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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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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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What do the Saints and Other Holy People Say?

St. Francis of AssisiGood Shepherd
Good Shepherd
“Everything in man should halt in awe. Let all the world quake and let Heaven exult when Christ the Son of the living God is there on the altar.”
“In this world I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood.”
“And just as He appeared before the holy Apostles in true flesh, they saw only His Flesh, but regarding Him with the eyes of the spirit, they believed that He was God. In like manner, as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, let us see and believe firmly that it is His Most Holy Body and Blood, True and Living.”
“We adore Thee most holy Lord Jesus Christ, here in all Thy Churches, which are in the whole world, because by thy holy cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.”
St. Augustine
“Christ held Himself in His hands when he gave his Body to His disciples saying: ‘This is My Body.’ No one partakes of this Flesh before he has adored it.”
“We do not sin when we adore Christ in the Eucharist; we do sin when we do not adore Christ in the Eucharist.”
Kimberly Hahn
“And because Jesus is the Eucharist, keeping Him in the center allows all of the rich doctrines of the Church to emanate from Him, just as the beautiful gold rays stream forth from the Host in the monstrance.”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
“The humility of Jesus can be seen in the crib, in the exile to Egypt, in the inability to make people understand Him, in the desertion of His apostles, in the hatred of His persecutors, in all the terrible suffering and death of His Passion, and now in His permanent state of humility in the tabernacle, where he has reduced Himself to such a small particle of bread that the priest can hold Him with two fingers. The more we empty ourselves, the more room we give God to fill us.”
“People ask me: ‘What will convert America and save the world?’ My answer is prayer. What we need is for every parish to come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in Holy Hours of prayer.”
“To be alone with Jesus in adoration and intimate union with Him is the Greatest Gift of Love – the tender love our Father in Heaven.”
“When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.”
His Holiness, Pope John Paul II
“Every member of the Church must be vigilant in seeing that this sacrament of love shall be at the center of the life of the people of God so that through all manifestations of worship due to it, Christ shall be given back ‘love for love,’ and truly become the life of our souls.”
“The encouragement and the deepening of Eucharistic worship are proofs of the authentic renewal which the Council set itself as an aim and of which they are the central point.” (Dominicae Cenae)
St. Peter Julian Eymard
“Today solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is the grace and need of our time. Society will be restored and renewed when all its members group themselves around our Emmanuel.”
“Let us never forget that an age prospers or dwindles in proportion to its devotion to the Holy Eucharist. This is the measure of its spiritual life and its faith, of its charity and its virtue.”
“In one day the Eucharist will make you produce more for the glory of God than a whole lifetime without it.”
“Until we have a passionate love for our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacred we shall accomplish nothing.”
“The Eucharist is the supreme proof of the love of Jesus. After this, there is nothing more but Heaven itself.”
Pere Jean du Coeur de Jesus D’Elbee
“What is the work of grace? The transformation of our souls into Jesus through love. St. Thomas shows us, after St. Augustine, that the Eucharist transforms out souls into Jesus through love. It is there that I find the definition of sanctity, the world.”
Francois Mauriac
“The temples of those who deny the Real Presence are like corpses. The Lord was taken away and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
Office for the Feast of Corpus Christi
“The Bread of heaven puts an end to symbols.”
St. John of the Cross
“Lord, I shall see you no more with the eyes of flesh…”
Peter Kreeft
“Adoration will heal our Church and thus our nation and thus our world…. Adoration is more powerful for construction than nuclear bombs are for
destruction.”
St. Alphonsus Ligouri
“Certainly amongst all devotions, after the sacraments, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament holds first place, it is the most pleasing to God, and the most useful to ourselves. Do not then, O devout soul, refuse to begin this devotion; and forsaking the conversation of men, dwell each day, from this time forward, far at least half or quarter of an hour, in some church, in the presence of Jesus Christ under the sacramental species. Taste and see how sweet is the Lord.”
“My Jesus! What a lovable contrivance this holy Sacrament was – that You would hide under the appearance of bread to make Yourself loved and to be available for a visit by anyone who desires you!”
St. Euphrasia Pelletier, Foundress of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
“To speak of the Blessed Sacrament is to speak of what is most sacred. How often, when we are in a state of distress, those to whom we look for help leave us; or what is worse, add to our affliction by heaping fresh troubles upon us. He is ever there waiting for us.”
Pope St. Pius X
“The devotion to the Eucharist is the most noble because it has God as its object; it is the most profitable for salvation, because It gives us the Author of Grace; it is the sweetest, because the Lord is Sweetness Itself.”
St. Francis de Sales
“We must visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament a hundred thousand times a day.”
Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop of Cebu
“Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is the Solution to our problems of declining vocations.”
St. Peter of Alcantara
“Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament has His hands full of graces, and He is ready to bestow them on anyone who asks for them.”
Hebrews 4:16
“Let us go with confidence to the Throne of Grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace.”
St. Dominic Savio
“Do you want many graces? Go and visit the Blessed Sacrament often. Do you want few graces? Visit the Blessed Sacrament rarely. Do you want none at all? Then never pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.”
Jean Galot, S.J.
“By His Eucharistic presence, Christ dwells in our midst. Out of love He has enriched the Church with his unceasing presence. As God in former days dwelt in the temple of Jerusalem, He now lives in our churches and chapels. He invites us to remain in close contact with Him. Through Eucharistic adoration we concentrate our attention on Him as we yield to the fascination of His invisible gaze. Opening our heart, we entrust all our petitions to Him.”
Fr. Stefano Manelli, O.F.M. Conv., S.T.D.
“All expressions of love, even the highest and the most profound, are verified in the Eucharist. Thus, it is a Love that is crucified, a Love that unites, a Love that adores, a Love that contemplates, a Love that prays, a Love that delightfully satisfies.”
St. Teresa of Avila
“In the presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament we ought to be like the Blessed in heaven before the Divine Essence.”
St. Philip
“Can you feel the fragrance of Paradise which diffuses Itself from the Tabernacle?”
Br. Ephraim
“It’s as if we expose ourselves to the sun and its beneficial influence.”
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
“Let every knee bend before Thee, O greatness of my God, so supremely humbled in the Sacred Host. May every heart love Thee, every spirit adore Thee and every will be subject to Thee.”
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
“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. Theological insights are gained not only from between two covers of a book, but from two bent knees before an altar. The Holy Hour becomes like an oxygen tank to revive the breath of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the foul and fetid atmosphere of the world.”

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Text of Francis Cardinal Arinze’s Address
Commencement at Georgetown University,
Washington, D.C., May 17, 2003

God be praised for this major event today in the life of Georgetown University. Near a thousand young people are graduating. To you, dear young friends, I say: Allow serious religion to lead you to lasting joy. Happy parents and friends surround their loved ones. With them I say: Let us thank God for the gift of the family. The Company of Jesus, the Jesuits, initiated and nourish this University. With them I rejoice at the patrimony of St. Ignatius and especially that the Catholic Church is God’s gift to the world. To all I say: Arise, rejoice, God is calling you
1. Serious Religion leads to lasting Joy.
My dear graduands, at this turning point in your lives, it is helpful to keep to essentials. One of them is to locate in what happiness consists. Everyone wants to be happy. Every human being desires lasting joy.
True happiness does not consist in the accumulation of goods: money, cars, houses. Nor is it to be found in pleasure seeking: eating, drinking, sex. And humans do not attain lasting joy by power grabbing, dominating others, or heaping up public acclaim. These three things, good in themselves when properly sought, were not able to confer on Solomon, perfect happiness. And they will not be able to confer it on anyone else! (cf. Eccles1:2-3; IIKing11;1-8; Mt20:24-28; IJn 2:15-16).
Happiness is attained by achieving the purpose of our earthly existence. God made me to know him, to love him, to serve him in this world and to be happy with him for ever in the next. St. Augustine found this out in his later age after making many mistakes in his youth. He then cried out to God: “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (St. Aug. Conf. I, 1). My religion guides and helps me towards this. My Catholic faith puts me in contact with Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life (cf. Jn14:6). God’s grace helps me to live on earth in such a way as to attain the purpose of my earthly existence.
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My dear graduands, allow your religion to give your life its essential and major orientation. In our lives. religion is not something marginal, peripheral, additional, optional. My Catholic faith gives meaning and a sense of direction to my life. It gives it unity. Without it my life would be like an agglomeration of scattered mosaics. It is my religion, for example, that inspires my profession, that teaches me that there is more happiness in giving than in receiving (cf. Acts20:35), that helps me to appreciate that to reach the height of my growth potential, I must learn to give of myself to others as I practise my profession as lawyer, doctor, air hostess, congress member or priest (Vatican II: Gaudium et Spes, 24).
Allow your religion to give life, joy, generosity and a sense of solidarity to your professional and social engagements. In a world of religious plurity, you will of course learn to cooperate with people of other religious convictions. True religion teaches not exclusion, rivalry, tension, conflict or violence, but rather openness, esteem, respect and harmony. At the same time you should keep intact your religious identity, your distinction as a witness of Jesus Christ.
2. Thank God for the Gift of the Family.
As I see joy and just pride reflected on the faces of the parents and friends of these graduands, I think of God’s goodness in giving the gift of the family to humanity.
It is God himself who willed that a man and a woman should come to establish a permanent bond in marriage. Marriage gives rise to the family. In this fundamental cell of society, love grows. There the exercise of sexuality has its correct locus. There human maturity is nurtured. There new life utters its first cry and later smiles at the parents. There the child is first introduced to religion. Is it any wonder that the Second Vatican Council called the family “the church of the home” (cf. Lumen Gentium, 11)?
In many part of the world, the family is under siege. It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce.
But the family has friends too. It is nourished and lubricated by mutual love, strengthened by sacrifice and healed by forgiveness and reconciliation. The family is blessed with new life, kept united by family prayer and given a model in the Holy Family of Nazareth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Christian families are moreover blessed by the Church in the name of Christ and fed by the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. It was beautiful that at the beatification of Mr. and Mrs. Luigi and Maria Beltrame-Quattrocchi in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City on October 21, 2001, three of their children were present.
May God bless all the families here present and grant our graduands who will one day set up their own families his light, guidance, strength, peace and love.
3. The Patrimony of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
We rejoice with the Jesuit Community that set up and keeps up Georgetown University. In the patrimony of St. Ignatius of Loyola, love of the Church is prominent. It is a joy, an honour and a responsibility to belong to the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church. This Mystical Body of Christ, this largest of all religious families that ever existed, is the divinely-set up family for all peoples, languages and cultures. This Church has produced Saints from every state of life, men and women who, open to God’s grace, have become signs of hope. But this same Church also has sinners in her fold. Far from discouraging and rejecting them, the Church offers them hope, wholesome Gospel teaching, saving sacraments and the invitation to abandon to food of pigs, make U-turn and return to the refreshing joy of the Father’s house, like the prodigal son (cf. Lk15:14-24).
This Church has inherited from Christ, the Apostles and her living tradition, a non-negotiable body of doctrine on faith and morals. The tenets of the Catholic faith do not change according to the play of market forces, majority votes or opinion polls. “Jesus Christ is the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be for ever” (Heb13:8). This is the Church which St. Ignatius invites all his spiritual children to love and cherish. This is the Church to which we have the joy to belong.
My dear graduands, parents and the Jesuit Community of Georgetown, arise, rejoice, because God is calling us. And may God’s light, peace, grace and blessing descend on you and remain with you always.
Frances Card. ARINZE
May 17, 2003

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Letter of the Supreme Pontiff Pope John Paul II
To All the Bishops of the Church
February 24, 1980
My venerable and dear brothers,
1. Again this year, for Holy Thursday, I am writing a letter to all of you. This letter has an immediate connection with the one which you received last year on the same occasion, together with the letter to the priests. I wish in the first place to thank you cordially for having accepted my previous letters with that spirit of unity which the Lord established between us, and also for having transmitted to your priests the thoughts that I desired to express at the beginning of my pontificate.
During the Eucharistic Liturgy of Holy Thursday, you renewed, together with your priests, the promises and commitments undertaken at the moment of ordination. Many of you, venerable and dear brothers, told me about it later, also adding words of personal thanks, and indeed often sending those expressed by your priests. Furthermore, many priests expressed their joy, both because of the profound and solemn character of Holy Thursday as the annual “feast of priests” and also because of the importance of the subjects dealt with in the letter addressed to them.
Those replies form a rich collection which once more indicates how dear to the vast majority of priests of the Catholic Church is the path of the priestly life, the path along which this Church has been journeying for centuries: how much they love and esteem it, and how much they desire to follow it for the future.
At this point I must add that only a certain number of matters were dealt with in the letter to priests, as was in fact emphasized at the beginning of the document.[1] Furthermore, the main stress was laid upon the pastoral character of the priestly ministry; but this certainly does not mean that those groups of priests who are not engaged in direct pastoral activity were not also taken into consideration. In this regard I would refer once more to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, and also to the declarations of the 1971 Synod of Bishops.
The pastoral character of the priestly ministry does not cease to mark the life of every priest, even if the daily tasks that he carries out are not explicitly directed to the pastoral administration of the sacraments. In this sense, the letter written to the priests on Holy Thursday was addressed to them all, without any exception, even though, as I said above, it did not deal with all the aspects of the life and activity of priests. I think this clarification is useful and opportune at the beginning of the present letter:
I. THE EUCHARISTIC MYSTERY IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH AND OF THE PRIEST
Eucharist and Priesthood
2. The present letter that I am addressing to you, my venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate–and which is, as I have said, in a certain way a continuation of the previous one–is also closely linked with the mystery of Holy Thursday, and is related to the priesthood. In fact I intend to devote it to the Eucharist, and in particular to certain aspects of the Eucharistic Mystery and its impact on the lives of those who are the ministers of It: and so those to whom this letter is directly addressed are you, the bishops of the Church; together with you, all the priests; and, in their own rank, the deacons too.
In reality, the ministerial and hierarchical priesthood, the priesthood of the bishops and the priests, and, at their side, the ministry of the deacons–ministries which normally begin with the proclamation of the Gospel–are in the closest relationship with the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the principal and central raison d’etre of the sacrament of the priesthood, which effectively came into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist, and together with it.[2] Not without reason the words “Do this in memory of me” are said immediately after the words of eucharistic consecration, and we repeat them every time we celebrate the holy Sacrifice.[3]
Through our ordination–the celebration of which is linked to the holy Mass from the very first liturgical evidence[4]–we are united in a singular and exceptional way to the Eucharist. In a certain way we derive from it and exist for it. We are also, and in a special way, responsible for it–each priest in his own community and each bishop by virtue of the care of all the communities entrusted to him, on the basis of the sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum that St. Paul speaks of.[5] Thus we bishops and priests are entrusted with the great “mystery of Faith,” and while it is also given to the whole People of God, to all believers in Christ, yet to us has been entrusted the Eucharist also “for” others, who expect from us a particular witness of veneration and love towards this sacrament, so that they too may be able to be built up and vivified “to offer spiritual sacrifices.”[6]
In this way our eucharistic worship, both in the celebration of Mass and in our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, is like a life-giving current that links our ministerial or hierarchical priesthood to the common priesthood of the faithful, and presents it in its vertical dimension and with its central value. The priest fulfills his principal mission and its manifested in all his fullness when he celebrates the Eucharist,[7] and this manifestation is more complete when he himself allows the depth of that mystery to become visible, so that it alone shines forth in people’s hearts and minds, through this ministry. This is the supreme exercise of the “kingly priesthood,” “the source and summit of all Christian life.”[8]
Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery
3. This worship is directed towards God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. In the first place towards the Father, who, as St. John’s Gospel says, “loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.”[9]
It is also directed, in the Holy Spirit, to the incarnate Son, in the economy of salvation, especially at that moment of supreme dedication and total abandonment of Himself to which the words uttered in the Upper Room refer: “This is my body given up for you…. This is the cup of my blood shed for you….”[10] The liturgical acclamation: “We proclaim your death, Lord Jesus” takes us back precisely to that moment; and with the proclamation of His resurrection we embrace in the same act of veneration Christ risen and glorified “at the right hand of the Father,” as also the expectation of His “coming in glory.” Yet it is the voluntary emptying of Himself, accepted by the Father and glorified with the resurrection, which, sacramentally celebrated together with the resurrection, brings us to adore the Redeemer who “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”[11]
And this adoration of ours contains yet another special characteristic. It is compenetrated by the greatness of that human death, in which the world, that is to say each one of us, has been loved “to the end.”[12] Thus it is also a response that tries to repay that love immolated even to the death on the cross: it is our “Eucharist,” that is to say our giving Him thanks, our praise of Him for having redeemed us by His death and made us sharers in immortal life through His resurrection.
This worship, given therefore to the Trinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, above all accompanies and permeates the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy. But it must fill our churches also outside the timetable of Masses. Indeed, since the Eucharistic Mystery was instituted out of love, and makes Christ sacramentally present, it is worthy of thanksgiving and worship. And this worship must be prominent in all our encounters with the Blessed Sacrament, both when we visit our churches and when the sacred species are taken to the sick and administered to them.
Adoration of Christ in this sacrament of love must also find expression in various forms of eucharistic devotion: personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, Hours of Adoration, periods of exposition– short, prolonged and annual (Forty Hours)–eucharistic benediction, eucharistic processions, eucharistic congresses.[13] A particular mention should be made at this point of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ as an act of public worship rendered to Christ present in the Eucharist, a feast instituted by my predecessor Urban IV in memory of the institution of this great Mystery.[14] All this therefore corresponds to the general principles and particular norms already long in existence but newly formulated during or after the Second Vatican Council.[15]
The encouragement and the deepening of eucharistic worship are proofs of that authentic renewal which the council set itself as an aim and of which they are the central point. And this, venerable and dear brothers, deserves separate reflection. The Church and the world have a great need of eucharistic worship. Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and in contemplation that is full of faith and ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world. May our adoration never cease.
Eucharist and Church
4. Thanks to the Council we have realized with renewed force the following truth: Just as the Church “makes the Eucharist” so “the Eucharist builds up” the Church[16]; and this truth is closely bound up with the mystery of Holy Thursday. The Church was founded, as the new community of the People of God, in the apostolic community of those Twelve who, at the Last Supper, became partakers of the body and blood of the Lord under the species of bread and wine. Christ had said to them: “Take and eat…. Take and drink.” And carrying out this command of His, they entered for the first time into sacramental communion with the Son of God, a communion that is a pledge of eternal life. From that moment until the end of time, the Church is being built up through that same communion with the Son of God, a communion which is a pledge of the eternal Passover.
Dear and venerable brothers in the episcopate, as teachers and custodians of the salvific truth of the Eucharist, we must always and everywhere preserve this meaning and this dimension of the sacramental encounter and intimacy with Christ. It is precisely these elements which constitute the very substance of eucharistic worship. The meaning of the truth expounded above in no way diminishes–in fact, it facilitates–the eucharistic character of spiritual drawing together and union between the people who share in the sacrifice, which then in Communion becomes for them the banquet. This drawing together and this union, the prototype of which is the union of the Apostles about Christ at the Last Supper, express the Church and bring her into being.
But the Church is not brought into being only through the union of people, through the experience of brotherhood to which the Eucharistic Banquet gives rise. The Church is brought into being when, in that fraternal union and communion, we celebrate the sacrifice of the cross of Christ, when we proclaim “the Lord’s death until he comes,”[17] and later, when, being deeply compenetrated with the mystery of our salvation, we approach as a community the table of the Lord, in order to be nourished there, in a sacramental manner, by the fruits of the holy Sacrifice of propitiation. Therefore in eucharistic Communion we receive Christ, Christ Himself; and our union with Him, which is a gift and grace for each individual, brings it about that in Him we are also associated in the unity of His body which is the Church.
Only in this way, through that faith and that disposition of mind, is there brought about that building up of the Church, which in the Eucharist truly finds its “source and summit,” according to the well-known expression of the Second Vatican Council.[18] This truth, which as a result of the same Council has received a new and vigorous emphasis,[19] must be a frequent theme of our reflection and teaching. Let all pastoral activity be nourished by it, and may it also be food for ourselves and for all the priests who collaborate with us, and likewise for the whole of the communities entrusted to us. In this practice there should thus be revealed, almost at every step, that close relationship between the Church’s spiritual and apostolic vitality and the Eucharist, understood in its profound significance and from all points of view.[20]
Eucharist and Charity
5. Before proceeding to more detailed observations on the subject of the celebration of the holy Sacrifice, I wish briefly to reaffirm the fact that eucharistic worship constitutes the soul of all Christian life. In fact, Christian life is expressed in the fulfilling of the greatest commandment, that is to say, in the love of God and neighbor, and this love finds its source in the Blessed Sacrament, which is commonly called the sacrament of love.
The Eucharist signifies this charity, and therefore recalls it, makes it present and at the same time brings it about. Every time that we consciously share in it, there opens in our souls a real dimension of that unfathomable love that includes everything that God has done and continues to do for us human beings, as Christ says: “My Father goes on working, and so do I.”[21] Together with this unfathomable and free gift, which is charity revealed in its fullest degree in the saving sacrifice of the Son of God, the sacrifice of which the Eucharist is the indelible sign, there also springs up within us a lively response of love. We not only know love; we ourselves begin to love. We enter, so to speak, upon the path of love and along this path make progress. Thanks to the Eucharist, the love that springs up within us from the Eucharist develops in us, becomes deeper and grows stronger.
Eucharistic worship is therefore precisely the expression of that love which is the authentic and deepest characteristic of the Christian vocation. This worship springs from the love and serves the love to which we are all called in Jesus Christ.[22] A living fruit of this worship is the perfecting of the image of God that we bear within us, an image that corresponds to the one that Christ has revealed in us. As we thus become adorers of the Father “in spirit and truth,”[23] we mature in an ever fuller union with Christ, we are ever more united to Him, and–if one may use the expression–we are ever more in harmony with Him.
The doctrine of the Eucharist, sign of unity and bond of charity, taught by St. Paul,[24] has been in subsequent times deepened by the writings of very many saints who are living examples for us of Eucharistic worship. We must always have this reality before our eyes, and at the same time we must continually try to bring it about that our own generation too may add new examples to those marvelous examples of the past, new examples no less living and eloquent, that will reflect the age to which we belong.
Eucharist and Neighbor
6. The authentic sense of the Eucharist becomes of itself the school of active love for neighbor. We know that this is the true and full order of love that the Lord has taught us: “By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”[25] The Eucharist educates us to this love in a deeper way; it shows us, in fact, what value each person, our brother or sister, has in God’s eyes, if Christ offers Himself equally to each one, under the species of bread and wine. If our Eucharistic worship is authentic, it must make us grow in awareness of the dignity of each person. The awareness of that dignity becomes the deepest motive of our relationship with our neighbor.
We must also become particularly sensitive to all human suffering and misery, to all injustice and wrong, and seek the way to redress them effectively. Let us learn to discover with respect the truth about the inner self that becomes the dwelling place of God present in the Eucharist. Christ comes into the hearts of our brothers and sisters and visits their consciences. How the image of each and every one changes, when we become aware of this reality, when we make it the subject of our reflections! The sense of the Eucharistic Mystery leads us to a love for our neighbor, to a love for every human being.[26]
Eucharist and Life
7. Since therefore the Eucharist is the source of charity, it has always been at the center of the life of Christ’s disciples. It has the appearance of bread and wine, that is to say of food and drink; it is therefore as familiar to people, as closely linked to their life, as food and drink. The veneration of God, who is love, springs, in eucharistic worship, from that kind of intimacy in which He Himself, by analogy with food and drink, fills our spiritual being, ensuring its life, as food and drink do. This “eucharistic” veneration of God therefore strictly corresponds to His saving plan. He Himself, the Father, wants the “true worshippers”[27] to worship Him precisely in this way, and it is Christ who expresses this desire, both with His words and likewise with this sacrament in which He makes possible worship of the Father in the way most in conformity with the Father’s will.
From this concept of eucharistic worship there then stems the whole sacramental style of the Christian’s life. In fact, leading a life based on the sacraments and animated by the common priesthood means in the first place that Christians desire God to act in them in order to enable them to attain, in the Spirit, “the fullness of Christ himself.”[28] God, on His part, does not touch them only through events and by this inner grace; He also acts in them with greater certainty and power through the sacraments. The sacraments give the lives of Christians a sacramental style.
Now, of all the sacraments it is the Holy Eucharist that brings to fullness their initiation as Christians and confers upon the exercise of the common priesthood that sacramental and ecclesial form that links it– as we mentioned before[29]–to the exercise of the ministerial priesthood. In this way eucharistic worship is the center and goal of all sacramental life.[30] In the depths of eucharistic worship we find a continual echo of the sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism and Confirmation. Where better is there expressed the truth that we are not only “called God’s children” but “that is what we are”[31] by virtue of the sacrament of Baptism, if not precisely in the fact that in the Eucharist we become partakers of the body and blood of God’s only Son? And what predisposes us more to be “true witnesses of Christ”[32] before the world–as we are enabled to be by the sacrament of Confirmation–than Eucharistic Communion, in which Christ bears witness to us, and we to Him?
It is impossible to analyze here in greater detail the links between the Eucharist and the other sacraments, in particular with the sacrament of family life and the sacrament of the sick. In the encyclical Redemptor Hominis[33] I have already drawn attention to the close link between the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is not only that Penance leads to the Eucharist, but that the Eucharist also leads to Penance. For when we realize who it is that we receive in Eucharistic Communion, there springs up in us almost spontaneously a sense of unworthiness, together with sorrow for our sins and an interior need for purification.
But we must always take care that this great meeting with Christ in the Eucharist does not become a mere habit, and that we do not receive Him unworthily, that is to say, in a state of mortal sin. The practice of the virtue of penance and the sacrament of Penance are essential for sustaining in us and continually deepening that spirit of veneration which man owes to God Himself and to His love so marvelously revealed. The purpose of these words is to put forward some general reflections on worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, and they could be developed at greater length and more fully. In particular, it would be possible to link what has been said about the effects of the Eucharist on love for others with what we have just noted about commitments undertaken towards humanity and the Church in Eucharistic Communion, and then outline the picture of that “new earth”[34] that springs from the Eucharist through every “new self.”[35] In this sacrament of bread and wine, of food and drink, everything that is human really undergoes a singular transformation and elevation. Eucharistic worship is not so much worship of the inaccessible transcendence as worship of the divine condescension, and it is also the merciful and redeeming transformation of the world in the human heart.
Recalling all this only very briefly, I wish, notwithstanding this brevity, to create a wider context for the questions that I shall subsequently have to deal with: These questions are closely linked with the celebration of the holy Sacrifice. In fact, in that celebration there is expressed in a more direct way the worship of the Eucharist. This worship comes from the heart, as a most precious homage inspired by the faith, hope and charity which were infused into us at Baptism. And it is precisely about this that I wish to write to you in this letter, venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate, and with you to the priests and deacons. It will be followed by detailed indications from the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship.
II. THE SACRED CHARACTER OF THE EUCHARIST AND SACRIFICE
Sacred Character
8. Beginning with the Upper Room and Holy Thursday, the celebration of the Eucharist has a long history, a history as long as that of the Church. In the course of this history the secondary elements have undergone certain changes, but there has been no change in the essence of the “Mysterium” instituted by the Redeemer of the world at the Last Supper. The Second Vatican Council too brought alterations, as a result of which the present liturgy of the Mass is different in some ways from the one known before the Council. We do not intend to speak of these differences: It is better that we should now concentrate on what is essential and immutable in the Eucharistic Liturgy.
There is a close link between this element of the Eucharist and its sacredness, that is to say, its being a holy and sacred action. Holy and sacred, because in it are the continual presence and action of Christ, “the Holy One” of God,[36] “anointed with the Holy Spirit,”[37] “consecrated by the Father”[38] to lay down His life of His own accord and to take it up again.[39] and the High Priest of the New Covenant.[40] For it is He who, represented by the celebrant, makes His entrance into the sanctuary and proclaims His Gospel. It is He who is “the offerer and the offered, the consecrator and the consecrated.”[41] The Eucharist is a holy and sacred action, because it constitutes the sacred species, the Sancta sanctis, that is to say, the “holy things (Christ, the Holy One) given to the Holy,” as all the Eastern liturgies sing at the moment when the eucharistic Bread is raised in order to invite the faithful to the Lord’s Supper.
The sacredness of the Mass, therefore, is not a “sacralization,” that is to say, something that man adds to Christ’s action in the Upper Room, for the Holy Thursday supper was a sacred rite, a primary and constitutive liturgy, through which Christ, by pledging to give His life for us, Himself celebrated sacramentally the mystery of His passion and resurrection, the heart of every Mass. Our Masses, being derived from this liturgy, possess of themselves a complete liturgical form, which, in spite of its variations in line with the families of rites, remains substantially the same. The sacred character of the Mass is a sacredness instituted by Christ. The words and actions of every priest, answered by the conscious active participation of the whole eucharistic assembly, echo the words and actions of Holy Thursday.
The priest offers the holy Sacrifice in persona Christi; this means more than offering “in the name of” or “in place of” Christ. In persona means in specific sacramental identification with “the eternal High Priest”[42] who is the author and principal subject of this sacrifice of His, a sacrifice in which, in truth, nobody can take His place. Only He– only Christ–was able and is always able to be the true and effective “expiation for our sins and … for the sins of the whole world.”[43] Only His sacrifice–and no one else’s–was able and is able to have a “propitiary power” before God, the Trinity, and the transcendent holiness. Awareness of this reality throws a certain light on the character and significance of the priest celebrant who, by confecting the holy Sacrifice and acting “in persona Christi,” is sacramentally (and ineffably) brought into that most profound sacredness, and made part of it, spiritually linking with it in turn all those participating in the eucharistic assembly.
This sacred rite, which is actuated in different liturgical forms, may lack some secondary elements, but it can in no way lack its essential sacred character and sacramentality, since these are willed by Christ and transmitted and regulated by the Church. Neither can this sacred rite be utilized for other ends. If separated from its distinctive sacrificial and sacramental nature, the Eucharistic Mystery simply ceases to be. It admits of no “profane” imitation, an imitation that would very easily (indeed regularly) become a profanation. This must always be remembered, perhaps above all in our time, when we see a tendency to do away with the distinction between the “sacred” and “profane,” given the widespread tendency, at least in some places, to desacralize everything.
In view of this fact, the Church has a special duty to safeguard and strengthen the sacredness of the Eucharist. In our pluralistic and often deliberately secularized society, the living faith of the Christian community–a faith always aware of its rights vis-a-vis those who do not share that faith–ensures respect for this sacredness. The duty to respect each person’s faith is the complement of the natural and civil right to freedom of conscience and of religion.
The sacred character of the Eucharist has found and continues to find expression in the terminology of theology and the liturgy.[44] This sense of the objective sacred character of the Eucharistic Mystery is so much part of the faith of the People of God that their faith is enriched and strengthened by it.[45] Therefore the ministers of the Eucharist must, especially today, be illumined by the fullness of this living faith, and in its light they must understand and perform all that is part, by Christ’s will and the will of His Church, of their priestly ministry.
Sacrifice
9. The Eucharist is above all else a sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of the Redemption and also the sacrifice of the New Covenant,[46] as we believe and as the Eastern Churches clearly profess: “Today’s sacrifice,” the Greek Church stated centuries ago, “is like that offered once by the Only-begotten Incarnate Word; it is offered by Him (now as then), since it is one and the same sacrifice.”[47] Accordingly, precisely by making this single sacrifice of our salvation present, man and the world are restored to God through the paschal newness of Redemption. This restoration cannot cease to be: it is the foundation of the “new and eternal covenant” of God with man and of man with God. If it were missing, one would have to question both the excellence of the sacrifice of the Redemption, which in fact was perfect and definitive, and also the sacrificial value of the Mass. In fact, the Eucharist, being a true sacrifice, brings about this restoration to God.
Consequently, the celebrant, as minister of this sacrifice, is the authentic priest, performing–in virtue of the specific power of sacred ordination–a true sacrificial act that brings creation back to God. Although all those who participate in the Eucharist do not confect the sacrifice as He does, they offer with Him, by virtue of the common priesthood, their own spiritual sacrifices represented by the bread and wine from the moment of their presentation at the altar. For this liturgical action, which takes a solemn form in almost all liturgies, has a “spiritual value and meaning.”[48] The bread and wine become in a sense a symbol of all that the eucharistic assembly brings, on its own part, as an offering to God and offers spiritually.
It is important that this first moment of the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the strict sense should find expression in the attitude of the participants. There is a link between this and the offertory “procession” provided for in the recent liturgical reform[49] and accompanied, in keeping with ancient tradition, by a psalm or son. A certain length of time must be allowed, so that all can become aware of this act, which is given expression at the same time by the words of the celebrant.
Awareness of the act of presenting the offerings should be maintained throughout the Mass. Indeed, it should be brought to fullness at the moment of the consecration and of the anamnesis offering, as is demanded by the fundamental value of the moment of the sacrifice. This is shown by the words of the Eucharistic Prayer said aloud by the priest. It seems worthwhile repeating here some expressions in the third Eucharistic Prayer that show in particular the sacrificial character of the Eucharist and link the offering of our persons with Christ’s offering: “Look with favor on your Church’s offering, and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself. Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ. May he make us an everlasting gift to you.”
This sacrificial value is expressed earlier in every celebration by the words with which the priest concludes the presentation of the gifts, asking the faithful to pray “that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” These words are binding, since they express the character of the entire Eucharistic Liturgy and the fullness of its divine and ecclesial content.
All who participate with faith in the Eucharist become aware that it is a “sacrifice,” that is to say, a “consecrated Offering.” For the bread and wine presented at the altar and accompanied by the devotion and the spiritual sacrifices of the participants are finally consecrated, so as to become truly, really and substantially Christ’s own body that is given up and His blood that is shed. Thus, by virtue of the consecration, the species of bread and wine re-present[50] in a sacramental, unbloody manner the bloody propitiatory sacrifice offered by Him on the cross to His Father for the salvation of the world. Indeed, He alone, giving Himself as a propitiatory Victim in an act of supreme surrender and immolation, has reconciled humanity with the Father, solely through His sacrifice, “having cancelled the bond which stood against us.”[51]
To this sacrifice, which is renewed in a sacramental form on the altar, the offerings of bread and wine, united with the devotion of the faithful, nevertheless bring their unique contribution, since by means of the consecration by the priest they become sacred species. This is made clear by the way in which the priest acts during the Eucharistic Prayer, especially at the consecration, and when the celebration of the holy Sacrifice and participation in it are accompanied by awareness that “the Teacher is here and is calling for you.”[52] This call of the Lord to us through His Sacrifice opens our hearts, so that, purified in the mystery of our Redemption, they may be united to Him in Eucharistic Communion, which confers upon participation at Mass a value that is mature, complete and binding on human life: “The Church’s intention is that the faithful not only offer the spotless victim but also learn to offer themselves and daily to be drawn into ever more perfect union, through Christ the Mediator, with the Father and with each other, so that at last God may be all in all.”[53]
It is therefore very opportune and necessary to continue to actuate a new and intense education, in order to discover all the richness contained in the new liturgy. Indeed, the liturgical renewal that has taken place since the Second Vatican Council has given, so to speak, greater visibility to the Eucharistic Sacrifice. One factor contributing to this is that the words of the Eucharistic Prayer are said aloud by the celebrant, particularly the words of consecration, with the acclamation of the assembly immediately after the elevation.
All this should fill us with joy, but we should also remember that these changes demand new spiritual awareness and maturity, both on the part of the celebrant–especially now that he celebrates “facing the people”–and by the faithful. Eucharistic worship matures and grows when the words of the Eucharistic Prayer, especially the words of consecration, are spoken with great humility and simplicity, in a worthy and fitting way, which is understandable and in keeping with their holiness; when this essential act of the Eucharistic Liturgy is performed unhurriedly; and when it brings about in us such recollection and devotion that the participants become aware of the greatness of the mystery being accomplished and show it by their attitude.
III. THE TWO TABLES OF THE LORD AND THE COMMON POSSESSION OF THE CHURCH
The Table of the Word of God
10. We are well aware that from the earliest times the celebration of the Eucharist has been linked not only with prayer but also with the reading of Sacred Scripture and with singing by the whole assembly. As a result, it has long been possible to apply to the Mass the comparison, made by the Fathers, with the two tables, at which the Church prepares for her children the word of God and the Eucharist, that is, the bread of the Lord. We must therefore go back to the first part of the sacred mystery, the part that at present is most often called the Liturgy of the Word, and devote some attention to it.
The reading of the passages of Sacred Scripture chosen for each day has been subjected by the Council to new criteria and requirements[54] As a result of these norms of the Council a new collection of readings has been made, in which there has been applied to some extent the principle of continuity of texts and the principle of making all the sacred books accessible. The insertion of the Psalms with responses into the liturgy makes the participants familiar with the great wealth of Old Testament prayer and poetry. The fact that these texts are read and sung in the vernacular enables everyone to participate with fuller understanding.
Nevertheless, there are also those people who, having been educated on the basis of the old liturgy in Latin, experience the lack of this “one language,” which in all the world was an expression of the unity of the Church and through its dignified character elicited a profound sense of the Eucharistic Mystery. It is therefore necessary to show not only understanding but also full respect towards these sentiments and desires. As far as possible these sentiments and desire are to be accommodated, as is moreover provided for in the new dispositions.[55] The Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin, the splendid language of ancient Rome, and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself.
The possibilities that the post-conciliar renewal has introduced in this respect are indeed often utilized so as to make us witnesses of and sharers in the authentic celebration of the Word of God. There is also an increase in the number of people taking an active part in this celebration. Groups of readers and cantors, and still more often choirs of men or women, are being set up and are devoting themselves with great enthusiasm to this aspect. The Word of God, Sacred Scripture, is beginning to take on new life in many Christian communities. The faithful gathered for the liturgy prepare with song for listening to the Gospel, which is proclaimed with the devotion and love due to it.
All this is noted with great esteem and gratitude, but it must not be forgotten that complete renewal makes yet other demands. These demands consist in a new sense of responsibility towards the Word of God transmitted through the liturgy in various languages, something that is certainly in keeping with the universality of the Gospel and its purposes. The same sense of responsibility also involves the performance of the corresponding liturgical actions (reading or singing), which must accord with the principles of art. To preserve these actions from all artificiality, they should express such capacity, simplicity and dignity as to highlight the special character of the sacred text, even by the very manner of reading or singing.
Accordingly, these demands, which spring from a new responsibility for the Word of God in the liturgy,[56] go yet deeper and concern the inner attitude with which the ministers of the Word perform their function in the liturgical assembly.[57] This responsibility also concerns the choice of texts. The choice has already been made by the competent ecclesiastical authority, which has also made provision for the cases in which readings more suited to a particular situation may be chosen.[58] Furthermore, it must always be remembered that only the Word of God can be used for Mass readings. The reading of Scripture cannot be replaced by the reading of other texts, however much they may be endowed with undoubted religious and moral values. On the other hand, such texts can be used very profitably in the homily. Indeed the homily is supremely suitable for the use of such texts, provided that their content corresponds to the required conditions, since it is one of the tasks that belong to the nature of the homily to show the points of convergence between revealed divine wisdom and noble human thought seeking the truth by various paths.
The Table of the Bread of the Lord
11. The other table of the Eucharistic Mystery, that of the Bread of the Lord, also requires reflection from the viewpoint of the present-day liturgical renewal. This is a question of the greatest importance, since it concerns a special act of living faith, and indeed, as has been attested since the earliest centuries,[59] it is a manifestation of worship of Christ, who in Eucharistic Communion entrusts Himself to each one of us, to our hearts, our consciences, our lips and our mouths, in the form of food. Therefore there is special need, with regard to this question, for the watchfulness spoken of by the Gospel, on the part of the pastors who have charge of eucharistic worship and on the part of the People of God, whose “sense of the faith”[60] must be very alert and acute particularly in this area.
I therefore wish to entrust this question to the heart of each one of you, venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate. You must above all make it part of your care for all the churches entrusted to you. I ask this of you in the name of the unity that we have received from the Apostles as our heritage, collegial unity. This unity came to birth, in a sense, at the table of the Bread of the Lord on Holy Thursday. With the help of your brothers in the priesthood, do all you can to safeguard the sacred dignity of the eucharistic ministry and that deep spirit of Eucharistic Communion which belongs in a special way to the Church as the People of God, and which is also a particular heritage transmitted to us from the Apostles, by various liturgical traditions, and by unnumbered generations of the faithful, who were often heroic witnesses to Christ, educated in “the school of the cross” (Redemption) and of the Eucharist.
It must be remembered that the Eucharist as the table of the Bread of the Lord is a continuous invitation. This is shown in the liturgy when the celebrant says: “This is the Lamb of God. Happy are those who are called to his supper”[61]; it is also shown by the familiar Gospel parable about the guests invited to the marriage banquet.[62] Let us remember that in this parable there are many who excuse themselves from accepting the invitation for various reasons.
Moreover our Catholic communities certainly do not lack people who could participate in Eucharistic Communion and do not, even though they have no serious sin on their conscience as an obstacle. To tell the truth, this attitude, which in some people is linked with an exaggerated severity, has changed in the present century, though it is still to be found here and there. In fact what one finds most often is not so much a feeling of unworthiness as a certain lack of interior willingness, if one may use this expression, a lack of Eucharistic “hunger” and “thirst,” which is also a sign of lack of adequate sensitivity towards the great sacrament of love and a lack of understanding of its nature.
However, we also find in recent years another phenomenon. Sometimes, indeed quite frequently, everybody participating in the eucharistic assembly goes to communion; and on some such occasions, as experienced pastors confirm, there has not been due care to approach the sacrament of Penance so as to purify one’s conscience. This can of course mean that those approaching the Lord’s table find nothing on their conscience, according to the objective law of God, to keep them from this sublime and joyful act of being sacramentally united with Christ. But there can also be, at least at times, another idea behind this: the idea of the Mass as only a banquet[63] in which one shares by receiving the body of Christ in order to manifest, above all else, fraternal communion. It is not hard to add to these reasons a certain human respect and mere “conformity.”
This phenomenon demands from us watchful attention and a theological and pastoral analysis guided by a sense of great responsibility. We cannot allow the life of our communities to lose the good quality of sensitiveness of Christian conscience, guided solely by respect for Christ, who, when He is received in the Eucharist, should find in the heart of each of us a worthy abode. This question is closely linked not only with the practice of the sacrament of Penance but also with a correct sense of responsibility for the whole deposit of moral teaching and for the precise distinction between good and evil, a distinction which then becomes for each person sharing in the Eucharist the basis for a correct judgment of self to be made in the depths of the personal conscience. St. Paul’s words, “Let a man examine himself,”[64] are well known; this judgment is an indispensable condition for a personal decision whether to approach Eucharistic Communion or to abstain.
Celebration of the Eucharist places before us many other requirements regarding the ministry of the eucharistic table. Some of these requirements concern only priests and deacons, others concern all who participate in the Eucharistic Liturgy. Priests and deacons must remember that the service of the table of the Bread of the Lord imposes on them special obligations which refer in the first place to Christ Himself present in the Eucharist and secondly to all who actually participate in the Eucharist or who might do so. With regard to the first, perhaps it will not be superfluous to recall the words of the Pontificale which on the day of ordination the bishop addresses to the new priest as he hands to him on the paten and in the chalice the bread and wine offered by the faithful and prepared by the deacon: “Accipe oblationem plebis sanctae Deo offerendam. Agnosce quod agis, imitare quod tractabis, et vitam tuam mysterio dominicae crucis conforma.”[65] This last admonition made to him by the bishop should remain as one of the most precious norms of his eucharistic ministry.
It is from this admonition that the priest’s attitude in handling the bread and wine which have become the body and blood of the Redeemer should draw its inspiration. Thus it is necessary for all of us who are ministers of the Eucharist to examine carefully our actions at the altar, in particular the way in which we handle that food and drink which are the body and blood of the Lord our God in our hands: the way in which we distribute Holy Communion; the way in which we perform the purification.
All these actions have a meaning of their own. Naturally, scrupulosity must be avoided, but God preserve us from behaving in a way that lacks respect, from undue hurry, from an impatience that causes scandal. Over and above our commitment to the evangelical mission, our greatest commitment consists in exercising this mysterious power over the body of the Redeemer, and all that is within us should be decisively ordered to this. We should also always remember that to this ministerial power we have been sacramentally consecrated, that we have been chosen from among men “for the good of men.”[66] We especially, the priests of the Latin Church, whose ordination rite added in the course of the centuries the custom of anointing the priest’s hands, should think about this.
In some countries the practice of receiving Communion in the hand has been introduced. This practice has been requested by individual episcopal conferences and has received approval from the Apostolic See. However, cases of a deplorable lack of respect towards the eucharistic species have been reported, cases which are imputable not only to the individuals guilty of such behavior but also to the pastors of the church who have not been vigilant enough regarding the attitude of the faithful towards the Eucharist. It also happens, on occasion, that the free choice of those who prefer to continue the practice of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue is not taken into account in those places where the distribution of communion in the hand has been authorized. It is therefore difficult in the context of this present letter not to mention the sad phenomena previously referred to. This is in no way meant to refer to those who, receiving the Lord Jesus in the hand, do so with profound reference and devotion, in those countries where this practice has been authorized.
But one must not forget the primary office of priests, who have been consecrated by their ordination to represent Christ the Priest: for this reason their hands, like their words and their will, have become the direct instruments of Christ. Through this fact, that is, as ministers of the Holy Eucharist, they have a primary responsibility for the sacred species, because it is a total responsibility: they offer the bread and wine, they consecrate it, and then distribute the sacred species to the participants in the assembly who wish to receive them. Deacons can only bring to the altar the offerings of the faithful and, once they have been consecrated by the priest, distribute them. How eloquent therefore, even if not of ancient custom, is the rite of the anointing of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely for these hands a special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary!
To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist. It is obvious that the Church can grant this faculty to those who are neither priests nor deacons, as is the case with acolytes in the exercise of their ministry, especially if they are destined for future ordination, or with other lay people who are chosen for this to meet a just need, but always after an adequate preparation.
A Common Possession of the Church
12. We cannot, even for a moment, forget that the Eucharist is a special possession belonging to the whole Church. It is the greatest gift in the order of grace and of sacrament that the divine Spouse has offered and unceasingly offers to His spouse. And precisely because it is such a gift, all of us should in a spirit of profound faith let ourselves be guided by a sense of truly Christian responsibility. A gift obliges us ever more profoundly because it speaks to us not so much with the force of a strict right as with the force of personal confidence, and thus–without legal obligations–it calls for trust and gratitude. The Eucharist is just such a gift and such a possession. We should remain faithful in every detail to what it expresses in itself and to what it asks of us, namely, thanksgiving.
The Eucharist is a common possession of the whole Church as the sacrament of her unity. And thus the Church has the strict duty to specify everything which concerns participation in it and its celebration. We should therefore act according to the principles laid down by the last Council, which, in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, defined the authorizations and obligations of individual bishops in their dioceses and of the episcopal conferences, given the fact that both act in collegial unity with the Apostolic See.
Furthermore, we should follow the directives issued by the various departments of the Holy See in this field: be it in liturgical matters, in the rules established by the liturgical books in what concerns the Eucharistic Mystery,[67] and in the Instructions devoted to this mystery, be it with regard to communicatio in sacris, in the norms of the Directorium de re oecumenica[68] and in the Instructio de peculiaribus casibus admittendi alios christianos ad communionem eucharisticam in Ecclesia catolica.[69] And although at this stage of renewal the possibility of a certain “creative” freedom has been permitted, nevertheless this freedom must strictly respect the requirements of substantial unity. We can follow the path of this pluralism (which arises in part from the introduction itself of the various languages into the liturgy) only as long as the essential characteristics of the celebration of the Eucharist are preserved, and the norms prescribed by the recent liturgical reform are respected.
Indispensable effort is required everywhere to ensure that within the pluralism of eucharistic worship envisioned by the Second Vatican Council the unity of which the Eucharist is the sign and cause is clearly manifested.
This task, over which in the nature of things the Apostolic See must keep careful watch, should be assumed not only by each episcopal conference but by every minister of the Eucharist, without exception. Each one should also remember that he is responsible for the common good of the whole Church. The priest as minister, as celebrant, as the one who presides over the eucharistic assembly of the faithful, should have a special sense of the common good of the Church, which he represents through his ministry, but to which he must also be subordinate, according to a correct discipline of faith. He cannot consider himself a “proprietor” who can make free use of the liturgical text and of the sacred rite as if it were his own property, in such a way as to stamp it with his own arbitrary personal style. At times this latter might seem more effective, and it may better correspond to subjective piety; nevertheless, objectively it is always a betrayal of that union which should find its proper expression in the sacrament of unity.
Every priest who offers the holy Sacrifice should recall that during this Sacrifice it is not only he with his community that is praying but the whole Church, which is thus expressing in this sacrament her spiritual unity, among other ways by the use of the approved liturgical text. To call this position “mere insistence on uniformity” would only show ignorance of the objective requirements of authentic unity, and would be a symptom of harmful individualism.
This subordination of the minister, of the celebrant, to the Mysterium which has been entrusted to him by the Church for the good of the whole People of God, should also find expression in the observance of the liturgical requirements concerning the celebration of the holy Sacrifice. These refer, for example, to dress, and in particular to the vestments worn by the celebrant. Circumstances have of course existed and continue to exist in which the prescriptions do not oblige. We have been greatly moved when reading books written by priests who had been prisoners in extermination camps, with descriptions of Eucharistic Celebrations without the above-mentioned rules, that is to say, without an altar and without vestments. But although in those conditions this was a proof of heroism and deserved profound admiration, nevertheless in normal conditions to ignore the liturgical directives can be interpreted as a lack of respect towards the Eucharist, dictated perhaps by individualism or by an absence of a critical sense concerning current opinions, or by a certain lack of a spirit of faith.
Upon all of us who, through the grace of God, are ministers of the Eucharist, there weighs a particular responsibility for the ideas and attitudes of our brothers and sisters who have been entrusted to our pastoral care. It is our vocation to nurture, above all by personal example, every healthy manifestation of worship towards Christ present and operative in that sacrament of love. May God preserve us from acting otherwise and weakening that worship by “becoming unaccustomed” to various manifestations and forms of eucharistic worship which express a perhaps “traditional” but healthy piety, and which express above all that “sense of the faith” possessed by the whole People of God, as the Second Vatican Council recalled.[70]
As I bring these considerations to an end, I would like to ask forgiveness–in my own name and in the name of all of you, venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate–for everything which, for whatever reason, through whatever human weakness, impatience or negligence, and also through the at times partial, one-sided and erroneous application of the directives of the Second Vatican Council, may have caused scandal and disturbance concerning the interpretation of the doctrine and the veneration due to this great sacrament. And I pray the Lord Jesus that in the future we may avoid in our manner of dealing with this sacred mystery anything which could weaken or disorient in any way the sense of reverence and love that exists in our faithful people.
May Christ Himself help us to follow the path of true renewal towards that fullness of life and of eucharistic worship whereby the Church is built up in that unity that she already possesses, and which she desires to bring to ever greater perfection for the glory of the living God and for the salvation of all humanity.
Conclusion
13. Permit me, venerable and dear brothers, to end these reflections of mine, which have been restricted to a detailed examination of only a few questions. In undertaking these reflections, I have had before my eyes all the work carried out by the Second Vatican Council, and have kept in mind Paul VI’s Encyclical Mysterium Fidei, promulgated during that Council, and all the documents issued after the same Council for the purpose of implementing the post-conciliar liturgical renewal. A very close and organic bond exists between the renewal of the liturgy and the renewal of the whole life of the Church.
The Church not only acts but also expresses herself in the liturgy, lives by the liturgy and draws from the liturgy the strength for her life. For this reason liturgical renewal carried out correctly in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council is, in a certain sense, the measure and the condition for putting into effect the teaching of that Council which we wish to accept with profound faith, convinced as we are that by means of this Council the Holy Spirit “has spoken to the Church” the truths and given the indications for carrying out her mission among the people of today and tomorrow.
We shall continue in the future to take special care to promote and follow the renewal of the Church according to the teaching of the Second vatican Council, in the spirit of an ever living Tradition. In fact, to the substance of Tradition properly understood belongs also a correct re- reading of the “signs of the times,” which require us to draw from the rich treasure of Revelation “things both new and old.”[71] Acting in this spirit, in accordance with this counsel of the Gospel, the Second Vatican Council carried out a providential effort to renew the face of the Church in the sacred liturgy, most often having recourse to what is “ancient,” what comes from the heritage of the Fathers and is the expression of the faith and doctrine of a Church which has remained united for so many centuries.
In order to be able to continue in the future to put into practice the directives of the Council in the field of liturgy, and in particular in the field of eucharistic worship, close collaboration is necessary between the competent department of the Holy See and each episcopal conference, a collaboration which must be at the same time vigilant and creative. We must keep our sights fixed on the greatness of the most holy Mystery and at the same time on spiritual movements and social changes, which are so significant for our times, since they not only sometimes create difficulties but also prepare us for a new way of participating in that great Mystery of Faith.
Above all I wish to emphasize that the problems of the liturgy, and in particular of the Eucharistic Liturgy, must not be an occasion for dividing Catholics and for threatening the unity of the Church. This is demanded by an elementary understanding of that sacrament which Christ has left us as the source of spiritual unity. And how could the Eucharist, which in the Church is the sacramentum pietatis, signum unitatis, vinculum caritatis,[72] form between us at this time a point of division and a source of distortion of thought and of behavior, instead of being the focal point and constitutive center, which it truly is in its essence, of the unity of the Church itself?
We are all equally indebted to our Redeemer. We should all listen together to that spirit of truth and of love whom He has promised to the Church and who is operative in her. In the name of this truth and of this love, in the name of the crucified Christ and of His Mother, I ask you, and beg you: Let us abandon all opposition and division, and let us all unite in this great mission of salvation which is the price and at the same time the fruit of our redemption. The Apostolic See will continue to do all that is possible to provide the means of ensuring that unity of which we speak. Let everyone avoid anything in his own way of acting which could “grieve the Holy Spirit.”[73]
In order that this unity and the constant and systematic collaboration which leads to it may be perseveringly continued, I beg on my knees that, through the intercession of Mary, holy spouse of the Holy Spirit and Mother of the Church, we may all receive the light of the Holy Spirit. And blessing everyone, with all my heart I once more address myself to you, my venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate, with a fraternal greeting and with full trust. In this collegial unity in which we share, let us do all we can to ensure that the Eucharist may become an ever greater source of life and light for the consciences of all our brothers and sisters of all the communities in the universal unity of Christ’s Church on earth.
In a spirit of fraternal charity, to you and to all our confreres in the priesthood I cordially impart the apostolic blessing.
From the Vatican, February 24, First Sunday of Lent, in the year 1980, the second of the Pontificate.
Joannes Paulus PP. II
FOOTNOTES
1. Cf. Chapter 2: AAS 71 (1979), pp. 395f.
2. Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXII, Can. 2: Conciliorum
Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. 3, Bologna 1973, p. 735.
3. Because of this precept of the Lord, an Ethiopian Eucharistic Liturgy
recalls that the Apostles “established for us patriarchs,
archbishops, priests and deacons to celebrate the ritual of your holy
Church”: Anaphora Sancti Athanasii: Prex Eucharistica, Haenggi-Pahl,
Fribourg (Switzerland) 1968, p. 183.
4. Cf. La Tradition apostolique de saint Hippolyte, nos. 2-4, ed. Botte,
Munster-Westfalen 1963, pp. 5-17.
5. 2 Cor 11:28.
6. 1 Pt 2:5.
7. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
gentium, 28; AAS 57 (1965), pp. 33f.; Decree on the Ministry and Life
of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2, 5: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 993, 998;
Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church Ad genes, 39: AAS 58
(1966), p. 986.
8. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 11: AAS 57 (1965), p. 15.
9. Jn 3:16. It is interesting to note how these words are taken up by
the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom immediately before the words of
consecration and introduce the latter: cf. La divina Liturgia del
nostro Padre Giovanni Crisostomo, Roma-Grottaferrata 1967, pp. 104f.
10. Cf. Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-25; Lk 22:18-20; 1 Cor 11:23-25; cf. also
the Eucharistic Prayers.
11. Phil 2:8.
12. Jn 13:1.
13. Cf. John Paul II, Homily in Phoenix Park, Dublin, 7: AAS 71 (1979),
pp. 1074ff.; Sacred Congregation of Rites, instruction Eucharisticum
mysterium: AAS 59 (1967), pp. 539-573; Rituale Romanum, De sacra
communione et de cultu Mysterii eucharistici extra Missam, ed.
typica, 1973. It should be noted that the value of the worship and
the sanctifying power of these forms of devotion to the Eucharist
depend not so much upon the forms themselves as upon interior
attitudes.
14. Cf. Bull Trasiturus de hoc mundo (Aug. 11, 1264): Aemilii Friedberg,
Corpus Iurus Canonici, Pars II. Decretalium Collectiones, Leipzig
1881, pp. 1174-1177; Studi eucharistici, VII Centenario della Bolla
‘Transiturus,’ 1264-1964, Orvieto 1966, pp. 302-317.
15. Cf. Paul VI, encyclical letter Mysterium Fidei: AAS 57 (1965), pp.
753-774; Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction Eucharisticum
Mysterium: AAS 59 (1967), pp. 539-573; Rituale Romanum, De sacra
communione et de cultu Mysterii eucharistici extra Missam, ed.
typica, 1973.
16. John Paul II, encyclical letter Redemptor Hominis, 20: AAS 71 (1979),
p. 311; cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution
on the Church, Lumen gentium, 11: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 15f.; also, note
57 to Schema II of the same dogmatic constitution, in Acta Synodalia
Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II, vol. II, periodus 2a,
pars I, public session II, pp. 251f.; Paul VI, address at the general
audience of September 15, 1965: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, III (1965),
p. 103; H. de Lubac, Meditation sur l’Eglise, 2 ed., Paris 1963, pp.
129-137.
17. 1 Cor 11:26.
18. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 11: AAS 57 (1965) pp. 15f.; Constitution on the
Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10: AAS 56 (1964), p. 102;
Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5:
AAS 58 (1966), pp. 997f.; Decree on the Bishops’ Pastoral Office in
the Church Christus Dominus, 30: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 688f.; Decree on
the Church’s Missionary Activity, Ad gentes, 9: AAS 58 (1966), pp.
957f.
19. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 26: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 31f.; Decree on
Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 15: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 101f.
20. This is what the Opening Prayer of Holy Thursday asks for: “We pray
that in this Eucharist we may find the fullness of love and life”:
Missale Romanum, ed. typica altera 1975, p. 244; also the communion
epiclesis of the Roman Missal: “May all of us who share in the body
and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit.
Lord, remember your Church throughout the world; make us grow in
love”: Eucharistic Prayer II: ibid., pp. 458f.; Eucharistic Prayer
III, p. 463.
21. Jn 5:17.
22. Cf. Prayer after communion of the Mass for the Twenty-second Sunday
in Ordinary Time: “Lord, you renew us at your table with the bread
of life. May this food strengthen us in love and help us to serve
you in each other”: Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 361.
23. Jn 4:23.
24. Cf. 1 Cor 10:17; commented upon by St. Augustine: In Evangelium
Ioannis trac. 31, 13; PL 35, 1613; also commented upon by the
Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XIII, can. 8; Conciliorum
Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. 3, Bologna 1973, p. 697, 7; cf. Second
Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,
Lumen Gentium, 7: AAS 57 (1965), p. 9.
25. Jn 13:35.
26. This is expressed by many prayers of the Roman Missal: the Prayer
over the Gifts from the Common, “For those who work for the
underprivileged”; “May we who celebrate the love of your Son also
follow the example of your saints and grow in love for you and for
one another”: Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 721; also the Prayer
after Communion of the Mass “For Teachers”: “May this holy meal help
us to follow the example of your saints by showing in our lives the
light of truth and love for our brothers”: ibid., p. 723; cf. also
the Prayer after Communion of the Mass for the Twenty-second Sunday
in Ordinary Time, quoted in note 22.
27. Jn 4:23.
28. Eph 4:13.
29. Cf. above, no. 2.
30. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Missionary
Activity of the Church Ad gentes, 9, 12: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 958-
961f.; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum
Ordinis, 5: AAS 58 (1966), p. 997.
31. 1 Jn 3:1.
32. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 11: AAS 57 (1965), p. 15.
33. Cf. no. 20: AAS 71 (1979), pp. 313f.
34. 2 Pt 3:13.
35. Col 3:10.
36. Lk 1:34; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14; Rev 3:7.
37. Acts 10:38; Lk 4:18.
38. Jn 10:36.
39. Cf. Jn 10:17.
40. Heb 3:1, 4:15, etc.
41. As was stated in the ninth-century Byzantine liturgy, according to
the most ancient codex, known formerly as Barberino di San Marco
(Florence), and now that it is kept in the Vatican Apostolic Library,
as F.E. Brightman, Liturgies Eastern and Western, I. Eastern
Liturgies, Oxford 1896, p. 318, 34-35.
42. Opening Prayer of the Second Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist:
Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 858.
43. 1 Jn 2:2; cf. ibid., 4:10.
44. We speak of the divinum Mysterium, the Sanctissimum, the
Sacrosanctum, meaning what is sacred and holy par excellence. For
their part, the Eastern churches call the Mass raza or mysterion,
hagiasmos, quddasa, qedasse, that is to say “consecration” par
excellence. Furthermore there are the liturgical rites, which, in
order to inspire a sense of the sacred, prescribe silence, and
standing or kneeling, and likewise professions of faith, and the
incensation of the Gospel book, the altar, the celebrant and the
sacred species. They even recall the assistance of the angelic
beings created to serve the Holy God, i.e., with the Sanctus of our
Latin churches and the Trisagion and Sancta Sanctis of the Eastern
liturgies.
45. For instance, as the invitation to receive communion, this faith has
been so formed as to reveal complementary aspects of the presence of
Christ the Holy One: the epiphanic aspect noted by the Byzantines
(“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord: The Lord is God
and has appeared to us”: La divina Liturgia del santo nostro Padre
Giovanni Crisostomo, Roma-Grottaferrata 1967, pp. 136f.); the aspect
of relation and union sung of by the Armenians [Liturgy of St.
Ignatius of Antioch: “Unus Pater sanctus nobiscum, unus Filius
sanctus nobiscum, unus Spirituus sanctus nobiscum”: Die Anaphora des
heiligen Ignatius von Antiochien, ubersetzt von A. Rucker, Oriens
Christianus, 3a ser., 5 [1930], p.76); and the hidden heavenly aspect
celebrated by the Chaldeans and Malabars (cf. the antiphonal hymn
sung by the priest and the assembly after Communion: F.E. Brightman,
op. cit., p. 299.
46. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred
Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2, 47: AAS 56 (1964), pp. 83f.; 113;
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, 3 and 28: AAS 57
(1965), pp. 6, 33f.; Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 2:
AAS 57 (1965), p. 91; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests
Presbyterorum Ordinis, 13: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 1011f., Ecumenical
Council of Trent, Session XXII, chap. I and II: Conciliorum
Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. 3, Bologna 1973, pp. 732f. especially: una
eademque est hostia, idem nunc offerens sacerdotum ministerio, qui se
ipsum tunc in cruce obtulit, sola offerendi ratione diversa (ibid.,
p. 733).
47. Synoda Constantinpolita adversus Sotericum (January 1156 and May
1157): Angelo Mai, Spicilegium romanum, t. X, Rome 1844, p. 77; PG
140, 190; cf. Martin Jugie, Dict. Theol. Cath., t. X 1338; Theologia
dogmatica christianorum orientalium, Paris, 1930, pp. 317-320.
48. Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani, 49c: Missale Romanum, ed. cit.,
p. 39; cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Ministry
and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5: AAS 58 (1966), pp.
997f.
49. Ordo Missae cum populo, 18: Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 390.
50. Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session 22, chap I, Conciliorum
Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. 3, Bologna 1973, pp. 732f.
51. Col 2:14.
52. Jn 11:28.
53. Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani, 55f.; Missale Romanum, ed. cit.,
p. 40.
54. Cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 35,
51: AAS 56 (1964), pp. 109, 114.
55. Cf. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction In edicendis normis,
VI, 17-18; VII, 19-20: AAS 59 (1967), p. 314; Decree De Titulo
Basilicae Minoris, II, 8: AAS 60 (1968), p. 538; Sacred Congregation
for Divine Worship, Notif. De Missali Romano, Liturgia Horarum et
Calendario, I, 4: AAS 63 (1971), p. 714.
56. Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum: “We are fully
confident that both priests and faithful will prepare their minds and
hearts more devoutly for the Lord’s Supper, meditating on the
scriptures, nourished day by day with the words of the Lord”: AAS 61
(1969), pp. 220f.; Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 15.
57. Cf. Pontificale Romanum. De Institutione Lectorum et Acolythorum, 4,
ed. typica, 1972, pp. 19f.
58. Cf. Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani, 319-320: Missale Romanum,
ed. cit., p. 87.
59. Cf. Fr. J. Dolger, Das Segnen der Sinne mit der Eucharistie. Eine
altchristliche Kommunionsitte: Antike und Christentum, t. 3 (1932),
pp. 231-244; Das Kultvergehen der Donatistin Lucilla von Karthago.
Reliquienkuss vor dem Kuss der Eucharistie, ibid., pp. 245-252.
60. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 12, 35; AAS 57 (1965), pp. 16, 40.
61. Cf. Jn 1:29; Rev 19:9.
62. Cf. Lk 14:16ff.
63. Cf. Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani, 7-8: Missale Romanum, ed.
cit., p. 29.
64. 1 Cor 11:28.
65. Pontificale Romanum. De Ordinatione Diaconi, Presbyteri et Episcopi,
ed. typica, 1968, p. 93.
66. Heb 5:1.
67. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium:
AAS 59 (1967), pp. 539-573; Rituale Romanum. De sacra communione et
de cultu Mysterii eucharistici extra Missam, ed. typica, 1973; Sacred
Congregation for Divine Worship, Litterae circulares ad
Conferentiarum Episcopalium Praesides de precibus eucharisticis: AAS
65 (1973), pp. 340-347.
68. Nos. 38-63: AAS 59 (1967), pp. 586-592.
69. AAS 64 (1972), pp. 518-525. Cf. also the Communicatio published the
following year for the correct application of the above-mentioned
Instruction: AAS 65 (1973), pp. 616-619.
70. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen gentium, 12: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 16f.
71. Mt 13:52.
72. Cf. St. Augustine, In Evangelium Ioannis trac. 26, 13: PL 35, 1612f.
73. Eph 4:30.

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