If you’re looking to do some early Christmas shopping, you need to check this out:
The Holy Hour: Meditations for Eucharistic Adoration, published by Word on Fire, edited by Matthew Becklo.
It can be hard to find a good devotional when you need one, and a lot of the popular ones designed for Adoration tend to be a little dry or a little dated. This one, though, raises the bar. With reflections and writings by a wide range of Catholics — Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton and Pope Francis pop up, along with G.K. Chesterton and Edith Stein, among others — you encounter a whole library of wonderful Catholic thinkers, offering tremendous insights into the glory and mystery of the Eucharist.
With scripture passages, prayers and familiar hymns added to the mix, this is a resource that you can return to again and again, making new discoveries along the way.
I discovered, among other things, this poem-prayer by St. Francis of Assisi:
O admirable heights and sublime lowliness!
O humble sublimity!
That the Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles himself
that for our salvation
He hides himself under the little form of bread!
And there is this similar theme, expressed by Pope Francis in a homily from 2021, reflecting on the meaning and power of the Upper Room:
A large room for a tiny piece of bread. God makes himself tiny, like a morsel of bread. That is precisely why we need a great heart to be able to recognize, adore and receive him. God’s presence is so humble, hidden and often unseen that, in order to recognize his presence, we need a heart that is ready, alert and welcoming. But if our heart, rather than a large room, is more like a closet where we wistfully keep things from the past, or an attic where we long ago stored our dreams and enthusiasm, or a dreary chamber filled only with us, our problems and our disappointments, then it will be impossible to recognize God’s silent and unassuming presence. We need a large room. We need to enlarge our hearts. We need to break out of our tiny self-enclosed space and enter the large room, the vast expanse of wonder and adoration.
This devotional is full of passages like these, grouped around three key themes: Real Presence, Holy Sacrifice and Sacred Meal.
It concludes with a bracing chaser: an afterword by Elizabeth Scalia, who writes of her return to the faith and discovery of the Eucharist in Adoration. She concludes:
I look at the Master and the Master looks at me. At some point, there always comes that sense of stillness and unity—so sweetly powerful I am sometimes sent completely out of my own awareness and into wonder, recalling one of the vesper antiphons from the Liturgy of the Hours: “Yours is more than mortal beauty; every word you speak is full of grace.”
One more thing: it’s a beautiful book to hold in your hands. Rich paper. Leather-like cover. A helpful gold ribbon. Gorgeous color photographs to give variety and drama. Its 302 pages and 5 x 7 size is just enough to have heft, but still slip easily into a purse or shoulder bag. All of which contributes to its most glaring flaw: it ain’t cheap. It retails for $35. It would be nice if something like this could be available to a wider readership.
Which is why I say: think about this for people on your Christmas list. Priests, deacons, religious, catechists, whoever. With the Church turning more attention these days to the Eucharist, and the U.S. bishops launching a Eucharistic revival, this couldn’t come at a better time. St. Augustine famously said of the Eucharist, “We become what we receive.” I’d just add: More of us should receive this book and the beautiful wisdom it offers.