“Venite Adoremus. O come let us adore Him.” Whether in these exact words or some other expression of this idea, “coming to adore” is a recurring motif in many of the most beautiful songs of the Christmas season. Take a minute and think about your own favorite religious Christmas carols…O Come, All Ye Faithful. Silent Night. Joy to the World. Gesu Bambino. O Little Town of Bethlehem. There is a constant theme of the world dropping everything else, becoming quiet and still, and going to look at Jesus in the manger.

Jesus’ first action on earth was to call all people (symbolized by the extremes of the shepherds: low on the social scale yet children of the Chosen People, and the magi: well-heeled intellectuals from far-off gentile lands) to come and visit him.

Picture the shepherds coming into the cave with the manger. Do we ever think of their visit to the holy family consisting of erudite speeches or possibly a concert to rival the angels’ singing which they had just heard? No. Bible scholars assure us that the shepherds of those times were rough, uneducated, even uncouth. Still reeling from the amazing vision of angels, “a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favors,” (St. Lk.2:13-14) they hurried to where the baby was. St. Luke tells us that when they got there and explained what they had been told, “everyone who heard it was astonished.” They were only a ragtag group of slightly unsavory bumpkins giving a garbled version of a very unlikely story. But they were invited, and they came. The magi, too, were unexpected guests, arriving with an exotic aura of foreign accents, extravagant gifts, and the mystique of the gentile world. The fact of their trip itself reveals that they must have been well-educated and wealthy (or why would they have been studying the stars so seriously as to make a long and expensive trip based on what the heavens were revealing?) But like the shepherds they came only to see, to give, and to adore: “And going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage.” (St. Mt. 2:11)

Although Mary and Joseph were living more than 100 miles away in Nazareth, when the time came for Jesus to be born, divine providence arranged that they had to travel to Bethlehem, a little town whose name means “House of Bread.” And he was placed in a manger—the trough from which animals eat. (In fact the very word “manger” means “to eat” in French.) And there, at the very start of his earthly life, he presents himself in ways that hint at his plan for his continual real presence on earth through the centuries as the Bread of Life. Small, helpless, vulnerable then as now, our faith marvels at a God who is so great that he can make himself so small.

Christmas is a time to renew our commitment to Eucharistic adoration. When we adore Jesus in the Eucharist we are uniting ourselves with those shepherds and magi, when they, too, bowed low before an immense mystery cloaked in tininess. And just as they were in the presence of the King of Heaven, so are we.

Eucharistic worship is our most complete way to identify ourselves with the Son. We unite ourselves to his perfect offering at the Mass. We can receive him in the most intimate way possible in Holy Communion. And we can also linger in his real, physical presence before the tabernacle.

No other prayer or activity can be compared to the value of participating in Holy Mass, especially with the full participation of receiving Holy Communion. (“Blessed are those who are called to his banquet.”) But from among all the forms of worship that distantly follow the infinitely valuable Mass, Eucharistic adoration is especially beautiful. Like the shepherds, we are invited to “come as we are” into Jesus’ presence, aware of our weaknesses and limitations, with our big worries, our trivial distractions. Like the magi, who despite their comfortable temporal status were deeply aware of the infinite majesty of their host (before whom they “fell down” to adore), we are called to put aside thoughts of earthly success and turn our minds to heavenly glory.

Adoration is a time for simple prayer. It is not so much about “doing,” as “being.” The shepherds came in simplicity, called to the manger for their own consolation and in a mysterious way to bring joy and glory to the God who had come to be with them. The magi are the historical example par excellence of people who see the value of paying a visit. Tradition tells us that their complete round-trip journey lasted two years. They chose to sacrifice all that time away from their own families and homes, with all the expenses and inconveniences involved, to go and be present to the wordless little child in a foreign little town far away. Picture Mary and Joseph themselves, their comportment at that first Christmas. Any new parent will spend time in quiet joy, just drinking in their little miracle—much more so for Jesus’ mother and foster father, who alone knew just how much of a miracle the child in the manger was, and all that his coming meant. The main point of adoration is to just “be” with Our Lord. In the sacred silence of his presence his mercy treats our wounds. His peace flows into our hearts. His wisdom enlightens our minds. O come, this Christmas and every more often, let us adore him.

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