by Ryan Both, Baylor Class of 2022
“And the Word was made flesh.” This short phrase summarizes the most profound mystery in all of history: the Incarnation. The very thought of God dwelling among us makes my mind reel, and adoring Him on bended knee lifts my heart to Heaven.
I am a convert to the Catholic Faith, and I have fallen deeply in love with Eucharistic Adoration. It was not until my first Advent that I began truly to understand the beauty of Adoration.
When Our Lord was made man, it was not in an instant that He appeared among us, but in a descent from Heaven; in the Incarnation of the Word, God descended to earth. The Incarnation surpassed the understanding not only of mankind, but of the angels. Belgian priest Fr. Cornelius a Lapide writes, “all the angels accompanied Christ, their God and Lord, to earth, as all royal households accompany a king when he goes abroad.” When Christ descended, He passed the angels and they knelt their heads, watching Him in amazement.
They were transfixed by the paradox of the scene—He had done the unthinkable. God became man, the Infinite was contained, and Life Himself became mortal. They followed Him as He descended to earth and watched Him enter the womb of a virgin. In awe, Heaven became quiet.
God descended and Mary interrupted the heavenly silence, picking up the angelic song of praise. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk. 1:46-47). When Christ was born, the angels rejoiced at the sight of their incarnate God. At the sight of Him in His lowest, they sang glory to Him in the highest (Lk. 2:15).
Mary’s Magnificat praises God’s might and the Angelic Hymn proclaims His glory. But Christmas is not a celebration of God’s greatness in Heaven, but Heaven being brought to earth and filling that tiny manger in Bethlehem.
Advent gives us time to think about the splendor of Christ’s first coming. During this time, we should prepare our hearts to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist and look forward to His second coming with hope.
Imagining the Nativity brings me great peace. Growing up, this was all Advent was for me, since this is all it could have been before my conversion.
Catholicism offers us something much greater than a simple remembrance of that night, because the night was more than the birth of Christ. It was the first Adoration. In a cave in Bethlehem, God dwelt with man, and they sat before Him for hours.
The first Adoration fittingly took place in Bethlehem—in Hebrew, the“House of Bread.” With no place to stay, He dwelt with the animals and was placed in a manger. The beauty of this is, mangers were used to hold grain. And not only were they used to hold grain, but to feed animals. The wood of the manger prefigures the cross, and the manger itself prefigures the Eucharistic table.
Not only did He become a Man for us to see, but food for us to taste. Our Lord is the Living Bread, the Manna from Heaven, and the Paschal Lamb.
The beauty of this season is wrapped up in the Eucharist. Each day, we are offered time to gaze upon Him. We are given the same gift of adoring Him that was offered to Mary, Joseph, the Magi, and the Shepherds. When we enter the chapel during Adoration, we witness a heavenly quiet and partake of that awe.
Additionally, Adoration gives us a chance to practice and observe the virtues of Advent. It brings peace in the midst of our busy lives. As we kneel and cross ourselves, we reflect, with reverence, on the Love that became man for our salvation. We settle into our pews and joyfully stare into the Holy Face of our Maker. And we sit, patiently with Our Lord, hopefully anticipating His return.
G. K. Chesterton describes this scene perfectly:
Anyone who chooses to walk into a large church on Sunday morning may see a hundred men each alone with his Maker. He stands, in truth, in the presence of one of the strangest spectacles in the world—a mob of hermits.
The Catholic Faith offers us a relationship with Christ that is both mystical and literal. It escapes our comprehension, but for us, in the Eucharist, it is the most tangible thing in the world. In the truest sense of the word, it is beautiful.
When we visit Our Lord during Adoration, we may see only each other in the chapel, but we are in the presence of the saintly and angelic hosts. We join their abounding praise during the liturgy.
When we see the host in a monstrance, we encounter Christ in a manger. He has become small and defenseless for our salvation, and He is waiting for us to approach Him during the Mass. Heaven meets earth each day on the altar. When we partake of this heavenly feast, Christ abides in us, and we in Him.
So, in the time of Advent, as we approach the Feast of the Nativity, let us so prepare ourselves to receive Christ. Let us joyfully go to Bethlehem, behold our King, and adore Him.
Have a blessed, fruitful Advent!