ON THE MYSTERY AND WORSHIP OF THE EUCHARIST
Letter of the Supreme Pontiff Pope John
To All the Bishops of the Church
February 24, 1980
My venerable and dear brothers,
1. Again this year, for Holy Thursday, I am writing a letter to all of
you. This letter has an immediate connection with the one which you received
last year on the same occasion, together with the letter to the priests.
I wish in the first place to thank you cordially for having accepted my previous
letters with that spirit of unity which the Lord established between us,
and also for having transmitted to your priests the thoughts that I desired
to express at the beginning of my pontificate.
During the Eucharistic Liturgy of Holy Thursday, you renewed, together
with your priests, the promises and commitments undertaken at the moment
of ordination. Many of you, venerable and dear brothers, told me about it
later, also adding words of personal thanks, and indeed often sending those
expressed by your priests. Furthermore, many priests expressed their joy,
both because of the profound and solemn character of Holy Thursday as the
annual "feast of priests" and also because of the importance of the subjects
dealt with in the letter addressed to them.
Those replies form a rich collection which once more indicates how dear
to the vast majority of priests of the Catholic Church is the path of the
priestly life, the path along which this Church has been journeying for centuries:
how much they love and esteem it, and how much they desire to follow it
for the future.
At this point I must add that only a certain number of matters were dealt
with in the letter to priests, as was in fact emphasized at the beginning
of the document. Furthermore, the main stress was laid upon the pastoral
character of the priestly ministry; but this certainly does not mean that
those groups of priests who are not engaged in direct pastoral activity were
not also taken into consideration. In this regard I would refer once more
to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, and also to the declarations
of the 1971 Synod of Bishops.
The pastoral character of the priestly ministry does not cease to mark
the life of every priest, even if the daily tasks that he carries out are
not explicitly directed to the pastoral administration of the sacraments.
In this sense, the letter written to the priests on Holy Thursday was addressed
to them all, without any exception, even though, as I said above, it did not
deal with all the aspects of the life and activity of priests. I think this
clarification is useful and opportune at the beginning of the present letter:
I. THE EUCHARISTIC MYSTERY IN THE LIFE OF
THE CHURCH AND OF THE PRIEST
Eucharist and Priesthood
2. The present letter that I am addressing to you, my venerable and dear
brothers in the episcopate--and which is, as I have said, in a certain way
a continuation of the previous one--is also closely linked with the mystery
of Holy Thursday, and is related to the priesthood. In fact I intend to devote
it to the Eucharist, and in particular to certain aspects of the Eucharistic
Mystery and its impact on the lives of those who are the ministers of It:
and so those to whom this letter is directly addressed are you, the bishops
of the Church; together with you, all the priests; and, in their own rank,
the deacons too.
In reality, the ministerial and hierarchical priesthood, the priesthood
of the bishops and the priests, and, at their side, the ministry of the deacons--ministries
which normally begin with the proclamation of the Gospel--are in the closest
relationship with the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the principal and central
raison d'etre of the sacrament of the priesthood, which effectively came
into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist, and together
with it. Not without reason the words "Do this in memory of me" are said
immediately after the words of eucharistic consecration, and we repeat them
every time we celebrate the holy Sacrifice.
Through our ordination--the celebration of which is linked to the holy
Mass from the very first liturgical evidence--we are united in a singular
and exceptional way to the Eucharist. In a certain way we derive from it
and exist for it. We are also, and in a special way, responsible for it--each
priest in his own community and each bishop by virtue of the care of all the
communities entrusted to him, on the basis of the sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum
that St. Paul speaks of. Thus we bishops and priests are entrusted with
the great "mystery of Faith," and while it is also given to the whole People
of God, to all believers in Christ, yet to us has been entrusted the Eucharist
also "for" others, who expect from us a particular witness of veneration and
love towards this sacrament, so that they too may be able to be built up
and vivified "to offer spiritual sacrifices."
In this way our eucharistic worship, both in the celebration of Mass and
in our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, is like a life-giving current that
links our ministerial or hierarchical priesthood to the common priesthood
of the faithful, and presents it in its vertical dimension and with its central
value. The priest fulfills his principal mission and its manifested in all
his fullness when he celebrates the Eucharist, and this manifestation
is more complete when he himself allows the depth of that mystery to become
visible, so that it alone shines forth in people's hearts and minds, through
this ministry. This is the supreme exercise of the "kingly priesthood," "the
source and summit of all Christian life."
Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery
3. This worship is directed towards God the Father through Jesus Christ
in the Holy Spirit. In the first place towards the Father, who, as St. John's
Gospel says, "loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that
everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life."
It is also directed, in the Holy Spirit, to the incarnate Son, in the economy
of salvation, especially at that moment of supreme dedication and total abandonment
of Himself to which the words uttered in the Upper Room refer: "This is
my body given up for you.... This is the cup of my blood shed for you...."
The liturgical acclamation: "We proclaim your death, Lord Jesus" takes us
back precisely to that moment; and with the proclamation of His resurrection
we embrace in the same act of veneration Christ risen and glorified "at
the right hand of the Father," as also the expectation of His "coming in
glory." Yet it is the voluntary emptying of Himself, accepted by the Father
and glorified with the resurrection, which, sacramentally celebrated together
with the resurrection, brings us to adore the Redeemer who "became obedient
unto death, even death on a cross."
And this adoration of ours contains yet another special characteristic.
It is compenetrated by the greatness of that human death, in which the world,
that is to say each one of us, has been loved "to the end." Thus it is
also a response that tries to repay that love immolated even to the death
on the cross: it is our "Eucharist," that is to say our giving Him thanks,
our praise of Him for having redeemed us by His death and made us sharers
in immortal life through His resurrection.
This worship, given therefore to the Trinity of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit, above all accompanies and permeates the celebration
of the Eucharistic Liturgy. But it must fill our churches also outside the
timetable of Masses. Indeed, since the Eucharistic Mystery was instituted
out of love, and makes Christ sacramentally present, it is worthy of thanksgiving
and worship. And this worship must be prominent in all our encounters with
the Blessed Sacrament, both when we visit our churches and when the sacred
species are taken to the sick and administered to them.
Adoration of Christ in this sacrament of love must also find expression
in various forms of eucharistic devotion: personal prayer before the Blessed
Sacrament, Hours of Adoration, periods of exposition-- short, prolonged and
annual (Forty Hours)--eucharistic benediction, eucharistic processions, eucharistic
congresses. A particular mention should be made at this point of the
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ as an act of public worship rendered
to Christ present in the Eucharist, a feast instituted by my predecessor
Urban IV in memory of the institution of this great Mystery. All this
therefore corresponds to the general principles and particular norms already
long in existence but newly formulated during or after the Second Vatican
The encouragement and the deepening of eucharistic worship are proofs of
that authentic renewal which the council set itself as an aim and of which
they are the central point. And this, venerable and dear brothers, deserves
separate reflection. The Church and the world have a great need of eucharistic
worship. Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous
with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and in contemplation that
is full of faith and ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes
of the world. May our adoration never cease.
Eucharist and Church
4. Thanks to the Council we have realized with renewed force the following
truth: Just as the Church "makes the Eucharist" so "the Eucharist builds
up" the Church; and this truth is closely bound up with the mystery of
Holy Thursday. The Church was founded, as the new community of the People
of God, in the apostolic community of those Twelve who, at the Last Supper,
became partakers of the body and blood of the Lord under the species of bread
and wine. Christ had said to them: "Take and eat.... Take and drink." And
carrying out this command of His, they entered for the first time into sacramental
communion with the Son of God, a communion that is a pledge of eternal life.
From that moment until the end of time, the Church is being built up through
that same communion with the Son of God, a communion which is a pledge of
the eternal Passover.
Dear and venerable brothers in the episcopate, as teachers and custodians
of the salvific truth of the Eucharist, we must always and everywhere preserve
this meaning and this dimension of the sacramental encounter and intimacy
with Christ. It is precisely these elements which constitute the very substance
of eucharistic worship. The meaning of the truth expounded above in no way
diminishes--in fact, it facilitates--the eucharistic character of spiritual
drawing together and union between the people who share in the sacrifice,
which then in Communion becomes for them the banquet. This drawing together
and this union, the prototype of which is the union of the Apostles about
Christ at the Last Supper, express the Church and bring her into being.
But the Church is not brought into being only through the union of people,
through the experience of brotherhood to which the Eucharistic Banquet gives
rise. The Church is brought into being when, in that fraternal union and
communion, we celebrate the sacrifice of the cross of Christ, when we proclaim
"the Lord's death until he comes," and later, when, being deeply compenetrated
with the mystery of our salvation, we approach as a community the table of
the Lord, in order to be nourished there, in a sacramental manner, by the
fruits of the holy Sacrifice of propitiation. Therefore in eucharistic Communion
we receive Christ, Christ Himself; and our union with Him, which is a gift
and grace for each individual, brings it about that in Him we are also associated
in the unity of His body which is the Church.
Only in this way, through that faith and that disposition of mind, is there
brought about that building up of the Church, which in the Eucharist truly
finds its "source and summit," according to the well-known expression of
the Second Vatican Council. This truth, which as a result of the same
Council has received a new and vigorous emphasis, must be a frequent theme
of our reflection and teaching. Let all pastoral activity be nourished by
it, and may it also be food for ourselves and for all the priests who collaborate
with us, and likewise for the whole of the communities entrusted to us. In
this practice there should thus be revealed, almost at every step, that close
relationship between the Church's spiritual and apostolic vitality and the
Eucharist, understood in its profound significance and from all points of
Eucharist and Charity
5. Before proceeding to more detailed observations on the subject of the
celebration of the holy Sacrifice, I wish briefly to reaffirm the fact that
eucharistic worship constitutes the soul of all Christian life. In fact,
Christian life is expressed in the fulfilling of the greatest commandment,
that is to say, in the love of God and neighbor, and this love finds its source
in the Blessed Sacrament, which is commonly called the sacrament of love.
The Eucharist signifies this charity, and therefore recalls it, makes it
present and at the same time brings it about. Every time that we consciously
share in it, there opens in our souls a real dimension of that unfathomable
love that includes everything that God has done and continues to do for us
human beings, as Christ says: "My Father goes on working, and so do I."
Together with this unfathomable and free gift, which is charity revealed in
its fullest degree in the saving sacrifice of the Son of God, the sacrifice
of which the Eucharist is the indelible sign, there also springs up within
us a lively response of love. We not only know love; we ourselves begin to
love. We enter, so to speak, upon the path of love and along this path make
progress. Thanks to the Eucharist, the love that springs up within us from
the Eucharist develops in us, becomes deeper and grows stronger.
Eucharistic worship is therefore precisely the expression of that love
which is the authentic and deepest characteristic of the Christian vocation.
This worship springs from the love and serves the love to which we are all
called in Jesus Christ. A living fruit of this worship is the perfecting
of the image of God that we bear within us, an image that corresponds to
the one that Christ has revealed in us. As we thus become adorers of the
Father "in spirit and truth," we mature in an ever fuller union with
Christ, we are ever more united to Him, and--if one may use the expression--we
are ever more in harmony with Him.
The doctrine of the Eucharist, sign of unity and bond of charity, taught
by St. Paul, has been in subsequent times deepened by the writings of
very many saints who are living examples for us of Eucharistic worship. We
must always have this reality before our eyes, and at the same time we must
continually try to bring it about that our own generation too may add new
examples to those marvelous examples of the past, new examples no less living
and eloquent, that will reflect the age to which we belong.
Eucharist and Neighbor
6. The authentic sense of the Eucharist becomes of itself the school of
active love for neighbor. We know that this is the true and full order of
love that the Lord has taught us: "By this love you have for one another,
everyone will know that you are my disciples." The Eucharist educates
us to this love in a deeper way; it shows us, in fact, what value each person,
our brother or sister, has in God's eyes, if Christ offers Himself equally
to each one, under the species of bread and wine. If our Eucharistic worship
is authentic, it must make us grow in awareness of the dignity of each person.
The awareness of that dignity becomes the deepest motive of our relationship
with our neighbor.
We must also become particularly sensitive to all human suffering and misery,
to all injustice and wrong, and seek the way to redress them effectively.
Let us learn to discover with respect the truth about the inner self that
becomes the dwelling place of God present in the Eucharist. Christ comes
into the hearts of our brothers and sisters and visits their consciences.
How the image of each and every one changes, when we become aware of this
reality, when we make it the subject of our reflections! The sense of the
Eucharistic Mystery leads us to a love for our neighbor, to a love for every
Eucharist and Life
7. Since therefore the Eucharist is the source of charity, it has always
been at the center of the life of Christ's disciples. It has the appearance
of bread and wine, that is to say of food and drink; it is therefore as familiar
to people, as closely linked to their life, as food and drink. The veneration
of God, who is love, springs, in eucharistic worship, from that kind of
intimacy in which He Himself, by analogy with food and drink, fills our
spiritual being, ensuring its life, as food and drink do. This "eucharistic"
veneration of God therefore strictly corresponds to His saving plan. He Himself,
the Father, wants the "true worshippers" to worship Him precisely in
this way, and it is Christ who expresses this desire, both with His words
and likewise with this sacrament in which He makes possible worship of the
Father in the way most in conformity with the Father's will.
From this concept of eucharistic worship there then stems the whole sacramental
style of the Christian's life. In fact, leading a life based on the sacraments
and animated by the common priesthood means in the first place that Christians
desire God to act in them in order to enable them to attain, in the Spirit,
"the fullness of Christ himself." God, on His part, does not touch them
only through events and by this inner grace; He also acts in them with greater
certainty and power through the sacraments. The sacraments give the lives
of Christians a sacramental style.
Now, of all the sacraments it is the Holy Eucharist that brings to fullness
their initiation as Christians and confers upon the exercise of the common
priesthood that sacramental and ecclesial form that links it-- as we mentioned
before--to the exercise of the ministerial priesthood. In this way eucharistic
worship is the center and goal of all sacramental life. In the depths
of eucharistic worship we find a continual echo of the sacraments of Christian
initiation: Baptism and Confirmation. Where better is there expressed the
truth that we are not only "called God's children" but "that is what we are"
by virtue of the sacrament of Baptism, if not precisely in the fact that
in the Eucharist we become partakers of the body and blood of God's only
Son? And what predisposes us more to be "true witnesses of Christ" before
the world--as we are enabled to be by the sacrament of Confirmation--than
Eucharistic Communion, in which Christ bears witness to us, and we to Him?
It is impossible to analyze here in greater detail the links between the
Eucharist and the other sacraments, in particular with the sacrament of family
life and the sacrament of the sick. In the encyclical Redemptor Hominis
I have already drawn attention to the close link between the sacrament of
Penance and the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is not only that Penance leads
to the Eucharist, but that the Eucharist also leads to Penance. For when we
realize who it is that we receive in Eucharistic Communion, there springs
up in us almost spontaneously a sense of unworthiness, together with sorrow
for our sins and an interior need for purification.
But we must always take care that this great meeting with Christ in the
Eucharist does not become a mere habit, and that we do not receive Him unworthily,
that is to say, in a state of mortal sin. The practice of the virtue of penance
and the sacrament of Penance are essential for sustaining in us and continually
deepening that spirit of veneration which man owes to God Himself and to
His love so marvelously revealed. The purpose of these words is to put forward
some general reflections on worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, and they
could be developed at greater length and more fully. In particular, it would
be possible to link what has been said about the effects of the Eucharist
on love for others with what we have just noted about commitments undertaken
towards humanity and the Church in Eucharistic Communion, and then outline
the picture of that "new earth" that springs from the Eucharist through
every "new self." In this sacrament of bread and wine, of food and drink,
everything that is human really undergoes a singular transformation and elevation.
Eucharistic worship is not so much worship of the inaccessible transcendence
as worship of the divine condescension, and it is also the merciful and
redeeming transformation of the world in the human heart.
Recalling all this only very briefly, I wish, notwithstanding this brevity,
to create a wider context for the questions that I shall subsequently have
to deal with: These questions are closely linked with the celebration of
the holy Sacrifice. In fact, in that celebration there is expressed in a more
direct way the worship of the Eucharist. This worship comes from the heart,
as a most precious homage inspired by the faith, hope and charity which were
infused into us at Baptism. And it is precisely about this that I wish to
write to you in this letter, venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate,
and with you to the priests and deacons. It will be followed by detailed
indications from the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship.
II. THE SACRED CHARACTER OF THE EUCHARIST
8. Beginning with the Upper Room and Holy Thursday, the celebration of
the Eucharist has a long history, a history as long as that of the Church.
In the course of this history the secondary elements have undergone certain
changes, but there has been no change in the essence of the "Mysterium" instituted
by the Redeemer of the world at the Last Supper. The Second Vatican Council
too brought alterations, as a result of which the present liturgy of the
Mass is different in some ways from the one known before the Council. We do
not intend to speak of these differences: It is better that we should now
concentrate on what is essential and immutable in the Eucharistic Liturgy.
There is a close link between this element of the Eucharist and its sacredness,
that is to say, its being a holy and sacred action. Holy and sacred, because
in it are the continual presence and action of Christ, "the Holy One" of
God, "anointed with the Holy Spirit," "consecrated by the Father"
to lay down His life of His own accord and to take it up again. and the
High Priest of the New Covenant. For it is He who, represented by the
celebrant, makes His entrance into the sanctuary and proclaims His Gospel.
It is He who is "the offerer and the offered, the consecrator and the consecrated."
The Eucharist is a holy and sacred action, because it constitutes the sacred
species, the Sancta sanctis, that is to say, the "holy things (Christ, the
Holy One) given to the Holy," as all the Eastern liturgies sing at the moment
when the eucharistic Bread is raised in order to invite the faithful to the
The sacredness of the Mass, therefore, is not a "sacralization," that is
to say, something that man adds to Christ's action in the Upper Room, for
the Holy Thursday supper was a sacred rite, a primary and constitutive liturgy,
through which Christ, by pledging to give His life for us, Himself celebrated
sacramentally the mystery of His passion and resurrection, the heart of every
Mass. Our Masses, being derived from this liturgy, possess of themselves
a complete liturgical form, which, in spite of its variations in line with
the families of rites, remains substantially the same. The sacred character
of the Mass is a sacredness instituted by Christ. The words and actions of
every priest, answered by the conscious active participation of the whole
eucharistic assembly, echo the words and actions of Holy Thursday.
The priest offers the holy Sacrifice in persona Christi; this means more
than offering "in the name of" or "in place of" Christ. In persona means in
specific sacramental identification with "the eternal High Priest" who
is the author and principal subject of this sacrifice of His, a sacrifice
in which, in truth, nobody can take His place. Only He-- only Christ--was
able and is always able to be the true and effective "expiation for our sins
and ... for the sins of the whole world." Only His sacrifice--and no one
else's--was able and is able to have a "propitiary power" before God, the
Trinity, and the transcendent holiness. Awareness of this reality throws a
certain light on the character and significance of the priest celebrant who,
by confecting the holy Sacrifice and acting "in persona Christi," is sacramentally
(and ineffably) brought into that most profound sacredness, and made part
of it, spiritually linking with it in turn all those participating in the
This sacred rite, which is actuated in different liturgical forms, may
lack some secondary elements, but it can in no way lack its essential sacred
character and sacramentality, since these are willed by Christ and transmitted
and regulated by the Church. Neither can this sacred rite be utilized for
other ends. If separated from its distinctive sacrificial and sacramental
nature, the Eucharistic Mystery simply ceases to be. It admits of no "profane"
imitation, an imitation that would very easily (indeed regularly) become a
profanation. This must always be remembered, perhaps above all in our time,
when we see a tendency to do away with the distinction between the "sacred"
and "profane," given the widespread tendency, at least in some places, to
In view of this fact, the Church has a special duty to safeguard and strengthen
the sacredness of the Eucharist. In our pluralistic and often deliberately
secularized society, the living faith of the Christian community--a faith
always aware of its rights vis-a-vis those who do not share that faith--ensures
respect for this sacredness. The duty to respect each person's faith is the
complement of the natural and civil right to freedom of conscience and of
The sacred character of the Eucharist has found and continues to find expression
in the terminology of theology and the liturgy. This sense of the objective
sacred character of the Eucharistic Mystery is so much part of the faith
of the People of God that their faith is enriched and strengthened by it.
Therefore the ministers of the Eucharist must, especially today, be illumined
by the fullness of this living faith, and in its light they must understand
and perform all that is part, by Christ's will and the will of His Church,
of their priestly ministry.
9. The Eucharist is above all else a sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of
the Redemption and also the sacrifice of the New Covenant, as we believe
and as the Eastern Churches clearly profess: "Today's sacrifice," the Greek
Church stated centuries ago, "is like that offered once by the Only-begotten
Incarnate Word; it is offered by Him (now as then), since it is one and the
same sacrifice." Accordingly, precisely by making this single sacrifice
of our salvation present, man and the world are restored to God through the
paschal newness of Redemption. This restoration cannot cease to be: it is
the foundation of the "new and eternal covenant" of God with man and of man
with God. If it were missing, one would have to question both the excellence
of the sacrifice of the Redemption, which in fact was perfect and definitive,
and also the sacrificial value of the Mass. In fact, the Eucharist, being
a true sacrifice, brings about this restoration to God.
Consequently, the celebrant, as minister of this sacrifice, is the authentic
priest, performing--in virtue of the specific power of sacred ordination--a
true sacrificial act that brings creation back to God. Although all those
who participate in the Eucharist do not confect the sacrifice as He does,
they offer with Him, by virtue of the common priesthood, their own spiritual
sacrifices represented by the bread and wine from the moment of their presentation
at the altar. For this liturgical action, which takes a solemn form in almost
all liturgies, has a "spiritual value and meaning." The bread and wine
become in a sense a symbol of all that the eucharistic assembly brings, on
its own part, as an offering to God and offers spiritually.
It is important that this first moment of the Liturgy of the Eucharist
in the strict sense should find expression in the attitude of the participants.
There is a link between this and the offertory "procession" provided for
in the recent liturgical reform and accompanied, in keeping with ancient
tradition, by a psalm or son. A certain length of time must be allowed, so
that all can become aware of this act, which is given expression at the same
time by the words of the celebrant.
Awareness of the act of presenting the offerings should be maintained throughout
the Mass. Indeed, it should be brought to fullness at the moment of the consecration
and of the anamnesis offering, as is demanded by the fundamental value of
the moment of the sacrifice. This is shown by the words of the Eucharistic
Prayer said aloud by the priest. It seems worthwhile repeating here some
expressions in the third Eucharistic Prayer that show in particular the sacrificial
character of the Eucharist and link the offering of our persons with Christ's
offering: "Look with favor on your Church's offering, and see the Victim
whose death has reconciled us to yourself. Grant that we, who are nourished
by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one
body, one spirit in Christ. May he make us an everlasting gift to you."
This sacrificial value is expressed earlier in every celebration by the
words with which the priest concludes the presentation of the gifts, asking
the faithful to pray "that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God,
the almighty Father." These words are binding, since they express the character
of the entire Eucharistic Liturgy and the fullness of its divine and ecclesial
All who participate with faith in the Eucharist become aware that it is
a "sacrifice," that is to say, a "consecrated Offering." For the bread and
wine presented at the altar and accompanied by the devotion and the spiritual
sacrifices of the participants are finally consecrated, so as to become truly,
really and substantially Christ's own body that is given up and His blood
that is shed. Thus, by virtue of the consecration, the species of bread and
wine re-present in a sacramental, unbloody manner the bloody propitiatory
sacrifice offered by Him on the cross to His Father for the salvation of the
world. Indeed, He alone, giving Himself as a propitiatory Victim in an act
of supreme surrender and immolation, has reconciled humanity with the Father,
solely through His sacrifice, "having cancelled the bond which stood against
To this sacrifice, which is renewed in a sacramental form on the altar,
the offerings of bread and wine, united with the devotion of the faithful,
nevertheless bring their unique contribution, since by means of the consecration
by the priest they become sacred species. This is made clear by the way in
which the priest acts during the Eucharistic Prayer, especially at the consecration,
and when the celebration of the holy Sacrifice and participation in it are
accompanied by awareness that "the Teacher is here and is calling for you."
This call of the Lord to us through His Sacrifice opens our hearts, so that,
purified in the mystery of our Redemption, they may be united to Him in
Eucharistic Communion, which confers upon participation at Mass a value
that is mature, complete and binding on human life: "The Church's intention
is that the faithful not only offer the spotless victim but also learn to
offer themselves and daily to be drawn into ever more perfect union, through
Christ the Mediator, with the Father and with each other, so that at last
God may be all in all."
It is therefore very opportune and necessary to continue to actuate a new
and intense education, in order to discover all the richness contained in
the new liturgy. Indeed, the liturgical renewal that has taken place since
the Second Vatican Council has given, so to speak, greater visibility to
the Eucharistic Sacrifice. One factor contributing to this is that the words
of the Eucharistic Prayer are said aloud by the celebrant, particularly the
words of consecration, with the acclamation of the assembly immediately after
All this should fill us with joy, but we should also remember that these
changes demand new spiritual awareness and maturity, both on the part of the
celebrant--especially now that he celebrates "facing the people"--and by
the faithful. Eucharistic worship matures and grows when the words of the
Eucharistic Prayer, especially the words of consecration, are spoken with
great humility and simplicity, in a worthy and fitting way, which is understandable
and in keeping with their holiness; when this essential act of the Eucharistic
Liturgy is performed unhurriedly; and when it brings about in us such recollection
and devotion that the participants become aware of the greatness of the mystery
being accomplished and show it by their attitude.
III. THE TWO TABLES OF THE LORD AND THE COMMON POSSESSION OF THE CHURCH
The Table of the Word of God
10. We are well aware that from the earliest times the celebration of
the Eucharist has been linked not only with prayer but also with the reading
of Sacred Scripture and with singing by the whole assembly. As a result, it
has long been possible to apply to the Mass the comparison, made by the Fathers,
with the two tables, at which the Church prepares for her children the word
of God and the Eucharist, that is, the bread of the Lord. We must therefore
go back to the first part of the sacred mystery, the part that at present
is most often called the Liturgy of the Word, and devote some attention to
The reading of the passages of Sacred Scripture chosen for each day has
been subjected by the Council to new criteria and requirements As a result
of these norms of the Council a new collection of readings has been made,
in which there has been applied to some extent the principle of continuity
of texts and the principle of making all the sacred books accessible. The
insertion of the Psalms with responses into the liturgy makes the participants
familiar with the great wealth of Old Testament prayer and poetry. The fact
that these texts are read and sung in the vernacular enables everyone to
participate with fuller understanding.
Nevertheless, there are also those people who, having been educated on
the basis of the old liturgy in Latin, experience the lack of this "one language,"
which in all the world was an expression of the unity of the Church and
through its dignified character elicited a profound sense of the Eucharistic
Mystery. It is therefore necessary to show not only understanding but also
full respect towards these sentiments and desires. As far as possible these
sentiments and desire are to be accommodated, as is moreover provided for
in the new dispositions. The Roman Church has special obligations towards
Latin, the splendid language of ancient Rome, and she must manifest them
whenever the occasion presents itself.
The possibilities that the post-conciliar renewal has introduced in this
respect are indeed often utilized so as to make us witnesses of and sharers
in the authentic celebration of the Word of God. There is also an increase
in the number of people taking an active part in this celebration. Groups
of readers and cantors, and still more often choirs of men or women, are being
set up and are devoting themselves with great enthusiasm to this aspect. The
Word of God, Sacred Scripture, is beginning to take on new life in many Christian
communities. The faithful gathered for the liturgy prepare with song for
listening to the Gospel, which is proclaimed with the devotion and love due
All this is noted with great esteem and gratitude, but it must not be forgotten
that complete renewal makes yet other demands. These demands consist in a
new sense of responsibility towards the Word of God transmitted through the
liturgy in various languages, something that is certainly in keeping with
the universality of the Gospel and its purposes. The same sense of responsibility
also involves the performance of the corresponding liturgical actions (reading
or singing), which must accord with the principles of art. To preserve these
actions from all artificiality, they should express such capacity, simplicity
and dignity as to highlight the special character of the sacred text, even
by the very manner of reading or singing.
Accordingly, these demands, which spring from a new responsibility for
the Word of God in the liturgy, go yet deeper and concern the inner
attitude with which the ministers of the Word perform their function in
the liturgical assembly. This responsibility also concerns the choice
of texts. The choice has already been made by the competent ecclesiastical
authority, which has also made provision for the cases in which readings
more suited to a particular situation may be chosen. Furthermore, it
must always be remembered that only the Word of God can be used for Mass
readings. The reading of Scripture cannot be replaced by the reading of
other texts, however much they may be endowed with undoubted religious and
moral values. On the other hand, such texts can be used very profitably
in the homily. Indeed the homily is supremely suitable for the use of such
texts, provided that their content corresponds to the required conditions,
since it is one of the tasks that belong to the nature of the homily to
show the points of convergence between revealed divine wisdom and noble
human thought seeking the truth by various paths.
The Table of the Bread of the Lord
11. The other table of the Eucharistic Mystery, that of the Bread of the
Lord, also requires reflection from the viewpoint of the present-day liturgical
renewal. This is a question of the greatest importance, since it concerns
a special act of living faith, and indeed, as has been attested since the
earliest centuries, it is a manifestation of worship of Christ, who in
Eucharistic Communion entrusts Himself to each one of us, to our hearts,
our consciences, our lips and our mouths, in the form of food. Therefore there
is special need, with regard to this question, for the watchfulness spoken
of by the Gospel, on the part of the pastors who have charge of eucharistic
worship and on the part of the People of God, whose "sense of the faith"
must be very alert and acute particularly in this area.
I therefore wish to entrust this question to the heart of each one of you,
venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate. You must above all make it
part of your care for all the churches entrusted to you. I ask this of you
in the name of the unity that we have received from the Apostles as our heritage,
collegial unity. This unity came to birth, in a sense, at the table of the
Bread of the Lord on Holy Thursday. With the help of your brothers in the
priesthood, do all you can to safeguard the sacred dignity of the eucharistic
ministry and that deep spirit of Eucharistic Communion which belongs in
a special way to the Church as the People of God, and which is also a particular
heritage transmitted to us from the Apostles, by various liturgical traditions,
and by unnumbered generations of the faithful, who were often heroic witnesses
to Christ, educated in "the school of the cross" (Redemption) and of the
It must be remembered that the Eucharist as the table of the Bread of the
Lord is a continuous invitation. This is shown in the liturgy when the celebrant
says: "This is the Lamb of God. Happy are those who are called to his supper";
it is also shown by the familiar Gospel parable about the guests invited
to the marriage banquet. Let us remember that in this parable there are
many who excuse themselves from accepting the invitation for various reasons.
Moreover our Catholic communities certainly do not lack people who could
participate in Eucharistic Communion and do not, even though they have no
serious sin on their conscience as an obstacle. To tell the truth, this attitude,
which in some people is linked with an exaggerated severity, has changed in
the present century, though it is still to be found here and there. In fact
what one finds most often is not so much a feeling of unworthiness as a certain
lack of interior willingness, if one may use this expression, a lack of Eucharistic
"hunger" and "thirst," which is also a sign of lack of adequate sensitivity
towards the great sacrament of love and a lack of understanding of its nature.
However, we also find in recent years another phenomenon. Sometimes, indeed
quite frequently, everybody participating in the eucharistic assembly goes
to communion; and on some such occasions, as experienced pastors confirm,
there has not been due care to approach the sacrament of Penance so as to
purify one's conscience. This can of course mean that those approaching the
Lord's table find nothing on their conscience, according to the objective
law of God, to keep them from this sublime and joyful act of being sacramentally
united with Christ. But there can also be, at least at times, another idea
behind this: the idea of the Mass as only a banquet in which one shares
by receiving the body of Christ in order to manifest, above all else, fraternal
communion. It is not hard to add to these reasons a certain human respect
and mere "conformity."
This phenomenon demands from us watchful attention and a theological and
pastoral analysis guided by a sense of great responsibility. We cannot allow
the life of our communities to lose the good quality of sensitiveness of
Christian conscience, guided solely by respect for Christ, who, when He is
received in the Eucharist, should find in the heart of each of us a worthy
abode. This question is closely linked not only with the practice of the sacrament
of Penance but also with a correct sense of responsibility for the whole
deposit of moral teaching and for the precise distinction between good and
evil, a distinction which then becomes for each person sharing in the Eucharist
the basis for a correct judgment of self to be made in the depths of the
personal conscience. St. Paul's words, "Let a man examine himself," are
well known; this judgment is an indispensable condition for a personal decision
whether to approach Eucharistic Communion or to abstain.
Celebration of the Eucharist places before us many other requirements
regarding the ministry of the eucharistic table. Some of these requirements
concern only priests and deacons, others concern all who participate in
the Eucharistic Liturgy. Priests and deacons must remember that the service
of the table of the Bread of the Lord imposes on them special obligations
which refer in the first place to Christ Himself present in the Eucharist
and secondly to all who actually participate in the Eucharist or who might
do so. With regard to the first, perhaps it will not be superfluous to recall
the words of the Pontificale which on the day of ordination the bishop addresses
to the new priest as he hands to him on the paten and in the chalice the
bread and wine offered by the faithful and prepared by the deacon: "Accipe
oblationem plebis sanctae Deo offerendam. Agnosce quod agis, imitare quod
tractabis, et vitam tuam mysterio dominicae crucis conforma." This last
admonition made to him by the bishop should remain as one of the most precious
norms of his eucharistic ministry.
It is from this admonition that the priest's attitude in handling the bread
and wine which have become the body and blood of the Redeemer should draw
its inspiration. Thus it is necessary for all of us who are ministers of
the Eucharist to examine carefully our actions at the altar, in particular
the way in which we handle that food and drink which are the body and blood
of the Lord our God in our hands: the way in which we distribute Holy Communion;
the way in which we perform the purification.
All these actions have a meaning of their own. Naturally, scrupulosity
must be avoided, but God preserve us from behaving in a way that lacks respect,
from undue hurry, from an impatience that causes scandal. Over and above
our commitment to the evangelical mission, our greatest commitment consists
in exercising this mysterious power over the body of the Redeemer, and all
that is within us should be decisively ordered to this. We should also always
remember that to this ministerial power we have been sacramentally consecrated,
that we have been chosen from among men "for the good of men." We especially,
the priests of the Latin Church, whose ordination rite added in the course
of the centuries the custom of anointing the priest's hands, should think
In some countries the practice of receiving Communion in the hand has been
introduced. This practice has been requested by individual episcopal conferences
and has received approval from the Apostolic See. However, cases of a deplorable
lack of respect towards the eucharistic species have been reported, cases
which are imputable not only to the individuals guilty of such behavior but
also to the pastors of the church who have not been vigilant enough regarding
the attitude of the faithful towards the Eucharist. It also happens, on
occasion, that the free choice of those who prefer to continue the practice
of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue is not taken into account in those
places where the distribution of communion in the hand has been authorized.
It is therefore difficult in the context of this present letter not to mention
the sad phenomena previously referred to. This is in no way meant to refer
to those who, receiving the Lord Jesus in the hand, do so with profound reference
and devotion, in those countries where this practice has been authorized.
But one must not forget the primary office of priests, who have been consecrated
by their ordination to represent Christ the Priest: for this reason their
hands, like their words and their will, have become the direct instruments
of Christ. Through this fact, that is, as ministers of the Holy Eucharist,
they have a primary responsibility for the sacred species, because it is
a total responsibility: they offer the bread and wine, they consecrate it,
and then distribute the sacred species to the participants in the assembly
who wish to receive them. Deacons can only bring to the altar the offerings
of the faithful and, once they have been consecrated by the priest, distribute
them. How eloquent therefore, even if not of ancient custom, is the rite
of the anointing of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely
for these hands a special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary!
To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands
is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation
in the ministry of the Eucharist. It is obvious that the Church can grant
this faculty to those who are neither priests nor deacons, as is the case
with acolytes in the exercise of their ministry, especially if they are destined
for future ordination, or with other lay people who are chosen for this to
meet a just need, but always after an adequate preparation.
A Common Possession of the Church
12. We cannot, even for a moment, forget that the Eucharist is a special
possession belonging to the whole Church. It is the greatest gift in the
order of grace and of sacrament that the divine Spouse has offered and unceasingly
offers to His spouse. And precisely because it is such a gift, all of us
should in a spirit of profound faith let ourselves be guided by a sense of
truly Christian responsibility. A gift obliges us ever more profoundly because
it speaks to us not so much with the force of a strict right as with the force
of personal confidence, and thus--without legal obligations--it calls for
trust and gratitude. The Eucharist is just such a gift and such a possession.
We should remain faithful in every detail to what it expresses in itself
and to what it asks of us, namely, thanksgiving.
The Eucharist is a common possession of the whole Church as the sacrament
of her unity. And thus the Church has the strict duty to specify everything
which concerns participation in it and its celebration. We should therefore
act according to the principles laid down by the last Council, which, in
the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, defined the authorizations and obligations
of individual bishops in their dioceses and of the episcopal conferences,
given the fact that both act in collegial unity with the Apostolic See.
Furthermore, we should follow the directives issued by the various departments
of the Holy See in this field: be it in liturgical matters, in the rules
established by the liturgical books in what concerns the Eucharistic Mystery,
and in the Instructions devoted to this mystery, be it with regard to communicatio
in sacris, in the norms of the Directorium de re oecumenica and in the
Instructio de peculiaribus casibus admittendi alios christianos ad communionem
eucharisticam in Ecclesia catolica. And although at this stage of renewal
the possibility of a certain "creative" freedom has been permitted, nevertheless
this freedom must strictly respect the requirements of substantial unity.
We can follow the path of this pluralism (which arises in part from the introduction
itself of the various languages into the liturgy) only as long as the essential
characteristics of the celebration of the Eucharist are preserved, and the
norms prescribed by the recent liturgical reform are respected.
Indispensable effort is required everywhere to ensure that within the pluralism
of eucharistic worship envisioned by the Second Vatican Council the unity
of which the Eucharist is the sign and cause is clearly manifested.
This task, over which in the nature of things the Apostolic See must keep
careful watch, should be assumed not only by each episcopal conference but
by every minister of the Eucharist, without exception. Each one should also
remember that he is responsible for the common good of the whole Church.
The priest as minister, as celebrant, as the one who presides over the eucharistic
assembly of the faithful, should have a special sense of the common good
of the Church, which he represents through his ministry, but to which he must
also be subordinate, according to a correct discipline of faith. He cannot
consider himself a "proprietor" who can make free use of the liturgical text
and of the sacred rite as if it were his own property, in such a way as to
stamp it with his own arbitrary personal style. At times this latter might
seem more effective, and it may better correspond to subjective piety; nevertheless,
objectively it is always a betrayal of that union which should find its proper
expression in the sacrament of unity.
Every priest who offers the holy Sacrifice should recall that during this
Sacrifice it is not only he with his community that is praying but the whole
Church, which is thus expressing in this sacrament her spiritual unity, among
other ways by the use of the approved liturgical text. To call this position
"mere insistence on uniformity" would only show ignorance of the objective
requirements of authentic unity, and would be a symptom of harmful individualism.
This subordination of the minister, of the celebrant, to the Mysterium
which has been entrusted to him by the Church for the good of the whole
People of God, should also find expression in the observance of the liturgical
requirements concerning the celebration of the holy Sacrifice. These refer,
for example, to dress, and in particular to the vestments worn by the celebrant.
Circumstances have of course existed and continue to exist in which the
prescriptions do not oblige. We have been greatly moved when reading books
written by priests who had been prisoners in extermination camps, with descriptions
of Eucharistic Celebrations without the above-mentioned rules, that is to
say, without an altar and without vestments. But although in those conditions
this was a proof of heroism and deserved profound admiration, nevertheless
in normal conditions to ignore the liturgical directives can be interpreted
as a lack of respect towards the Eucharist, dictated perhaps by individualism
or by an absence of a critical sense concerning current opinions, or by a
certain lack of a spirit of faith.
Upon all of us who, through the grace of God, are ministers of the Eucharist,
there weighs a particular responsibility for the ideas and attitudes of our
brothers and sisters who have been entrusted to our pastoral care. It is
our vocation to nurture, above all by personal example, every healthy manifestation
of worship towards Christ present and operative in that sacrament of love.
May God preserve us from acting otherwise and weakening that worship by
"becoming unaccustomed" to various manifestations and forms of eucharistic
worship which express a perhaps "traditional" but healthy piety, and which
express above all that "sense of the faith" possessed by the whole People
of God, as the Second Vatican Council recalled.
As I bring these considerations to an end, I would like to ask forgiveness--in
my own name and in the name of all of you, venerable and dear brothers in
the episcopate--for everything which, for whatever reason, through whatever
human weakness, impatience or negligence, and also through the at times partial,
one-sided and erroneous application of the directives of the Second Vatican
Council, may have caused scandal and disturbance concerning the interpretation
of the doctrine and the veneration due to this great sacrament. And I pray
the Lord Jesus that in the future we may avoid in our manner of dealing
with this sacred mystery anything which could weaken or disorient in any
way the sense of reverence and love that exists in our faithful people.
May Christ Himself help us to follow the path of true renewal towards that
fullness of life and of eucharistic worship whereby the Church is built up
in that unity that she already possesses, and which she desires to bring
to ever greater perfection for the glory of the living God and for the salvation
of all humanity.
13. Permit me, venerable and dear brothers, to end these reflections of
mine, which have been restricted to a detailed examination of only a few
questions. In undertaking these reflections, I have had before my eyes all
the work carried out by the Second Vatican Council, and have kept in mind
Paul VI's Encyclical Mysterium Fidei, promulgated during that Council, and
all the documents issued after the same Council for the purpose of implementing
the post-conciliar liturgical renewal. A very close and organic bond exists
between the renewal of the liturgy and the renewal of the whole life of the
The Church not only acts but also expresses herself in the liturgy, lives
by the liturgy and draws from the liturgy the strength for her life. For
this reason liturgical renewal carried out correctly in the spirit of the
Second Vatican Council is, in a certain sense, the measure and the condition
for putting into effect the teaching of that Council which we wish to accept
with profound faith, convinced as we are that by means of this Council the
Holy Spirit "has spoken to the Church" the truths and given the indications
for carrying out her mission among the people of today and tomorrow.
We shall continue in the future to take special care to promote and follow
the renewal of the Church according to the teaching of the Second vatican
Council, in the spirit of an ever living Tradition. In fact, to the substance
of Tradition properly understood belongs also a correct re- reading of the
"signs of the times," which require us to draw from the rich treasure of
Revelation "things both new and old." Acting in this spirit, in accordance
with this counsel of the Gospel, the Second Vatican Council carried out a
providential effort to renew the face of the Church in the sacred liturgy,
most often having recourse to what is "ancient," what comes from the heritage
of the Fathers and is the expression of the faith and doctrine of a Church
which has remained united for so many centuries.
In order to be able to continue in the future to put into practice the
directives of the Council in the field of liturgy, and in particular in
the field of eucharistic worship, close collaboration is necessary between
the competent department of the Holy See and each episcopal conference,
a collaboration which must be at the same time vigilant and creative. We
must keep our sights fixed on the greatness of the most holy Mystery and
at the same time on spiritual movements and social changes, which are so
significant for our times, since they not only sometimes create difficulties
but also prepare us for a new way of participating in that great Mystery
Above all I wish to emphasize that the problems of the liturgy, and in
particular of the Eucharistic Liturgy, must not be an occasion for dividing
Catholics and for threatening the unity of the Church. This is demanded
by an elementary understanding of that sacrament which Christ has left us
as the source of spiritual unity. And how could the Eucharist, which in
the Church is the sacramentum pietatis, signum unitatis, vinculum caritatis,
form between us at this time a point of division and a source of distortion
of thought and of behavior, instead of being the focal point and constitutive
center, which it truly is in its essence, of the unity of the Church itself?
We are all equally indebted to our Redeemer. We should all listen together
to that spirit of truth and of love whom He has promised to the Church and
who is operative in her. In the name of this truth and of this love, in the
name of the crucified Christ and of His Mother, I ask you, and beg you: Let
us abandon all opposition and division, and let us all unite in this great
mission of salvation which is the price and at the same time the fruit of
our redemption. The Apostolic See will continue to do all that is possible
to provide the means of ensuring that unity of which we speak. Let everyone
avoid anything in his own way of acting which could "grieve the Holy Spirit."
In order that this unity and the constant and systematic collaboration
which leads to it may be perseveringly continued, I beg on my knees that,
through the intercession of Mary, holy spouse of the Holy Spirit and Mother
of the Church, we may all receive the light of the Holy Spirit. And blessing
everyone, with all my heart I once more address myself to you, my venerable
and dear brothers in the episcopate, with a fraternal greeting and with
full trust. In this collegial unity in which we share, let us do all we
can to ensure that the Eucharist may become an ever greater source of life
and light for the consciences of all our brothers and sisters of all the
communities in the universal unity of Christ's Church on earth.
In a spirit of fraternal charity, to you and to all our confreres in the
priesthood I cordially impart the apostolic blessing.
From the Vatican, February 24, First Sunday of Lent, in
the year 1980, the second of the Pontificate.
Joannes Paulus PP. II
1. Cf. Chapter 2: AAS 71 (1979), pp. 395f.
2. Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXII, Can. 2: Conciliorum
Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. 3, Bologna 1973, p. 735.
3. Because of this precept of the Lord, an Ethiopian Eucharistic Liturgy
recalls that the Apostles "established for us patriarchs,
archbishops, priests and deacons to celebrate the ritual of your holy
Church": Anaphora Sancti Athanasii: Prex Eucharistica, Haenggi-Pahl,
Fribourg (Switzerland) 1968, p. 183.
4. Cf. La Tradition apostolique de saint Hippolyte, nos. 2-4, ed. Botte,
Munster-Westfalen 1963, pp. 5-17.
5. 2 Cor 11:28.
6. 1 Pt 2:5.
7. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
gentium, 28; AAS 57 (1965), pp. 33f.; Decree on the Ministry and Life
of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2, 5: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 993, 998;
Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church Ad genes, 39: AAS 58
(1966), p. 986.
8. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 11: AAS 57 (1965), p. 15.
9. Jn 3:16. It is interesting to note how these words are taken up by
the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom immediately before the words of
consecration and introduce the latter: cf. La divina Liturgia del
nostro Padre Giovanni Crisostomo, Roma-Grottaferrata 1967, pp. 104f.
10. Cf. Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-25; Lk 22:18-20; 1 Cor 11:23-25; cf. also
the Eucharistic Prayers.
11. Phil 2:8.
12. Jn 13:1.
13. Cf. John Paul II, Homily in Phoenix Park, Dublin, 7: AAS 71 (1979),
pp. 1074ff.; Sacred Congregation of Rites, instruction Eucharisticum
mysterium: AAS 59 (1967), pp. 539-573; Rituale Romanum, De sacra
communione et de cultu Mysterii eucharistici extra Missam, ed.
typica, 1973. It should be noted that the value of the worship and
the sanctifying power of these forms of devotion to the Eucharist
depend not so much upon the forms themselves as upon interior
14. Cf. Bull Trasiturus de hoc mundo (Aug. 11, 1264): Aemilii Friedberg,
Corpus Iurus Canonici, Pars II. Decretalium Collectiones, Leipzig
1881, pp. 1174-1177; Studi eucharistici, VII Centenario della Bolla
'Transiturus,' 1264-1964, Orvieto 1966, pp. 302-317.
15. Cf. Paul VI, encyclical letter Mysterium Fidei: AAS 57 (1965), pp.
753-774; Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction Eucharisticum
Mysterium: AAS 59 (1967), pp. 539-573; Rituale Romanum, De sacra
communione et de cultu Mysterii eucharistici extra Missam, ed.
16. John Paul II, encyclical letter Redemptor Hominis, 20: AAS 71 (1979),
p. 311; cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution
on the Church, Lumen gentium, 11: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 15f.; also, note
57 to Schema II of the same dogmatic constitution, in Acta Synodalia
Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II, vol. II, periodus 2a,
pars I, public session II, pp. 251f.; Paul VI, address at the general
audience of September 15, 1965: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, III (1965),
p. 103; H. de Lubac, Meditation sur l'Eglise, 2 ed., Paris 1963, pp.
17. 1 Cor 11:26.
18. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 11: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 15f.; Constitution on the
Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10: AAS 56 (1964), p. 102;
Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5:
AAS 58 (1966), pp. 997f.; Decree on the Bishops' Pastoral Office in
the Church Christus Dominus, 30: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 688f.; Decree on
the Church's Missionary Activity, Ad gentes, 9: AAS 58 (1966), pp.
19. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 26: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 31f.; Decree on
Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 15: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 101f.
20. This is what the Opening Prayer of Holy Thursday asks for: "We pray
that in this Eucharist we may find the fullness of love and life":
Missale Romanum, ed. typica altera 1975, p. 244; also the communion
epiclesis of the Roman Missal: "May all of us who share in the body
and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit.
Lord, remember your Church throughout the world; make us grow in
love": Eucharistic Prayer II: ibid., pp. 458f.; Eucharistic Prayer
III, p. 463.
21. Jn 5:17.
22. Cf. Prayer after communion of the Mass for the Twenty-second Sunday
in Ordinary Time: "Lord, you renew us at your table with the bread
of life. May this food strengthen us in love and help us to serve
you in each other": Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 361.
23. Jn 4:23.
24. Cf. 1 Cor 10:17; commented upon by St. Augustine: In Evangelium
Ioannis trac. 31, 13; PL 35, 1613; also commented upon by the
Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XIII, can. 8; Conciliorum
Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. 3, Bologna 1973, p. 697, 7; cf. Second
Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,
Lumen Gentium, 7: AAS 57 (1965), p. 9.
25. Jn 13:35.
26. This is expressed by many prayers of the Roman Missal: the Prayer
over the Gifts from the Common, "For those who work for the
underprivileged"; "May we who celebrate the love of your Son also
follow the example of your saints and grow in love for you and for
one another": Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 721; also the Prayer
after Communion of the Mass "For Teachers": "May this holy meal help
us to follow the example of your saints by showing in our lives the
light of truth and love for our brothers": ibid., p. 723; cf. also
the Prayer after Communion of the Mass for the Twenty-second Sunday
in Ordinary Time, quoted in note 22.
27. Jn 4:23.
28. Eph 4:13.
29. Cf. above, no. 2.
30. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Missionary
Activity of the Church Ad gentes, 9, 12: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 958-
961f.; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum
Ordinis, 5: AAS 58 (1966), p. 997.
31. 1 Jn 3:1.
32. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 11: AAS 57 (1965), p. 15.
33. Cf. no. 20: AAS 71 (1979), pp. 313f.
34. 2 Pt 3:13.
35. Col 3:10.
36. Lk 1:34; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14; Rev 3:7.
37. Acts 10:38; Lk 4:18.
38. Jn 10:36.
39. Cf. Jn 10:17.
40. Heb 3:1, 4:15, etc.
41. As was stated in the ninth-century Byzantine liturgy, according to
the most ancient codex, known formerly as Barberino di San Marco
(Florence), and now that it is kept in the Vatican Apostolic Library,
as F.E. Brightman, Liturgies Eastern and Western, I. Eastern
Liturgies, Oxford 1896, p. 318, 34-35.
42. Opening Prayer of the Second Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist:
Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 858.
43. 1 Jn 2:2; cf. ibid., 4:10.
44. We speak of the divinum Mysterium, the Sanctissimum, the
Sacrosanctum, meaning what is sacred and holy par excellence. For
their part, the Eastern churches call the Mass raza or mysterion,
hagiasmos, quddasa, qedasse, that is to say "consecration" par
excellence. Furthermore there are the liturgical rites, which, in
order to inspire a sense of the sacred, prescribe silence, and
standing or kneeling, and likewise professions of faith, and the
incensation of the Gospel book, the altar, the celebrant and the
sacred species. They even recall the assistance of the angelic
beings created to serve the Holy God, i.e., with the Sanctus of our
Latin churches and the Trisagion and Sancta Sanctis of the Eastern
45. For instance, as the invitation to receive communion, this faith has
been so formed as to reveal complementary aspects of the presence of
Christ the Holy One: the epiphanic aspect noted by the Byzantines
("Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord: The Lord is God
and has appeared to us": La divina Liturgia del santo nostro Padre
Giovanni Crisostomo, Roma-Grottaferrata 1967, pp. 136f.); the aspect
of relation and union sung of by the Armenians [Liturgy of St.
Ignatius of Antioch: "Unus Pater sanctus nobiscum, unus Filius
sanctus nobiscum, unus Spirituus sanctus nobiscum": Die Anaphora des
heiligen Ignatius von Antiochien, ubersetzt von A. Rucker, Oriens
Christianus, 3a ser., 5 , p.76); and the hidden heavenly aspect
celebrated by the Chaldeans and Malabars (cf. the antiphonal hymn
sung by the priest and the assembly after Communion: F.E. Brightman,
op. cit., p. 299.
46. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred
Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2, 47: AAS 56 (1964), pp. 83f.; 113;
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, 3 and 28: AAS 57
(1965), pp. 6, 33f.; Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 2:
AAS 57 (1965), p. 91; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests
Presbyterorum Ordinis, 13: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 1011f., Ecumenical
Council of Trent, Session XXII, chap. I and II: Conciliorum
Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. 3, Bologna 1973, pp. 732f. especially: una
eademque est hostia, idem nunc offerens sacerdotum ministerio, qui se
ipsum tunc in cruce obtulit, sola offerendi ratione diversa (ibid.,
47. Synoda Constantinpolita adversus Sotericum (January 1156 and May
1157): Angelo Mai, Spicilegium romanum, t. X, Rome 1844, p. 77; PG
140, 190; cf. Martin Jugie, Dict. Theol. Cath., t. X 1338; Theologia
dogmatica christianorum orientalium, Paris, 1930, pp. 317-320.
48. Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani, 49c: Missale Romanum, ed. cit.,
p. 39; cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Ministry
and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5: AAS 58 (1966), pp.
49. Ordo Missae cum populo, 18: Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 390.
50. Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session 22, chap I, Conciliorum
Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. 3, Bologna 1973, pp. 732f.
51. Col 2:14.
52. Jn 11:28.
53. Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani, 55f.; Missale Romanum, ed. cit.,
54. Cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 35,
51: AAS 56 (1964), pp. 109, 114.
55. Cf. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction In edicendis normis,
VI, 17-18; VII, 19-20: AAS 59 (1967), p. 314; Decree De Titulo
Basilicae Minoris, II, 8: AAS 60 (1968), p. 538; Sacred Congregation
for Divine Worship, Notif. De Missali Romano, Liturgia Horarum et
Calendario, I, 4: AAS 63 (1971), p. 714.
56. Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum: "We are fully
confident that both priests and faithful will prepare their minds and
hearts more devoutly for the Lord's Supper, meditating on the
scriptures, nourished day by day with the words of the Lord": AAS 61
(1969), pp. 220f.; Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 15.
57. Cf. Pontificale Romanum. De Institutione Lectorum et Acolythorum,
ed. typica, 1972, pp. 19f.
58. Cf. Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani, 319-320: Missale Romanum,
ed. cit., p. 87.
59. Cf. Fr. J. Dolger, Das Segnen der Sinne mit der Eucharistie. Eine
altchristliche Kommunionsitte: Antike und Christentum, t. 3 (1932),
pp. 231-244; Das Kultvergehen der Donatistin Lucilla von Karthago.
Reliquienkuss vor dem Kuss der Eucharistie, ibid., pp. 245-252.
60. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 12, 35; AAS 57 (1965), pp. 16, 40.
61. Cf. Jn 1:29; Rev 19:9.
62. Cf. Lk 14:16ff.
63. Cf. Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani, 7-8: Missale Romanum, ed.
cit., p. 29.
64. 1 Cor 11:28.
65. Pontificale Romanum. De Ordinatione Diaconi, Presbyteri et Episcopi,
ed. typica, 1968, p. 93.
66. Heb 5:1.
67. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium:
AAS 59 (1967), pp. 539-573; Rituale Romanum. De sacra communione et
de cultu Mysterii eucharistici extra Missam, ed. typica, 1973; Sacred
Congregation for Divine Worship, Litterae circulares ad
Conferentiarum Episcopalium Praesides de precibus eucharisticis: AAS
65 (1973), pp. 340-347.
68. Nos. 38-63: AAS 59 (1967), pp. 586-592.
69. AAS 64 (1972), pp. 518-525. Cf. also the Communicatio published the
following year for the correct application of the above-mentioned
Instruction: AAS 65 (1973), pp. 616-619.
70. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 12: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 16f.
71. Mt 13:52.
72. Cf. St. Augustine, In Evangelium Ioannis trac. 26, 13: PL 35, 1612f.
73. Eph 4:30.