This guest post is by my friend, Jess Leach, who lives in Hobart, Tasmania. Jess is one of the lovely people who have deepened my appreciation for Eucharistic Adoration. For this, and for her loyal friendship, I am indebted to her.
The Secret Heart of an Adorer
Near the end of her life, Annie S. Hawks recalled how she had written the words to the 1872 hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour.”
“I remember the morning many years ago, when in the midst of the daily cares of my home, I was so filled with a sense of the nearness to my Master that, wondering how one could live without Him either in joy or pain, these words, ‘I need Thee every hour,’ flashed into my mind.”
Annie took her words to her pastor, Dr. Robert Lowry, who was also a writer of hymns, and he composed the accompanying music. Over 240 years later, in 2011, a group of five contemporary Christian musicians wrote a hymn that has strong shades of that orginal song; “Lord, I Need You.” Matt Maher, one of the five, said that, “About halfway through of the process of writing this song, Jesse (one of the musicians) said the song reminded him of the hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour.” We pulled up the lyrics, and started mining from that song a little bit.”
Towards the end of last year, I found that the chorus from the 2011 song was on constant repeat in my head. Like Annie S. Hawks, I knew I couldn’t live without God. On the outside, I had a great job, was a happy and faithful Catholic, an active participant in discipleship activities and someone who seemed to have it reasonably together. But I knew a deep longing, and a truth that haunted and humbled me, while at the same time consoling, comforting and challenging me to respond to its implications. And that truth had been written on sheet paper a few years earlier during a song-writing session in Atlanta, Georgia:
Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart
That I need God - that I am poor, desperate, weary, wounded, tiny, helpless, falling apart without Him - did not only become apparent to me last year. If we spend any time at all with ourselves, regardless of our creed, we must surely stare into some sort of abyss (the fact that very few of us do spend time with ourselves, alone and in silence, is another matter). We have longings that cannot be satisfied and questions that belie the living out of a shallow existence. Even before I encountered God’s love, and even though I didn’t completely understand it, I had sighs within me that were too deep for words.
But here’s the important thing, and it lies in that previous sentence; even before I encountered God’s love. I had always known and believed in a higher power and even in a Christian God (although my understanding of what a Christian God was had been informed firstly by ignorance and secondly by a hot-pot of relativistic, secular sources). But His love? Sure, I thought God loved me - and I thought that I loved Him, just like I loved gelati, long walks and not getting caught in the rain …
How gently I wish I could tell my younger self; if your mind hasn’t been blown, there’s a good chance you haven’t really encountered the love of God. And without meeting that love - that love which is infinite, gratuitous, creative, merciful - we cannot really see ourselves as we are. Yes, we can be faced with a sort of emptiness, of wonder, of searching, with those sighs too deep for words; but what comes back? What is waiting for us on other side of emptiness, of wonder, of the search?
Every time I crawl before Jesus in the Eucharist, in the time of prayer we call “adoration”, I meet the One who waits for me. He waits in the tabernacle, that little red light burning as a reminder of His patient presence, and He waits on the altar, exposed for me to gaze upon. He waits for me to be near Him, to listen to Him, to be still and know that He is God. He waits for me to pour out every last ounce of confusion, tiredness, restlessness … as well as joy, hope, eagerness and even bewilderment.
And He doesn’t just wait for me, He aches for me. I’m not saying that because it almost rhymes, or because it is a beautiful, poetic-sounding spiritual statement. No, He really aches for me; it’s written in His blood. The Body of Christ upon the altar reminds me of how crazy in love Jesus Christ is with me. And it is actually crazy. I’m weak, I’m broken. As often as I step out in virtue or proclamation, I fall in sin. As often as I lift my eyes to Him, I look to myself and subtly close my heart in countless little ways. Does He retreat? Does He hide Himself? No; that little red flame keeps burning.
Jesus Christ waits and aches for each of us in the Eucharist. In adoration it is He who “comes back” to us when we send out those sighs without words. He meets us and our questions, hopes and poverties not with a theological solution, or a 30-day-transform-your-faith-booklet, or any sort of program or initiative or new committee, but with Himself.
He meets our every hunger and need with Himself. “Before God, we’re all beggars.”*
That I am all that I wrote above - poor, desperate, weary, wounded, tiny, helpless - has actually become more clear to me since I encountered God’s love and began to adore Him. Deep down, it doesn’t sadden or worry me. It simply makes me long for Him more, long for He who meets me as I am, so little and so in need of the love of my Lord. And living in this truth I found myself singing this chorus, over and over:
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Those words and the truth of them would literally pull me towards the adoration chapel … and the more He would present Himself upon that altar, as the answer to my every question, hope and poverty, I would be compelled again to fall on my knees, to contemplate the truth of His love and my need for that love. And because the need that I have encountered within myself is infinite, it can only be met by He Who is Infinite.
And that is the secret of an adorer’s heart: Lord, I Need Thee.
Here are some links to articles on Eucharistic Adoration:
Adoration in the Catholic Encyclopedia:
And the song mentioned In Jess’s post:
Matt Maher: Lord I Need You: (This is a really nice version with Matt Maher and Audrey Assad)