The Virtue of Justice, one of the “cardinal,” or hinge virtues in the Christian life, is the constant and firm inclination of the will to give their due to God and neighbor (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1807).
The first person to whom we owe justice is God, and justice toward God is expressed in the virtue of Religion. From the Latin verb re- “ligare”,” to tie or bind, religion is that act by which we bind back - we give ourselves to God. We came from God. We belong to Him. We owe Him back the gift of ourselves.
The highest and first expression of religion is Adoration. In order to give what we justly owe God, we adore Him. We come to God; we lay down our mind, heart, soul, and strength before Him in an act of loving praise.
The First Commandment of the Decalogue tells us: “I am the Lord thy God. You shall have no other gods before me.” God is the only supreme, eternal, almighty being. We owe Him the first place. No person or thing is worthy of the highest tribute. It should not surprise us then that if we do not adore God, there is something amiss. To what or to whom do we give the first and highest place in our life?
In adoration I give justice to God. This is His due. But this right relationship between ourselves and God is also beneficial to us.
Adoration recalibrates our life.
Imagine if someone gave you a compass for finding directions; not a digital compass, but an “old fashioned” compass that has a floating needle in liquid. The needle is magnetically charged to point to north. But what if the round container in which it floats had no markings on its perimeter? There was not an “N” somewhere on its edge that you and I could use to set the direction north. As a result, the other compass points would be more difficult to determine. Or what if the needle had lost its magnetic charge; how could we hope to find true north?
Adoration is that act of praise to God that sets “true north” for my life. It establishes the right and first direction of my heart toward God. If I get this right; if it becomes my one constant reference point, all the other priorities of my life begin to find their proper place and purpose around what is first, namely, God and His love; His love for me; my love for God, and what I owe Him.
When I give God His due, I am more likely to have a balanced sense of my other responsibilities and goals, and a right relationship to the people in my life.
There is something else that happens spiritually, supernaturally, when I adore God. I invite His transforming love into my life. It is as if, in a darkened room, I find and open the window: and the rays of the sun, its light and warmth, stream in and fill the house. They begin to illuminate everything that was once dark. Even when, in my prayer, I do not “feel” or sense God’s action, the radiation of His life and love can start to have its saving effect. Only God’s love – which is unlimited and eternal – is capable of reaching all the other parts of my life. The love of money cannot do that, nor the seeking and attainment of power, nor even merely human love. Giving God His rightful and first place opens a window. Adoration orients my life to God, invites Him to carry out His plan and His will in my life.
Come let us Adore Him to whom, alone, we owe all that we have and all that we are.
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Adoro te devote (Eucharistic Hymn by St Thomas Aquinas) [first and last verses]
Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quae sub his figuris vere latitas;
Tibi se cor meum totum subiicit,
Quia te contemplans, totum deficit.
O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee,
Who truly art within the forms before me;
To Thee my heart I bow with bended knee,
As failing quite in contemplating Thee.
Iesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud, quod tam sitio,
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beatus tuae gloriae. Amen.
Jesu! Whom for the present veil'd I see,
What I so thirst for, O vouchsafe to me:
That I may see Thy countenance unfolding,
And may be blest Thy glory in beholding. Amen.
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Translation of Gerard Manley Hopkins
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.
Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight. Amen.