Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy
On Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass
Pope Paul VI
January 10, 1969
To: Rev. Rollando Huot,
Superior General of the Priests of the Blessed Sacrament
On Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass
January 10, 1969: AAS 61 (1969) 169-171.
The most salutary sacrament of the eucharist stands as the center of the Church’s life because it contains really, truly, and substantially the author of grace himself. Therefore it takes hold of the minds of believers in such a way that they understand, not by force of elaborate argument but by a kind of insight into the reality, that they should offer to this sacrament the worship of adoration. The effect of this exercise of worship is the expression and increase of the virtue of religion by which the believing spirit acknowledges its all-transcending creator and his lordship and strives for the attitude of submissive reverence proper to the creature. This adoration is shown even through the body, which is offered as a "living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God."1 As St. Thomas Aquinas writes, "In all acts of worship what is exterior is related to what is interior as to the more important element. Therefore exterior adoration takes place because of the interior, namely, in order that the signs of humility that we manifest through the body may stir our affections to subject themselves to God."2
Those who, like the religious congregation that you, dear son, govern, and other similar associations, dedicate their service to adoration of Christ the Lord present in the blessed sacrament, offer a shining confirmation of faith against those who deny God by their teaching or way of life or who, while appearing to keep the faith, attach scant importance to it.
But for a fuller understanding of this matter it is necessary to take into consideration that adoration is not to be isolated from the sacrament in its entirety, that is, from the mystery of salvation "which is Christ … the hope of glory."3 This is to say that the eucharist must be viewed not only in regard to what relates to the real presence, but "in all its fullness, both in the celebration of Mass and in the worship of the sacred elements reserved after Mass in order to extend the grace of the sacrifice."4 The reason, therefore, that adorers continue worship of the eucharist outside Mass is that they may more fully share in the effects of the sacrifice and be empowered to take part in it more effectively. In order that this help from heaven may be more abundantly poured forth on daily life, the practice of the virtues is also necessary. When indeed we offer the homage of devout service to Christ hidden in the august sacrament, we receive an increase in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. These give to the soul the right dispositions enabling it "with due devotion to celebrate the memorial of the Lord and to receive frequently the bread given us by the Father."5
Further, this adoration, which, as we have said, continues the grace of the eucharistic sacrifice, has a beneficial effect on the entire community of the Church. For the prayers offered to him who is "God with us" there on the altar are truly "catholic," because they bear upon the whole Church and the whole world. History teaches this to be so: our predecessor Pope Clement VIII in the year 1592 authorized and promoted the Forty-Hours devotion to be observed successively in the churches of Rome in order to beseech heavenly aid for the human family in extremely trying times.6 Accordingly, this adoration is not primarily a fulfillment of the devout aspirations of individuals, but rather stirs the spirit "to cultivate a ‘social’ love by which we place the common good before the good of the individual, make our own the interests of the community, of the parish, of the entire Church, and extend our charity to the whole world, because we know that the members of Christ are everywhere."7
Therefore let religious institutes and associations that, by their own law, approved by the Church, have as their entrusted service the offering of the worship of adoration to the sacrament of the eucharist realize that they fulfill a most exalted responsibility and do so in the name of the entire Church. Provided they live up to their vocation with devotion, fidelity, and constancy, the life of religious as well as those dedicated to contemplation alone or engaged in apostolic works "stands as a sign that can and should effectively draw the members of the Church … and points out to all people the towering greatness of the strength of Christ in glory and the boundless power of the Holy Spirit."8
There is, therefore, no reason for the members who perform this outstanding service to grow fainthearted in these times, as though, as some allege, the issue were a "devotion become obsolete" and they were wasting time because other works have greater urgency. They must be convinced that as of old so also now the Church has an absolute need of those who "adore" the sacrament "in spirit and in truth";9 they must, as is right, apply all diligence to ensure an exact following of the teachings and precepts we have given on this matter in both the Encyclical Mysterium fidei and the Instruction Eucharisticum mysterium.
1 Rom 12:1.
2 ST 2a2ae, 84.2.
3 Col 1:27.
4 SCR, Instr. EuchMyst no. 3 g [DOL 179 no. 1232].
5 SCR, Instr. EuchMyst no. 50 [DOL 179 no. 1279].
6 See Bullarium Romanum 5, 1 (Rome, 1751) 412.
7 Paul VI, Encycl. Mysterium fidei no. 69 [DOL 176 no. 1213].
8 LG no. 44: AAS 57 (1965) 50-51; ConstDecrDecl 177.
9 See Jn 4:23.