ASK FATHER: If adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will end, why do we say, “without end” when we pray?

From a Sister…

QUAERITUR:

We are trying to revive the practice of Perpetual Adoration in our congregation. Previously (1882-1986), when there was a change of adorers the incoming adorer would say “Praised and adored be without end” and the outgoing adorer would respond “the Most Blessed Sacrament”. I wanted to bring back this exchange but was told my leadership it was inaccurate because the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will come to an end. Were my sisters of days past wrong in using that phrase?

No, they were not wrong.

That phrase is a translation of the Latin antiphon sung for centuries in honor of the Blessed Sacrament: Adoremus in aeternum 

Adoremus in aeternum sanctissimum Sacramentum.
— Laudate Dominum omnes gentes: laudate eum omnes populi.
— Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus:
et veritas Domini manet in aeternum.
Gloria Patri, Filio, et Spiritui Sancto: Sicut erat in principio,
et nunc et semper, et in saecula sæculorum. Amen.
Adoremus in aeternum sanctissimum Sacramentum.

Let us adore unto eternity the Most Holy Sacrament.
–Praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him all ye peoples.
–Because his mercy is confirmed upon us:
and the truth of the Lord remains forever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost:
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Let us adore unto eternity the Most Holy Sacrament.

This is a good, traditional prayer, helpful for our minds and hearts.  Only the pedantic cannot see its beauty and propriety.

The question does bring up other questions, however.

Will there be sacraments in heaven?

Not in any earthly sense, no. Sacraments, by their nature, use outward signs to convey supernatural realities. For example, the water poured in baptism symbolizes the cleansing of the soul and the passing through death to the “old man” and into the “new”, rising in new life in Christ. The water is the sensible symbol used. Only the Blessed Sacrament truly IS what it symbolizes. In heaven, the baptized will remain baptized, the confirmed confirmed and the ordained ordained. But there will no longer be need for baptism, confirmation or ordination. We will be, face to face, with the Trinity. The sacraments are our pathway, the means to arrive in the bliss of the Beatific Vision.

Of course our human minds will still not be able to take in everything about God, who is infinite. So, we will be shown something of God’s glory, if not all of it. It may be that God will use outward signs also in heaven to mediate some aspects of our new relationship. I am speculating, of course. No one knows what God has prepared for us.

So, will adoration of the Blessed Sacrament end in heaven?

Yes, but… it’s complicated.

We won’t need the Eucharist because we will be in heaven. We will be with the Risen Christ and we won’t need to sense His presence mediated through the outward accidents of the bread and wine which was transubstantiated.

Of course, before the summation of all things the Eucharist continues. In a sense, those who enjoy heaven now are adoring the Eucharistic Lord, but not through the accidents of the earthly Eucharist. After all, the Eucharistic Lord is one, not many, and He is present in our tabernacles and on our altars and also in heaven.  With His Ascension, Christ entered into the heavenly temple and, as High Priest, continues to raise the Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and propitiation to the Father.  Because He is now out of time and space, His action can be our action everywhere, in every church and on every altar.  After the summation of all things, however, Holy Mass will cease. Still, it seems that the Son will remain the High Priest forever raising the Sacrifice of Himself – in Thanksgiving – to the Father in the heavenly Temple of the new Jerusalem. We will be participants at the heavenly liturgy with the Holy Angels, singing in praise and adoration. That won’t be Mass, of course. Mass is the making present of what was done and, at the same time, the foreshadowing of what is to come.

Hence, while it is true that adoration of the Eucharist will not continue forever – unto eternity – in aeternum – adoration of the Lord, Bread from Heaven, will certainly continue.  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven”, said the Lord.  He won’t stop being that.  Our praise will also be thanksgiving (therefore, “eucharistic”).   The Eucharist is our “pledge of future glory.

It is perfectly acceptable to say “without end” while in this world. We are not stupid, after all.  We know that some things end and others continue.

We shouldn’t be too pedantic when it comes to devotions, which are good for the heart and which, over time, stir us to new depths of understanding. Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis! They help our belief, which helps our understanding. And, it’s good human psychology. How helpful is it to think in terms of, “We do this now, but one day we won’t”.

No, “forever” is a good word to use when adoring the Blessed Sacrament in this world.  I could get into a deeper discussion of the distinctions we make when using words like “eternity” and “sempiternity”, etc.   But that’s for another time.

Also, I like the idea of the old phrase being divided by comers and goers, like a baton being passed in a relay race. It underscores continuity and builds unity between all who participate. It’s good for team-building, which I imagine is important in a religious community.

Let us also not forget what our forebears in the Faith have handed down. For how long have we been saying, “without end” in our prayers? Since the very beginning! Very smart people, who contemplated the echatological dimension of sacraments and worship, have been entirely content with saying and singing “in saecula saeculorum… in aeternum” in  prayers and devotions.

For generations upon generations Adoremus in aeternum has been sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. It has been set to beautiful music, to lift fitting praise to God. The Gregorian chant version is forever fixed in my mind and heart from my years in Rome and other places. The same thing is sung across the world and across centuries. These are bridges through space and time all leading heavenward. Some settings of the Adoremus are superb. Here’s Allegri:

US HERE -UK HERE

And how about this one?  Just four voices!

The Gregorian version (alas, with organ accompaniment, but it was the best I could find):

Are we now so very sophisticated that we dare to spurn the treasures of prayer they handed down to us?

 

 

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8 Responses to ASK FATHER: If adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will end, why do we say, “without end” when we pray?

  1. Andrew says:

    When we adore the Blessed Sacrament, we don’t adore the Form of the Sacrament (Bread and Wine) but the reality of the Sacrament (The Lord’s Body and Blood), in aeternum.

    Distinguendum est tamen subtiliter inter tria, quae sunt in hoc sacramento discreta, videlicet formam visibilem, veritatem corporis et virtutem spiritualem. Forma est panis et vini, veritas carnis et sanguinis, virtus unitatis et caritatis. Primum est “sacramentum et non res.” Secundum est “sacramentum et res.” Tertium est “res et non sacramentum.” DS 783 Pope Innocent III.

  2. THREEHEARTS says:

    mike hurcum
    Growing up as an altar boy in the UK, Benediction was always ended with the first verses of the Adoremus. Benediction was a purely UK celebration in fact I read in a thesis called Catholic Worship in Victoria England tendered by a Czech. Woman, that Benediction as a Church Liturgy was only accepted universally in the 1960’s. By Rome I mean. Also the Per Omnia Sacula Saculorum was first used, I read one time to fit in properly, with Gregorian Plain Chant??? We will not I think, explaining it in simpler terms, need veneration of the Eucharist. If I believe rightly when we are dead and, for some fortunately, enter into Heaven we will have returned to the Beatific Vision and therefore returning to God’s “mind” we join in Him with His Divine Contemplation and that is good. Do we need more?

  3. JARay says:

    As I understand it the Greek does not say “World without end” in those words but “Eis ton Aiona” which is ” Into infinity” and as a former mathematician I like the reference to the mathemetical word of Infinity, although I do accept that “world without end” is a journey into infinity. It just does not have the word “world” in it. For me the world is a temporal thing and it will come to an end sometime.

  4. I have an idea that when we meet Jesus face to face in heaven, we will somehow recognize Him as the Blessed Sacrament, particularly if we visited Him in the Blessed Sacrament during our lives.

  5. “For generations upon generations Adoremus in aeternum has been sung at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.”

    Really? [Y?es, really.] I’ve never heard it in more than sixty years as a Catholic from the cradle. [Perhaps you haven’t gotten out and about enough.] What I have always heard is “Holy God, we praise Thy Name,” essentially a paraphrase of the Te Deum. [Perhaps at the very end, when everything is concluded?] I’d love to hear the ancient chant revived again. I’d love to hear it at all.

  6. Ron Van Wegen says:

    Perhaps the concept of time needs to looked at in these types of discussions. Isn’t time a “reality” of our earthly existence only? I don’t know but I think it bears thinking about.
    [The Preview function did not work for me in two different browsers Chrome and Palemoon – a Firefox derivative.]

  7. This brings to mind the Adoration of the Lamb/Ghent Altarpiece

  8. Sister Lynn D says:

    Thank you, Father Z! We have chosen a new phrase
    First Adorer: The Bread that I shall give, says the Lord
    New Adorer: is my Flesh for the life of the world.

    I am glad we are bringing back that custom of exchange – the passing of the baton as you say. But I quite liked the old one. Glad to know it’s not wrong to still pray them.