Sometimes my wife says to me, 'I adore you, you know'. I love it; but I usually tick her off. 'Bad theology,' I always say.
If there was a Richter scale of prayer, adoration would be at the top, because adoration is all about the contemplation and worship of God as he is in himself - in his majesty, and his glory, and his vulnerability. It is associated always in our sacred writings with Isaiah's vision of God in the Temple (Isaiah chapter 6); and, of course, that same cry echoes again at the heart of the Eucharist: 'Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of Power and Might'. Adoration - from two Latin words: ad = 'to'; and orare = 'to pray' - expresses a very basic, if not the basic human response to the state of being in the presence of one's Creator, or God. Ever since humankind has been on this planet it would seem that men and women have crumpled up and fallen down on their faces or on their knees before their gods. With arms outstretched before us and with heads bent to earth or flagstone, we have worshipped (that is, 'ascribed worth to') and adored.
Do you remember the bit in The Wind in the Willows when Rat and Mole are in their boat rowing down river? Suddenly, Rat hears this sound, which 'has roused a longing in me that is pain'. At first, Mole hears nothing; and then he also is transfixed and possessed by the sound. It was, you may recall, the sound of the pipes of Pan. And as they travelled towards it, 'the rich meadow grass seemed that morning of a freshness and a greenness unsurpassable. Never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the willow-herb so riotous, the meadow-sweet so fragrant.' They land on the small island in the middle of the river, 'in silence' and come at length on to a piece of level ground. 'This is the place of my song-dream ..', whispers the Rat, as if in a trance. 'Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find him.' Then suddenly the Mole felt a great awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head and rooted his feet to the ground ... it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. And still there was utter silence. And then he raised his humble head and looked. 'Rat,' he whispered. 'Are you afraid?' 'Afraid?' murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. 'Afraid! of HIM? O, never, never! And yet - and yet - O, Mole, I am afraid.' Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.' It is one of the finest descriptions I know of adoration, for that is exactly what they are doing.
And so Christians too, have adored: indeed, we are called to be 'Homo adorans'. We in our time badly need more adoration. The Eucharist is not the place for adoration. The Eucharist is about giving thanks to God the Father for the death and resurrection of his Son. We do not really have a public rite of adoration, except Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction, both of which are unfashionable today. And so adoration has become the subject of private rather than public prayer.
But it should always have a place in our prayers. It is a very basic, and I believe an instinctual, part of our natures and one to which we must give more expression.
Mole and Rat had it right. Adoration is looking and loving.
Taken from Let Us Pray by Bruce W Bridgewood
copyright © 1998 Bruce W Bridgewood & The Parochial Church Council of the Parish of Alexandra Park