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ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PAUL VI
ON THE HOLY EUCHARIST
SEPTEMBER 3, 1965
To His Venerable Brothers the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See, and to the Clergy and Faithful of the Entire World.
Venerable Brothers and Dear Sons, Health and Apostolic Benediction.
The Mystery of Faith, that is, the ineffable gift of the Eucharist that the Catholic Church received from Christ, her Spouse, as a pledge of His immense love, is something that she has always devoutly guarded as her most precious treasure, and during the Second Vatican Council she professed her faith and veneration in a new and solemn declaration. In dealing with the restoration of the sacred liturgy, the Fathers of the Council were led by their pastoral concern for the whole Church to regard it as a matter of highest importance to urge the faithful to participate actively, with undivided faith and the utmost devotion, in the celebration of this Most Holy Mystery, to offer it to God along with the priest as a sacrifice for their own salvation and that of the whole world, and to use it as spiritual nourishment.
2. For if the sacred liturgy holds first place in the life of the Church, then the Eucharistic Mystery stands at the heart and center of the liturgy, since it is the font of life that cleanses us and strengthens us to live not for ourselves but for God and to be united to each other by the closest ties of love.
Reaffirmation by Vatican II
3. In order to make the indissoluble bond that exists between faith and devotion perfectly clear, the Fathers of the Council decided, in the course of reaffirming the doctrine that the Church has always held and taught and that was solemnly defined by the Council of Trent, to offer the following compendium of truths as an introduction to their treatment of the Most Holy Mystery of the Eucharist:
4. “At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of His Death and Resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”
Both Sacrifice and Sacrament Highlighted
5. These words highlight both the sacrifice, which pertains to the essence of the Mass that is celebrated daily, and the sacrament in which those who participate in it through holy Communion eat the flesh of Christ and drink the blood of Christ, and thus receive grace, which is the beginning of eternal life, and the “medicine of immortality” according to Our Lord’s words: “The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood enjoys eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (2)
Restoration of Liturgy Linked to Eucharistic Devotion
6. And so We earnestly hope that the restoration of the sacred liturgy will produce abundant fruits in the form of Eucharistic devotion, so that the Holy Church may, with this salvific sign of piety raised on high, make daily progress toward the full achievement of unity, (3) inviting all Christians to a unity of faith and love and drawing them to it gently, through the action of divine grace.
7. We seem to have a preview of these fruits and a first taste of them in the outpouring of joy and eagerness that has marked the reception the sons of the Catholic Church have accorded to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and to the restoration of the liturgy; and we find these fruits too in the large number of carefully-edited publications that make it their purpose to go into the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist more profoundly and to come to a more fruitful understanding of it, especially in terms of its relationship to the mystery of the Church.
8. All of this brings Us deep consolation and joy. And it gives Us great pleasure to inform you of this, Venerable Brothers, so that you may join with Us in giving thanks to God, the bestower of all gifts, who rules the Church and makes her grow in virtue through His Spirit.
REASONS FOR PASTORAL CONCERN AND ANXIETY
9. There are, however, Venerable Brothers, a number of reasons for serious pastoral concern and anxiety in this very matter that we are now discussing, and because of Our consciousness of Our Apostolic office, We cannot remain silent about them.
False and Disturbing Opinions
10. For We can see that some of those who are dealing with this Most Holy Mystery in speech and writing are disseminating opinions on Masses celebrated in private or on the dogma of transubstantiation that are disturbing the minds of the faithful and causing them no small measure of confusion about matters of faith, just as if it were all right for someone to take doctrine that has already been defined by the Church and consign it to oblivion or else interpret it in such a way as to weaken the genuine meaning of the words or the recognized force of the concepts involved.
11. To give an example of what We are talking about, it is not permissible to extol the so-called “community” Mass in such a way as to detract from Masses that are celebrated privately; or to concentrate on the notion of sacramental sign as if the symbolism—which no one will deny is certainly present in the Most Blessed Eucharist—fully expressed and exhausted the manner of Christ’s presence in this Sacrament; or to discuss the mystery of transubstantiation without mentioning what the Council of Trent had to say about the marvelous conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body and the whole substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ, as if they involve nothing more than “transignification,” or “transfinalization” as they call it; or, finally, to propose and act upon the opinion that Christ Our Lord is no longer present in the consecrated Hosts that remain after the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass has been completed.
12. Everyone can see that the spread of these and similar opinions does great harm to belief in and devotion to the Eucharist.
Purpose of the Encyclical
13. And so, with the aim of seeing to it that the hope to which the Council has given rise—that a new wave of Eucharistic devotion will sweep over the Church—not be reduced to nil through the sowing of the seeds of false opinions, We have decided to use Our apostolic authority and speak Our mind to you on this subject, Venerable Brothers.
14. We certainly do not deny that those who are spreading these strange opinions are making a praiseworthy effort to investigate this lofty Mystery and to set forth its inexhaustible riches and to make it more understandable to the men of today; rather, We acknowledge this and We approve of it. But We cannot approve the opinions that they set forth, and We have an obligation to warn you about the grave danger that these opinions involve for true faith.
HOLY EUCHARIST A MYSTERY OF FAITH
15. First of all, We want to recall something that you know very well but that is absolutely necessary if the virus of every kind of rationalism is to be repelled; it is something that many illustrious martyrs have witnessed to with their blood, something that celebrated fathers and Doctors of the Church have constantly professed and taught. We mean the fact that the Eucharist is a very great mystery—in fact, properly speaking and in the words of the Sacred Liturgy, the mystery of faith. “It contains within it,” as Leo XIII, Our predecessor of happy memory, very wisely remarked, “all supernatural realities in a remarkable richness and variety of miracles.” (4)
Relying on Revelation, Not Reason
16. And so we must approach this mystery in particular with humility and reverence, not relying on human reasoning, which ought to hold its peace, but rather adhering firmly to divine Revelation.
17. St. John Chrysostom who, as you know, dealt with the Mystery of the Eucharist in such eloquent language and with such insight born of devotion, had these most fitting words to offer on one occasion when he was instructing his faithful about this mystery: “Let us submit to God in all things and not contradict Him, even if what He says seems to contradict our reason and intellect; let His word prevail over our reason and intellect. Let us act in this way with regard to the Eucharistic mysteries, and not limit our attention just to what can be perceived by the senses, but instead hold fast to His words. For His word cannot deceive.” (5)
18. The scholastic Doctors made similar statements on more than one occasion. As St. Thomas says, the fact that the true body and the true blood of Christ are present in this Sacrament “cannot be apprehended by the senses but only by faith, which rests upon divine authority. This is why Cyril comments upon the words, This is my body which is delivered up for you, in Luke 22, 19, in this way: Do not doubt that this is true; instead accept the words of the Savior in faith; for since He is truth, He cannot tell a lie.” (6)
19. Hence the Christian people often follow the lead of St. Thomas and sing the words: “Sight, touch and taste in Thee are each deceived; The ear alone most safely is believed. I believe all the Son of God has spoken; Than truth’s own word, there is no truer token.”
20. And St. Bonaventure declares: “There is no difficulty over Christ’s being present in the sacrament as in a sign; the great difficulty is in the fact that He is really in the sacrament, as He is in heaven. And so believing this is especially meritorious. ” (7)
Example of the Apostles
21. Moreover, the Holy Gospel alludes to this when it tells of the many disciples of Christ who turned away and left Our Lord, after hearing Him speak of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. “This is strange talk,” they said. “Who can be expected to listen to it” Peter, on the contrary, replied to Jesus’ question as to whether the twelve wanted to go away too by promptly and firmly expressing his own faith and that of the other Apostles in these marvelous words: “Lord, to whom should we go? Thy words are the words of eternal life.” (8)
22. It is only logical, then, for us to follow the magisterium of the Church as a guiding star in carrying on our investigations into this mystery, for the Divine Redeemer has entrusted the safeguarding and the explanation of the written or transmitted word of God to her. And we are convinced that “whatever has been preached and believed throughout the whole Church with true Catholic faith since the days of antiquity is true, even if it not be subject to rational investigation, and even if it not be explained in words.” (9)
Proper Wording of Great Importance
23. But this is not enough. Once the integrity of the faith has been safeguarded, then it is time to guard the proper way of expressing it, lest our careless use of words give rise, God forbid, to false opinions regarding faith in the most sublime things. St. Augustine gives a stern warning about this when he takes up the matter of the different ways of speaking that are employed by the philosophers on the one hand and that ought to be used by Christians on the other. “The philosophers,” he says, “use words freely, and they have no fear of offending religious listeners in dealing with subjects that are difficult to understand. But we have to speak in accordance with a fixed rule, so that a lack of restraint in speech on our part may not give rise to some irreverent opinion about the things represented by the words.” (l0)
24. And so the rule of language which the Church has established through the long labor of centuries, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and which she has confirmed with the authority of the Councils, and which has more than once been the watchword and banner of orthodox faith, is to be religiously preserved, and no one may presume to change it at his own pleasure or under the pretext of new knowledge. Who would ever tolerate that the dogmatic formulas used by the ecumenical councils for the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation be judged as no longer appropriate for men of our times, and let others be rashly substituted for them? In the same way, it cannot be tolerated that any individual should on his own authority take something away from the formulas which were used by the Council of Trent to propose the Eucharistic Mystery for our belief. These formulas—like the others that the Church used to propose the dogmas of faith—express concepts that are not tied to a certain specific form of human culture, or to a certain level of scientific progress, or to one or another theological school. Instead they set forth what the human mind grasps of reality through necessary and universal experience and what it expresses in apt and exact words, whether it be in ordinary or more refined language. For this reason, these formulas are adapted to all men of all times and all places.
Greater Clarity of Expression Always Possible
25. They can, it is true, be made clearer and more obvious; and doing this is of great benefit. But it must always be done in such a way that they retain the meaning in which they have been used, so that with the advance of an understanding of the faith, the truth of faith will remain unchanged. For it is the teaching of the First Vatican Council that “the meaning that Holy Mother the Church has once declared, is to be retained forever, and no pretext of deeper understanding ever justifies any deviation from that meaning.” (11)
EUCHARISTIC MYSTERY IN SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
26. For the joy and edification of everyone, We would like to review with you, Venerable Brothers, the doctrine on the Mystery of the Eucharist that has been handed down, and that the Catholic Church holds and teaches with unanimity.
Re-enactment at Heart of Doctrine
27. It is a good idea to recall at the very outset what may be termed the heart and core of the doctrine, namely that, by means of the Mystery of the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Cross which was once carried out on Calvary is re-enacted in wonderful fashion and is constantly recalled, and its salvific power is applied to the forgiving of the sins we commit each day.” (12)
28. just as Moses made the Old Testament sacred with the blood of calves, (13) so too Christ the Lord took the New Testament, of which He is the Mediator, and made it sacred through His own blood, in instituting the mystery of the Eucharist. For, as the Evangelists narrate, at the Last Supper “he took bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, given for you; do this for a commemoration of me. And so with the cup, when supper was ended, This cup, he said, is the new testament, in my Blood which is to be shed for you.” (l4) And by bidding the Apostles to do this in memory of Him, He made clear that He wanted it to be forever repeated. This intention of Christ was faithfully carried out by the primitive Church through her adherence to the teaching of the Apostles and through her gatherings to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice. As St. Luke is careful to point out, “They occupied themselves continually with the Apostles’ teaching, their fellowship in the breaking of bread, and the fixed times of prayer.” (l5) The faithful used to derive such spiritual fervor from this practice that it was said of them that “there was one heart and soul in all the company of the believers.” (16)
New Offering of the New Testament
29. Moreover, the Apostle Paul, who faithfully transmitted to us what he had received from the Lord, (17) is clearly speaking of the Eucharistic Sacrifice when he points out that Christians ought not take part in pagan sacrifices, precisely because they have been made partakers of the table of the Lord. “Is not this cup we bless,” he says, “a participation in Christ’s Blood? Is not the Bread we break a participation in Christ’s Body? . . . To drink the Lord’s cup, and yet to drink the cup of evil spirits, to share the Lord’s feast, and to share the feast of evil spirits, is impossible for you.” (18) Foreshadowed by Malachias, (19) this new oblation of the New Testament has always been offered by the Church, in accordance with the teaching of Our Lord and the Apostles, “not only to atone for the sins and punishments and satisfactions of the living faithful and to appeal for their other needs, but also to help those who have died in Christ but have not yet been completely purified.” (20)
Offered Also for the Dead
30. We will pass over the other citations and rest content with recalling the testimony offered by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who wrote the following memorable words for the neophytes whom he was instructing in the Christian faith: “After the spiritual sacrifice, the un-bloody act of worship, has been completed, we bend over this propitiatory offering and beg God to grant peace to all the Churches, to give harmony to the whole world, to bless our rulers, our soldiers and our companions, to aid the sick and afflicted, and in general to assist all those who stand in need; we all pray for all these intentions and we offer this victim for them . . . and last of all for our deceased holy forefathers and bishops and for all those who have lived among us. For we have a deep conviction that great help will be afforded those souls for whom prayers are offered while this holy and awesome victim is present.” In support of this, this holy Doctor offers the example of a crown made for an emperor in order to win a pardon for some exiles, and he concludes his talk with these words: “In the same fashion, when we offer our prayers to God for the dead, even those who are sinners, we are not just making a crown but instead are offering Christ who was slaughtered for our sins, and thus begging the merciful God to take pity both on them and on ourselves.” (21) St. Augustine attests that this custom of offering the “sacrifice which ransomed us” also for the dead was observed in the Church at Rome, (22) and he mentions at the same time that the universal Church observed this custom as something handed down from the Fathers. (23)
The Universal Priesthood
31. But there is something else that We would like to add that is very helpful in shedding light on the mystery of the Church; We mean the fact that the whole Church plays the role of priest and victim along with Christ, offering the Sacrifice of the Mass and itself completely offered in it. The Fathers of the Church taught this wondrous doctrine. (24) A few years ago Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XII, explained it. (25) And only recently the Second Vatican Council reiterated it in its Constitution on the Church, in dealing with the people of God. (26) To be sure, the distinction between the universal priesthood and the hierarchical priesthood is something essential and not just a matter of degree, and it has to be maintained in a proper way. (27) Yet We cannot help being filled with an earnest desire to see this teaching explained over and over until it takes deep root in the hearts of the faithful. For it is a most effective means of fostering devotion to the Eucharist, of extolling the dignity of all the faithful, and of spurring them on to reach the heights of sanctity, which means the total and generous offering of oneself to the service of the Divine Majesty.
No Mass is “Private”
32. It is also only fitting for us to recall the conclusion that can be drawn from this about “the public and social nature of each and every Mass.” (28) For each and every Mass is not something private, even if a priest celebrates it privately; instead, it is an act of Christ and of the Church. In offering this sacrifice, the Church learns to offer herself as a sacrifice for all and she applies the unique and infinite redemptive power of the sacrifice of the Cross to the salvation of the whole world. For every Mass that is celebrated is being offered not just for the salvation of certain people, but also for the salvation of the whole world. The conclusion from this is that even though active participation by many faithful is of its very nature particularly fitting when Mass is celebrated, still there is no reason to criticize but rather only to approve a Mass that a priest celebrates privately for a good reason in accordance with the regulations and legitimate traditions of the Church, even when only a server to make the responses is present. For such a Mass brings a rich and abundant treasure of special graces to help the priest himself, the faithful, the whole Church and the whole world toward salvation—and this same abundance of graces is not gained through mere reception of Holy Communion.
33. And so, We recommend from a paternal and solicitous heart that priests, who constitute Our greatest joy and Our crown in the Lord, be mindful of the power they have received from the bishop who ordained them—the power of offering sacrifice to God and of celebrating Mass for the living and for the dead in the name of the Lord. (79) We recommend that they celebrate Mass daily in a worthy and devout fashion, so that they themselves and the rest of the faithful may enjoy the benefits that flow in such abundance from the Sacrifice of the Cross. In doing so, they will also be making a great contribution toward the salvation of mankind.
CHRIST SACRAMENTALLY PRESENT IN THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
34. The few things that We have touched upon concerning the Sacrifice of the Mass encourage Us to say something about the Sacrament of the Eucharist, since both Sacrifice and Sacrament pertain to the same mystery and cannot be separated from each other. The Lord is immolated in an unbloody way in the Sacrifice of the Mass and He re-presents the sacrifice of the Cross and applies its salvific power at the moment when he becomes sacramentally present— through the words of consecration—as the spiritual food of the faithful, under the appearances of bread and wine.
Various Ways in Which Christ is Present
35. All of us realize that there is more than one way in which Christ is present in His Church. We want to go into this very joyful subject, which the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy presented briefly, (30) at somewhat greater length. Christ is present in His Church when she prays, since He is the one who “prays for us and prays in us and to whom we pray: He prays for us as our priest, He prays in us as our head, He is prayed to by us as our God” (31); and He is the one who has promised, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” (32) He is present in the Church as she performs her works of mercy, not just because whatever good we do to one of His least brethren we do to Christ Himself, (33)but also because Christ is the one who performs these works through the Church and who continually helps men with His divine love. He is present in the Church as she moves along on her pilgrimage with a longing to reach the portals of eternal life, for He is the one who dwells in our hearts through faith, (34) and who instills charity in them through the Holy Spirit whom He gives to us. (35)
36. In still another very genuine way, He is present in the Church as she preaches, since the Gospel which she proclaims is the word of God, and it is only in the name of Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, and by His authority and with His help that it is preached, so that there might be “one flock resting secure in one shepherd.” (36)
37. He is present in His Church as she rules and governs the People of God, since her sacred power comes from Christ and since Christ, the “Shepherd of Shepherds,” (37) is present in the bishops who exercise that power, in keeping with the promise He made to the Apostles.
38. Moreover, Christ is present in His Church in a still more sublime manner as she offers the Sacrifice of the Mass in His name; He is present in her as she administers the sacraments. On the matter of Christ’s presence in the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass, We would like very much to call what St. John Chrysostom, overcome with awe, had to say in such accurate and eloquent words: “I wish to add something that is clearly awe-inspiring, but do not be surprised or upset. What is this? It is the same offering, no matter who offers it, be it Peter or Paul. It is the same one that Christ gave to His disciples and the same one that priests now perform: the latter is in no way inferior to the former, for it is not men who sanctify the latter, but He who sanctified the former. For just as the words which God spoke are the same as those that the priest now pronounces, so too the offering is the same.” (38) No one is unaware that the sacraments are the actions of Christ who administers them through men. And so the sacraments are holy in themselves and they pour grace into the soul by the power of Christ, when they touch the body. The Highest Kind of Presence.
These various ways in which Christ is present fill the mind with astonishment and offer the Church a mystery for her contemplation. But there is another way in which Christ is present in His Church, a way that surpasses all the others. It is His presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is, for this reason, “a more consoling source of devotion, a lovelier object of contemplation and holier in what it contains” (39) than all the other sacraments; for it contains Christ Himself and it is “a kind of consummation of the spiritual life, and in a sense the goal of all the sacraments.” (40)
39. This presence is called “real” not to exclude the idea that the others are “real” too, but rather to indicate presence par excellence, because it is substantial and through it Christ becomes present whole and entire, God and man. (41) And so it would be wrong for anyone to try to explain this manner of presence by dreaming up a so-called “pneumatic” nature of the glorious body of Christ that would be present everywhere; or for anyone to limit it to symbolism, as if this most sacred Sacrament were to consist in nothing more than an efficacious sign “of the spiritual presence of Christ and of His intimate union with the faithful, the members of His Mystical Body.” (42)
The Proper Use of Symbolism
40. It is true that the Fathers and Scholastics had a great deal to say about symbolism in the Eucharist, especially with regard to the unity of the Church. The Council of Trent, in re-stating their doctrine, taught that our Saviour bequeathed the Eucharist to His Church “as a symbol . . . of the unity and charity with which He wished all Christians to be joined among themselves,” “and hence as a symbol of that one Body of which He is the Head.” (43)
41. When Christian literature was still in its infancy, the unknown author of the work called the “Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” had this to write on the subject: “As far as the Eucharist is concerned, give thanks in this manner: . . . just as this bread had been broken and scattered over the hills and was made one when it was gathered together, so too may your church be gathered into your kingdom from the ends of the earth.” (44)
42. St. Cyprian too, in the course of laying stress on the Church’s unity in opposition to schism, said this: “Finally the Lord’s sacrifices proclaim the unity of Christians who are bound together by a firm and unshakeable charity. For when the Lord calls the bread that has been made from many grains of wheat His Body, He is describing our people whose unity He has sustained; and when He refers to wine pressed from many grapes and berries as His Blood, once again He is speaking of our flock which has been formed by fusing many into one.” (45)
43. But before all of these, St. Paul had written to the Corinthians: “The one bread makes us one body, though we are many in number; the same bread is shared by all.” (46)
Symbolism Inadequate to Express Real Presence
44. While Eucharistic symbolism is well suited to helping us understand the effect that is proper to this Sacrament—the unity of the Mystical Body—still it does not indicate or explain what it is that makes this Sacrament different from all the others. For the constant teaching that the Catholic Church has passed on to her catechumens, the understanding of the Christian people, the doctrine defined by the Council of Trent, the very words that Christ used when He instituted the Most Holy Eucharist, all require us to profess that “the Eucharist is the flesh of Our Savior Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins and which the Father in His loving kindness raised again.” (47) To these words of St. Ignatius, we may well add those which Theodore of Mopsuestia, who is a faithful witness to the faith of the Church on this point, addressed to the people: “The Lord did not say: This is symbol of my body, and this is a symbol of my blood, but rather: This is my body and my blood. He teaches us not to look to the nature of what lies before us and is perceived by the senses, because the giving of thanks and the words spoken over it have changed it into flesh and blood.” (45)
45. The Council of Trent, basing itself on this faith of the Church, “openly and sincerely professes that after the consecration of the bread and wine, Our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is really, truly and substantially contained in the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist under the outward appearances of sensible things.” And so Our Savior is present in His humanity not only in His natural manner of existence at the right hand of the Father, but also at the same time in the sacrament of the Eucharist “in a manner of existing that we can hardly express in words but that our minds, illumined by faith, can come to see as possible to God and that we must most firmly believe.” (49)
CHRIST PRESENT IN THE EUCHARIST THROUGH TRANSUBSTANTIATION
46. To avoid any misunderstanding of this type of presence, which goes beyond the laws of nature and constitutes the greatest miracle of its kind, (50) we have to listen with docility to the voice of the teaching and praying Church. Her voice, which constantly echoes the voice of Christ, assures us that the way in which Christ becomes present in this Sacrament is through the conversion of the whole substance of the bread into His body and of the whole substance of the wine into His blood, a unique and truly wonderful conversion that the Catholic Church fittingly and properly calls transubstantiation. (51) As a result of transubstantiation, the species of bread and wine undoubtedly take on a new signification and a new finality, for they are no longer ordinary bread and wine but instead a sign of something sacred and a sign of spiritual food; but they take on this new signification, this new finality, precisely because they contain a new “reality” which we can rightly call ontological. For what now lies beneath the aforementioned species is not what was there before, but something completely different; and not just in the estimation of Church belief but in reality, since once the substance or nature of the bread and wine has been changed into the body and blood of Christ, nothing remains of the bread and the wine except for the species—beneath which Christ is present whole and entire in His physical “reality,” corporeally present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a place.
Writings of the Fathers
47. This is why the Fathers felt they had a solemn duty to warn the faithful that, in reflecting upon this most sacred Sacrament, they should not pay attention to the senses, which report only the properties of bread and wine, but rather to the words of Christ, which have power great enough to change, transform, “transelementize” the bread and wine into His body and blood. As a matter of fact, as the same Fathers point out on more than one occasion, the power that does this is the same power of Almighty God that created the whole universe out of nothing at the beginning of time.
48. “Instructed as you are in these matters,” says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, at the end of a sermon on the mysteries of the faith, “and filled with an unshakeable faith that what seems to be bread is not bread—though it tastes like it—but rather the Body of Christ; and that what seems to be wine is not wine—even though it too tastes like it—but rather the Blood of Christ . . . draw strength from receiving this bread as spiritual food and your soul will rejoice.” (52)
49. St. John Chrysostom insists upon the same point with these words: “It is not man who makes what is put before him the Body and Blood of Christ, but Christ Himself who was crucified for us. The priest standing there in the place of Christ says these words, but their power and grace are from God. This is my Body, he says, and these words transform what lies before him.” (53)
50. Cyril, the Bishop of Alexandria, is in wonderful harmony with John, the Bishop of Constantinople, when he writes in his commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew: “He said This is my body and this is my blood in a demonstrative fashion, so that you might not judge that what you see is a mere figure; instead the offerings are truly changed by the hidden power of God Almighty into Christ’s body and blood, which bring us the life-giving and sanctifying power of Christ when we share in them.” (54)
51. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, in a clear statement on the Eucharistic conversion, has this to say: “Let us be assured that this is not what nature formed but what the blessing has consecrated; and there is greater power in the blessing and in nature, since nature itself is changed through the blessing.” To confirm the truth of this mystery, he recounts many of the miracles described in the Sacred Scriptures, including Christ’s birth of the Virgin Mary, and then he turns his mind to the work of creation, concluding this way: “Surely the word of Christ, who could make something that did not exist out of nothing, can change things that do exist into something they were not before. For it is no less extraordinary to give new natures to things than it is to change nature.” (55)
Constant Teaching of the Popes and the Councils
52. But this is no time for assembling a long list of evidence. Instead, We would rather recall the firmness of faith and complete unanimity that the Church displayed in opposing Berengarius who gave in to certain difficulties raised by human reasoning and first dared to deny the Eucharistic conversion. More than once she threatened to condemn him unless he retracted. Thus it was that Our predecessor, St. Gregory VII, commanded him to swear to the following oath: “I believe in my heart and openly profess that the bread and wine that are placed on the altar are, through the mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of the Redeemer, substantially changed into the true and proper and lifegiving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after the consecration they are the true body of Christ—which was born of the Virgin and which hung on the Cross as an offering for the salvation of the world—and the true blood of Christ—which flowed from His side—and not just as a sign and by reason of the power of the sacrament, but in the very truth and reality of their substance and in what is proper to their nature.” (56)
53. We have a wonderful example of the stability of the Catholic faith in the way in which these words meet with such complete agreement in the constant teaching of the Ecumenical Councils of the Lateran, Constance, Florence and Trent on the mystery of the Eucharistic conversion, whether it be contained in their explanations of the teaching of the Church or in their condemnations of error.
54. After the Council of Trent, Our predecessor, Pius VI, issued a serious warning, on the occasion of the errors of the Synod of Pistoia, that parish priests not neglect to speak of transubstantiation, which is listed among the articles of the faith, in the course of carrying out their office of teaching. (57) Similarly, Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius XII, recalled the bounds beyond which those who were carrying on subtle discussion of the mystery of transubstantiation might not pass; (58) and We Ourself, at the National Eucharistic Congress that was recently celebrated at Pisa, bore open and solemn witness to the faith of the Church, in fulfillment of Our apostolic duty. (59)
55. Moreover, the Catholic Church has held firm to this belief in the presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist not only in her teaching but in her life as well, since she has at all times paid this great Sacrament the worship known as “latria,” which may be given to God alone. As St. Augustine says: “It was in His flesh that Christ walked among us and it is His flesh that He has given us to eat for our salvation; but no one eats of this flesh without having first adored it . . . and not only do we not sin in thus adoring it, but we would be sinning if we did not do so.” (60)
ON THE WORSHIP OF LATRIA
56. The Catholic Church has always displayed and still displays this latria that ought to be paid to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, both during Mass and outside of it, by taking the greatest possible care of consecrated Hosts, by exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and by carrying them about in processions to the joy of great numbers of the people.
57. The ancient documents of the Church offer many evidences of this veneration. The bishops of the Church always urged the faithful to take the greatest possible care of the Eucharist that they had in their homes. “The Body of Christ is meant to be eaten by the faithful, not to be treated with irreverence,” is the serious warning of St. Hippolytus. (61)
58. In fact, the faithful regarded themselves as guilty, and rightly so as Origen recalls, if, after they had received the body of the Lord and kept it with all reverence and caution, some part of it were to fall to the ground through negligence. (62)
59. These same bishops were severe in reproving any lack of due reverence that might occur. We have evidence of this from the words of Novatian, whose testimony is trustworthy in this matter; He felt that anybody deserved to be condemned who “came out after Sunday service bringing the Eucharist with him, as was the custom, . . . and carried the holy body of the Lord around with him,” going off to places of amusement instead of going home. (63)
60. In fact, St. Cyril of Alexandria denounced as mad the opinion that the Eucharist was of no use to sanctification if some of it were left over for another day. “For Christ is not altered,” he says, “and His holy body is not changed; instead the power and force and life-giving grace of the blessing remain in it forever.” (64)
61. Nor should we forget that in ancient times the faithful—whether being harassed by violent persecutions or living in solitude out of love for monastic life—nourished themselves even daily on the Eucharist, by receiving Holy Communion from their own hands when there was no priest or deacon present. (65)
62. We are not saying this with any thought of effecting a change in the manner of keeping the Eucharist and of receiving Holy Communion that has been laid down by subsequent ecclesiastical laws still in force; Our intention is that we may rejoice over the faith of the Church which is always one and the same.
Corpus Christi, Another Instance of Latria
63. This faith also gave rise to the feast of Corpus Christi, which was first celebrated in the diocese of Liege—especially through the efforts of the servant of God, Blessed Juliana of Mount Cornelius—and Our predecessor, Urban IV, established for the universal Church. It has also given rise to many forms of Eucharistic devotion that have, through the inspiration of God’s grace, grown with each passing day. Through them the Catholic Church is eagerly striving to pay honor to Christ and to thank Him for such a great gift and to beg His mercy.
EXHORTATION TO FOSTERING EUCHARISTIC DEVOTION
64. And so We beseech you, Venerable Brothers, to take this faith, which means nothing less than maintaining complete fidelity to the words of Christ and the Apostles, and preserve it in its purity and integrity among the people entrusted to your care and vigilance, with all false and pernicious opinions being completely rejected; and We beseech you to foster devotion to the Eucharist, which should be the focal point and goal of all other forms of devotion.
65. May the faithful, thanks to your constant efforts, come to realize and experience more and more that: “he who wants to live can find here a place to live in and the means to live on. Let him approach, let him believe, let him be incorporated so that he may receive life. Let him not shy away from union with the members, let him not be a rotten member that deserves to be cut away, nor a distorted member to be ashamed of: let him be beautiful, let him be fitting, let him be healthy. Let him adhere to the body; let him live for God on God: let him labor now upon earth, so that he may afterwards reign in heaven.” (66)
Daily Mass and Holy Communion
66. It is desirable to have the faithful in large numbers take an active part in the sacrifice of the Mass each and every day and receive the nourishment of Holy Communion with a pure and holy mind and offer fitting thanks to Christ the Lord for such a great gift. They should remember these words: “The desire of Jesus Christ and of the Church to see all the faithful approach the sacred banquet each and every day is based on a wish to have them all united to God through the Sacrament and to have them draw from it the strength to master their passions, to wash away the lesser sins that are committed every day and to prevent the serious sins to which human frailty is subject.” (67) And they should not forget about paying a visit during the day to the Most Blessed Sacrament in the very special place of honor where it is reserved in churches in keeping with the liturgical laws, since this is a proof of gratitude and a pledge of love and a display of the adoration that is owed to Christ the Lord who is present there.
Dignity Bestowed by Eucharist
67. No one can fail to see that the divine Eucharist bestows an incomparable dignity upon the Christian people. For it is not just while the Sacrifice is being offered and the Sacrament is being confected, but also after the Sacrifice has been offered and the Sacrament confected—while the Eucharist is reserved in churches or oratories—that Christ is truly Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” For He is in the midst of us day and night; He dwells in us with the fullness of grace and of truth. (68) He raises the level of morals, fosters virtue, comforts the sorrowful, strengthens the weak and stirs up all those who draw near to Him to imitate Him, so that they may learn from his example to be meek and humble of heart, and to seek not their own interests but those of God. Anyone who has a special devotion to the sacred Eucharist and who tries to repay Christ’s infinite love for us with an eager and unselfish love of his own, will experience and fully understand—and this will bring great delight and benefit to his soul—just how precious is a life hidden with Christ in God (69) and just how worthwhile it is to carry on a conversation with Christ, for there is nothing more consoling here on earth, nothing more efficacious for progress along the paths of holiness.
68. You also realize, Venerable Brothers, that the Eucharist is reserved in churches or oratories to serve as the spiritual center of a religious community or a parish community, indeed of the whole Church and the whole of mankind, since it contains, beneath the veil of the species, Christ the invisible Head of the Church, the Redeemer of the world, the center of all hearts, “by whom all things are and by whom we exist.” (70)
69. Hence it is that devotion to the divine Eucharist exerts a great influence upon the soul in the direction of fostering a “social” love, (71) in which we put the common good ahead of private good, take up the cause of the community, the parish, the universal Church, and extend our charity to the whole world because we know that there are members of Christ everywhere.
A Sign and Cause of Unity
70. Because, Venerable Brothers, the Sacrament of the Eucharist is a sign and cause of the unity of Christ’s Mystical Body, and because it stirs up an active “ecclesial” spirit in those who are more fervent in their Eucharistic devotion, never stop urging your faithful, as they approach the Mystery of the Eucharist, to learn to embrace the Church’s cause as their own, to pray to God without slackening, to offer themselves to God as an acceptable sacrifice for the peace and unity of the Church; so that all the sons of the Church may be united and feel united and there may be no divisions among them but rather unity of mind and intention, as the Apostle commands. (72) May all those who are not yet in perfect communion with the Catholic Church and who glory in the name of Christian despite their separation from her, come as soon as possible to share with us, through the help of God’s grace, in that unity of faith and communion that Christ wanted to be the distinctive mark of His disciples.
A Special Task for Religious
71. This zeal at prayer and at devoting oneself to God for the sake of the unity of the Church is something that religious, both men and women, should regard as very specially their own since they are bound in a special way to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and they have, by virtue of the vows they have pronounced, become a kind of crown set around it here on earth.
The Tridentine Decree
72. The Church in the past has felt and still feels that nothing is more ancient and more pleasing than the desire for the unity of all Christians, and We want to express this in the very same words that the Council of Trent used to conclude its decree on the Most Holy Eucharist: “In conclusion, the Council with paternal love admonishes, exhorts, begs and implores ‘through the merciful kindness of our God (73) that each and every Christian may come at last to full agreement in this sign of unity, in this bond of charity, in this symbol of harmony; that they may be mindful of the great dignity and the profound love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up His precious life as the price of our salvation and who gave us His flesh to eat (74); and that they may believe and adore these sacred mysteries of His body and blood with such firm and unwavering faith, with such devotion and piety and veneration that they will be able to receive that supersubstantial (75) bread often and it will truly be the life of their souls and the unfailing strength of their minds, so that ‘fortified by its vigor,’ (76) they may be able to move on from this wretched earthly pilgrimage to their heavenly home where, without any veil, they will eat the ‘bread of angels’ (77) that they now eat beneath the sacred veils.” (78)
73. May the all-merciful Redeemer, who shortly before His death prayed to the Father that all who were to believe in Him might be one, just as He and the Father are one, (79) deign to hear this most ardent prayer of Ours and of the whole Church as quickly as possible, so that we may all celebrate the Eucharistic Mystery with one voice and one faith, and through sharing in the Body of Christ become one body, (80) joined together by the same bonds that Christ wanted it to have.
A Word to the Eastern Churches
74. We also want to address with fraternal affection those who belong to the venerable Churches of the East, which have had so many glorious Fathers whose testimony to belief in the Eucharist We have been so glad to cite in this present letter of Ours. Our soul is filled with great joy as We contemplate your belief in the Eucharist, which is ours as well, as we listen to the liturgical prayers you use to celebrate this great mystery, as we behold your Eucharistic devotion, as we read your theological works explaining or defending the doctrine of this most sacred Sacrament.
A Final Prayer
75. May the most blessed Virgin Mary, from whom Christ the Lord took the flesh that “is contained, offered, received” (81) in this Sacrament under the appearances of bread and wine, and may all the saints of God and especially those who were more inflamed with ardent devotion toward the divine Eucharist, intercede with the Father of mercies so that this common belief in the Eucharist and devotion to it may give rise among all Christians to a perfect unity of communion that will continue to flourish. Lingering in Our mind are the words of the holy martyr Ignatius warning the Philadelphians against the evil of divisions and schisms, the remedy for which is to be found in the Eucharist. “Strive then,” he says, “to make use of one single thanksgiving. For there is only one flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and only one chalice unto the union of His blood, only one altar, only one bishop . . .” (82)
76. Fortified by the most consoling hope of blessings that will accrue to the whole Church and to the whole world from an increase in devotion to the Eucharist, as a pledge of heavenly blessings We lovingly impart Our apostolic blessings to you, Venerable Brothers, and to the priests, religious and all who are helping you, as well as to all the faithful entrusted to your care.
Given at St. Peter’s, Rome, on the third day of September, the feast of Pope St. Pius X, in the year 1965, the third of Our Pontificate.
PAUL VI
NOTES
LATIN TEXT: Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 57 (1965), 753-74.
ENGLISH TRANSLATION: The Pope Speaks, 10 (Fall, 1965), 309-28.
REFERENCES:
(1) Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, c. 2, n. 47; AAS LVI (1964), 113 [Cf. TPS IX, 325.].
(2) Jn. 6.55.
(3) Cf. Jn 17.23.
(4) Encyclical letter Mirae caritatis: Acta Leonis XIII, XXII (1902-1903) 122.
(5) Homily on Matthew, 82.4; PG 58.743.
(6) Summa Theol. III,(a) q. 75, a. 1, c.
(7) In IV Sent., dist. X, P. I, art. un., qu. I; Opera omnia, tome IV, Ad Claras Aquas (1889), 217.
(8) Jn. 6.61-69.
(9) St. Augustine, Against Julian, VI, 5.11; PL 44.829.
(10) City of God, X, 23; PL 41.300.
(11) Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, c. 4.
(12) Cf. Council of Trent, Teaching on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, c. I.
(13) Cf. Ex 24.8.
(14) Lk 22.19-20; cf. Mt 26.26-28; Mk 14.22-24.
(15) Acts 2.42.
(16) Acts 4.32.
(17) 1 Cor 11.23 ff.
(18) 1 Cor 10.16.
(19) Cf. Mal 1.11.
(20) Council of Trent, Doctrine on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, c. 2.
(21) Catecheses, 23 [myst. 5]. 8-18; PG 33.1115-1118.
(22) Cf. Confessions IX, 12.32; PL 32.777; cf. ibid. IX 11, 27; PL 32.775.
(23) Cf. Serm 172.2.; PL 38.936; cf. On the care to be taken of the dead, 13, PL 40.593.
(24) Cf. St. Augustine, City ot God, X, 6; PL 42.284.
(25) Cf. Encyclical letter Mediator Dei; AAS XXXIX (1947), 552.
(26) Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, c. 2, 11; AAS LVII (1965), 15 [Cf. TPS v. 10, p. 366.].
(27) Cf. ibid., c. 2, n. 10; AAS LVII (1965), 14 [Cf. TPS v. 10, p. 365-366.].
(28) Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, c. 1, n. 27; AAS LVI (1964), 107 [Cf. TPS IX, 322.].
(29) Cf. Roman Pontifical.
(30) Cf. c. 1, n. 7; AAS LVI (1964), 100-101.
(31) St. Augustine, On Psalm 85.1: PL 37.1081.
(32) Mt 18.20.
(33) Cf. Mt 25.40.
(34) Cf. Eph 3.17.
(35) Cf. Rom 5.5.
(36) St. Augustine, Against the Letter ot Petiliani, III, 10.11; PL 43.353.
(37) St. Augustine, On Psalm 86.3; PL 37.1102.
(38) Homily on the Second Epistle to Timothy 2.4; PG 62.612.
(39) Aegidius Romanus, Theorems on the Body of Christ, theor. 50 (Venice, 1521), p. 127.
(40) St. Thomas, Summa Theol., IIIa, p. 73, a. 3, c.
(41) Cf. Council of Trent, Decree on the Holy Eucharist, c. 3.
(42) Pius XII, Encyclical letter Humani generis; AAS XLII (1950), 578.
(43) Decree on the Holy Eucharist, Introduction and c. 2.
(44) Didachè, 9.1; F.X. Funk, Patres Apostolici, 1.20.
(45) Epistle to Magnus, 6; PL 3.1139.
(46) 1 Cor 10.17.
(47) St. Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyrnians, 7.1; PG 5.714.
(48) Commentary on Matthew, c. 26; PG 66.714.
(49) Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, c. 1.
(50) Cf. Encyclical letter Mirae caritatis; Acta Leonis XIII, XXII (1902-1903), 123.
(51) Cf. Council of Trent, Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, c. 4 and canon 2.
(52) Catecheses, 22.9 [myst. 4] PG 33.1103.
(53) Homily on Judas’ betrayal, 1.6; PG 49.380; cf. Homily on Matthew 82.5; PG 58.744.
(54) On Matthew 26.27; PG 72.451.
(55) On Mysteries 9.50-52; PL 16.422-424.
(56) Mansi, Collectio amplissima Conciliorum, XX, 524D.
(57) Const. Auctorem fidei, August 28, 1794.
(58) Allocution of September 22, 1956, AAS XLVIII (1956), 720 [Cf. TPS III, 281-282.].
(59) AAS LVII (1965), 588-592.
(60) On Psalm 98.9; PL 37.1264.
(61) Apostolic Tradition; ed. Botte, La Tradition Apostolique de St. Hippolyte, Muenster (1963), p. 84.
(62) Fragment on Exodus; PG 12.391.
(63) On Shows; CSEL III,(3) 8.
(64) Epistle to Calosyrius; PG 76.1075.
(65) Cf. Basil, Epistle 93; PG 32.483-486.
(66) St. Augustine, Treatise on John 26.13; PL 35.1613.
(67) Decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Council, December 20, 1905, approved by St. Pius X; AAS XXXVIII (1905), 401.
(68) Cf. Jn 1.14.
(69) Cf. Col 3.3.
(70) 1 Cor 8.6.
(71) Cf. St. Augustine, On the literal interpretation of Genesis XI, 15.20; PL 34.437.
(72) Cf. 1 Cor 1.10.
(73) Lk 1.78.
(74) .Jn 6.48 ff.
(75) Mt 6.11.
(76) 3 Kgs 19.8.
(77) Ps 77.25.
(78) Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, c. 8.
(79) Cf.Jn 17.20-21.
(80) Cf. 1 Cor 10.17.
(81) C.I.C., canon 801.
(82) Epistle to the Philadelphians 4; PG 5.700.

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A Message from the President

I am writing to announce the formation of the Association of Students at Catholic Colleges.  I hope that you will consider joining the ASCC.  As a member, you will have the option to receive the Cardinal Newman Society’s Higher Education Alert and periodic updates from the ASCC.
The Cardinal Newman Society sponsors the National Association of Students at Catholic Colleges (ASCC) to foster networking and fellowship among students engaged in Church renewal and strengthening the religious identity of Catholic colleges and universities in the United States.
At many Catholic colleges and universities, students are actively engaged in promising efforts to strengthen the religious identity of their institutions and develop a campus life conducive to Christian living.  The Cardinal Newman Society has identified dozens of Catholic campus groups across the country with widely varying approaches: Bible studies, Eucharistic adoration societies, campus newspapers, and community service groups, among others.  The Cardinal Newman Society finds in these groups great promise for the renewal of Catholic campus life.
However, these groups suffer similar problems.  These groups often enjoy vibrant leadership one year but lack such leadership the next.  Student leaders often have little experience or training in club leadership, organizing events, and recruiting members.  Student leaders also lack communication and fellowship with other faithful Catholic students on their campuses and at other institutions.
I believe that a national association is needed to foster communication and fellowship among Catholic student leaders, provide training and resources for successful leadership, and assist students nationwide to replicate successful models of student activity on their own campuses.
I hope you will join us in our efforts to renew Catholic campus life, one student at a time.
God bless!
Thomas P. Harmon
President, Association of Students at Catholic Colleges
Gonzaga University ’03

Mission Statement

The Cardinal Newman Society’s national association of students, the Association of Students at Catholic Colleges (ASCC) is designed to serve students at Catholic colleges and universities interested in preserving and building up the Catholic identity at their schools through a
variety of means.
The organization assists in fostering collaboration among existing groups and individual students at Catholic institutions throughout the country and acts to help students found groups concerned with living the Catholic faith in a way that is faithful to the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church and guided by the Apostolic Constitution on Higher Education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

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ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON THE HOLY EUCHARIST
To Our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates,
Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries,
having Peace and Communion with the Holy See.
Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction.
To examine into the nature and to promote the effects of those manifestations of His wondrous love which, like rays of light, stream forth from Jesus Christ-this, as befits Our sacred office, has ever been, and this, with His help, to the last breath of Our life will ever be Our earnest aim and endeavour. For, whereas Our lot has been cast in an age that is bitterly hostile to justice and truth, we have not failed, as you have been reminded by the Apostolic letter which we recently addressed to you, to do what in us lay, by Our instructions and admonitions, and by such practical measures as seemed best suited for their purpose, to dissipate the contagion of error in its many shapes, and to strengthen the sinews of the Christian life. Among these efforts of Ours there are two in particular, of recent memory, closely related to each other, from the recollection whereof we gather some fruit of comfort, the more seasonable by reason of the many causes of sorrow that weigh us down. One of these is the occasion on which We directed, as a thing most desirable, that the entire human race should be consecrated by a special act to the Sacred Heart of Christ our Redeemer; the other that on which We so urgently exhorted all those who bear the name Christian to cling loyally to Him Who, by divine ordinance, is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” not for individuals alone bur for every rightly constituted society. And now that same apostolic charity, ever watchful over the vicissitudes of the Church, moves and in a manner compels Us to add one thing more, in order to fill up the measure of what We have already conceived and carried out. This is, to commend to all Christians, more earnestly than heretofore, the all-holy Eucharist, forasmuch as it is a divine gift proceeding from the very Heart of the Redeemer, Who “with desire desireth” this singular mode of union with men, a gift most admirably adapted to be the means whereby the salutary fruits of His redemption may be distributed. Indeed We have not failed in the past, more than once, to use Our authority and to exercise Our zeal in this behalf. It gives Us much pleasure to recall to mind that We have officially approved, and enriched with canonical privileges, not a few institutions and confraternities having for their object the perpetual adoration of the Sacred Host; that We have encouraged the holding of Eucharistic Congresses, the results of which have been as profitable as the attendance at them has been numerous and distinguished; that We have designated as the heavenly patron of these and similar undertakings St. Paschal Baylon, whose devotion to the mystery of the Eucharist was so extraordinary.
2. Accordingly, Venerable Brethren, it has seemed good to Us to address you on certain points connected with this same mystery, for the defence and honour of which the solicitude of the Church has been so constantly engaged, for which Martyrs have given their lives, which has afforded to men of the highest genius a theme to be illustrated by their learning, their eloquence, their skill in all the arts; and this We will do in order to render more clearly evident and more widely known those special characteristics by virtue of which it is so singularly adapted to the needs of these our times. It was towards the close of His mortal life that Christ our Lord left this memorial of His measureless love for men, this powerful means of support “for the life of the world” (St. John vi., 52). And precisely for this reason, We, being so soon to depart from this life, can wish for nothing better than that it may be granted to us to stir up and foster in the hearts of all men the dispositions of mindful gratitude and due devotion towards this wondrous Sacrament, wherein most especially lie, as We hold, the hope and the efficient cause of salvation and of that peace which all men so anxiously seek.
3. Some there are, no doubt, who will express their surprise that for the manifold troubles and grievous afflictions by which our age is harassed We should have determined to seek for remedies and redress in this quarter rather than elsewhere, and in some, perchance, Our words will excite a certain peevish disgust. But this is only the natural result of pride; for when this vice has taken possession of the heart, it is inevitable that Christian faith, which demands a most willing docility, should languish, and that a murky darkness in regard of divine truths should close in upon the mind; so that in the case of many these words should be made good: “Whatever things they know not, they blaspheme” (St. Jude, 10). We, however, so far from being hereby turned aside from the design which We have taken in hand, are on the contrary determined all the more zealously and diligently to hold up the light for the guidance of the well disposed, and, with the help of the united prayers of the faithful, earnestly to implore forgiveness for those who speak evil of holy things.
The Source of Life
4. To know with an entire faith what is the excellence of the Most Holy Eucharist is in truth to know what that work is which, in the might of His mercy, God, made man, carried out on behalf of the human race. For as a right faith teaches us to acknowledge and to worship Christ as the sovereign cause of our salvation, since He by His wisdom, His laws, His ordinances, His example, and by the shedding of His blood, made all things new; so the same faith likewise teaches us to acknowledge Him and to worship Him as really present in the Eucharist, as verily abiding through all time in the midst of men, in order that as their Master, their Good Shepherd, their most acceptable Advocate with the Father, He may impart to them of His own inexhaustible abundance the benefits of that redemption which He has accomplished. Now if any one will seriously consider the benefits which flow from the Eucharist he will understand that conspicuous and chief among them all is that in which the rest, without exception, are included; in a word it is for men the source of life, of that life which best deserves the name. “The bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (St. John vi., 52). In more than one way, as We have elsewhere declared, is Christ “the life.” He Himself declared that the reason of His advent among men was this, that He might bring them the assured fulness of a more than merely human life. “I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly” (St. John x., 10). Everyone is aware that no sooner had “the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour appeared” (Tit. iii., 4), than there at once burst forth a certain creative fore;. which issued in a new order of things and pused through all the veins of society, civil and domestic. Hence arose new relations between man and man; new rights and new duties, public and private; henceforth a new direction was given to government, to education, to the arts; and most important of all, man’s thoughts and energies were turned towards religious truth and the pursuit of holiness. Thus was life communicated to man, a life truly heavenly and divine. And thus we are to account for those expressions which so often occur in Holy Writ, “the tree of life,” “the word of life,” “the book of life,” “the crown of life,” and particularly “the bread of life.”
5. But now, since this life of which We are speaking bears a definite resemblance to the natural life of man, as the one draws its nourishment and strength from food, so also the other must have its own food whereby it may be sustained and augmented. And here it will be opportune to recall to mind on what occasion and in what manner Christ moved and prepared the hearts of men for the worthy and due reception of the living bread which He was about to give them. No sooner had the rumour spread of the miracle which He had wrought on the shores of the lake of Tiberias, when with the multiplied loaves He fed the multitude, than many forthwith flocked to Him in the hope that they, too, perchance, might be the recipients of like favour. And, just as He had taken occasion from the water which she had drawn from the well to stir up in the Samaritan woman a thirst for that “water which springeth up unto life everlasting” (St. John iv., 14), so now Jesus availed Himself of this opportunity to excite in the minds of the multitude a keen hunger for the bread “which endureth unto life everlasting” (St. John vi., 27). Or, as He was careful to explain to them, was the bread which He promised the same as that heavenly manna which had been given to their fathers during their wanderings in the desert, or again the same as that which, to their amazement, they had recently received from Him; but He was Himself that bread: “I,” said He, “am the bread of life” (St. John vi., 48). And He urges this still further upon them all both by invitation and by precept: “if any man shall eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (St. John vi., 52). And in these other words He brings home to them the gravity of the precept: “Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless you shall eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you” (St. John vi., 54). Away then with the widespread but most mischievous error of those who give it as their opinion that the reception of the Eucharist is in a manner reserved for those narrow-minded persons (as they are deemed) who rid themselves of the cares of the world in order to find rest in some kind of professedly religious life. For this gift, than which nothing can be more excellent or more conducive to salvation, is offered to all those, whatever their office or dignity may be, who wish-as every one ought to wish-to foster in themselves that life of divine grace whose goal is the attainment of the life of blessedness with God.
6. Indeed it is greatly to be desired that those men would rightly esteem and would make due provision for life everlasting, whose industry or talents or rank have put it in their power to shape the course of human events. But alas! we see with sorrow that such men too often proudly flatter themselves that they have conferred upon this world as it were a fresh lease of life and prosperity, inasmuch as by their own energetic action they are urging it on to the race for wealth, to a struggle for the possession of commodities which minister to the love of comfort and display. And yet, whithersoever we turn, we see that human society, if it be estranged from God, instead of enjoying that peace in its possessions for which it had sought, is shaken and tossed like one who is in the agony and heat of fever; for while it anxiously strives for prosperity, and trusts to it alone, it is pursuing an object that ever escapes it, clinging to one that ever eludes the grasp. For as men and states alike necessarily have their being from God, so they can do nothing good except in God through Jesus Christ, through whom every best and choicest gift has ever proceeded and proceeds. But the source and chief of all these gifts is the venerable Eucharist, which not only nourishes and sustains that life the desire whereof demands our most strenuous efforts, but also enhances beyond measure that dignity of man of which in these days we hear so much. For what can be more honourable or a more worthy object of desire than to be made, as far as possible, sharers and partakers in the divine nature? Now this is precisely what Christ does for us in the Eucharist, wherein, after having raised man by the operation of His grace to a supernatural state, he yet more closely associates and unites him with Himself. For there is this difference between the food of the body and that of the soul, that whereas the former is changed into our substance, the latter changes us into its own; so that St. Augustine makes Christ Himself say: “You shall not change Me into yourself as you do the food of your body, but you shall be changed into Me” (confessions 1. vii., c. x.).
The Mystery of Faith
7. Moreover, in this most admirable Sacrament, which is the chief means whereby men are engrafted on the divine nature, men also find the most efficacious help towards progress in every kind of virtue. And first of all in faith. In all ages faith has been attacked; for although it elevates the human mind by bestowing on it the knowledge of the highest truths, yet because, while it makes known the existence of divine mysteries, it yet leaves in obscurity the mode of their being, it is therefore thought to degrade the intellect. But whereas in past times particular articles of faith have been made by turns the object of attack; the seat of war has since been enlarged and extended, until it has come to this, that men deny altogether that there is anything above and beyond nature. Now nothing can be better adapted to promote a renewal of the strength and fervour of faith in the human mind than the mystery of the Eucharist, the “mystery of faith,” as it has been most appropriately called. For in this one mystery the entire supernatural order, with all its wealth and variety of wonders, is in a manner summed up and contained: “He hath made a remembrance of His wonderful works, a merciful and gracious Lord; He bath given food to them that fear Him” (Psalm cx, 4-5). For whereas God has subordinated the whole supernatural order to the Incarnation of His Word, in virtue whereof salvation has been restored to the human race, according to those words of the Apostle; “He bath purposed…to re-establish all things in Christ, that are in heaven and on earth, in Him” (Eph. i., 9-10), the Eucharist, according to the testimony of the holy Fathers, should be regarded as in a manner a continuation and extension of the Incarnation. For in and by it the substance of the incarnate Word is united with individual men, and the supreme Sacrifice offered on Calvary is in a wondrous manner renewed, as was signified beforehand by Malachy in the words: “In every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My name a pure oblation” (Mal. i., II). And this miracle, itself the very greatest of its kind, is accompanied by innumerable other miracles; for here all the laws of nature are suspended; the whole substance of the bread and wine are changed into the Body and the Blood; the species of bread and wine are sustained by the divine power without the support of any underlying substance; the Body of Christ is present in many places at the same time, that is to say, wherever the Sacrament is consecrated. And in order that human reason may the more willingly pay its homage to this great mystery, there have not been wanting, as an aid to faith, certain prodigies wrought in His honour, both in ancient times and in our own, of which in more than one place there exist public and notable records and memorials. It is plain that by this Sacrament faith is fed, in it the mind finds its nourishment, the objections of rationalists are brought to naught, and abundant light is thrown on the supernatural order.
8. But that decay of faith in divine things of which We have spoken is the effect not only of pride, but also of moral corruption. For if it is true that a strict morality improves the quickness of man’s intellectual powers, and if on the other hand, as the maxims of pagan philosophy and the admonitions of divine wisdom combine to teach us, the keenness of the mind is blunted by bodily pleasures, how much more, in the region of revealed truths, do these same pleasures obscure the light of faith, or even, by the just judgment of God, entirely extinguish it. For these pleasures at the present day an insatiable appetite rages, infecting all classes as with an infectious disease, even from tender years. Yet even for so terrible an evil there is a remedy close at hand in the divine Eucharist. For in the first place it puts a check on lust by increasing charity, according to the words of St. Augustine, who says, speaking of charity, “As it grows, lust diminishes; when it reaches perfection, lust is no more” (De diversis quaestionibus, lxxxiii., q. 36). Moreover the most chaste flesh of Jesus keeps down the rebellion of our flesh, as St. Cyril of Alexandria taught, “For Christ abiding in us lulls to sleep the law of the flesh which rages in our members” (Lib. iv., c. ii., in Joan., vi., 57). Then too the special and most pleasant fruit of the Eucharist is that which is signified in the words of the prophet: “What is the good thing of Him,” that is, of Christ, “and what is His beautiful thing, but the corn of the elect and the wine that engendereth virgins” (Zach. ix., 17), producing, in other words, that flower and fruitage of a strong and constant purpose of virginity which, even in an age enervated by luxury, is daily multiplied and spread abroad in the Catholic Church, with those advantages to religion and to human society, wherever it is found, which are plain to see.
9. To this it must be added that by this same Sacrament our hope of everlasting blessedness, based on our trust in the divine assistance, is wonderfully strengthened. For the edge of that longing for happiness which is so deeply rooted in the hearts of all men from their birth is whetted even more and more by the experience of the deceitfulness of earthly goods, by the unjust violence of wicked men, and by all those other afflictions to which mind and body are subject. Now the venerable Sacrament of the Eucharist is both the source and the pledge of blessedness and of glory, and this, not for the soul alone, but for the body also. For it enriches the soul with an abundance of heavenly blessings, and fills it with a sweet joy which far surpasses man’s hope and expectations; it sustains him in adversity, strengthens him in the spiritual combat, preserves him for life everlasting, and as a special provision for the journey accompanies him thither. And in the frail and perishable body that divine Host, which is the immortal Body of Christ, implants a principle of resurrection, a seed of immortality, which one day must germinate. That to this source man’s soul and body will be indebted for both these boons has been the constant teaching of the Church, which has dutifully reaffirmed the affirmation of Christ: “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood bath everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (St. John vi., 55).
10. In connection with this matter it is of importance to consider that in the Eucharist, seeing that it was instituted by Christ as “a perpetual memorial of His Passion” (Opusc. Ivii. Offic. de festo Corporis Christi), is proclaimed to the Christian the necessity of a salutary self-chastisement. For Jesus said to those first priests of His: “Do this in memory of Me” (Luke xxii, 18); that is to say, do this for the commemoration of My pains, My sorrows, My grievous afflictions, My death upon the Cross. Wherefore this Sacrament is at the same time a Sacrifice, seasonable throughout the entire period of our penance; and it is likewise a standing exhortation to all manner of toil, and a solemn and severe rebuke to those carnal pleasures which some are not ashamed so highly to praise and extol: “As often as ye shall eat this bread, and drink this chalice, ye shall announce the death of the Lord, until He come” (1 Cor. xi., 26).
The Bond of Charity
11. Furthermore, if anyone will diligently examine into the causes of the evils of our day, he will find that they arise from this, that as charity towards God has grown cold, the mutual charity of men among themselves has likewise cooled. Men have forgotten that they are children of God and brethren in Jesus Christ; they care for nothing except their own individual interests; the interests and the rights of others they not only make light of, but often attack and invade. Hence frequent disturbances and strifes between class and class: arrogance, oppression, fraud on the part of the more powerful: misery, envy, and turbulence among the poor. These are evils for which it is in vain to seek a remedy in legislation, in threats of penalties to be incurred, or in any other device of merely human prudence. Our chief care and endeavour ought to be, according to the admonitions which We have more than once given at considerable length, to secure the union of classes in a mutual interchange of dutiful services, a union which, having its origin in God, shall issue in deeds that reflect the true spirit of Jesus Christ and a genuine charity. This charity Christ brought into the world, with it He would have all hearts on fire. For it alone is capable of affording to soul and body alike, even in this life, a foretaste of blessedness; since it restrains man’s inordinate self-love, and puts a check on avarice, which “is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. vi., 10). And whereas it is right to uphold all the claims of justice as between the various classes of society, nevertheless it is only with the efficacious aid of charity, which tempers justice, that the “equality” which St. Paul commended (2 Cor. viii., 14), and which is so salutary for human society, can be established and maintained. This then is what Christ intended when he instituted this Venerable Sacrament, namely, by awakening charity towards God to promote mutual charity among men. For the latter, as is plain, is by its very nature rooted in the former, and springs from it by a kind of spontaneous growth. Nor is it possible that there should be any lack of charity among men, or rather it must needs be enkindled and flourish, if men would but ponder well the charity which Christ has shown in this Sacrament. For in it He has not only given a splendid manifestation of His power and wisdom, but “has in a manner poured out the riches of His divine love towards men” (Conc. Trid., Sess. XIIL, De Euch. c. ii.). Having before our eyes this noble example set us by Christ, Who bestows on us all that He has assuredly we ought to love and help one another to the utmost, being daily more closely united by the strong bond of brotherhood. Add to this that the outward and visible elements of this Sacrament supply a singularly appropriate stimulus to union. On this topic St. Cyprian writes: “In a word the Lord’s sacrifice symbolises the oneness of heart, guaranteed by a persevering and inviolable charity, which should prevail among Christians. For when our Lord calls His Body bread, a substance which is kneaded together out of many grains, He indicates that we His people, whom He sustains, are bound together in close union; and when He speaks of His Blood as wine, in which the juice pressed from many clusters of grapes is mingled in one fluid, He likewise indicates that we His flock are by the commingling of a multitude of persons made one” (Ep. 96 ad Magnum n. 5 (a1.6)). In like manner the angelic Doctor, adopting the sentiments of St. Augustine (Tract. xxxvi., in Joan. nn. 13, 17), writes: “Our Lord has bequeathed to us His Body and Blood under the form of substances in which a multitude of things have been reduced to unity, for one of them, namely bread, consisting as it does of many grains is yet one, and the other, that is to say wine, has its unity of being from the confluent juice of many grapes; and therefore St. Augustine elsewhere says: `O Sacrament of mercy, O sign of unity, O bond of charity!’ ” (Summ. Theol. P. IIL, q. lxxix., a.l.). All of which is confirmed by the declaration of the Council of Trent that Christ left the Eucharist in His Church “as a symbol of that unity and charity whereby He would have all Christians mutually joined and united. . . a symbol of that one body of which He is Himself the head, and to which He would have us, as members attached by the closest bonds of faith, hope, and charity” (Conc. Trid., Sess. XIIL, De Euchar., c. ii.). The same idea had been expressed by St. Paul when he wrote: “For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all we who partake of the one bread” (I Cor. x., 17). Very beautiful and joyful too is the spectacle of Christian brotherhood and social equality which is afforded when men of all conditions, gentle and simple, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, gather round the holy altar, all sharing alike in this heavenly banquet. And if in the records of the Church it is deservedly reckoned to the special credit of its first ages that “the multitude of the believers had but one heart and one soul” (Acts iv., 32), there can be no shadow of doubt that this immense blessing was due to their frequent meetings at the Divine table; for we find it recorded of them: “They were persevering in the doctrine of the Apostles and in the communion of the breaking of bread” (Acts ii., 42).
12. Besides all this, the grace of mutual charity among the living, which derives from the Sacrament of the Eucharist so great an increase of strength, is further extended by virtue of the Sacrifice to all those who are numbered in the Communion of Saints. For the Communion of Saints, as everyone knows, is nothing but the mutual communication of help, expiation, prayers, blessings, among all the faithful, who, whether they have already attained to the heavenly country, or are detained in the purgatorial fire, or are yet exiles here on earth, all enjoy the common franchise of that city whereof Christ is the head, and the constitution is charity. For faith teaches us, that although the venerable Sacrifice may be lawfully offered to God alone, yet it may be celebrated in honour of the saints reigning in heaven with God Who has crowned them, in order that we may gain for ourselves their patronage. And it may also be offered-in accordance with an apostolic tradition-for the purpose of expiating the sins of those of the brethren who, having died in the Lord, have not yet fully paid the penalty of their transgressions.
13. That genuine charity, therefore, which knows how to do and to suffer all things for the salvation and the benefit of all, leaps forth with all the heat and energy of a flame from that most holy Eucharist in which Christ Himself is present and lives, in which He indulges to the utmost. His love towards us, and under the impulse of that divine love ceaselessly renews His Sacrifice. And thus it is not difficult to see whence the arduous labours of apostolic men, and whence those innumerable designs of every kind for the welfare of the human race which have been set on foot among Catholics, derive their origin, their strength, their permanence, their success.
14. These few words on a subject so vast will, we doubt not, prove most helpful to the Christian flock, if you in your zeal, Venerable Brethren, will cause them to be expounded and enforced as time and occasion may serve. But indeed a Sacrament so great and so rich in all manner of blessings can never be extolled as it deserves by human eloquence, nor adequately venerated by the worship of man. This Sacrament, whether as the theme of devout meditation, or as the object of public adoration, or best of all as a food to be received in the utmost purity of conscience, is to be regarded as the centre towards which the spiritual life of a Christian in all its ambit gravitates; for all other forms of devotion, whatsoever they may be, lead up to it, and in it find their point of rest. In this mystery more than in any other that gracious invitation and still more gracious promise of Christ is realised and finds its daily fulfilment: “Come to me all ye that labour and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you” (St. Matt. xi., 28).
15. In a word this Sacrament is, as it were, the very soul of the Church; and to it the grace of the priesthood is ordered and directed in all its fulness and in each of its successive grades. From the same source the Church draws and has all her strength, all her glory, her every supernatural endowment and adornment, every good thing that is here; wherefore she makes it the chiefest of all her cares to prepare the hearts of the faithful for an intimate union with Christ through the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, and to draw them thereto. And to this end she strives to promote the veneration of the august mystery by surrounding it with holy ceremonies. To this ceaseless and ever watchful care of the Church or Mother, our attention is drawn by that exhortation which was uttered by the holy Council of Trent, and which is so much to the purpose that for the benefit of the Christian people We here reproduce it in its entirety. “The Holy Synod admonishes, exhorts, asks and implores by the tender mercy of our God, that all and each of those who bear the name of Christian should at last unite and find peace in this sign of unity, in this bond of charity, in this symbol of concord; and that, mindful of the great majesty and singular love of Jesus Christ our Lord, Who gave His precious life as the price of our salvation, and His flesh for our food, they should believe and revere these sacred mysteries of His Body and Blood with such constancy of unwavering faith, with such interior devotion and worshipful piety, that they may be in condition to receive frequently that supersubstantial bread, and that it may be to them the life of their souls and keep their mind in soundness of faith; so that strengthened with its strength they may be enabled after the journey of this sorrowful pilgrimage to reach the heavenly country, there to see and feed upon that bread of angels which here they eat under the sacramental veils” (Conc. Trid., Sess. XXII, c. vi).
16. History bears witness that the virtues of the Christian life have flourished best wherever and whenever the frequent reception of the Eucharist has most prevailed. And on the other hand it is no less certain that in days when men have ceased to care for this heavenly bread, and have lost their appetite for it, the practice of Christian religion has gradually lost its force and vigour. And indeed it was a needful measure of precaution against a complete falling away that Innocent III, in the Council of the Lateran, most strictly enjoined that no Christian should abstain from receiving the communion of the Lord’s Body at least in the solemn paschal season. But it is clear that this precept was imposed with regret, and only as a last resource; for it has always been the desire of the Church that at every Mass some of the faithful should be present and should communicate. “The holy Synod would wish that in every celebration of the Mass some of the faithful should take part, not only by devoutly assisting thereat, but also by the sacramental reception of the Eucharist, in order that they might more abundantly partake of the fruits of this holy Sacrifice” (conc. Trid., Sess. XIII. de Euchar. c. viii).
The Sacrifice of the Mass
17. Most abundant, assuredly, are the salutary benefits which are stored up in this most venerable mystery, regarded as a Sacrifice; a Sacrifice which the Church is accordingly wont to offer daily “for the salvation of the whole world.” And it is fitting, indeed in this age it is specially important, that by means of the united efforts of the devout, the outward honour and the inward reverence paid to this Sacrifice should be alike increased. Accordingly it is our wish that its manifold excellence may be both more widely known and more attentively considered. There are certain general principles the truth of which can be plainly perceived by the light of reason; for instance, that the dominion of God our Creator and Preserver over all men, whether in their private or in their public life, is supreme and absolute; that our whole being and all that we possess, whether individually or as members of society, comes from the divine bounty; that we on our part are bound to show to God, as our Lord, the highest reverence, and, as He is our greatest benefactor, the deepest gratitude. But how many are there who at the present day acknowledge and discharge these duties with full and exact observance? In no age has the spirit of contumacy and an attitude of defiance towards God been more prevalent than in our own; an age in which that unholy cry of the enemies of Christ: “We will not have this man to rule over us” (Luke xix., 14), makes itself more and more loudly heard, together with the utterance of that wicked purpose: “let us make away with Him” (]er. xi., II); nor is there any motive by which many are hurried on with more passionate fury, than the desire utterly to banish God not only from the civil government, but from every form of human society. And although men do not everywhere proceed to this extremity of criminal madness, it is a lamentable thing that so many are sunk in oblivion of the divine Majesty and of His favours, and in particular of the salvation wrought for us by Christ. Now a remedy must be found for this wickedness on the one hand, and this sloth on the other, in a general increase among the faithful of fervent devotion towards the Eucharistic Sacrifice, than which nothing can give greater honour, nothing be more pleasing, to God. For it is a divine Victim which is here immolated; and accordingly through this Victim we offer to the most blessed Trinity all that honour which the infinite dignity of the Godhead demands; infinite in value and infinitely acceptable is the gift which we present to the Father in His only-begotten son; so that for His benefits to us we not only signify our gratitude, but actually make an adequate return.
18. Moreover there is another twofold fruit which we may and must derive from this great Sacrifice. The heart is saddened when it considers what a flood of wickedness, the result-as We have said-of forgetfulness and contempt of the divine Majesty, has inundated the world. It is not too much to say that a great part of the human race seems to be calling down upon itself the anger of heaven; though indeed the crop of evils which has grown up here on earth is already ripening to a just judgment. Here then is a motive whereby the faithful may be stirred to a devout and earnest endeavour to appease God the avenger of sin, and to win from Him the help which is so needful in these calamitous times. And they should see that such blessings are to be sought principally by means of this Sacrifice. For it is only in virtue of the death which Christ suffered that men can satisfy, and that most abundantly, the demands of God’s justice, and can obtain the plenteous gifts of His clemency. And Christ has willed that the whole virtue of His death, alike for expiation and impetration, should abide in the Eucharist, which is no mere empty commemoration thereof, but a true and wonderful though bloodless and mystical renewal of it.
19. To conclude, we gladly acknowledge that it has been a cause of no small joy to us that during these last years a renewal of love and devotion towards the Sacrament of the Eucharist has, as it seems, begun to show itself in the hearts of the faithful; a fact which encourages us to hope for better times and a more favourable state of affairs. Many and varied, as we said at the commencement, are the expedients which an inventive piety has devised; and worthy of special mention are the confraternities instituted either with the object of carrying out the Eucharistic ritual with greater splendour, or for the perpetual adoration of the venerable Sacrament by day and night, or for the purpose of making reparation for the blasphemies and insults of which it is the object. But neither We nor you, Venerable Brethren, can allow ourselves to rest satisfied with what has hitherto been done; for there remain many things which must be further developed or begun anew, to the end that this most divine of gifts this greatest of mysteries, may be better understood and more worthily honoured and revered, even by those who already take their part in the religious services of the Church. Wherefore, works of this kind which have been already set on foot must be ever more zealously promoted; old undertakings must be revived wherever perchance they may have fallen into decay; for instance, Confraternities of the holy Eucharist, intercessory prayers before the blessed Sacrament exposed for the veneration of the faithful, solemn processions, devout visits to God’s tabernacle, and other holy and salutary practices of some kind; nothing must be omitted which a prudent piety may suggest as suitable. But the chief aim of our efforts must be that the frequent reception of the Eucharist may be everywhere revived among Catholic peoples. For this is the lesson which is taught us by the example, already referred to, of the primitive Church, by the decrees of Councils, by the authority of the Fathers and of the holy men in all ages. For the soul, like the body, needs frequent nourishment; and the holy Eucharist provides that food which is best adapted to the support of its life. Accordingly all hostile prejudices, those vain fears to which so many yield, and their specious excuses from abstaining from the Eucharist, must be resolutely put aside; for there is question here of a gift than which none other can be more serviceable to the faithful people, either for the redeeming of time from the tyranny of anxious cares concerning perishable things, or for the renewal of the Christian spirit and perseverance therein. To this end the exhortations and example of all those who occupy a prominent position will powerfully contribute, but most especially the resourceful and diligent zeal of the clergy. For priests, to whom Christ our Redeemer entrusted the office of consecrating and dispensing the mystery of His Body and Blood, can assuredly make no better return for the honour which has been conferred upon them, than by promoting with all their might the glory of his Eucharist, and by inviting and drawing the hearts of men to the health-giving springs of this great Sacrament andSacrifice, seconding hereby the longings of His most Sacred Heart.
20. May God grant that thus, in accordance with Our earnest desire, the excellent fruits of the Eucharist may daily manifest themselves in greater abundance, to the happy increase of faith, hope, and charity, and of ail Christian virtues; and may this turn to the recovery and advantage of the whole body politic; and may the wisdom of God’s most provident charity, Who instituted this mystery for all time “for the life of the world,”shine forth with an ever brighter sight.
21. Encouraged by such hopes as these, Venerable Brethren, We, as a presage of the divine liberality and as a pledge of our own charity, most lovingly bestow on each of you, and on the clergy and flock committed to the care of each, our Apostolic Benediction.
Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s on the 28th day of May, being the Vigil of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, in the year 1902, of Our Pontificate the five and twentieth.
LEO XIII

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Books:
A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist, A. Vonier, Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1946.
The Blessed Eucharist, Michael Muller, Baltimore: Kelley & Piet, 1868 (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1973)
The Blessed Sacrament, Frederick W. Faber, Baltimore: John Murphy Co., 1855;
Catholic Faith in the Holy Eucharist, C. Lattey, ed. B. Herder Book Co., 1923.
Crossing the Tiber, Steve Ray, Ignatius Press, 1997 (whole section on the Eucharist).
The Eucharist, Aime G. Martimort, NY: Seabury, 1971;
The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church, Eugene LaVeriere, Liturgical Press, 1996.
The Eucharist in the New Testament: A Symposium, J. Delorme, P. Benoit et al, London: Chapman, 1965;
Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer, Louis Bouyer, tr. C.U. Quinn (Notre Dame, IN: Fides, 1968).
The Faith of the Early Fathers (three volumes), William Jurgens, Liturgical Press, 1979.
For the Life of the World: St. Maximilian and the Eucharist, George Domanski, Peter D. Fehlner (trans.), 1993
The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist, James T. O’Connor ($17.95 from Catholic Answers; call 1-888-291-8000)
The Holy Eucharist, C. Hedley, London: Longmans, 1907.
The Holy Eucharist by St. Alphonsus Liguori
The Holy Eucharist. Aidan Nichols, OP, Veritas Publications, 1991.
The Holy Eucharist, Bernard van Acken, Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1958;
In Remembrance of Me, Aime G. Martimort, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1958;
Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue: IV: Eucharist and Ministry, published jointly by Representatives of the U.S.A. National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation and the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, 1970.
Moments Divine Before the Blessed Sacrament, by Fr. Frederick A. Reuter, K.C.B.S.
The Mysteries of Christianity, Matthias Scheeben, tr. Cyril Vollert, St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1946 (orig. 1888), pp. 469-539 on Eucharist, Transubstantiation, Real Presence.
The Real Presence through the Ages, Michael Gaudoin-Parker, Alba House, 1998.
The Sacrifice of the Mystical Body, Eugene Masure, Chicago: Regnery, 1957;
This is My Body: An Evangelical Discovers the Real Presence, Mark Shea ($3.95 from Catholic Answers; call 1-888-291-8000);
What is the Eucharist?, Marie J. Nicolas, NY: Hawthorn Books, 1960;
Other Materials:
Adoration by Fr. Stan Fortuna (CD). Order online at www.francescoproductions.com.

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THE EUCHARIST:
TO BE LOVED, TO BE LIVED
A Pastoral Letter on the Centrality of the Eucharist
Dear Friends in Christ:
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. (Jn 6:53-54)
These words of Jesus remind us as clearly as possible of the centrality of the Eucharist to our Catholic Faith. The Eucharist is, in the simplest yet most profound of terms, the source of life. In giving us the Eucharist at the Last Supper, Jesus gave us his very own body and blood, a priceless gift, one that enriches our spiritual lives here on earth and leads us eventually to the perfection of eternal life in heaven.
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church” teaches us again of the importance of the Eucharist in the life of the Christian:

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life… For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself… By the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life… In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith. (#s 1324-1327)
The teaching and lived experience of the Church have helped us to understand more fully the many dimensions of the Eucharist. It is a sacrifice—the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross; it is a sacrament—the real presence of Christ under the forms of bread and wine; it is a meal—the same memorial meal Jesus shared with his apostles at the Last Supper; it is a liturgical celebration—a public proclamation of our faith in sign and symbol.
The Eucharist is all this and much more. No single one of these dimensions is sufficient unto itself to fully reveal the meaning of the Eucharist; none of them can be overlooked in fully appreciating the magnitude of the gift. The Eucharist is an inexhaustible mystery: to be loved, to be lived.
Our shared preparation for the coming of the Third Millennium also centers on and leads us to the Eucharist. As the Holy Father writes in “Tertio Millennio Adveniente,” “Since Christ is the only way to the Father, the year 2000 will be intensely Eucharistic: in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Savior who took flesh in Mary’s womb twenty centuries ago, continues to offer himself to humanity as the source of Divine Life.” (TMA, #55)
Certainly every active member of the Church recognizes and fully appreciates the centrality of the Eucharist in our individual Catholic lives and in the communal life of the Church. No person of authentic Catholic Faith will deny the teaching of the Church about the Eucharist.
And yet, because of human nature, we often take our gifts for granted, even the most special of our gifts— our life, our health, our family, our friends and our faith. It is even possible, because of our weakness and perhaps because the Eucharist is so readily available to us, to take the Eucharist for granted and to become less than clear about its meaning and importance.
Recent surveys throughout the nation have suggested that this is exactly what has taken place in the Church. And while the validity and meaning of the surveys can be questioned, they do raise up serious concerns and provide us with an opportunity of renewing our understanding and appreciation of the most Blessed Sacrament.
For some time now, in a number of different settings, I have been discussing questions related to the Eucharist. This topic has been presented at meetings of the Priests’ Council, the Pastoral Council and priests within their deaneries. I have discussed it formally and informally. These discussions have been extremely valuable and a number of important insights and suggestions have been shared.
It is encouraging to note, first of all, that the Church in Youngstown does truly understand the teaching of the Church about the Eucharist and appreciates it as the foundation of our spiritual life, the “sum and summary of our faith.” There is also a general consensus that most Catholics have a ready understanding of the Catholic teaching about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, that, “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, substantially contained’.” (Catechism, #1374) The conversations I have heard about the Eucharist are, therefore, most encouraging. And I might add that my own travels throughout the Diocese and my participation in the liturgies of our parishes have confirmed that estimation.
At the same time, however, most of our recent discussions have also suggested that we need constantly to affirm the teaching of the Church about the Eucharist, that it is necessary to stress again and again, the profound meaning of the Eucharist so that in fact we never lose sight of its beauty and importance. Some have suggested that, in particular, younger Catholics may not have received clear sufficient teaching about the Eucharist and that we have a special obligation to reach out to them with this message.
During our discussions I regularly asked what the Church in the Diocese of Youngstown might do to strengthen our understanding of the teaching about the Eucharist. In response, a number of very practical and specific suggestions were offered. I offer them to you here with the hope that they will provide a starting point for additional and prayerful reflection.
I. The key to maintaining our belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the faithful and vibrant celebration of the Sunday Eucharist.
As Roger Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, wrote in his recent pastoral letter about Sunday Mass: “We the Church assemble on the Lord’s Day, and that assembly, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, speaks and listens to the Word of God, makes holy and is made holy by its eucharistic praying and the sacred banquet of holy communion.” (“Gather Faithfully Together: A Guide for Sunday Mass”)
Cardinal Mahony’s words echo those of “The Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “It was above all on ‘the first day of the week,’ Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, that the Christians met ‘to break bread.’ From that time on down to our day the celebration of the Eucharist has been continued so that today we encounter it everywhere in the Church with the same fundamental structure. It remains the center of the Church’s life.” (#1343)
I invite the parishes of the Youngstown Diocese to review their celebration of the Sunday Eucharist to be certain that it is both faithful and vibrant: faithful to the liturgical directives of the Church and vibrant in encouraging all of God’s People toward the “full, conscious and active participation” demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. And parishes should continue to reach out to those members who do not regularly attend Sunday Mass, inviting them to become a part of the Eucharistic community.
And in highlighting the centrality of Sunday Eucharist, we should not overlook the wonderful tradition of daily Mass, which is expected of our priests, and which many of the faithful find to be a source of great comfort and blessing in their lives.

II. Pastors and catechists should use special moments throughout the liturgical year to teach the people, especially young people, about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The liturgical year of the Church provides frequent opportunities to speak about the Eucharist. Such occasions would include the celebration of First Holy Communion in the parish, the Solemnities of Corpus Christi and Christ the King, Holy Thursday, the Easter Season, and other occasions when the Scriptures lend themselves to Eucharistic themes.
We should be especially attentive to children and young people to be certain that in the formative years of their lives, they are receiving clear and direct teaching about the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.
Our teaching about the Eucharist should be a constant, ongoing process so that the People of God are frequently reminded of the beauty of the holy mystery in their midst.

III. Parishes and institutions should carefully review how the Blessed Sacrament is handled.
In some of our discussions the point was made that the manner in which we handle the Eucharist is a powerful sign of what we believe about the Eucharist. It was also suggested that familiarity may breed carelessness with the Eucharist.
Questions to be considered: Do we carry, receive, distribute and reserve the Eucharist with obvious reverence? Do we remember that “The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist?” (Catechism, #1377) Are we careful and prayerful as we purify the sacred vessels after Mass, knowing that they continue to contain the Body and Blood of the Lord? Is our use of language consistent with what we believe about the Eucharist: do we speak merely about “bread and wine” or do we refer to the elements as the “Body and Blood of Christ” they have truly become?
While it is not necessary to return to the scrupulosity that may have characterized some in the past, neither should we succumb to a secular, materialistic and casual approach to the Eucharist sometimes evident today.
IV. In churches where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a separate chapel, there should be a concerted effort to remind the faithful of that fact and to promote attention to the reserved Eucharist.
Liturgical law allows for the placement of the Blessed Sacrament in separate chapels in our churches, but the purpose of that reservation is surely not to distance the Eucharist from the people, but to encourage prayerful and distraction-free adoration of the Lord Jesus. As The Catechism reminds us, “The tabernacle is to be situated in churches in a most worthy place with the greatest honor. The dignity, placing and security of the Eucharistic tabernacle should foster adoration before the Lord truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.” (#1 183)
Additionally, The Code of Canon Law states: “The tabernacle in which the most Holy Eucharist is reserved should be placed in a part of the Church that is prominent, conspicuous, beautifully decorated and suitable for prayer.” (Canon #938)
The place where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved should be very evident to the faithful, and “a special lamp to indicate and honor the presence of Christ is to bum at all times before the tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved.” (Canon #940)
Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, before and after Mass and on other private occasions, should be encouraged as a way of preparing for the celebration of the Eucharist and of extending its meaning.
The traditional Catholic practice of genuflecting upon entering and leaving the Church, and when passing in front of the Blessed Sacrament, should be maintained, as an external sign of our awareness of and respect for Christ’s presence.
V. Parishes should seriously consider the re-establishment of traditional practices that foster devotion to the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
As noted earlier, the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is clearly the center of the Church’s life. At the same time, the Sunday Eucharist does not exhaust the prayer of the Church related to the Eucharist. “The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with utmost care, exposing them to solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.” (Catechism #1378)
I commend the parishes of the Diocese that have maintained the beautiful practice of “Forty Hours” or “Eucharistic Days,” and other regular periods of adoration, and I invite other parishes to initiate these celebrations as well. “In churches and oratories where the Eucharist is reserved, it is recommended that solemn exposition of the blessed sacrament for an extended period of time should take place once a year… In this way, the local community may meditate on this mystery more deeply and adore.” (“Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist,” #86) Such devotions will also provide a fitting preparation for the coming of the Third Millennium which, as our Holy Father reminds us, is meant to be “intensely Eucharistic.”
A few of the parishes of the Diocese have received permission for “Perpetual Exposition of the Eucharist.” The Church does not envision this becoming a widespread practice. However, where it has begun, Perpetual Adoration has been a source of many blessings and graces. I commend the priests, deacons, religious and faithful who devote themselves to this discipline.
Some have maintained that the promotion of the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will take away from the centrality of the Eucharistic celebration. It need not do so. In fact, proper devotion to the Blessed Sacrament will inevitably lead to a fuller participation in the Eucharistic celebration:
Outside the Eucharistic celebration, the Church is careful to venerate the Blessed Sacrament, which must be reserved… as the spiritual centre of the religious and parish community. Contemplation prolongs communion and enables one to meet Christ, true God and true man, in a lasting way… Prayer of adoration in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament unites the faithful with the paschal mystery; it enables them to share in Christ’s sacrifice, of which the Eucharist is the permanent sacrament. (John Paul II, “Letter on the 750th Anniversary of the Feast of Corpus Christi,” #3)
Others have suggested that the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament causes people to withdraw from the cares and concerns of the world. But in fact, as the Holy Father writes, “closeness to Christ in silence and contemplation does not distance us from our contemporaries, but on the contrary, makes us attentive and open to human joy and distress and broadens our heart on a global scale.” (“Corpus Christi Letter,” #S) In recent times, the beautiful example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who every day spent considerable time with the Blessed Sacrament before serving the “poorest of the poor” helps to illustrate the Holy Father’s observation.
This dimension of the Eucharist is highlighted at the conclusion of every Mass with the words, “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.” Indeed it is through our lives of faithful and generous service that the meaning of the Eucharist is completely revealed.
In short, the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist, the reception of Holy Communion, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and our commitment to service need not and should not be exclusive of one another. In fact, these practices, taken together, help us to experience the fullness of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and motivate us to carry Christ to the world.
It should be obvious that this letter does not intend to present the full teaching of the Church about the Eucharist or its profound meaning in our lives. Nor does it attempt a full discussion of the themes contained herein.
The suggestions outlined in this letter were offered during the conversations about the Eucharist which took place in the Diocese of Youngstown, and I am grateful for all those who shared in these discussions with such obvious faith, insight and candor.
In my view, the most important thing is that the conversations about the Eucharist continue. And it is in our parishes that the teaching of the Church is best presented and devotion to the real presence of Christ best preserved.
Therefore I ask that in every parish of the Diocese these themes be discussed: from the pulpit and in the classrooms; in meetings of the parish councils and parish organizations. I request that this letter be the starting point of the conversation, but you may wish to provide other material as well. I call your attention especially to “The Catechism of the Catholic Church” and its treatment of the Eucharist in paragraphs 1322-1419.
I believe that the Eucharistic faith of the Church in the Diocese of Youngstown is strong and clear, and for that we give thanks to Almighty God. May our anticipation of the Third Millennium, and our observance of this Lenten and Easter Season, allow us to be a truly Eucharistic people, a people that celebrates the Mass faithfully, receives the Lord worthily, adores His presence unceasingly, and lives the Eucharist in “a life poured out in loving service of the kingdom.” (Opening Prayer for the Feast of Corpus Christi)

Sincerely yours in Christ, Our Lord,
Thomas J. Tobin
Bishop of Youngstown, OH
Used with Permission from the Diocese of Youngstown, OH.

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Why College Students are Rediscovering Adoration

Students at AdorationHave you heard? Here you can buy college essays. There’s a new trend on Catholic campuses and it’s transforming lives. Students are rediscovering Eucharistic Adoration, a timeless Church tradition. There’s nothing difficult about it:

Just take some time for prayer in front of Jesus.’ Glorify Him.’ Beseech Him.’ Come to a deeper understanding of Him as you contemplate His tremendous sacrifice for you and all mankind.’ Love Him.

Could you not watch one hour with Me?’ That question alone justifies the time that we spend with our Lord.’ But there are other benefits:

  • Experience God&’s grace, inviting you to a genuine, personal encounter with Christ truly present in the Eucharist and helping you stay faithful to Him.
  • Find peace in the love Christ showers upon you. Take a break from your hectic schedule, put your soul at rest, and build the strength that you need to succeed in college and life.
  • Work out relationship problems and other troubles with Christ, who shares both your joys and your sorrows by His sacrifice laid out before you.
  • Root your studies, athletics, charitable and social justice work, and all endeavors in Christ by first pondering and sharing in His sacrifice.’ Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen put it best when he said, Neither theological knowledge nor social action alone is enough to keep us in love with Christ unless both are proceeded by a personal encounter with Him.
  • Experience the greatest high of your college years, one that will transform you and bring you constant joy!

What is Eucharistic Adoration?
At Eucharistic Adoration, a priest or deacon places the Eucharist in the form of an unconsumed host into a monstrance, a “showcase” designed to allow the display and worship of Jesus in the Eucharist. Then, for a designated period of time, all are encouraged to visit Jesus to pray and worship. On a deeper level, Eucharistic Adoration is our response to Jesus&’ promise: And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. We worship in awe the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity whose entire person, body, blood, soul, and divinity, is REALLY PRESENT. Perpetuated through the centuries, the Church has developed the devotion of adoring Christ, exposed for all to see, in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
How do I participate?

  • Individual sessions of Adoration are typically for one hour at a time. Each one-hour session is called a Holy Hour. It&’s good to get into the habit of making at least one or two Holy Hours every week. By making this commitment, we gradually begin to want to spend more time with Jesus. If you&’ve never participated in Eucharistic Adoration before, it is good to start with just an hour. This, however, does not at all mean that visits for less than one hour are not acceptable. A visit can be 5, 15, or 30 minutes, or even just 30 seconds as you make your way to class. Jesus is there, ready and waiting to fill you with His love.

How do I get started?

  • Eucharistic Adoration requires the permission and participation of the priest(s) responsible for your campus church or chapel.’ But faculty, staff, or students often organize the program, especially by scheduling at least one person to be present with the Eucharist at all times that Christ is displayed.’ Contact your campus ministry about participating in Adoration or getting it started.’ For advice and resources, contact the Association of Students at Catholic Colleges (ASCC).

 

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CONGREGATION FOR THE CAUSES OF SAINTS

The Face of Christ in the Face of the Church

One of the fundamental teachings found in the Apostolic Letters Novo Millennio ineunte and the recent Rosarium Virginis Mariae, concerns the intimate and inseparable bond between Jesus Christ and his Mystical Body, which is the Church, through which he continues his saving mission among men who live through the centuries. This is certainly a subject that deserves some reflection, both for its current theological and pastoral importance.

1. Contemporary man needs to see the Face of Christ

The human person is “the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake” (cf. Gaudium et spes, n. 24). “From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1703), which will have its fulfilment in the future life. Really, what God willed with the creation of the human person is that he/she reach total fulfilment (E. Colom – A. Rodríguez Luño, Chosen by Christ to be Saints. Elements of Fundamental Moral Theology, Rome 1999, pp. 66-67). To achieve such a goal is the last end and unifying principle of all of human existence. St Augustine expounds it with the famous expression: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” (St Augustine, Confessions, I, 1).

This aspiration to the absolute good “is presented and lived by the Christian as the aspiration to holiness, understood as the fullness of divine sonship, which is realized on earth in the following and imitation of Christ” (E. Colom – A. Rodríguez Luño, lop. cit., p. 55). St Paul is extremely clear in this regard: God the Father “chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him … in love” (Eph, 1,4-5). This is the fundamental vocation of the human person, of every human person.

Only in Christ, therefore, can we fulfil our highest vocation, and thus satisfy our deepest desire and find an adequate answer to the many questions which lie in our heart.

Precisely for this reason, the human person, and particularly contemporary man, wants to see Christ: “We wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12,21). After recalling this request made to the Apostle Philip by the Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover, the Pope emphasizes in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte that “the men and women of our own day – often perhaps unconsciously – ask believers not only to “speak’ of Christ, but in a certain sense to “show’ him to them” (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, 6 January 2001, n. 16). In effect, without Christ, and without the full consciousness of his original vocation, the human person’s earthly life loses its bearing and everything becomes confused and unclear. St Peter’s words have value for every age: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (Jn 6,68), you have the words of love.

In reality, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being who is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love…. The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly … must … draw near to Christ” (John Paul II, Encyclical Redemptor hominis, 4 March 1979, n. 10), to see his loving face.

2. The Face of Christ in the face of the Church

1. The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium begins by affirming two basic teachings: “Christ is the light of all nations. Hence this most sacred Synod, which has been gathered in the Holy Spirit, eagerly desires to shed on all men that radiance of his which brightens the countenance of the Church. This it will do by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature” (Lumen gentium, n. 1). The Conciliar document emphasizes the sacramental character of the Church: she “in Christ, is a kind of sacrament or sign of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind”. In speaking of the People of God, the text returns to this concept: “God … has established … the Church, that for each and all she may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity” (ibid., n. 9).

Henri de Lubac figuratively expresses this sacramental reality of the Church, observing that “If Christ is the sacrament of God, the Church is for us the sacrament of Christ” (H. de Lubac, Catholicism: Christ and the Common Destiny of Man, trans. by Lancelot C. Sheppard and Sr Elizabeth Englund, OCD, Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1988, p. 76). The sacramental emphasis is, undoubtedly, the theological viewpoint which best allows us to understand not only the Christological but also the ecclesiological mystery. Affirming that the Church is a sacrament of Christ, in fact, means that her sole purpose is to make present and to reveal the face of Christ to every man; to “reflect the light of Christ in every historical period, to make his face shine also before the generations of the new millennium” (Novo Millennio ineunte, n. 16); in short, to be “the perennial epiphany” of the God-man, “a simultaneously human and divine being, in which the human is the instrument

and manifestation of the divine” (J. A. Möhler, Symbolik, 36, 6, ed. Monaco, 1985, p. 333).

2. In what way does the Church make Christ present and reveal his face? What should we respond to those who, like the Magi who came from the East to Jerusalem to adore Jesus, ask today as well, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (Mt 2,2).

The Church accomplishes her work of making him present when she exercises her three-fold office of teaching, sanctifying and governing.

In the office of teaching, she makes present the face of Christ the Teacher, since he is present in his Word read in the Church and by the Church and interpreted by the Magisterium (cf. Dei verbum, n. 10,1-3; Lumen gentium, nn. 24-25; Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7,1). The authority of the Magisterium is exercised in the name of Jesus and is at the service of the Word of God, never above it (cf. Dei verbum, n. 10,2). It is Christ who speaks through the mouth of the Church.

In the office of sanctifying, the Church makes present and reveals the face of Christ the Priest. It is enough to recall a text from the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium: “Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of his minister, … but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7,1).

Finally, in the exercise of the office of governing, the Church makes present the face of Christ the King (cf. Lumen gentium, nn. 21,1-2 and 27,1. See G. Philips, L’Église et son mystère au II Concile du Vatican, T. I. ed. Desclée, Paris 1967, pp. 248-252 and 349-354. Regarding the relativity and fallibility of concrete measures in the government of the Church, cf. the reflections of Ch. Journet, Il carattere teandrico della Chiesa, in G. Baraúna [dir.], “La Chiesa del Vaticano II”, ed. Vallecchi, Florence 1965, pp. 359-360). This is perhaps the place where the human element emerges with greatest clarity; but seeking to diminish its importance or relegate it to a secondary level would be nothing else than a refusal of the lex incarnationis. For this reason, the Constitution Lumen gentium recalls that the Bishops govern the particular churches entrusted to them “as the vicars of Christ” in his name (Lumen gentium, n. 27,1).

In sum, the Church is called to reflect his Face, the face of Christ Teacher, Prophet, Priest and King, in order that we can say of her in relation to Christ what Christ said of himself in relation to the Father: “He who has seen me, has seen the Father” (Jn 14,9). The basic mission of the Church is to be the transparence of Christ and of his face. Human beings have the inalienable right to be able to see the face of the Lord in the face of the Church, in order that in her and through her they can see and contemplate him.

We need to be accurate in what we mean. The Church, to whom the sublime mission has been entrusted to make present and reveal the face of Christ to the human person, is not only constituted by her structures, but also by all the members of the People of God. With the Incarnation in a certain sense Christ united himself to every human being (cf. Gaudium et spes, n. 22,2), but He is present, in a special way, in each of the faithful. Such an intimate and profound presence can be explained in terms of identification.

St. Augustine expresses this with his usual concision: “Let us rejoice, therefore, and give thanks to God: not only have we become Christians, but we have become Christ Himself. Do you understand, brothers? Are you aware of the grace which God has poured out upon us? Be glad and amazed: we have become Christ! If Christ is the head and we the members, he and we are the complete man” (St Augustine, In Iohannis evangelium tractatus, tr. 21, 8).

In effect, baptism confers upon the one who receives it a configuration with Christ that here on earth is already real, though at the same time imperfect as a goal that is to be reached. The Christian has the face of Christ imprinted in his heart in an indelible fashion. He is not only alter Christus, but ipse Christus, in the classic, well-known expression.

The ultimate end of every human person essentially consists in a full and total identification with Christ, in being an ever more perfect reflection of his face. In thus expressing ourselves, we repeat one of the fundamental chapters of Pauline theology. Speaking of Christ’s intimate and vital relationship with those who are reborn in the baptismal waters, St Paul is extremely clear and precise, affirming: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2,20), words which apply to every baptized person (cf. II Cor 13,5; Col 3,4).

The Christian’s identification with Christ should be expressed in everyday life. He/she is called to make Christ present and to manifest his Face to others with a personal witness. Paul VI’s words are ever valid: “Contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, or if he listens to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Paul VI, Discourse to members of the “Council for the Laity”, General Audience, 2 October 1974; ORE, 10 October 1974, p. 1). John Paul II also affirms: “Today people are slow to trust verbal affirmations and amphatic declarations, but they want deeds; so they look at these witnesses with interest, with attention and also with admiration. It could even be said that in order to function properly, the much desired meditation between the Church and the modern world needs witnesses who can infuse their own lives with the perennial truth of the Gospel and at the same time make it an instrument of salvation for their brothers and sisters” (John Paul II, Discourse to a group of scholars, authors of the hagiographical series “History of the Saints and of Christian Holiness”; ORE, 11 March 1992, p. 4).

3. The Face of Christ in the Saints and Witnesses of the Church

1. The face of Christ shines most intensely in the saints and witnesses of the faith, since in the virtue of their docility to the Spirit, the conformity with Jesus received in baptism appears most clearly in them: they have become more ipse Christus in participating in his life and mission.

But the face of Christ which is reflected in the Saints, and which they have in turn revealed to the world, is that of the Lord who died and rose again, of whom the Pope speaks in Novo Millennio ineunte: “As on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, the Church pauses in contemplation of this bleeding face, which conceals the life of God and offers salvation to the world. But her contemplation of Christ’s face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One.

Were this not so, our preaching would be in vain and our faith empty (cf. I Cor 15,14)…. It is the Risen Christ to whom the Church now looks…. Gazing on the face of Christ, the Bride contemplates her treasure and her joy. “Dulcis Iesus memoria, dans vera cordis gaudia’” (ibid., n. 28).

This is what the saints have done. In the variety of their charisms and the plurality of their vocations, they have had the humble boldness to fix their gaze upon the face of the risen Christ, totally living their radical evangelical way of life as a fascinating adventure of the Spirit. They have reached the highest peaks of sanctity, contemplating him with love.

This is certainly the basic task of every Christian, who is called to be, first and foremost, one who contemplates the face of Christ. John Paul II emphasizes this forcefully in his recent Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, signed in St Peter’s Square, on 16 October 2002. In the Letter, the Pope is extremely clear and precise: “To look upon the face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and the sufferings of his human life, and then to grasp the divine splendour definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father: this is the task of every disciple of Christ and therefore the task of each of us” (RVM, n. 9). The Saints are those who understood and lived intensely this mission as a true requirement of their Baptism. They have been the outstanding contemplatives of the face of the Crucified and Risen Lord.

By contemplating the face of Christ, moreover, they have “become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit” (ibid.).

By acting in this way, the saints have realized Paul’s words: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (II Cor 3,18; cf. RVM, n. 9).

2. By contemplating the face of Christ, the saints and witnesses of the faith imitate the Virgin Mary, who is the perfect exemplar of one who contemplates the face of the Lord. The Pope strongly emphasizes this in his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary: “In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary…. Mary’s gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him. At times it would be a questioning look, as in the episode of the finding in the Temple…. It would always be a penetrating gaze, one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana (cf. Jn 2,5). At other times it would be a look of sorrow, especially beneath the Cross…. On the morning of Easter hers would be a gaze radiant with the joy of the Resurrection, and finally, on the day of Pentecost, a gaze afire with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1,14). Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: “She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart’” (Lk 2,19; cf. 2,51).

With the help of grace, the saints and witnesses of the faith have tried exactly to do this: to contemplate the clear and glorious face of Christ, and to make it shine before the world of their time. They have done this with their personal testimony, and often with the sacrifice of their lives, which, for the Christian, is always the supreme testimony of faith in the Risen Lord.

3. For this reason, as the Pope notes, the Saints have always been the true makers of human history. “The real history of humanity is comprised of the story of sanctity…: the saints and blesseds all appear as “witnesses’, that is as persons who, confessing Christ, his person and his doctrine, have given concrete consistency and credible expression to one of the essential elements of the Church, namely sanctity.

Without such continual witness, the moral and religious doctrine preached by the Church would risk being confused with a purely human ideology. It is instead a doctrine of life; that is, it is applicable to life: a “livable’ doctrine based upon the example given to us by Christ Himself, who proclaims “I am the life’ (Jn 14,6), and affirms that He has come to give this life and to give it in abundance (cf. Jn 10,10)”.

Sanctity is not a theoretical ideal, but understood in the fundamental sense of communion with the One who is the incarnate holiness of the Father, it “is a particularly urgent need in our time” (John Paul II, Discourse, 15 Feb. 1992 op. cit.). Presenting sanctity to the faithful today more than ever, is for the Pope an urgent need of the pastoral action of the Church (cf. NMI, nn 30-31).

Yes. It is saints that the Church and world need. Saints who, after “having seen” the face of Christ, considered in its historical traits and in the ineffable mystery, have given “witness” to it (cf. Jn 19,35). The need is of saints who live with absolute consonance a bold evangelical style of life and Christian virtues.

“We wear ourselves out”, Archbishop Chiaretti of Perugia observes, “We wear ourselves out following the people to speak to them about Jesus Christ. On the contrary we should become saints ourselves, and then it will be the people who will seek us. We have seen this many times, for example, with Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope John XXIII…. How many people were attracted to them. They loved them, followed them, and not out of a morbid curiosity … but rather because they saw in these individuals the signs of the presence and the love of Jesus through their prayer, meekness, generosity, help for the needy, and love of the Church” (Archbishop G. Chiaretti, Archbishop of Perugia, Pastoral Letter for Lent 2001).

As the philosopher Jacques Maritain observed, Christian holiness is the fitting way to demonstrate the existence of a loving and merciful God to unbelievers, it is the only Gospel which contemporary man still reads, listens to, and understands.

“It is with holiness of life”, writes Archbishop Chiaretti, “that the Christian becomes “interesting’; even for a distracted public opinion. Interesting not because he works “miracles’ … but because he has the courage to go against the tide, he is not ashamed of his faith, rather he speaks of it with joy and enthusiasm, he shows consistency in all of his choices, he knows the personal price of the social marginalization to which he may be condemned, forgiving and loving those who place him upon the cross” (cf. ibid.).

John Paul II says in Novo Millennio ineunte that, strengthened by the experience of the face of the risen Lord, the Church continues on its path today with renewed hope, proclaiming Christ to the world at the beginning of the third millennium. This has been the constant path followed by the saints and witnesses of the faith. This is the path that we are called to travel, to live fully the Paschal Mystery of the risen Lord and to make his resplendent face known to the men of our time.

Christian holiness essentially consists in this: in being a reflection of the holiness of God which shines on the face of Christ. This is our duty, as Cardinal Newman emphasized in one of his meditations: “Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as you shine: so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from you. None of it will be mine. No merit to me. It will be you who shines through me upon others…. Make me preach you without preaching – not by words, but by my example and by the catching force, the sympathetic influence, of what I do – by my visible resemblance to your saints, and the evident fulness of the love which my heart bears to you” (Prayers, Verses and Devotion, John Henry Newman, Ignatius press, San Francisco, p. 389).

Cardinal José Saraiva Martins

Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints

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TO THE BISHOPS
PRIESTS AND DEACONS
MEN AND WOMEN
IN THE CONSECRATED LIFE
AND ALL THE LAY FAITHFUL
ON THE EUCHARIST
IN ITS RELATIONSHIP TO THE CHURCH
INTRODUCTION
1. The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways she joyfully experiences the constant fulfilment of the promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20), but in the Holy Eucharist, through the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity. Ever since Pentecost, when the Church, the People of the New Covenant, began her pilgrim journey towards her heavenly homeland, the Divine Sacrament has continued to mark the passing of her days, filling them with confident hope.
The Second Vatican Council rightly proclaimed that the Eucharistic sacrifice is “the source and summit of the Christian life”.1 “For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our passover and living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, he offers life to men”.2 Consequently the gaze of the Church is constantly turned to her Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar, in which she discovers the full manifestation of his boundless love.
2. During the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 I had an opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist in the Cenacle of Jerusalem where, according to tradition, it was first celebrated by Jesus himself. The Upper Room was where this most holy Sacrament was instituted. It is there that Christ took bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: “Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you” (cf. Mk 26:26; Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24). Then he took the cup of wine and said to them: “Take this, all of you and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all, so that sins may be forgiven” (cf. Mt 14:24; Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25). I am grateful to the Lord Jesus for allowing me to repeat in that same place, in obedience to his command: “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19), the words which he spoke two thousand years ago. Did the Apostles who took part in the Last Supper understand the meaning of the words spoken by Christ? Perhaps not. Those words would only be fully clear at the end of the Triduum sacrum, the time from Thursday evening to Sunday morning. Those days embrace the myste- rium paschale; they also embrace the mysterium eucharisticum.
3. The Church was born of the paschal mystery. For this very reason the Eucharist, which is in an outstanding way the sacrament of the paschal mystery, stands at the centre of the Church’s life. This is already clear from the earliest images of the Church found in the Acts of the Apostles: “They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (2:42). The “breaking of the bread” refers to the Eucharist. Two thousand years later, we continue to relive that primordial image of the Church. At every celebration of the Eucharist, we are spiritually brought back to the paschal Triduum: to the events of the evening of Holy Thursday, to the Last Supper and to what followed it. The institution of the Eucharist sacramentally anticipated the events which were about to take place, beginning with the agony in Gethsemane. Once again we see Jesus as he leaves the Upper Room, descends with his disciples to the Kidron valley and goes to the Garden of Olives. Even today that Garden shelters some very ancient olive trees. Perhaps they witnessed what happened beneath their shade that evening, when Christ in prayer was filled with anguish “and his sweat became like drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (cf. Lk 22:44). The blood which shortly before he had given to the Church as the drink of salvation in the sacrament of the Eucharist, began to be shed; its outpouring would then be completed on Golgotha to become the means of our redemption: “Christ… as high priest of the good things to come…, entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:11- 12).
4. The hour of our redemption. Although deeply troubled, Jesus does not flee before his “hour”. “And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, for this purpose I have come to this hour” (Jn 12:27). He wanted his disciples to keep him company, yet he had to experience loneliness and abandonment: “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mt 26:40- 41). Only John would remain at the foot of the Cross, at the side of Mary and the faithful women. The agony in Gethsemane was the introduction to the agony of the Cross on Good Friday. The holy hour, the hour of the redemption of the world. Whenever the Eucharist is celebrated at the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, there is an almost tangible return to his “hour”, the hour of his Cross and glorification. Every priest who celebrates Holy Mass, together with the Christian community which takes part in it, is led back in spirit to that place and that hour.
“He was crucified, he suffered death and was buried; he descended to the dead; on the third day he rose again”. The words of the profession of faith are echoed by the words of contemplation and proclamation: “This is the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world. Come, let us worship”. This is the invitation which the Church extends to all in the afternoon hours of Good Friday. She then takes up her song during the Easter season in order to proclaim: “The Lord is risen from the tomb; for our sake he hung on the Cross, Alleluia”.
5. “Mysterium fidei! – The Mystery of Faith!”. When the priest recites or chants these words, all present acclaim: “We announce your death, O Lord, and we proclaim your resurrection, until you come in glory”.
In these or similar words the Church, while pointing to Christ in the mystery of his passion, also reveals her own mystery: Ecclesia de Eucharistia. By the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the Church was born and set out upon the pathways of the world, yet a decisive moment in her taking shape was certainly the institution of the Eucharist in the Upper Room. Her foundation and wellspring is the whole Triduum paschale, but this is as it were gathered up, foreshadowed and “concentrated’ for ever in the gift of the Eucharist. In this gift Jesus Christ entrusted to his Church the perennial making present of the paschal mystery. With it he brought about a mysterious “oneness in time” between that Triduum and the passage of the centuries.
The thought of this leads us to profound amazement and gratitude. In the paschal event and the Eucharist which makes it present throughout the centuries, there is a truly enormous “capacity” which embraces all of history as the recipient of the grace of the redemption. This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the celebration of the Eucharist. But in a special way it should fill the minister of the Eucharist. For it is he who, by the authority given him in the sacrament of priestly ordination, effects the consecration. It is he who says with the power coming to him from Christ in the Upper Room: “This is my body which will be given up for you This is the cup of my blood, poured out for you…”. The priest says these words, or rather he puts his voice at the disposal of the One who spoke these words in the Upper Room and who desires that they should be repeated in every generation by all those who in the Church ministerially share in his priesthood.
6. I would like to rekindle this Eucharistic “amazement” by the present Encyclical Letter, in continuity with the Jubilee heritage which I have left to the Church in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte and its Marian crowning, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “programme” which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization. To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of his body and his blood. The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist; by him she is fed and by him she is enlightened. The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a “mystery of light”.3 Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Lk 24:31).
7. From the time I began my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have always marked Holy Thursday, the day of the Eucharist and of the priesthood, by sending a letter to all the priests of the world. This year, the twenty-fifth of my Pontificate, I wish to involve the whole Church more fully in this Eucharistic reflection, also as a way of thanking the Lord for the gift of the Eucharist and the priesthood: “Gift and Mystery”.4 By proclaiming the Year of the Rosary, I wish to put this, my twenty-fifth anniversary, under the aegis of the contemplation of Christ at the school of Mary. Consequently, I cannot let this Holy Thursday 2003 pass without halting before the “Eucharistic face” of Christ and pointing out with new force to the Church the centrality of the Eucharist.
From it the Church draws her life. From this “living bread” she draws her nourishment. How could I not feel the need to urge everyone to experience it ever anew?
8. When I think of the Eucharist, and look at my life as a priest, as a Bishop and as the Successor of Peter, I naturally recall the many times and places in which I was able to celebrate it. I remember the parish church of Niegowic´, where I had my first pastoral assignment, the collegiate church of Saint Florian in Krakow, Wawel Cathedral, Saint Peter’s Basilica and so many basilicas and churches in Rome and throughout the world. I have been able to celebrate Holy Mass in chapels built along mountain paths, on lakeshores and seacoasts; I have celebrated it on altars built in stadiums and in city squares… This varied scenario of celebrations of the Eucharist has given me a powerful experience of its universal and, so to speak, cosmic character. Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation. The Son of God became man in order to restore all creation, in one supreme act of praise, to the One who made it from nothing. He, the Eternal High Priest who by the blood of his Cross entered the eternal sanctuary, thus gives back to the Creator and Father all creation redeemed. He does so through the priestly ministry of the Church, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Truly this is the mysterium fidei which is accomplished in the Eucharist: the world which came forth from the hands of God the Creator now returns to him redeemed by Christ.
9. The Eucharist, as Christ’s saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history. This explains the lively concern which she has always shown for the Eucharistic mystery, a concern which finds authoritative expression in the work of the Councils and the Popes. How can we not admire the doctrinal expositions of the Decrees on the Most Holy Eucharist and on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass promulgated by the Council of Trent? For centuries those Decrees guided theology and catechesis, and they are still a dogmatic reference-point for the continual renewal and growth of God’s People in faith and in love for the Eucharist. In times closer to our own, three Encyclical Letters should be mentioned: the Encyclical Mirae Caritatis of Leo XIII (28 May 1902),5 the Encyclical Mediator Dei of Pius XII (20 November 1947)6 and the Encyclical Mysterium Fidei of Paul VI (3 September 1965).7
The Second Vatican Council, while not issuing a specific document on the Eucharistic mystery, considered its various aspects throughout its documents, especially the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium and the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium.
I myself, in the first years of my apostolic ministry in the Chair of Peter, wrote the Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae (24 February 1980),8 in which I discussed some aspects of the Eucharistic mystery and its importance for the life of those who are its ministers. Today I take up anew the thread of that argument, with even greater emotion and gratitude in my heart, echoing as it were the word of the Psalmist: “What shall I render to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” (Ps 116:12-13).
10. The Magisterium’s commitment to proclaiming the Eucharistic mystery has been matched by interior growth within the Christian community. Certainly the liturgical reform inaugurated by the Council has greatly contributed to a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful. In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it.
Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned.
Unfortunately, alongside these lights, there are also shadows. In some places the practice of Eucharistic adoration has been almost completely abandoned. In various parts of the Church abuses have occurred, leading to confusion with regard to sound faith and Catholic doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament. At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Furthermore, the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured and the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation. This has led here and there to ecumenical initiatives which, albeit well-intentioned, indulge in Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this? The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.
It is my hope that the present Encyclical Letter will effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery.
CHAPTER ONE
THE MYSTERY OF FAITH
11. “The Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed” (1 Cor 11:23) instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his body and his blood. The words of the Apostle Paul bring us back to the dramatic setting in which the Eucharist was born. The Eucharist is indelibly marked by the event of the Lord’s passion and death, of which it is not only a reminder but the sacramental re-presentation. It is the sacrifice of the Cross perpetuated down the ages.9 This truth is well expressed by the words with which the assembly in the Latin rite responds to the priest’s proclamation of the “Mystery of Faith”: “We announce your death, O Lord”.
The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work. Nor does it remain confined to the past, since “all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times”.10
When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”.11 This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits. This is the faith from which generations of Christians down the ages have lived. The Church’s Magisterium has constantly reaffirmed this faith with joyful gratitude for its inestimable gift.12 I wish once more to recall this truth and to join you, my dear brothers and sisters, in adoration before this mystery: a great mystery, a mystery of mercy. What more could Jesus have done for us? Truly, in the Eucharist, he shows us a love which goes “to the end” (cf. Jn 13:1), a love which knows no measure.
12. This aspect of the universal charity of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is based on the words of the Saviour himself. In instituting it, he did not merely say: “This is my body”, “this is my blood”, but went on to add: “which is given for you”, “which is poured out for you” (Lk 22:19-20). Jesus did not simply state that what he was giving them to eat and drink was his body and his blood; he also expressed its sacrificial meaning and made sacramentally present his sacrifice which would soon be offered on the Cross for the salvation of all. “The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood”.13
The Church constantly draws her life from the redeeming sacrifice; she approaches it not only through faith-filled remembrance, but also through a real contact, since this sacrifice is made present ever anew, sacramentally perpetuated, in every community which offers it at the hands of the consecrated minister. The Eucharist thus applies to men and women today the reconciliation won once for all by Christ for mankind in every age. “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice”.14 Saint John Chrysostom put it well: “We always offer the same Lamb, not one today and another tomorrow, but always the same one. For this reason the sacrifice is always only one… Even now we offer that victim who was once offered and who will never be consumed”.15
The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it.16 What is repeated is its memorial celebration, its “commemorative representation” (memorialis demonstratio),17 which makes Christ’s one, definitive redemptive sacrifice always present in time. The sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic mystery cannot therefore be understood as something separate, independent of the Cross or only indirectly referring to the sacrifice of Calvary.
13. By virtue of its close relationship to the sacrifice of Golgotha, the Eucharist is a sacrifice in the strict sense, and not only in a general way, as if it were simply a matter of Christ’s offering himself to the faithful as their spiritual food. The gift of his love and obedience to the point of giving his life (cf. Jn 10:17-18) is in the first place a gift to his Father. Certainly it is a gift given for our sake, and indeed that of all humanity (cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20; Jn 10:15), yet it is first and foremost a gift to the Father: “asacrifice that the Father accepted, giving, in return for this total self-giving by his Son, who ‘became obedient unto death’ (Phil 2:8), his own paternal gift, that is to say the grant of new immortal life in the resurrection”.18
In giving his sacrifice to the Church, Christ has also made his own the spiritual sacrifice of the Church, which is called to offer herself in union with the sacrifice of Christ. This is the teaching of the Second Vatican Council concerning all the faithful: “Taking part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the source and summit of the whole Christian life, they offer the divine victim to God, and offer themselves along with it”.19
14. Christ’s passover includes not only his passion and death, but also his resurrection. This is recalled by the assembly’s acclamation following the consecration: “We proclaim your resurrection”. The Eucharistic Sacrifice makes present not only the mystery of the Saviour’s passion and death, but also the mystery of the resurrection which crowned his sacrifice. It is as the living and risen One that Christ can become in the Eucharist the “bread of life” (Jn 6:35, 48), the “living bread” (Jn 6:51). Saint Ambrose reminded the newly-initiated that the Eucharist applies the event of the resurrection to their lives: “Today Christ is yours, yet each day he rises again for you”.20 Saint Cyril of Alexandria also makes clear that sharing in the sacred mysteries “is a true confession and a remembrance that the Lord died and returned to life for us and on our behalf”.21
15. The sacramental re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice, crowned by the resurrection, in the Mass involves a most special presence which – in the words of Paul VI – “is called ‘real’ not as a way of excluding all other types of presence as if they were ‘not real’, but because it is a presence in the fullest sense: a substantial presence whereby Christ, the God-Man, is wholly and entirely present”.22 This sets forth once more the perennially valid teaching of the Council of Trent: “the consecration of the bread and wine effects the change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. And the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called this change transubstantiation”.23 Truly the Eucharist is a mysterium fidei, a mystery which surpasses our understanding and can only be received in faith, as is often brought out in the catechesis of the Church Fathers regarding this divine sacrament: “Do not see – Saint Cyril of Jerusalem exhorts – in the bread and wine merely natural elements, because the Lord has expressly said that they are his body and his blood: faith assures you of this, though your senses suggest otherwise”.24
Adoro te devote, latens Deitas, we shall continue to sing with the Angelic Doctor. Before this mystery of love, human reason fully experiences its limitations. One understands how, down the centuries, this truth has stimulated theology to strive to understand it ever more deeply.
These are praiseworthy efforts, which are all the more helpful and insightful to the extent that they are able to join critical thinking to the “living faith” of the Church, as grasped especially by the Magisterium’s “sure charism of truth” and the “intimate sense of spiritual realities”25 which is attained above all by the saints. There remains the boundary indicated by Paul VI: “Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, must firmly maintain that in objective reality, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the consecration, so that the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus from that moment on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine”.26
16. The saving efficacy of the sacrifice is fully realized when the Lord’s body and blood are received in communion. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is intrinsically directed to the inward union of the faithful with Christ through communion; we receive the very One who offered himself for us, we receive his body which he gave up for us on the Cross and his blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). We are reminded of his words: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” (Jn 6:57). Jesus himself reassures us that this union, which he compares to that of the life of the Trinity, is truly realized. The Eucharist is a true banquet, in which Christ offers himself as our nourishment. When for the first time Jesus spoke of this food, his listeners were astonished and bewildered, which forced the Master to emphasize the objective truth of his words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you” (Jn 6:53). This is no metaphorical food: “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (Jn 6:55).
17. Through our communion in his body and blood, Christ also grants us his Spirit. Saint Ephrem writes: “He called the bread his living body and he filled it with himself and his Spirit…
He who eats it with faith, eats Fire and Spirit… Take and eat this, all of you, and eat with it the Holy Spirit. For it is truly my body and whoever eats it will have eternal life”.27 The Church implores this divine Gift, the source of every other gift, in the Eucharistic epiclesis. In the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, for example, we find the prayer: “We beseech, implore and beg you: send your Holy Spirit upon us all and upon these gifts… that those who partake of them may be purified in soul, receive the forgiveness of their sins, and share in the Holy Spirit”.28 And in the Roman Missal the celebrant prays: “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”.29 Thus by the gift of his body and blood Christ increases within us the gift of his Spirit, already poured out in Baptism and bestowed as a “seal” in the sacrament of Confirmation.
18. The acclamation of the assembly following the consecration appropriately ends by expressing the eschatological thrust which marks the celebration of the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:26): “until you come in glory”. The Eucharist is a straining towards the goal, a foretaste of the fullness of joy promised by Christ (cf. Jn 15:11); it is in some way the anticipation of heaven, the “pledge of future glory”.30 In the Eucharist, everything speaks of confident waiting “in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ”.31 Those who feed on Christ in the Eucharist need not wait until the hereafter to receive eternal life: they already possess it on earth, as the first-fruits of a future fullness which will embrace man in his totality. For in the Eucharist we also receive the pledge of our bodily resurrection at the end of the world: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:54). This pledge of the future resurrection comes from the fact that the flesh of the Son of Man, given as food, is his body in its glorious state after the resurrection. With the Eucharist we digest, as it were, the “secret” of the resurrection. For this reason Saint Ignatius of Antioch rightly defined the Eucharistic Bread as “a medicine of immortality, an antidote to death”.32
19. The eschatological tension kindled by the Eucharist expresses and reinforces our communion with the Church in heaven. It is not by chance that the Eastern Anaphoras and the Latin Eucharistic Prayers honour Mary, the ever-Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God, the angels, the holy apostles, the glorious martyrs and all the saints. This is an aspect of the Eucharist which merits greater attention: in celebrating the sacrifice of the Lamb, we are united to the heavenly “liturgy” and become part of that great multitude which cries out: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:10). The Eucharist is truly a glimpse of heaven appearing on earth. It is a glorious ray of the heavenly Jerusalem which pierces the clouds of our history and lights up our journey.
20. A significant consequence of the eschatological tension inherent in the Eucharist is also the fact that it spurs us on our journey through history and plants a seed of living hope in our daily commitment to the work before us. Certainly the Christian vision leads to the expectation of “new heavens” and “a new earth” (Rev 21:1), but this increases, rather than lessens, our sense of responsibility for the world today.33 I wish to reaffirm this forcefully at the beginning of the new millennium, so that Christians will feel more obliged than ever not to neglect their duties as citizens in this world. Theirs is the task of contributing with the light of the Gospel to the building of a more human world, a world fully in harmony with God’s plan.
Many problems darken the horizon of our time. We need but think of the urgent need to work for peace, to base relationships between peoples on solid premises of justice and solidarity, and to defend human life from conception to its natural end. And what should we say of the thousand inconsistencies of a “globalized” world where the weakest, the most powerless and the poorest appear to have so little hope! It is in this world that Christian hope must shine forth! For this reason too, the Lord wished to remain with us in the Eucharist, making his presence in meal and sacrifice the promise of a humanity renewed by his love. Significantly, in their account of the Last Supper, the Synoptics recount the institution of the Eucharist, while the Gospel of John relates, as a way of bringing out its profound meaning, the account of the “washing of the feet”, in which Jesus appears as the teacher of communion and of service (cf. Jn 13:1-20). The Apostle Paul, for his part, says that it is “unworthy” of a Christian community to partake of the Lord’s Supper amid division and indifference towards the poor (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-22, 27-34).34
Proclaiming the death of the Lord “until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26) entails that all who take part in the Eucharist be committed to changing their lives and making them in a certain way completely “Eucharistic”. It is this fruit of a transfigured existence and a commitment to transforming the world in accordance with the Gospel which splendidly illustrates the eschatological tension inherent in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the Christian life as a whole: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).
CHAPTER TWO
THE EUCHARIST
BUILDS THE CHURCH
21. The Second Vatican Council teaches that the celebration of the Eucharist is at the centre of the process of the Church’s growth. After stating that “the Church, as the Kingdom of Christ already present in mystery, grows visibly in the world through the power of God”,35 then, as if in answer to the question: “How does the Church grow?”, the Council adds: “as often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our pasch is sacrificed’ (1 Cor 5:7) is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out. At the same time in the sacrament of the Eucharistic bread, the unity of the faithful, who form one body in Christ (cf. 1 Cor 10:17), is both expressed and brought about”.36
A causal influence of the Eucharist is present at the Church’s very origins. The Evangelists specify that it was the Twelve, the Apostles, who gathered with Jesus at the Last Supper (cf. Mt 26:20; Mk 14:17; Lk 22:14). This is a detail of notable importance, for the Apostles “were both the seeds of the new Israel and the beginning of the sacred hierarchy”.37 By offering them his body and his blood as food, Christ mysteriously involved them in the sacrifice which would be completed later on Calvary. By analogy with the Covenant of Mount Sinai, sealed by sacrifice and the sprinkling of blood,38 the actions and words of Jesus at the Last Supper laid the foundations of the new messianic community, the People of the New Covenant.
The Apostles, by accepting in the Upper Room Jesus’ invitation: “Take, eat”, “Drink of it, all of you” (Mt 26:26-27), entered for the first time into sacramental communion with him. From that time forward, until the end of the age, the Church is built up through sacramental communion with the Son of God who was sacrificed for our sake: “Do this is remembrance of me… Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24-25; cf. Lk 22:19).
22. Incorporation into Christ, which is brought about by Baptism, is constantly renewed and consolidated by sharing in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, especially by that full sharing which takes place in sacramental communion. We can say not only that each of us receives Christ, but also that Christ receives each of us. He enters into friendship with us: “You are my friends” (Jn 15:14). Indeed, it is because of him that we have life: “He who eats me will live because of me” (Jn 6:57). Eucharistic communion brings about in a sublime way the mutual “abiding” of Christ and each of his followers: “Abide in me, and I in you” (Jn 15:4).
By its union with Christ, the People of the New Covenant, far from closing in upon itself, becomes a “sacrament” for humanity,39 a sign and instrument of the salvation achieved by Christ, the light of the world and the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-16), for the redemption of all.40 The Church’s mission stands in continuity with the mission of Christ: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21). From the perpetuation of the sacrifice of the Cross and her communion with the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, the Church draws the spiritual power needed to carry out her mission. The Eucharist thus appears as both the source and the summit of all evangelization, since its goal is the communion of mankind with Christ and in him with the Father and the Holy Spirit.41
23. Eucharistic communion also confirms the Church in her unity as the body of Christ. Saint Paul refers to this unifying power of participation in the banquet of the Eucharist when he writes to the Corinthians: “The bread which we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:16-17). Saint John Chrysostom’s commentary on these words is profound and perceptive: “For what is the bread? It is the body of Christ. And what do those who receive it become? The Body of Christ – not many bodies but one body. For as bread is completely one, though made of up many grains of wheat, and these, albeit unseen, remain nonetheless present, in such a way that their difference is not apparent since they have been made a perfect whole, so too are we mutually joined to one another and together united with Christ”.42 The argument is compelling: our union with Christ, which is a gift and grace for each of us, makes it possible for us, in him, to share in the unity of his body which is the Church. The Eucharist reinforces the incorporation into Christ which took place in Baptism though the gift of the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12:13, 27).
The joint and inseparable activity of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, which is at the origin of the Church, of her consolidation and her continued life, is at work in the Eucharist. This was clearly evident to the author of the Liturgy of Saint James: in the epiclesis of the Anaphora, God the Father is asked to send the Holy Spirit upon the faithful and upon the offerings, so that the body and blood of Christ “may be a help to all those who partake of it … for the sanctification of their souls and bodies”.43 The Church is fortified by the divine Paraclete through the sanctification of the faithful in the Eucharist.
24. The gift of Christ and his Spirit which we receive in Eucharistic communion superabundantly fulfils the yearning for fraternal unity deeply rooted in the human heart; at the same time it elevates the experience of fraternity already present in our common sharing at the same Eucharistic table to a degree which far surpasses that of the simple human experience of sharing a meal. Through her communion with the body of Christ the Church comes to be ever more profoundly “in Christ in the nature of a sacrament, that is, a sign and instrument of intimate unity with God and of the unity of the whole human race”.44
The seeds of disunity, which daily experience shows to be so deeply rooted in humanity as a result of sin, are countered by the unifying power of the body of Christ. The Eucharist, precisely by building up the Church, creates human community.
25. The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church. This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The presence of Christ under the sacred species reserved after Mass – a presence which lasts as long as the species of bread and of wine remain 45 – derives from the celebration of the sacrifice and is directed towards communion, both sacramental and spiritual.46 It is the responsibility of Pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species.47
It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the “art of prayer”,48 how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!
This practice, repeatedly praised and recommended by the Magisterium,49 is supported by the example of many saints. Particularly outstanding in this regard was Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who wrote: “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us”.50 The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by not only celebrating it but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace. A Christian community desirous of contemplating the face of Christ in the spirit which I proposed in the Apostolic Letters Novo Millennio Ineunte and Rosarium Virginis Mariae cannot fail also to develop this aspect of Eucharistic worship, which prolongs and increases the fruits of our communion in the body and blood of the Lord.
CHAPTER THREE
THE APOSTOLICITY OF THE EUCHARIST
AND OF THE CHURCH
26. If, as I have said, the Eucharist builds the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist, it follows that there is a profound relationship between the two, so much so that we can apply to the Eucharistic mystery the very words with which, in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, we profess the Church to be “one, holy, catholic and apostolic”. The Eucharist too is one and catholic. It is also holy, indeed, the Most Holy Sacrament. But it is above all its apostolicity that we must now consider.
27. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in explaining how the Church is apostolic – founded on the Apostles – sees three meanings in this expression. First, “she was and remains built on ‘the foundation of the Apostles’ (Eph 2:20), the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself”.51 The Eucharist too has its foundation in the Apostles, not in the sense that it did not originate in Christ himself, but because it was entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles and has been handed down to us by them and by their successors. It is in continuity with the practice of the Apostles, in obedience to the Lord’s command, that the Church has celebrated the Eucharist down the centuries.
The second sense in which the Church is apostolic, as the Catechism points out, is that “with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, the ‘good deposit’, the salutary words she has heard from the Apostles”.52 Here too the Eucharist is apostolic, for it is celebrated in conformity with the faith of the Apostles. At various times in the two-thousand-year history of the People of the New Covenant, the Church’s Magisterium has more precisely defined her teaching on the Eucharist, including its proper terminology, precisely in order to safeguard the apostolic faith with regard to this sublime mystery. This faith remains unchanged and it is essential for the Church that it remain unchanged.
28. Lastly, the Church is apostolic in the sense that she “continues to be taught, sanctified and guided by the Apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of Bishops assisted by priests, in union with the Successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”.53 Succession to the Apostles in the pastoral mission necessarily entails the sacrament of Holy Orders, that is, the uninterrupted sequence, from the very beginning, of valid episcopal ordinations.54 This succession is essential for the Church to exist in a proper and full sense.
The Eucharist also expresses this sense of apostolicity. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, “the faithful join in the offering of the Eucharist by virtue of their royal priesthood”,55 yet it is the ordained priest who, “acting in the person of Christ, brings about the Eucharistic Sacrifice and offers it to God in the name of all the people”.56 For this reason, the Roman Missal prescribes that only the priest should recite the Eucharistic Prayer, while the people participate in faith and in silence.57
29. The expression repeatedly employed by the Second Vatican Council, according to which “the ministerial priest, acting in the person of Christ, brings about the Eucharistic Sacrifice”,58 was already firmly rooted in papal teaching.59 As I have pointed out on other occasions, the phrase in persona Christi “means more than offering ‘in the name of’ or ‘in the 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”.60 The ministry of priests who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders, in the economy of salvation chosen by Christ, makes clear that the Eucharist which they celebrate is a gift which radically transcends the power of the assembly and is in any event essential for validly linking the Eucharistic consecration to the sacrifice of the Cross and to the Last Supper. The assembly gathered together for the celebration of the Eucharist, if it is to be a truly Eucharistic assembly, absolutely requires the presence of an ordained priest as its president. On the other hand, the community is by itself incapable of providing an ordained minister. This minister is a gift which the assembly receives through episcopal succession going back to the Apostles. It is the Bishop who, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, makes a new presbyter by conferring upon him the power to consecrate the Eucharist. Consequently, “the Eucharistic mystery cannot be celebrated in any community except by an ordained priest, as the Fourth Lateran Council expressly taught”.61
30. The Catholic Church’s teaching on the relationship between priestly ministry and the Eucharist and her teaching on the Eucharistic Sacrifice have both been the subject in recent decades of a fruitful dialogue in the area of ecumenism. We must give thanks to the Blessed Trinity for the significant progress and convergence achieved in this regard, which lead us to hope one day for a full sharing of faith. Nonetheless, the observations of the Council concerning the Ecclesial Communities which arose in the West from the sixteenth century onwards and are separated from the Catholic Church remain fully pertinent: “The Ecclesial Communities separated from us lack that fullness of unity with us which should flow from Baptism, and we believe that especially because of the lack of the sacrament of Orders they have not preserved the genuine and total reality of the Eucharistic mystery. Nevertheless, when they commemorate the Lord’s death and resurrection in the Holy Supper, they profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and they await his coming in glory”.62
The Catholic faithful, therefore, while respecting the religious convictions of these separated brethren, must refrain from receiving the communion distributed in their celebrations, so as not to condone an ambiguity about the nature of the Eucharist and, consequently, to fail in their duty to bear clear witness to the truth. This would result in slowing the progress being made towards full visible unity. Similarly, it is unthinkable to substitute for Sunday Mass ecumenical celebrations of the word or services of common prayer with Christians from the aforementioned Ecclesial Communities, or even participation in their own liturgical services. Such celebrations and services, however praiseworthy in certain situations, prepare for the goal of full communion, including Eucharistic communion, but they cannot replace it.
The fact that the power of consecrating the Eucharist has been entrusted only to Bishops and priests does not represent any kind of belittlement of the rest of the People of God, for in the communion of the one body of Christ which is the Church this gift redounds to the benefit of all.
31. If the Eucharist is the centre and summit of the Church’s life, it is likewise the centre and summit of priestly ministry. For this reason, with a heart filled with gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ, I repeat that the Eucharist “is the principal and central raison d’être of the sacrament of priesthood, which effectively came into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist”.63
Priests are engaged in a wide variety of pastoral activities. If we also consider the social and cultural conditions of the modern world it is easy to understand how priests face the very real risk of losing their focus amid such a great number of different tasks. The Second Vatican Council saw in pastoral charity the bond which gives unity to the priest’s life and work. This, the Council adds, “flows mainly from the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is therefore the centre and root of the whole priestly life”.64 We can understand, then, how important it is for the spiritual life of the priest, as well as for the good of the Church and the world, that priests follow the Council’s recommendation to celebrate the Eucharist daily: “for even if the faithful are unable to be present, it is an act of Christ and the Church”.65 In this way priests will be able to counteract the daily tensions which lead to a lack of focus and they will find in the Eucharistic Sacrifice – the true centre of their lives and ministry – the spiritual strength needed to deal with their different pastoral responsibilities. Their daily activity will thus become truly Eucharistic.
The centrality of the Eucharist in the life and ministry of priests is the basis of its centrality in the pastoral promotion of priestly vocations. It is in the Eucharist that prayer for vocations is most closely united to the prayer of Christ the Eternal High Priest. At the same time the diligence of priests in carrying out their Eucharistic ministry, together with the conscious, active and fruitful participation of the faithful in the Eucharist, provides young men with a powerful example and incentive for responding generously to God’s call. Often it is the example of a priest’s fervent pastoral charity which the Lord uses to sow and to bring to fruition in a young man’s heart the seed of a priestly calling.
32. All of this shows how distressing and irregular is the situation of a Christian community which, despite having sufficient numbers and variety of faithful to form a parish, does not have a priest to lead it. Parishes are communities of the baptized who express and affirm their identity above all through the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. But this requires the presence of a presbyter, who alone is qualified to offer the Eucharist in persona Christi. When a community lacks a priest, attempts are rightly made somehow to remedy the situation so that it can continue its Sunday celebrations, and those religious and laity who lead their brothers and sisters in prayer exercise in a praiseworthy way the common priesthood of all the faithful based on the grace of Baptism. But such solutions must be considered merely temporary, while the community awaits a priest.
The sacramental incompleteness of these celebrations should above all inspire the whole community to pray with greater fervour that the Lord will send labourers into his harvest (cf. Mt 9:38). It should also be an incentive to mobilize all the resources needed for an adequate pastoral promotion of vocations, without yielding to the temptation to seek solutions which lower the moral and formative standards demanded of candidates for the priesthood.
33. When, due to the scarcity of priests, non-ordained members of the faithful are entrusted with a share in the pastoral care of a parish, they should bear in mind that – as the Second Vatican Council teaches – “no Christian community can be built up unless it has its basis and centre in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist”.66 They have a responsibility, therefore, to keep alive in the community a genuine “hunger” for the Eucharist, so that no opportunity for the celebration of Mass will ever be missed, also taking advantage of the occasional presence of a priest who is not impeded by Church law from celebrating Mass.
CHAPTER FOUR
THE EUCHARIST
AND ECCLESIAL COMMUNION
34. The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 1985 saw in the concept of an “ecclesiology of communion” the central and fundamental idea of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.67 The Church is called during her earthly pilgrimage to maintain and promote communion with the Triune God and communion among the faithful. For this purpose she possesses the word and the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, by which she “constantly lives and grows”68 and in which she expresses her very nature. It is not by chance that the term communion has become one of the names given to this sublime sacrament.
The Eucharist thus appears as the culmination of all the sacraments in perfecting our communion with God the Father by identification with his only-begotten Son through the working of the Holy Spirit. With discerning faith a distinguished writer of the Byzantine tradition voiced this truth: in the Eucharist “unlike any other sacrament, the mystery [of communion] is so perfect that it brings us to the heights of every good thing: here is the ultimate goal of every human desire, because here we attain God and God joins himself to us in the most perfect union”.69 Precisely for this reason it is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. This was the origin of the practice of “spiritual communion”, which has happily been established in the Church for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life. Saint Teresa of Jesus wrote: “When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you”.70
35. The celebration of the Eucharist, however, cannot be the starting-point for communion; it presupposes that communion already exists, a communion which it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection. The sacrament is an expression of this bond of communion both in its invisible dimension, which, in Christ and through the working of the Holy Spirit, unites us to the Father and among ourselves, and in its visible dimension, which entails communion in the teaching of the Apostles, in the sacraments and in the Church’s hierarchical order. The profound relationship between the invisible and the visible elements of ecclesial communion is constitutive of the Church as the sacrament of salvation.71 Only in this context can there be a legitimate celebration of the Eucharist and true participation in it. Consequently it is an intrinsic requirement of the Eucharist that it should be celebrated in communion, and specifically maintaining the various bonds of that communion intact.
36. Invisible communion, though by its nature always growing, presupposes the life of grace, by which we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4), and the practice of the virtues of faith, hope and love. Only in this way do we have true communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Nor is faith sufficient; we must persevere in sanctifying grace and love, remaining within the Church “bodily” as well as “in our heart”; 72 what is required, in the words of Saint Paul, is “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6).
Keeping these invisible bonds intact is a specific moral duty incumbent upon Christians who wish to participate fully in the Eucharist by receiving the body and blood of Christ. The Apostle Paul appeals to this duty when he warns: “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor 11:28). Saint John Chrysostom, with his stirring eloquence, exhorted the faithful: “I too raise my voice, I beseech, beg and implore that no one draw near to this sacred table with a sullied and corrupt conscience. Such an act, in fact, can never be called ‘communion’, not even were we to touch the Lord’s body a thousand times over, but ‘condemnation’, ‘torment’ and ‘increase of punishment’”.73
Along these same lines, the Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly stipulates that “anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion”.74 I therefore desire to reaffirm that in the Church there remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent gave concrete expression to the Apostle Paul’s stern warning when it affirmed that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, “one must first confess one’s sins, when one is aware of mortal sin”.75
37. The two sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance are very closely connected. Because the Eucharist makes present the redeeming sacrifice of the Cross, perpetuating it sacramentally, it naturally gives rise to a continuous need for conversion, for a personal response to the appeal made by Saint Paul to the Christians of Corinth: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). If a Christian’s conscience is burdened by serious sin, then the path of penance through the sacrament of Reconciliation becomes necessary for full participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
The judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience. However, in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion.76
38. Ecclesial communion, as I have said, is likewise visible, and finds expression in the series of “bonds” listed by the Council when it teaches: “They are fully incorporated into the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept her whole structure and all the means of salvation established within her, and within her visible framework are united to Christ, who governs her through the Supreme Pontiff and the Bishops, by the bonds of profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government and communion”.77
The Eucharist, as the supreme sacramental manifestation of communion in the Church, demands to be celebrated in a context where the outward bonds of communion are also intact. In a special way, since the Eucharist is “as it were the summit of the spiritual life and the goal of all the sacraments”,78 it requires that the bonds of communion in the sacraments, particularly in Baptism and in priestly Orders, be real. It is not possible to give communion to a person who is not baptized or to one who rejects the full truth of the faith regarding the Eucharistic mystery. Christ is the truth and he bears witness to the truth (cf. Jn 14:6; 18:37); the sacrament of his body and blood does not permit duplicity.
39. Furthermore, given the very nature of ecclesial communion and its relation to the sacrament of the Eucharist, it must be recalled that “the Eucharistic Sacrifice, while always offered in a particular community, is never a celebration of that community alone. In fact, the community, in receiving the Eucharistic presence of the Lord, receives the entire gift of salvation and shows, even in its lasting visible particular form, that it is the image and true presence of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”.79 From this it follows that a truly Eucharistic community cannot be closed in upon itself, as though it were somehow self-sufficient; rather it must persevere in harmony with every other Catholic community.
The ecclesial communion of the Eucharistic assembly is a communion with its own Bishop and with the Roman Pontiff. The Bishop, in effect, is the visible principle and the foundation of unity within his particular Church.80 It would therefore be a great contradiction if the sacrament par excellence of the Church’s unity were celebrated without true communion with the Bishop. As Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote: “That Eucharist which is celebrated under the Bishop, or under one to whom the Bishop has given this charge, may be considered certain”.81 Likewise, since “the Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity of the Bishops and of the multitude of the faithful”,82 communion with him is intrinsically required for the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Hence the great truth expressed which the Liturgy expresses in a variety of ways: “Every celebration of the Eucharist is performed in union not only with the proper Bishop, but also with the Pope, with the episcopal order, with all the clergy, and with the entire people. Every valid celebration of the Eucharist expresses this universal communion with Peter and with the whole Church, or objectively calls for it, as in the case of the Christian Churches separated from Rome”.83
40. The Eucharist creates communion and fosters communion. Saint Paul wrote to the faithful of Corinth explaining how their divisions, reflected in their Eucharistic gatherings, contradicted what they were celebrating, the Lord’s Supper. The Apostle then urged them to reflect on the true reality of the Eucharist in order to return to the spirit of fraternal communion (cf. 1 Cor 11:17- 34). Saint Augustine effectively echoed this call when, in recalling the Apostle’s words: “You are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12: 27), he went on to say: “If you are his body and members of him, then you will find set on the Lord’s table your own mystery. Yes, you receive your own mystery”.84 And from this observation he concludes: “Christ the Lord… hallowed at his table the mystery of our peace and unity. Whoever receives the mystery of unity without preserving the bonds of peace receives not a mystery for his benefit but evidence against himself”.85
41. The Eucharist’s particular effectiveness in promoting communion is one of the reasons for the importance of Sunday Mass. I have already dwelt on this and on the other reasons which make Sunday Mass fundamental for the life of the Church and of individual believers in my Apostolic Letter on the sanctification of Sunday Dies Domini.86 There I recalled that the faithful have the obligation to attend Mass, unless they are seriously impeded, and that Pastors have the corresponding duty to see that it is practical and possible for all to fulfil this precept.87 More recently, in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, in setting forth the pastoral path which the Church must take at the beginning of the third millennium, I drew particular attention to the Sunday Eucharist, emphasizing its effectiveness for building communion. “It is” – I wrote – “the privileged place where communion is ceaselessly proclaimed and nurtured. Precisely through sharing in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Day also becomes the Day of the Church, when she can effectively exercise her role as the sacrament of unity”.88
42. The safeguarding and promotion of ecclesial communion is a task of each member of the faithful, who finds in the Eucharist, as the sacrament of the Church’s unity, an area of special concern. More specifically, this task is the particular responsibility of the Church’s Pastors, each according to his rank and ecclesiastical office. For this reason the Church has drawn up norms aimed both at fostering the frequent and fruitful access of the faithful to the Eucharistic table and at determining the objective conditions under which communion may not be given. The care shown in promoting the faithful observance of these norms becomes a practical means of showing love for the Eucharist and for the Church.
43. In considering the Eucharist as the sacrament of ecclesial communion, there is one subject which, due to its importance, must not be overlooked: I am referring to the relationship of the Eucharist to ecumenical activity. We should all give thanks to the Blessed Trinity for the many members of the faithful throughout the world who in recent decades have felt an ardent desire for unity among all Christians. The Second Vatican Council, at the beginning of its Decree on Ecumenism, sees this as a special gift of God.89 It was an efficacious grace which inspired us, the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church and our brothers and sisters from other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, to set forth on the path of ecumenism.
Our longing for the goal of unity prompts us to turn to the Eucharist, which is the supreme sacrament of the unity of the People of God, in as much as it is the apt expression and the unsurpassable source of that unity.90 In the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice the Church prays that God, the Father of mercies, will grant his children the fullness of the Holy Spirit so that they may become one body and one spirit in Christ.91 In raising this prayer to the Father of lights, from whom comes every good endowment and every perfect gift (cf. Jas 1:17), the Church believes that she will be heard, for she prays in union with Christ her Head and Spouse, who takes up this plea of his Bride and joins it to that of his own redemptive sacrifice.
44. Precisely because the Church’s unity, which the Eucharist brings about through the Lord’s sacrifice and by communion in his body and blood, absolutely requires full communion in the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments and ecclesiastical governance, it is not possible to celebrate together the same Eucharistic liturgy until those bonds are fully re-established. Any such concelebration would not be a valid means, and might well prove instead to be an obstacle, to the attainment of full communion, by weakening the sense of how far we remain from this goal and by introducing or exacerbating ambiguities with regard to one or another truth of the faith. The path towards full unity can only be undertaken in truth. In this area, the prohibitions of Church law leave no room for uncertainty,92 in fidelity to the moral norm laid down by the Second Vatican Council.93
I would like nonetheless to reaffirm what I said in my Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint after having acknowledged the impossibility of Eucharistic sharing: “And yet we do have a burning desire to join in celebrating the one Eucharist of the Lord, and this desire itself is already a common prayer of praise, a single supplication. Together we speak to the Father and increasingly we do so ‘with one heart’”.94
45. While it is never legitimate to concelebrate in the absence of full communion, the same is not true with respect to the administration of the Eucharist under special circumstances, to individual persons belonging to Churches or Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church. In this case, in fact, the intention is to meet a grave spiritual need for the eternal salvation of an individual believer, not to bring about an intercommunion which remains impossible until the visible bonds of ecclesial communion are fully re-established.
This was the approach taken by the Second Vatican Council when it gave guidelines for responding to Eastern Christians separated in good faith from the Catholic Church, who spontaneously ask to receive the Eucharist from a Catholic minister and are properly disposed.95 This approach was then ratified by both Codes, which also consider – with necessary modifications – the case of other non-Eastern Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church.96
46. In my Encyclical Ut Unum Sint I expressed my own appreciation of these norms, which make it possible to provide for the salvation of souls with proper discernment: “It is a source of joy to note that Catholic ministers are able, in certain particular cases, to administer the sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desire to receive these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments. Conversely, in specific cases and in particular circumstances, Catholics too can request these same sacraments from ministers of Churches in which these sacraments are valid”.97
These conditions, from which no dispensation can be given, must be carefully respected, even though they deal with specific individual cases, because the denial of one or more truths of the faith regarding these sacraments and, among these, the truth regarding the need of the ministerial priesthood for their validity, renders the person asking improperly disposed to legitimately receiving them. And the opposite is also true: Catholics may not receive communion in those communities which lack a valid sacrament of Orders.98
The faithful observance of the body of norms established in this area 99 is a manifestation and, at the same time, a guarantee of our love for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, for our brothers and sisters of different Christian confessions – who have a right to our witness to the truth – and for the cause itself of the promotion of unity.
CHAPTER FIVE
THE DIGNITY
OF THE EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION
47. Reading the account of the institution of the Eucharist in the Synoptic Gospels, we are struck by the simplicity and the “solemnity” with which Jesus, on the evening of the Last Supper, instituted this great sacrament. There is an episode which in some way serves as its prelude: the anointing at Bethany. A woman, whom John identifies as Mary the sister of Lazarus, pours a flask of costly ointment over Jesus’ head, which provokes from the disciples – and from Judas in particular (cf. Mt 26:8; Mk 14:4; Jn 12:4) – an indignant response, as if this act, in light of the needs of the poor, represented an intolerable “waste”. But Jesus’ own reaction is completely different. While in no way detracting from the duty of charity towards the needy, for whom the disciples must always show special care – “the poor you will always have with you” (Mt 26, 11; Mk 14:7; cf. Jn 12:8) – he looks towards his imminent death and burial, and sees this act of anointing as an anticipation of the honour which his body will continue to merit even after his death, indissolubly bound as it is to the mystery of his person.
The account continues, in the Synoptic Gospels, with Jesus’ charge to the disciples to prepare carefully the “large upper room” needed for the Passover meal (cf. Mk 14:15; Lk 22:12) and with the narration of the institution of the Eucharist. Reflecting at least in part the Jewish rites of the Passover meal leading up to the singing of the Hallel (cf. Mt 26:30; Mk 14:26), the story presents with sobriety and solemnity, even in the variants of the different traditions, the words spoken by Christ over the bread and wine, which he made into concrete expressions of the handing over of his body and the shedding of his blood. All these details are recorded by the Evangelists in the light of a praxis of the “breaking of the bread” already well-established in the early Church. But certainly from the time of Jesus on, the event of Holy Thursday has shown visible traces of a liturgical “sensibility” shaped by Old Testament tradition and open to being reshaped in Christian celebrations in a way consonant with the new content of Easter.
48. Like the woman who anointed Jesus in Bethany, the Church has feared no “extravagance”, devoting the best of her resources to expressing her wonder and adoration before the unsurpassable gift of the Eucharist. No less than the first disciples charged with preparing the “large upper room”, she has felt the need, down the centuries and in her encounters with different cultures, to celebrate the Eucharist in a setting worthy of so great a mystery. In the wake of Jesus’ own words and actions, and building upon the ritual heritage of Judaism, the Christian liturgy was born. Could there ever be an adequate means of expressing the acceptance of that self-gift which the divine Bridegroom continually makes to his Bride, the Church, by bringing the Sacrifice offered once and for all on the Cross to successive generations of believers and thus becoming nourishment for all the faithful? Though the idea of a “banquet” naturally suggests familiarity, the Church has never yielded to the temptation to trivialize this “intimacy” with her Spouse by forgetting that he is also her Lord and that the “banquet” always remains a sacrificial banquet marked by the blood shed on Golgotha. The Eucharistic Banquet is truly a “sacred” banquet, in which the simplicity of the signs conceals the unfathomable holiness of God: O sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur! The bread which is broken on our altars, offered to us as wayfarers along the paths of the world, is panis angelorum, the bread of angels, which cannot be approached except with the humility of the centurion in the Gospel: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof ” (Mt 8:8; Lk 7:6).
49. With this heightened sense of mystery, we understand how the faith of the Church in the mystery of the Eucharist has found historical expression not only in the demand for an interior disposition of devotion, but also in outward forms meant to evoke and emphasize the grandeur of the event being celebrated. This led progressively to the development of a particular form of regulating the Eucharistic liturgy, with due respect for the various legitimately constituted ecclesial traditions. On this foundation a rich artistic heritage also developed. Architecture, sculpture, painting and music, moved by the Christian mystery, have found in the Eucharist, both directly and indirectly, a source of great inspiration.
Such was the case, for example, with architecture, which witnessed the transition, once the historical situation made it possible, from the first places of Eucharistic celebration in the domus or “homes” of Christian families to the solemn basilicas of the early centuries, to the imposing cathedrals of the Middle Ages, and to the churches, large and small, which gradually sprang up throughout the lands touched by Christianity. The designs of altars and tabernacles within Church interiors were often not simply motivated by artistic inspiration but also by a clear understanding of the mystery. The same could be said for sacred music, if we but think of the inspired Gregorian melodies and the many, often great, composers who sought to do justice to the liturgical texts of the Mass. Similarly, can we overlook the enormous quantity of artistic production, ranging from fine craftsmanship to authentic works of art, in the area of Church furnishings and vestments used for the celebration of the Eucharist?
It can be said that the Eucharist, while shaping the Church and her spirituality, has also powerfully affected “culture”, and the arts in particular.
50. In this effort to adore the mystery grasped in its ritual and aesthetic dimensions, a certain “competition” has taken place between Christians of the West and the East. How could we not give particular thanks to the Lord for the contributions to Christian art made by the great architectural and artistic works of the Greco-Byzantine tradition and of the whole geographical area marked by Slav culture? In the East, sacred art has preserved a remarkably powerful sense of mystery, which leads artists to see their efforts at creating beauty not simply as an expression of their own talents, but also as a genuine service to the faith. Passing well beyond mere technical skill, they have shown themselves docile and open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The architectural and mosaic splendours of the Christian East and West are a patrimony belonging to all believers; they contain a hope, and even a pledge, of the desired fullness of communion in faith and in celebration. This would presuppose and demand, as in Rublëv’s famous depiction of the Trinity, a profoundly Eucharistic Church in which the presence of the mystery of Christ in the broken bread is as it were immersed in the ineffable unity of the three divine Persons, making of the Church herself an “icon” of the Trinity.
Within this context of an art aimed at expressing, in all its elements, the meaning of the Eucharist in accordance with the Church’s teaching, attention needs to be given to the norms regulating the construction and decor of sacred buildings. As history shows and as I emphasized in my Letter to Artists,100 the Church has always left ample room for the creativity of artists. But sacred art must be outstanding for its ability to express adequately the mystery grasped in the fullness of the Church’s faith and in accordance with the pastoral guidelines appropriately laid down by competent Authority. This holds true both for the figurative arts and for sacred music.
51. The development of sacred art and liturgical discipline which took place in lands of ancient Christian heritage is also taking place on continents where Christianity is younger. This was precisely the approach supported by the Second Vatican Council on the need for sound and proper “inculturation”. In my numerous Pastoral Visits I have seen, throughout the world, the great vitality which the celebration of the Eucharist can have when marked by the forms, styles and sensibilities of different cultures. By adaptation to the changing conditions of time and place, the Eucharist offers sustenance not only to individuals but to entire peoples, and it shapes cultures inspired by Christianity.
It is necessary, however, that this important work of adaptation be carried out with a constant awareness of the ineffable mystery against which every generation is called to measure itself. The “treasure” is too important and precious to risk impoverishment or compromise through forms of experimentation or practices introduced without a careful review on the part of the competent ecclesiastical authorities. Furthermore, the centrality of the Eucharistic mystery demands that any such review must be undertaken in close association with the Holy See. As I wrote in my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, “such cooperation is essential because the Sacred Liturgy expresses and celebrates the one faith professed by all and, being the heritage of the whole Church, cannot be determined by local Churches in isolation from the universal Church”.101
52. All of this makes clear the great responsibility which belongs to priests in particular for the celebration of the Eucharist. It is their responsibility to preside at the Eucharist in persona Christi and to provide a witness to and a service of communion not only for the community directly taking part in the celebration, but also for the universal Church, which is a part of every Eucharist. It must be lamented that, especially in the years following the post-conciliar liturgical reform, as a result of a misguided sense of creativity and adaptation there have been a number of abuses which have been a source of suffering for many. A certain reaction against “formalism” has led some, especially in certain regions, to consider the “forms” chosen by the Church’s great liturgical tradition and her Magisterium as non-binding and to introduce unauthorized innovations which are often completely inappropriate.
I consider it my duty, therefore to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity. These norms are a concrete expression of the authentically ecclesial nature of the Eucharist; this is their deepest meaning. Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated. The Apostle Paul had to address fiery words to the community of Corinth because of grave shortcomings in their celebration of the Eucharist resulting in divisions (schismata) and the emergence of factions (haireseis) (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34). Our time, too, calls for a renewed awareness and appreciation of liturgical norms as a reflection of, and a witness to, the one universal Church made present in every celebration of the Eucharist. Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church. Precisely to bring out more clearly this deeper meaning of liturgical norms, I have asked the competent offices of the Roman Curia to prepare a more specific document, including prescriptions of a juridical nature, on this very important subject. No one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hands: it is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and its universality.
CHAPTER SIX
AT THE SCHOOL OF MARY,
“WOMAN OF THE EUCHARIST”
53. If we wish to rediscover in all its richness the profound relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, we cannot neglect Mary, Mother and model of the Church. In my Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, I pointed to the Blessed Virgin Mary as our teacher in contemplating Christ’s face, and among the mysteries of light I included the institution of the Eucharist.102 Mary can guide us towards this most holy sacrament, because she herself has a profound relationship with it.
At first glance, the Gospel is silent on this subject. The account of the institution of the Eucharist on the night of Holy Thursday makes no mention of Mary. Yet we know that she was present among the Apostles who prayed “with one accord” (cf. Acts 1:14) in the first community which gathered after the Ascension in expectation of Pentecost. Certainly Mary must have been present at the Eucharistic celebrations of the first generation of Christians, who were devoted to “the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42).
But in addition to her sharing in the Eucharistic banquet, an indirect picture of Mary’s relationship with the Eucharist can be had, beginning with her interior disposition. Mary is a “woman of the Eucharist” in her whole life. The Church, which looks to Mary as a model, is also called to imitate her in her relationship with this most holy mystery.
54. Mysterium fidei! If the Eucharist is a mystery of faith which so greatly transcends our understanding as to call for sheer abandonment to the word of God, then there can be no one like Mary to act as our support and guide in acquiring this disposition. In repeating what Christ did at the Last Supper in obedience to his command: “Do this in memory of me!”, we also accept Mary’s invitation to obey him without hesitation: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). With the same maternal concern which she showed at the wedding feast of Cana, Mary seems to say to us: “Do not waver; trust in the words of my Son. If he was able to change water into wine, he can also turn bread and wine into his body and blood, and through this mystery bestow on believers the living memorial of his passover, thus becoming the ‘bread of life’”.
55. In a certain sense Mary lived her Eucharistic faith even before the institution of the Eucharist, by the very fact that she offered her virginal womb for the Incarnation of God’s Word. The Eucharist, while commemorating the passion and resurrection, is also in continuity with the incarnation. At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord’s body and blood.
As a result, there is a profound analogy between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the body of the Lord. Mary was asked to believe that the One whom she conceived “through the Holy Spirit” was “the Son of God” (Lk 1:30-35). In continuity with the Virgin’s faith, in the Eucharistic mystery we are asked to believe that the same Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, becomes present in his full humanity and divinity under the signs of bread and wine.
“Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). Mary also anticipated, in the mystery of the incarnation, the Church’s Eucharistic faith. When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a “tabernacle” – the first “tabernacle” in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light a
s it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary. And is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic communion?
56. Mary, throughout her life at Christ’s side and not only on Calvary, made her own the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist. When she brought the child Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem “to present him to the Lord” (Lk 2:22), she heard the aged Simeon announce that the child would be a “sign of contradiction” and that a sword would also pierce her own heart (cf. Lk 2:34-35). The tragedy of her Son’s crucifixion was thus foretold, and in some sense Mary’s Stabat Mater at the foot of the Cross was foreshadowed. In her daily preparation for Calvary, Mary experienced a kind of “anticipated Eucharist” – one might say a “spiritual communion” – of desire and of oblation, which would culminate in her union with her Son in his passion, and then find expression after Easter by her partaking in the Eucharist which the Apostles celebrated as the memorial of that passion.
What must Mary have felt as she heard from the mouth of Peter, John, James and the other Apostles the words spoken at the Last Supper: “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19)? The body given up for us and made present under sacramental signs was the same body which she had conceived in her womb! For Mary, receiving the Eucharist must have somehow meant welcoming once more into her womb that heart which had beat in unison with hers and reliving what she had experienced at the foot of the Cross.
57. “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19). In the “memorial” of Calvary all that Christ accomplished by his passion and his death is present. Consequently all that Christ did with regard to his Mother for our sake is also present. To her he gave the beloved disciple and, in him, each of us: “Behold, your Son!”. To each of us he also says: “Behold your mother!” (cf. Jn 19: 26-27).
Experiencing the memorial of Christ’s death in the Eucharist also means continually receiving this gift. It means accepting – like John – the one who is given to us anew as our Mother. It also means taking on a commitment to be conformed to Christ, putting ourselves at the school of his Mother and allowing her to accompany us. Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist. If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist. This is one reason why, since ancient times, the commemoration of Mary has always been part of the Eucharistic celebrations of the Churches of East and West.
58. In the Eucharist the Church is completely united to Christ and his sacrifice, and makes her own the spirit of Mary. This truth can be understood more deeply by re-reading the Magnificat in a Eucharistic key. The Eucharist, like the Canticle of Mary, is first and foremost praise and thanksgiving. When Mary exclaims: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”, she already bears Jesus in her womb. She praises God “through” Jesus, but she also praises him “in” Jesus and “with” Jesus. This is itself the true “Eucharistic attitude”.
At the same time Mary recalls the wonders worked by God in salvation history in fulfilment of the promise once made to the fathers (cf. Lk 1:55), and proclaims the wonder that surpasses them all, the redemptive incarnation. Lastly, the Magnificat reflects the eschatological tension of the Eucharist. Every time the Son of God comes again to us in the “poverty” of the sacramental signs of bread and wine, the seeds of that new history wherein the mighty are “put down from their thrones” and “those of low degree are exalted” (cf. Lk 1:52), take root in the world. Mary sings of the “new heavens” and the “new earth” which find in the Eucharist their anticipation and in some sense their programme and plan. The Magnificat expresses Mary’s spirituality, and there is nothing greater than this spirituality for helping us to experience the mystery of the Eucharist. The Eucharist has been given to us so that our life, like that of Mary, may become completely a Magnificat!
CONCLUSION
59. Ave, verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine! Several years ago I celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of my priesthood. Today I have the grace of offering the Church this Encyclical on the Eucharist on the Holy Thursday which falls during the twenty-fifth year of my Petrine ministry. As I do so, my heart is filled with gratitude. For over a half century, every day, beginning on 2 November 1946, when I celebrated my first Mass in the Crypt of Saint Leonard in Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, my eyes have gazed in recollection upon the host and the chalice, where time and space in some way “merge” and the drama of Golgotha is re-presented in a living way, thus revealing its mysterious “contemporaneity”. Each day my faith has been able to recognize in the consecrated bread and wine the divine Wayfarer who joined the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and opened their eyes to the light and their hearts to new hope (cf. Lk 24:13-35).
Allow me, dear brothers and sisters, to share with deep emotion, as a means of accompanying and strengthening your faith, my own testimony of faith in the Most Holy Eucharist. Ave verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine, vere passum, immolatum, in cruce pro homine! Here is the Church’s treasure, the heart of the world, the pledge of the fulfilment for which each man and woman, even unconsciously, yearns. A great and transcendent mystery, indeed, and one that taxes our mind’s ability to pass beyond appearances. Here our senses fail us: visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur, in the words of the hymn Adoro Te Devote; yet faith alone, rooted in the word of Christ handed down to us by the Apostles, is sufficient for us. Allow me, like Peter at the end of the Eucharistic discourse in John’s Gospel, to say once more to Christ, in the name of the whole Church and in the name of each of you: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).
60. At the dawn of this third millennium, we, the children of the Church, are called to undertake with renewed enthusiasm the journey of Christian living. As I wrote in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, “it is not a matter of inventing a ‘new programme’. The programme already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition; it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its centre in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem”.103 The implementation of this programme of a renewed impetus in Christian living passes through the Eucharist.
Every commitment to holiness, every activity aimed at carrying out the Church’s mission, every work of pastoral planning, must draw the strength it needs from the Eucharistic mystery and in turn be directed to that mystery as its culmination. In the Eucharist we have Jesus, we have his redemptive sacrifice, we have his resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience and love of the Father. Were we to disregard the Eucharist, how could we overcome our own deficiency?
61. The mystery of the Eucharist – sacrifice, presence, banquet – does not allow for reduction or exploitation; it must be experienced and lived in its integrity, both in its celebration and in the intimate converse with Jesus which takes place after receiving communion or in a prayerful moment of Eucharistic adoration apart from Mass. These are times when the Church is firmly built up and it becomes clear what she truly is: one, holy, catholic and apostolic; the people, temple and family of God; the body and bride of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit; the universal sacrament of salvation and a hierarchically structured communion.
The path taken by the Church in these first years of the third millennium is also a path of renewed ecumenical commitment. The final decades of the second millennium, culminating in the Great Jubilee, have spurred us along this path and called for all the baptized to respond to the prayer of Jesus “ut unum sint ” (Jn 17:11). The path itself is long and strewn with obstacles greater than our human resources alone can overcome, yet we have the Eucharist, and in its presence we can hear in the depths of our hearts, as if they were addressed to us, the same words heard by the Prophet Elijah: “Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you” (1 Kg 19:7). The treasure of the Eucharist, which the Lord places before us, impels us towards the goal of full sharing with all our brothers and sisters to whom we are joined by our common Baptism. But if this treasure is not to be squandered, we need to respect the demands which derive from its being the sacrament of communion in faith and in apostolic succession.
By giving the Eucharist the prominence it deserves, and by being careful not to diminish any of its dimensions or demands, we show that we are truly conscious of the greatness of this gift. We are urged to do so by an uninterrupted tradition, which from the first centuries on has found the Christian community ever vigilant in guarding this “treasure”. Inspired by love, the Church is anxious to hand on to future generations of Christians, without loss, her faith and teaching with regard to the mystery of the Eucharist. There can be no danger of excess in our care for this mystery, for “in this sacrament is recapitulated the whole mystery of our salvation”.104
62. Let us take our place, dear brothers and sisters, at the school of the saints, who are the great interpreters of true Eucharistic piety. In them the theology of the Eucharist takes on all the splendour of a lived reality; it becomes “contagious” and, in a manner of speaking, it “warms our hearts”. Above all, let us listen to Mary Most Holy, in whom the mystery of the Eucharist appears, more than in anyone else, as a mystery of light. Gazing upon Mary, we come to know the transforming power present in the Eucharist. In her we see the world renewed in love. Contemplating her, assumed body and soul into heaven, we see opening up before us those “new heavens” and that “new earth” which will appear at the second coming of Christ. Here below, the Eucharist represents their pledge, and in a certain way, their anticipation: “Veni, Domine Iesu!” (Rev 22:20).
In the humble signs of bread and wine, changed into his body and blood, Christ walks beside us as our strength and our food for the journey, and he enables us to become, for everyone, witnesses of hope. If, in the presence of this mystery, reason experiences its limits, the heart, enlightened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, clearly sees the response that is demanded, and bows low in adoration and unbounded love.
Let us make our own the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an eminent theologian and an impassioned poet of Christ in the Eucharist, and turn in hope to the contemplation of that goal to which our hearts aspire in their thirst for joy and peace:
Bone pastor, panis vere,
Iesu, nostri miserere…
Come then, good Shepherd, bread divine,
Still show to us thy mercy sign;
Oh, feed us, still keep us thine;
So we may see thy glories shine
in fields of immortality.
O thou, the wisest, mightiest, best,
Our present food, our future rest,
Come, make us each thy chosen guest,
Co-heirs of thine, and comrades blest
With saints whose dwelling is with thee.
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 17 April, Holy Thursday, in the year 2003, the Twenty- fifth of my Pontificate, the Year of the Rosary.
IOANNES PAULUS II
NOTES
1Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 11.
2Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5.
3Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (16 October 2002), 21: AAS 95 (2003), 19.
4This is the title which I gave to an autobiographical testimony issued for my fiftieth anniversary of priestly ordination.
5Leonis XIII P.M. Acta, XXII (1903), 115-136.
6AAS 39 (1947), 521-595.
7AAS 57 (1965), 753-774.
8AAS 72 (1980), 113-148.
9Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47: “… our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his body and blood, in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout time, until he should return”.
10Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1085.
11Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 3.
12Cf. Paul VI, Solemn Profession of Faith, 30 June 1968, 24: AAS 60 (1968), 442; John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae (24 February 1980), 12: AAS 72 (1980), 142.
13Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1382.
14Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1367.
15In Epistolam ad Hebraeos Homiliae, Hom. 17,3: PG 63, 131.
16Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXII, Doctrina de ss. Missae Sacrificio, Chapter 2: DS 1743: “It is one and the same victim here offering himself by the ministry of his priests, who then offered himself on the Cross; it is only the manner of offering that is different”.
17Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mediator Dei (20 November 1947): AAS 39 (1947), 548.
18John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (15 March 1979), 20: AAS 71 (1979), 310.
19Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 11.
20De Sacramentis, V, 4, 26: CSEL 73, 70.
21In Ioannis Evangelium, XII, 20: PG 74, 726.
22Encyclical Letter Mysterium Fidei (3 September 1965): AAS 57 (1965), 764.
23Session XIII, Decretum de ss. Eucharistia, Chapter 4: DS 1642.
24Mystagogical Catecheses, IV, 6: SCh 126, 138.
25Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 8.
26Solemn Profession of Faith, 30 June 1968, 25: AAS 60 (1968), 442-443.
27Sermo IV in Hebdomadam Sanctam: CSCO 413/Syr. 182, 55.
28Anaphora.
29Eucharistic Prayer III.
30Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Second Vespers, Antiphon to the Magnificat.
31Missale Romanum, Embolism following the Lord’s Prayer.
32Ad Ephesios, 20: PG 5, 661.
33Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 39.
34“Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: ‘This is my body’ is the same who said: ‘You saw me hungry and you gave me no food’, and ‘Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me’ … What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger. Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well”: Saint John Chrysostom, In Evangelium S. Matthaei, hom. 50:3-4: PG 58, 508-509; cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 31: AAS 80 (1988), 553-556.
35Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 3.
36Ibid.
37Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church Ad Gentes, 5.
38“Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said: ‘Behold the blood of the Covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Ex 24:8).
39Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 1.
40Cf. ibid., 9.
41Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Life and Ministry of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5. The same Decree, in No. 6, says: “No Christian community can be built up which does not grow from and hinge on the celebration of the most holy Eucharist”.
42In Epistolam I ad Corinthios Homiliae, 24, 2: PG 61, 200; Cf. Didache, IX, 4: F.X. Funk, I, 22; Saint Cyprian, Ep. LXIII, 13: PL 4, 384.
43PO 26, 206.
44Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 1.
45Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XIII, Decretum de ss. Eucharistia, Canon 4: DS 1654.
46Cf. Rituale Romanum: De sacra communione et de cultu mysterii eucharistici extra Missam, 36 (No. 80).
47Cf. ibid., 38-39 (Nos. 86-90).
48John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 32: AAS 93 (2001), 288.
49“In the course of the day the faithful should not omit visiting the Blessed Sacrament, which in accordance with liturgical law must be reserved in churches with great reverence in a prominent place. Such visits are a sign of gratitude, an expression of love and an acknowledgment of the Lord’s presence”: Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Mysterium Fidei (3 September 1965): AAS 57 (1965), 771.
50Visite al SS. Sacramento e a Maria Santissima, Introduction: Opere Ascetiche, Avellino, 2000, 295.
51No. 857.
52Ibid.
53Ibid.
54Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Sacerdotium Ministeriale (6 August 1983), III.2: AAS 75 (1983), 1005.
55Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 10.
56Ibid.
57Cf. Institutio Generalis: Editio typica tertia, No. 147.
58Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 10 and 28; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2.
59“The minister of the altar acts in the person of Christ inasmuch as he is head, making an offering in the name of all the members”: Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mediator Dei (20 November 1947): AAS 39 (1947), 556; cf. Pius X, Apostolic Exhortation Haerent Animo (4 August 1908): Acta Pii X, IV, 16; Pius XI, Encyclical Letter Ad Catholici Sacerdotii (20 December 1935): AAS 28 (1936), 20.
60Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae (24 February 1980), 8: AAS 72 (1980), 128-129.
61Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Sacerdotium Ministeriale (6 August 1983), III.4: AAS 75 (1983), 1006; cf. Fourth Lateran Ecumenical Council, Chapter 1, Constitution on the Catholic Faith Firmiter Credimus: DS 802.
62Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 22.
63Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae (24 February 1980), 2: AAS 72 (1980), 115.
64Decree on the Life and Ministry of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 14.
65Ibid., 13; cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 904; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Canon 378.
66Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbytero- rum Ordinis, 6.
67Cf. Final Report, II.C.1: L’Osservatore Romano, 10 December 1985, 7.
68Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 26.
69Nicolas Cabasilas, Life in Christ, IV, 10: SCh 355, 270.
70Camino de Perfección, Chapter 35.
71Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 4: AAS 85 (1993), 839-840.
72Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 14.
73Homiliae in Isaiam,6, 3: PG 56, 139.
74No. 1385; cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 916; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Canon 711.
75Address to the Members of the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary and the Penitentiaries of the Patriarchal Basilicas of Rome (30 January 1981): AAS 73 (1981), 203. Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, Decretum de ss. Eucharistia, Chapter 7 and Canon 11: DS 1647, 1661.
76Canon 915; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Canon 712.
77Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 14.
78Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 73, a. 3c.
79Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 11: AAS 85 (1993), 844.
80Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 23.
81Ad Smyrnaeos, 8: PG 5, 713.
82Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 23.
83Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 14: AAS 85 (1993), 847.
84Sermo272: PL 38, 1247.
85Ibid., 1248.
86Cf. Nos. 31-51: AAS 90 (1998), 731-746.
87Cf. ibid., Nos. 48-49: AAS 90 (1998), 744.
88No. 36: AAS 93 (2001), 291-292.
89Cf. Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 1.
90Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 11.
91“Join all of us, who share the one br
ead and the one cup, to one another in the communion of the one Holy Spirit”: Anaphora of the Liturgy of Saint Basil.
92Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 908; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Canon 702; Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Ecumenical Directory, 25 March 1993, 122-125, 129-131: AAS 85 (1993), 1086-1089; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Ad Exsequendam, 18 May 2001: AAS 93 (2001), 786.
93″Divine law forbids any common worship which would damage the unity of the Church, or involve formal acceptance of falsehood or the danger of deviation in the faith, of scandal, or of indifferentism”: Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 26.
94No. 45: AAS 87 (1995), 948.
95Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 27.
96Cf. Code of Canon Law, Canon 844 §§ 3-4; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Canon 671 §§ 3-4.
97No. 46: AAS 87 (1995), 948.
98Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 22.
99Code of Canon Law, Canon 844; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Canon 671.
100Cf. AAS 91 (1999), 1155-1172.
101No. 22: AAS 92 (2000), 485.
102Cf. No. 21: AAS 95 (2003), 20.
103No. 29: AAS 93 (2001), 285.
104Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 83, a. 4c.

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Mission
“Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart … go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love.” St. Therese the Little Flower wants us to know deeply, as she did, that Jesus loves each and every one of us, and that He will be waiting for us at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time. It is the mission of the ASCC’s Eucharistic Adoration Campaign (EAC) to spread the message that St. Therese so beautifully articulated in order that students at Catholic colleges might know the love of Christ and then in turn go out and share it.
Means
In order to accomplish its mission, the EAC provides advice and resources to campus ministers and students who are looking to start or promote a Eucharistic Adoration program at their college. We have brochures that are targeted to both students and campus ministers and that contain answers to questions like “What is Eucharistic Adoration?” and “Isn’t Eucharistic Adoration old-fashioned?” ASCC also provides guidelines for how to start a Eucharistic Adoration program at your school. The ASCC EAC website has several useful links as well, including Pope John Paul II’s recent encyclical about the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (The Church of the Eucharist) and many quotations from various saints, theologians, and other holy people. The ASCC also has many student contacts at Catholic colleges around the country. We provide a listserve so that those students can contact each other when they need advice, suggestions, or support.
Goal
All of the resources that the ASCC EAC provides are intended ultimately to further the love of God here on earth. The effect of our resources, Eucharistic Adoration, is the fire that lights the hearts of the faithful. Mother Teresa said, “We cannot separate our lives from the Eucharist; the moment we do, something breaks. People ask, ‘Where do the sisters get the joy and energy to do what they are doing?’” Indeed, such joy and energy can only come from the Eucharist, which, according to St. Peter Julian Eymard, “[i]n one day…will make you produce more for the glory of God than a whole lifetime without it.”
Cardinal Newman Society Press Release:
College Students on Their Knees: Student Association Launches
Eucharistic Adoration Campaign
By Patrick J. Reilly, President, Cardinal Newman Society
“Even before I became Catholic, I felt a curiously strong pull to Eucharistic adoration,” says Jereme Hudson, a senior at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California.
Although the college is well-known for its thoroughly Catholic education – reflected both in its Great Books curriculum steeped in Catholic theology and its wholesome campus life – Jereme came to the college a Southern Baptist. When curfew was dropped to allow students to participate in all-night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Jereme was intrigued. So he tagged along with a friend.
“I felt uncomfortable at first, but my anxieties soon abated and the peace and silence which permeated that chapel filled me with awe,” Jereme recalls. “I still wasn’t sure whether I truly believed that such a thing could be possible, but I looked around at the people who looked so lovingly at the Sacrament and couldn’t convince myself that they were merely staring at a piece of bread. I studied them looking for any trace whatsoever of falsity or simple-mindedness. I found none.
“When at last my gaze fell on the Blessed Sacrament itself I saw bread, yes, but I was filled with the desire to truly see Christ and to know Him in the flesh. I felt drawn to the monstrance, to the altar, to the tabernacle, and I found it harder to convince myself that this wasn’t Christ than it was to simply see that this was Christ.”
Three years later, Jereme is a Roman Catholic convert and is helping lead a national student association’s efforts to promote Eucharistic adoration at America’s 230 Catholic colleges and universities.
The Eucharistic Adoration Campaign is an effort of the Association of Students at Catholic Colleges (ASCC), a loose fraternity of Catholic student leaders who are struggling to build Christian campus life on America’s Catholic campuses. Many of these campuses lack significant commitment to Christian values, as contemporary student life at many Catholic colleges too often mirrors the rampant sexual activity, high levels of alcohol abuse, and decline in religious practice common among students at secular colleges.
That is why ASCC’s Eucharistic Adoration Campaign is markedly different from other efforts to encourage young Catholics to embrace the Church – and why the stakes are so high for the Campaign to succeed.
“Eucharistic adoration helps students rediscover the center of their faith, which is so desperately needed in an age when even their theology professors may dissent from Church teaching,” says Thomas Harmon, ASCC president and a senior at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. “But we’re aiming for something additional to personal renewal. We expect Eucharistic adoration at Catholic colleges to have a campus-wide impact, helping spur along the renewal of Catholic higher education as the Holy Father has envisioned.”
In Ex corde Ecclesiae, the 1990 apostolic constitution in which Pope John Paul II established firm guidelines for Catholic colleges, he emphasizes the importance of helping students “integrate religious and moral principles with their academic study and non-academic activities, thus integrating faith with life.” This includes “the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist as the most perfect act of community worship.”
The Holy Father notes that “a university community concerned with promoting the institution’s Catholic character” will be keenly aware of how its pastoral ministry influences “all university activities”.
There is ample evidence of this at Catholic colleges that encourage students and employees to kneel before the Eucharist. The campus minister of a Catholic college in the Midwest says that in the three years since students helped him launch a weekly evening of adoration, “my ministry to college students has met with unexpected success” and students have even reported mystical experiences in their prayer life. Participation in adoration, Sunday and daily Mass, and retreats has steadily grown, and several non-Catholic students have converted. Employees responsible for student life have come to “share a common vision of what student life on a Catholic college campus ought to be,” and even changes on the academic side are heartening.
“After Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I consider Eucharistic adoration to be the most important component of our program,” the campus minister says.
Christina Dehan, a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and coordinator of the university’s twice-weekly adoration, agrees.
“I know from stories that upperclassmen have relayed to me that the Catholic identity at Notre Dame has been undoubtedly strengthened since Eucharistic adoration was implemented,” Dehan says. “I know it has changed the lives of many students here, and the very presence of Christ on campus can be felt on the days when He is exposed in the Blessed Sacrament.”
Notre Dame offers adoration every Monday and Tuesday from noon until 10 p.m. Dehan says about 140 students, faculty and other employees have regular time slots, although many others participate when they can.
Of course, numbers aren’t everything. Even a small number of students and employees who participate in Eucharistic adoration can be filled with the Holy Spirit and become important leaders on campus. Those who are already active in campus life and struggle with burnout find peace and motivation in Christ.
“As a ridiculously busy college student, there is nothing I desire more than quiet time – time away from all of my obligations, time to reflect and re-focus and rejuvenate,” says Jennie Bradley, a junior at Notre Dame. “Adoration allows me to do all of these things, and also to bring before God in an intimate setting the petitions that are particularly on my heart that week.
“I am keenly aware that I live every day by God’s grace, and that nothing I do – be it schoolwork, ‘work’-work, friendships, etc. – will be successful without God’s hand on me and His blessings on my attempts to do His will,” Bradley says. “Eucharistic adoration is a perfect opportunity to be still and let go and let God pour out His graces on me – which He does, every week, without fail.”
Beginning this year, ASCC is working with fellow students and campus ministers to establish adoration programs on Catholic campuses and to increase participation at the 13 Catholic colleges known to already offer periods of adoration. ASCC leaders are developing materials and a guidebook to help campus ministers plan their programs and motivate students to get involved. A significant portion of ASCC’s national conference, scheduled for November 9 in Washington, D.C., will focus on training students to return to their campuses and promote Eucharistic adoration.
All this has been made possible by the generous gifts of a few Catholics who have experienced the power of Eucharistic adoration in their parishes. Two of those donors have promised to match up to $20,000 in other donations, a goal ASCC hopes to meet before the end of the school year.
ASCC is also assisted by its sponsor, the Cardinal Newman Society, a national organization that seeks the renewal of Catholic identity in America’s Catholic colleges. The Society launched ASCC last year in an effort to harness the energy and enthusiasm of Catholic college students who are finding that they can have an important role in building Christian campus culture. In addition to helping students lead prayer groups, pro-life activities, evangelization efforts, and other programs, the Cardinal Newman Society and ASCC are relying on the Eucharistic Adoration Program to demonstrate students’ contributions to the renewal of Catholic higher education.
“God knows what He’s doing, we’re just allowing Him to do it through us,” says J.J. Mammi, a senior who launched the Eucharistic adoration program at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. “That’s what faith is.”
Patrick J. Reilly is President of the Cardinal Newman Society, a national organization to renew Catholic identity in America’s Catholic colleges. He can be contacted at [email protected] or Cardinal Newman Society, 10562 Associates Ct., Manassas, VA 20109.

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