Monday, September 26, 2005

Year of the Eucharist (October 10, 2004 - October 17, 2005)

John Paul II

“(…) The Year of the Eucharist will be celebrated from October 2004 to October 2005. The idea for this celebration came from two events which will serve to mark its beginning and end: the International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place from 10-17 October 2004 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in the Vatican from 2-29 October 2005 on the theme: “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church”. I was also guided by another consideration: this year's World Youth Day will take place in Cologne from 16-21 August 2005. I would like the young people to gather around the Eucharist as the vital source which nourishes their faith and enthusiasm. A Eucharistic initiative of this kind had been on my mind for some time: it is a natural development of the pastoral impulse which I wanted to give to the Church, particularly during the years of preparation for the Jubilee and in the years that followed it.

“Stay with us, Lord, for it is almost evening” (cf. Lk 24:29). This was the insistent invitation that the two disciples journeying to Emmaus on the evening of the day of the resurrection addressed to the Wayfarer who had accompanied them on their journey. Weighed down with sadness, they never imagined that this stranger was none other than their Master, risen from the dead. Yet they felt their hearts burning within them (cf. v. 32) as he spoke to them and “explained” the Scriptures. The light of the Word unlocked the hardness of their hearts and “opened their eyes” (cf. v. 31). Amid the shadows of the passing day and the darkness that clouded their spirit, the Wayfarer brought a ray of light which rekindled their hope and led their hearts to yearn for the fullness of light. “Stay with us”, they pleaded. And he agreed. Soon afterwards, Jesus' face would disappear, yet the Master would “stay” with them, hidden in the “breaking of the bread” which had opened their eyes to recognize him.”

Benedict XVI

On the Final Phase of Year of the Eucharist"Central Character of the Sacrament of the Real Presence"

Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The Year of the Eucharist is now approaching its final phase. It will close this coming month of October, with the holding of the ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican, which will have as its theme: "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church." This year especially dedicated to the Eucharistic mystery was called by Pope John Paul II to reawaken in Christian people, faith, wonder and love for this great sacrament which is the authentic treasure of the Church. With how much devotion he celebrated Holy Mass, the center of each one of his days! How much time he spent in adoring and silent prayer before the tabernacle!
In the last months, his illness assimilated him ever more with the suffering Christ. It is moving to know that at the hour of his death he united the giving up of his life with that of Christ in the Mass that was being celebrated next to his bed. His earthly existence closed in the Easter octave, precisely in the heart of this Eucharistic Year, in which the passing of his great pontificate to mine took place. With joy, therefore, from the beginning of this service that the Lord has asked of me, I reaffirm the central character of the sacrament of the real presence of Christ in the life of the Church and of every Christian. In view of the October synodal assembly, the bishops who will attend are studying the "working document" prepared for this occasion. I request, however, that the whole ecclesial community feel involved in this phase of immediate preparation, and that it participate with prayer and reflection, taking advantage of every occasion, event and meeting. Also in the recent World Youth Day there were many references to the mystery of the Eucharist. I remember, for example, the thought-provoking Saturday night vigil, on August 20, in Marienfeld, which had its culminating moment in Eucharistic adoration: a courageous choice, which made the glance and hearts of young people converge on Jesus, present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I remember, moreover, that during those memorable days, in some churches of Cologne, Bonn and Duesseldorf there was continuous adoration, day and night, with the attendance of many young people, which in this way were able to discover together the beauty of contemplative prayer. I trust that, thanks to the commitment of pastors and faithful, participation in the Eucharist will be ever more assiduous and fervent in every community. Today, in particular, I would like to urge sanctifying with joy the "Lord's Day," Sunday, a sacred day for Christians. In this context, I am happy to recall the figure of St. Gregory the Great, whose liturgical memorial we celebrated yesterday. That great Pope made a contribution of historical importance to the promotion of the liturgy in its different aspects, in particular, to the appropriate celebration of the Eucharist. May his intercession, together with that of Mary Most Holy, help us to live in fullness every Sunday the joy of Easter and the encounter with the risen Lord.”[1]

What is the Eucharist?


“(I)n the history of mankind, before words deteriorated to the point of becoming inoperative, speech – the `work’ (in Greek, logos) – was the start of action and at the origin of things. For the Egyptians and the Hebrews, among others, the mere human word had power in a certain way over what it named; the divine Word was creative, a sort of intermediary between God and nothingness. Thus when we read in the Bible, `God said, Let there be light,’ the words to note for the point which concerns us here are `God said;’ it is because he spoke that things exist. Christ, through whom according to the Christian creed `all things were,’ is the Word in person, creative and redemptive. `In the beginning was the Word,’ says St. John’s Gospel. This makes the Universe a sentence of God’s, the end of which we do not yet know.”[2]

1) The Word of God is an Action of Self-gift.

Louis Bouyer suggests that the problem of getting into the depths of the meaning of the Eucharist demands that we escape momentarily from the rationalism of thought and the evacuation of the personal freight that words have carried. What keeps putting us off the scent is that for us now, talk is cheap. We take them as signs of things rather than symbols of us.
It wasn’t always so. The word was the self as given. Martin Buber surprises by reminding that the first word a child hears is laden with the “I” of the mother. The first sounds are fraught with the meaning of persons: I and Thou. And in earlier times, Bouyer says, “Men did not begin to speak in order to give courses for conferences. And God, in speaking to us, does not make himself a theology professor. The first experience of the human word is that of someone else entering into our life. And the still fresh and in a certain sense already complete experience of the divine Word at the end of the old covenant, was that of an analogous intervention, but one that was still infinitely more gripping and more vital: the interventionof Almighty God, in the life of men.
“`Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord aloe.’ For the Hew this is not only the summary of the whole Word of God, but the most typical Word of God. God here bursts into our world to impress us by his presence which has become a tangible one. But on every page of the Bible the divine Word defines itself or better manifests itself in this way. It is not a discourse, but an action: the action where God intervenes as the master in our existence, `The lion has roared,’ says Amos, `who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken, who can but prophesy?’ This means that the Word, once it has made itself heard, takes possession of man to accomplish its plan. For his part, Isaiah says:

`For as the rain and the snow come down from
heaven, and return not thither
but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to
the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and prosper in the thing for which I sent it’

"For Israel, not only is the divine Word, like every word worthy of the name, an action, a personal intervention, a presence which asserts and imposes itself, but since it is the Word of the Almighty, it produces what it proclaims by its own power. God is `true’ not only in the sense that he never lies, but in the sense that what he says is the source of all reality. It is enough that he says it for it to be done.”[3]

“This conviction is so strong that even the ungodly in Israel could not escape from it. The unfaithful kings torment the prophets to prophesy what pleases them or at least to keep silent because they are persuaded that the moment the divine Word makes itself heard, even through the mouth of a simple shepherd like Amos, it goes straight toward its fulfillment.”

“And so, the Word of God is creative. In creating Israel, He loves Israel in a most particular way as spouse. His knowledge is love. “God behaves towards Israel as a man who fall in love with an unworthy woman, a harlot; yet she is made worthy by the boundlessness of the love bestowed on her. For Ezekiel, it is to a child of adultery, abandoned from birth, a true waif, that the unmerited love of God goes out, in order to set her on her feet, bring her up, and finally make her into a queen…. The union of aman and a woman will find its meaning in discovering its mystery, which is that of the reciprocal `knowledge’ in which the love dialogue between the God who speaks and the man who responds to him is to reach its full flower in faith in his Word…. We know God only by believing in him with the result that everything that is not God, everything that does not proceed from his Word, will fade away. But such a faith is not possible unless we effectively commit ourselves to obedience to this Word…. Obedient faith, inherent in the knowledge of God to which man is called, is in fact a conforming of our own selves to him.”

This union has intellectual content: “Knowledge:" But it is not conceptual content. It is a consciousness as an experience of an action of going out of oneself in spousal union with another. It is the “knowing” that the Old Testament has consistently called spousal union. In order to know, one must act.

Bouyer says: “But this conforming of ourselves is possible only because God (and this is the ultimate secret of his Word) willed to condescend to unite himself with us in order to unite us to him. It is in following this path that to know God will come down to loving him, loving him as he loved us, responding to his love by the very force of this communicated love.

“It is here that the intellectual content of this `knowledge’ takes shape and here that we see what is unique about it. To know God as we have been known is ultimately to acknowledge the love with which he loves us and pursues us to the ends of the earth.”
[5] But God’s love is a love of giving the Self. To experience that same kind of love as response is to experience God from within God, and therefore to achieve a consciousness of ourselves as divinized and God-like. It is to know God in a mystical, pre-conceptual way. It is not to know about God. It is to know God from within...

Torah as Revelation: God’s Word is the revelation of what it takes to act as God acts. The revelation of the 10 Commandments is part of the revelation of who God is. To be God is to act in a certain way. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger offered a most illustrious example:

"Let us begin with an absolute simple observation. Historically speaking, it is incorrect to say that biblical faith simply adopted the morality of the surrounding world - that is, the particular stage of rational moral awareness that had been reached at the time - for there was no `surrounding world,' no `environment' as such, nor was there a single `morality' that could have been adopted. What we find is that, guided by Israel's perception of Yahweh, an often highly dramatic struggle took place between those elements of the surrounding legal and moral tradition that could be assimilated by Israel and those that Israel was bound to reject. In the final analysis this is what the prophets are fighting for. Thus Nathan forbids David to adopt the manner of an absolute oriental potentate who would take someone else's wife if he so desired. Thus Elijah, in championing Naboth's rights, is defending the rights of the nation, guaranteed by the God of Israel against royal absolutism. So too Amos, in fighting for the rights of the hired laborer, and of all dependent people, is vindicating the vision of the God of Israel. It is always the same story. Similarly, the many-sided struggle between Yahweh and Baal cannot be reduced to a merely `dogmatic' question; what is at stake here is the indivisible unity of faith and life. Deciding for or against the one God or the many gods is always a life [read "moral"] decision" (my underline)[J. Ratzinger, Principles of Christian Morality, Ignatius (1986) 54-55].

Later, the Sermon on the Mount will be the fulfillment and completion of that revelation as to what it means to live, and therefore to be, the Word of God. The Sermon on the Mount is what it means to be Jesus Christ. The action of the Sermon on the Mount – to love your enemies – is Calvary. It is the perfect response by the Word (Christ) to the Word given (Christ).

“So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and prosper in the thing for which I sent it”

In continuance with the above, the word “Eucharist” (in Greek: ευχαριστία) is taken from the Hebrew word berakah that means “thanksgiving.” For the believing Jew, thanksgiving was not simply an emotion of gratitude. It was an action by the believer in response to an action of Yahweh. “For the pious Jew… the divine Word signified an intensely living reality. From the outset it is not merely basic ideas that are to be shaped but a fact, an event [first in creation], a personal intervention in the their existence… The first experience of the human word is that of someone else entering into our life [the mother to the child]. And the still fresh and in a certain sense already complete experience of the divine Word at the end of the old covenant, was that of an analogous intervention, but one that was still infinitely more gripping and more vital: the intervention of Almighty God in the life of men. `Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.’ For the Jew this is not only the summary of the whole Word of God, but the most typical Word of God. God here bursts into our world to impress us by his presence which has become a tangible one. But on every page of the Bible the divine Word defines itself or better manifests itself in this way. It is not a discourse, but an action: the action whereby God intervenes as the master in our existence, `The lion has roared,’ says Amos, `who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken, who can but prophesy?’”[7]

2) The Response, “Berakoth,” is an Action of self-gift back to the Word of God:

Man’s Response is an Action: Berakoth: As the Word of God is not an intellectual abstraction, so the response of man to God cannot be mere talk. “No fact could better illustrate the significance of the Word of God for Israel as a creation word. Its pre-eminent creative action is that of placing a new heart in man, so that, upon the tablets of his own flesh, the torah has been engraved. The result is that man responds in his whole being and above all in his heart to the great design of the divine Word. By intervening in his life, it patiently but all-powerfully pursues its plan which is the fulfillment of a people in whom it has molded this design over the course of history. It has the intention of forming a man who knows God as he has been known by him, who responds to is Word with response that is nothing but the final key to the Word uttered within man himself.”[9]

Then the 40th Psalm prophesies of Christ:

“Sacrifice and offering thou dost not desire;
but thou hast given me an open ear.
burnt offering and sin offering
thou hast not required.
then I said, `Lo, I com;
in the roll of the book it is written of me;
I delight to do thy will, O my God;
thy law is within my heart.
I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
lo, I have not restrained my lips,
as thou knowest, O Lord…”
Bouyer continues: “It is not the material substance of any offering that can satisfy the Lord, but the offering of one’s self. Only a consecration of our will to this, acknowledged in his Word, gives meaning to our sacrifices.” He goes on: “All of this sheds light on the description given in the book of Nehemiah of the gahal, i.e., the liturgical assembly of the people back from captivity in the ruins of the Temple. At the first gahal when the covenant was made on Sinai, the people had responded with unanimous acceptance of the ten sentences of the basic Torah, and then the first sacrifices of the covenant were offered. At the scarcely less solemn gahal which marked Josiah’s reform, after the reading of Deuteronomy, i.e. the law enlightened by the prophets and renewing the prohibition of idols, this acceptance was similarly renewed, and the renewed covenant was sealed in the Passover sacrifice, the memorial of the deliverance from Egypt. At the third great gahal, of the scribe Ezra, which the Synagogue of latter Judaism was to look upon as its foundation or consecration, it is the whole priestly Torah of the scribes which is read, the Pentateuch completed in its definitive form in exile. At this time it was still not possible to offer sacrifices: there was no longer any Temple, nor altar, nor undoubtedly any victim that could be found to be offered. But in committing themselves to the rebuilding of the holy pace and to the restoration of its service, the `elders’ pronounced the berakah which is the most explicit in its form and the most exhaustive in its content found in the Bible.”[11]

The response to God’s Word that is an action, is also an action that is intrinsic: the giving of the whole self:

“Throughout the entire life of the pious Jew the piety of Judaism extends the ramifications of these Berakoth, which are found in detail in the tractates with this title in the Mishnah and Toseftah. From the time he awakens, through each of his actions of the day, to the moment of his retirement and falling asleep, they consecrate the totality of his acts. And at the same time they consecrate the world in restoring it in praise to the Word which created it in the beginning, for each and every one of them are but so many acts of `acknowledgement’ of this Word as being the beginning and the end of all things. As Rabbi Trypho, echoing the whole of rabbinical tradition, told St. Justin, it is through the constant offering of these berakoth that the Jews in diaspora among the Gentiles are conscious of offering everywhere to God the `pure offering’ spoken of by the prophet Malachi. And it is thus that all of Israel believes it is accomplishing the promise of the book of Exodus: they will be made an entirely priestly people, a kingdom of priests, of consecrators of the entire universe to the one divine will revealed in the Torah.”[12]

3) The “Haburoth” as Paschal Liturgy

“In the time of Jesus, too, Passover was celebrated in the homes and in families, following the slaughter of the lambs in the Temple. A regulation forbade anyone to leave the city of Jerusalem in the night of the Passover. The entire city was felt to be the locus of salvation over against the chaotic night, its walls the rampart protecting the creation. Israel had to make a pilgrimage, as it were, to the city every year at Passover in order to return to its origins, to be recreated and to experience once again its rescue, liberation and foundation. A very deep insight lies behind this. In the course of a year, a people is always in danger of disintegrating, not only through external causes, but also interiorly, and of losing hold of the inner motivation which sustains it. It needs to return to its fundamental origin. Passover was intended to be this annual event in which Israel returned from the threatening chaos (which lurks in every people) to its sustaining origin; it was meant to be the renewed defense and recreation of Israel in the basis of its origin. And since Israel knew that the star of its election stood in the heavens, it also know that its fortunes, for good or ill, had consequences for the whole world; it knew that the destiny of the earth and of creation was involved in its response, whether it failed or passed the test.
Jesus too celebrated the Passover according to these prescriptions, at home with his family; that is to say, with the Apostles, who had become his new family. In doing so he was observing a current rule which permitted pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem to form companies, the so-called habhuroth, who would constitute a family, a Passover unit, for this night. That is how Passover became a Christian feast. We are Christ’s habhura, his family, formed of his pilgrim company, of the friends who accompany him along the path of the gospel through the terrain of history. Companions of his pilgrimage, we constitute Christ’s house; thus, the Church is the new family, the new city, and or us she signifies all that Jerusalem was - that living home which banishes the powers of chaos and makes an area of peace, which upholds both creation and us.”

4) The Cross: “But after the meal he got up and went out…”

Ratzinger: “He went out into the night. He did not fear the chaos, did not hide from it, but plunged into its deepest point, into the jaws of death: as we pray, he `descended into hell.’ He went out; that is to say, since the Church’s rampart is faith and the love of Jesus Christ, the Church is not a bunker or a sealed fortress but an open city. Faith always means going out together with Jesus, not being afraid of the chaos, because he is the stronger one. He `went out’ and we go out with him if we do the same. Faith means emerging from the walls to build places of faith and of love in the midst of the chaotic world by the power of Jesus Christ. The Lord `went out’ – it is a sign of his power. He went out into the night of Gethsemane, the night of the Cross and the grave. He is the `stronger man’ who stands up against the `strong man’ – death – (Lk. 11, 21-21). The love of God – God’s power – is stronger than the powers of destruction.”[14]

5) The Mass is the Sacrifice of the Cross: the Haburoth is Berakoth

In 1981, Benedict XVI wrote:

“We have said that liturgy is festal, and the feast is about freedom, the freedom of being which is there beneath the role-playing. But where we speak of being, we also raise the question of death. Therefore the festal celebration, above all else, must address itself to the question of death. Conversely, the feast presupposes joy, but this is only possible if it is able to face up to death. That is why, in the history of religions, the feast has always displayed a cosmic and universal character.”…“The novel Christian reality is this: Christ’s Resurrection enables man genuinely to rejoice. All history until Christ has been a fruitless search for this joy. That is why the Christian liturgy – Eucharist – is, of its essence, the Feast of the Resurrection, Mysterium Paschae. As such it bears within it the mystery of the Cross, which is the inner presupposition of the Resurrection. To speak of the Eucharist as the community meal is to cheapen it, for its price was the death of Christ. And as for the joy it heralds, it presupposes that we have entered into this mystery of death.”[15]

Now, how does the meal of the flesh and blood of Christ become his death?


The Flesh and Blood on the altar is the Flesh and Blood of the Person of the Logos, the “I AM” of Christ who lives out in the flesh the Trinitarian act of relation to the Father by the action of the God-man obeying to death.
The Transubstantiation of bread into Flesh and wine into Blood does not deposit the Flesh and Blood of Christ on the altar as objects. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger commented: “`Reality’ is not just what we can measure. It is not only `quantums,’ [quantitative measurables] quantifiable entities, that are real; on the contrary, these are always only manifestations of the hidden mystery of true being. But here, where Christ meets us, we have to do with this true being. This is what was being expressed with the word `substance.’ This does not refer to the quantums, but to the profound and fundamental basis of being. Jesus is not there like a piece of meat, not in the realm of what can be measured and quantified.”[16] The Flesh and the Blood of Christ is that of the “I” of the Logos. St. Thomas teaches that the Esse of the Body and Blood of Christ is the Esse of the “I” of the Logos: “The esse aeternum of the Son of God, which is identified with the divine nature, becomes the esse hominis inasmuch as the human nature is assumed by the Son of God into the unity of His Person.”[17] Therefore, where you have the Body and Blood of Christ on the altar, you do not have objects, but the Subject, the Person – “I” – of Christ, and therefore His act of self-gift to the Father. Because the person and the mission of the Son are one and the same thing. The Mass then, at the moment of the Transubstantiation, makes present the very numerical identity of action as took place on Calvary. It is numerically the same, not a repetition, because the “I” of Christ as divine transcends time and place. Sokolowski remarked: “The reason the bread and wine, as taken up and consumed, can become substantially the same as the action of Calvary is found in the nature of what occurred there: the sacrificial death of Jesus was an action performed by Jesus toward the God who is not part of the world. It was therefore an action that is not simply part of the history of the world, even though it does belong to that history. As it can be eternally manifested in heaven, so can it be repeatedly reenacted in time, in the Eucharistic quotation and representation that the Church accomplishes before the Father.” Before that, he affirmed that the Mass “does not become another action, because the bread and wine are meant to be not a simple embodiment but a representative one. It is not the bread and wine as such that are offered but what they represent. They are involved in a sacramental and not a natural sacrifice. The signify the embodiment of the action at Calvary, but still as representative they are another embodiment at another moment.”[18] (underline mine)

(For development of Mass as Sacrifice, see previous blog).

[1] Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sept. 4, 2005.

[2] John Paul II, Be Not Afraid, St. Martin’s Press, (1984) 63.
[3] Louis Bouyer, Eucharist, UNDP (1968) 32-33.
[4] Ibid. 36.
[5] Ibid. 37.
[6] Isaiah 55, 19. ff.
[7] Louis Bouyer, Eucharist, UNDP (1968) 32.
[8] Ibid.37.
[9] Ibid. 40.
[10] Ibid 32-33.
[11] Ibid. 47.
[12] Ibid. 48.
[13] J. Ratzinger, Behold the Pierced One, Ignatius (1986) 104-106.
[14] Ibid. 108-109.
[15] J. Ratzinger, Feast of Faith Ignatius (1981) 64-65.
[16] J. Ratzinger, God Is Near Us, Ignatius (2003) 85.
[17] Summa Theologiae, III, 17, 2, ad 2.
[18] R. Sokolowski, Eucharistic Presence CUA (1993) 64.


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