Project Canterbury

Reservation and Adoration:
A Historical and Devotional Inquiry

Shirley Carter Hughson
Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross

The Holy Cross Press
West Park, New York

transcribed by Dr Elizabeth G Mellilo
AD 2000

Chapter XIV
Eucharistic Adoration

It has been impossible for a long time to deal with the subject of Reservation without having to touch also upon that of Eucharistic Adoration. It is necessary for us to understand well the angle from which this subject should be regarded.

Some seventy years ago Dr Pusey and Mr Keble both made extended research in the writings of the Reformers and post-Reformation divines, and produced series of extracts to show that many of them believed and taught the worship of our Lord objectively present in the Blessed Sacrament. These extracts have since been used repeatedly by writers on the subject of Eucharistic Adoration, and one of the significant signs of the times which witnesses to the modern revolt against the Reformation appeal to the primitive Church, is the almost frantic desire among men of varying schools of churchmanship to show that these quotations were made either ignorantly or dishonestly. It is evidently thought by many of them that if it could be proved that the Reformation and post-Reformation divines held no such doctrine, this would once for all settle the point, and dispose of such teaching so far as the Anglican Church was concerned. In direct contradiction to the Prayer-Book they recognise no appeal to the doctrine and practice of the Fathers, or of the Church throughout the world.

But whatever may be thought of these quotations, the question of their accuracy or fairness does not enter into the present issue. The Reformers were not engaged in inventing anything new. They were witnesses to the old, and if they bore false or ignorant witness, so much the worse for them. The Church does not refer us to them for our faith and practice.

The ground upon which we adore our Lord present in this august Sacrament should be clearly understood. The American Church has never formally sanctioned Eucharistic Adoration, and we are not interested that it ever should. Such action is unnecessary and would not only be superfluous, but would lead to almost certain misunderstanding, if not misrepresentation. Were the three orders in the General Convention unanimously to enact a law peremptorily commanding Eucharistic Adoration, it could not add a feather’s weight to the obligation that now lies upon every Christian. We worship Him in the Sacrament not because any ecclesiastical law says we may or must, but simply because He, Very God of Very God, is present in the Sacrament, and wherever He is, He must be worshipped.

Some tell us that we can expect to find no blessing in the Sacrament unless we confine our use of It to the purpose of Its institution, as recorded in the New Testament. We cannot but think that this principle, consistently applied, would destroy the Christian Religion. For example, so far as we know, the Son of God did not become Incarnate for the purpose of worshipping Him in His Sacred Humanity. We are bound nevertheless to do so, and all Christians agree in condemning those who refuse Him this worship.

Nor does the Gospel record tell us that He instituted this Sacrament for the purpose of being worshipped under the forms of bread and wine; yet those who refuse to worship Him there (though in their ignorance or prejudice they may be sincere), are refusing to worship God. One has to be extremely cautious how he bases the Faith on the silences of Scripture. We shall see shortly what the result of such a course would be in the case of praying to the Holy Spirit.

Eucharistic Adoration, therefore, depends solely on the fact of our Lord’s Presence in the Sacrament. The angels and saints as they bow down in awful adoration before His divine Majesty in the heaven of heavens, possess His Presence not more truly than do we as we kneel before His Sacramental Majesty enthroned on the lowliest of earthly altars.

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