Do we allow ourselves to recognize our eucharistic King?

My mother carefully taught my brothers and me about genuflecting upon entering a Catholic church — why we genuflect and that this gesture of reverence should be made facing the One to whom it is made.  As I observed other parishioners genuflecting toward the middle of the church or the altar, however, it became clear that they did not know what we had learned. Sadly, though undoubtedly not because of ill will, they were ignorant of the meaning of a genuflection. A similar lack of understanding is evident in some students, who genuflect in the direction of the side wall, rather than the tabernacle.

So, why do we genuflect toward the tabernacle? In the Middle Ages, it was customary for subjects to genuflect before their king on their left knee. Therefore, at church, we genuflect to our King, and we indicate that He is not any king, but the King of Kings, by genuflecting not on our left but on our right knee.

To genuflect toward the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle is to proclaim with our whole being that here before us is our King and Lord. It is to acknowledge the truth that Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is really present in the Eucharist. And it is to express to Him, “I believe in You, and I worship You.”

This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We rejoice in knowing that Jesus is with us forever in the Most Blessed Sacrament. We find joy not only in the fact that we are able to receive Him as our food, an incredible and unmerited gift, but also that we are able to adore Him in the Sacred Host as He remains present with us in all the tabernacles of the world.

This brings to mind a hymn St. Thomas Aquinas wrote for this feast day, Adoro Te Devote.  The first stanza, in the English translation by Jesuit Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, states profoundly: “Godhead here in hiding, Whom I do adore, / Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more, / See, Lord, at Thy service, low lies here a heart, / Lost, all lost in wonder at the God Thou art.”

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel, OP

Are our hearts, too, “lost in wonder” at the Presence of Our Lord and God in the Eucharist? Or do we take this Sacrament for granted, as just another part of the Sunday Mass routine? If we truly believe that Jesus Himself comes to us as food, shouldn’t this radically and completely change our lives each and every time we receive Him?

One of the surest ways to increase our “wonder” at our Eucharistic Lord is to spend time with Him in prayer outside of Mass. Adoration transforms us to recognize His Presence in faith and to give our lives back to Him in love. When I was in high school, I began to visit our school chapel at least briefly every day, and in college, Eucharistic adoration became a frequent part of my weekly routine. These experiences of being with Our Lord gave me great peace and led to my falling in love with Him. Yet, like all of us, I need to return again and again to this “love [I] had at first” (Revelation 2:4b). May this feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ be an opportunity for us all to be renewed in our love for Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.