History of Eucharistic Adoration
The phenomenal growth of devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist has puzzled not a few sincere people. Nocturnal Adoration societies, Perpetual Adoration groups, national associations of the faithful promoting organized visits to the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Hours before the tabernacle, monthly, weekly and even daily exposition of the Eucharist in churches and chapels, in one country after another, have become commonplace.
What to make of all of this? Is this another form of pious eccentricity, or is it founded on authentic Catholic doctrine and grounded on the solid rock of Christian revelation?
It is authentic Catholic doctrine and it rests on the unchangeable truth of our revealed faith. But it needs to be explained, and the explanation is a classic example of what we call development of doctrine.
By development of doctrine, we mean that some divinely revealed truth has become more deeply understood and more clearly perceived than it had been before. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whom Christ promised to send to teach us, the Church comes to see more deeply what she had always believed, and the resulting insights find expression in devotion of the faithful that may have been quite uncommon in the Church’s previous history. The whole spectrum of Christology and Mariology has witnessed such dogmatic progress. Adoration of the Eucharist, therefore, is simply another, though dramatic, example of doctrinal development.
Always implied in such progress is that, objectively, the revealed truth remains constant and unchanged. But through the light of the Holy Spirit, the subjective understanding of the truth becomes more clear, its meaning becomes more certain and its grasp by the believing mind becomes increasingly more firm.
Our purpose in this short study is to show how the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has undergone a marvelous development over the centuries. We are now witnessing what can only be described as the work of the Holy Spirit, Whom Christ promised, “the Father will send in My name. He will teach you all things, and bring to your mind
whatever I have said to you” (John 14:25).