts,
Have pools of light where beauty flames and dies,
The placid mirrors of my luminous eyes.