From an email:
Today we had Eucharistic adoration at our church. It is scheduled on the first Sunday of each month. I saw something today that bothered me. After Father placed the consecrated Host into the monstrance, gave the final blessing and dismissed the congregation [!], some of us remained behind for adoration. (I think everyone should stay for a least a few minutes – but that is another rant).
As I knelt, a woman came to the front of the church and stood before the statues of the Holy Family and prayed, then left. In doing this, she had her back to the Eucharist on the main altar right in there, front and center, in the church. (we don’t have a big church) I’ve seen people pray before the Holy Family statues before, but I never noticed anyone doing it with the Eucharist in full sight in the Monstrance on the altar. I suspect this woman is sincere and devout – but why would she pray in front of the statues (even though they are beautiful) when Jesus is there a mere few feet away from her?
I wondered how Jesus felt about this. It bothered me that she would direct her focus to the statues when Jesus (the Real Thing) was a few feet behind her. There isn’t anything I can do about this and I don’t mean to be judging her (God only knows how many faux pas I do and what a mess I am!) – but if you have time I would like you take on this.
My ranting answer is, instead, primarily about the priest. It is terribly incorrect, not to say entirely obnoxious (O.K., that too), for the priest to himself bless the congregation and then dismiss them after exposing the Blessed Sacrament. The correct procedure, at least in the Novus Ordo, is to recite the post-Communion prayer. Then expose the Blessed Sacrament with attendant incensation and hymns and prayers. Then… then… that’s it. No blessing from the priest while he ignores the High Priest on the altar. No dismissal of the congregation. Honestly!
Now, please excuse me if I continue to rant. Please take this in good stride. I mean no offense. But you got me ranting, so I will continue. Forgive me!
The lady may get her queue to do what she did from what Father did. And… and… what she did wasn’t wrong anyway. If there were some liturgical action, such as pictured with Pope John Paul II providing benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, probably during the Eucharistic Procession in Lourdes, then what she did would be incorrect. Moreover, if she was making a fuss which distracted others, even on purpose, so as to draw attention to herself, well, that would be wrong too. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Instead, her looking at the statue, though having her back turned to the Blessed Sacrament, was surely never done as a replacement of the real Jesus on the altar, but merely a way to remind herself, perhaps in distressful family circumstances, just how wondeful this real Jesus on the altar is, not forgetting for a second that He was there.
Is this not the same as glancing now and again at a prayer or a holy picture while we are at adoration? Would we ever dare cast a glance over to the Stations of the Cross during adoration, or at any other statue or image? We are human after all, and don’t want to fall into the heresy of iconoclasm, which banned all such images from churches. This was a kind of an incarnational heresy which didn’t want anything to do with our needing images. And we do need them, since we have both souls and bodies.The images are never adored or prayed to. They are just a reminder. Pictures of family members don’t make us adore them, but simply remind us of them.
I bet Jesus thought that that lady was pretty cool.
O.K. End of rant. Please, forgive me.