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.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Eucharist as Sacrifice

1) “If you want a guiding metaphor for Opus Dei… think of it as the Guinness Extra Stout of the Catholic Church. It’s a strong brew, definitely an acquired taste, and clearly not for everyone…. In an era when the beer market is crowded with `diet’ this and `lite’ that, Guinness Extra Stout cuts the other way. It makes no apologies for either its many calories or its high alcohol content. It packs a frothy, bitter taste that has been compared by some wags to drinking motor oil with a head.”[1]

2) The ontological reality that this metaphor points to is the Mass as sacrifice. St. Josemaria Escriva – the founder – commented:

“When I was sixty five years old, I made a marvelous discovery. I love to celebrate Holy Mass, but yesterday it cost me a tremendous effort. What work! I saw the Mass is truly Opus Dei, work, as the first Mass, the Cross, was a work for Jesus Christ. I saw that the office of the priest, the celebration of Holy Mass, is a labor in confecting the Eucharist; that one experiences pain, and joy, and tiredness. If felt in my flesh the exhaustion of a divine work.”

3) Benedict XVI, at World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, said the Mass was

“like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being… Only this intimate explosion of good conquering evil can then trigger off the series of transformations that little by little will change the world. All other changes remain superficial and cannot save” (underline mine).

4) The danger that we run is that this explosion provoked by nuclear fission be neutralized – particularly in this country – not by an outright negation of God (as in Nietzsche who “kills” God), but by trivializing God to a “hobby” that we attend to in our leisure time. [2]

5) The central core of the Mass is the “substantial” change that takes place in bread become Flesh, and the wine becoming Blood. The questions are: how is this sacrifice?; and how is it the very same sacrifice as Calvary?; and how is the sacrifice of the Person of Jesus Christ who is God, and who, they say, cannot suffer as God?

a) By substance, we mean “reality.” It is not the scientific term used in chemistry to denote a measurable “”quantum,” nor is it the technical philosophic term of Aristotle which is to be “in itself” as ontologically supporting the accidents. Benedict commented in sermons previous to being pope, “`Reality’ is not just what we can measure. It is not only `quantum,’ 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 quantums, but to the profound and fundamental basis being. Jesus is not there like a piece of meat, not I the realm of what can be measured and quantified….How should we relate to reality? What is `real?’ What should we be like, so as to correspond to what is true? Concerning the Eucharist it is said to us: The substance is transformed, that is to say, the fundamental basis of its being. That is what is at stake, and not the superficial category, to which everything we can measure or touch belongs…
“Something genuinely happens in the Eucharist. There is something new there that was not there before. Knowing about a transformation is part of the most basic Eucharistic faith…. The transformation happens, which affects the gifts we bring by taking them up into a higher order and changes them, even if we cannot measure what happens….The Lord takes possession of the bread and wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different.”

b) The “I Am” of Jesus Christ: The “substantial” reality that transcends the category substance is the “I” of Jesus Christ. This is a huge point because it is a transition from an epistemology of object to subject without relinquishing – rather it enhances and increases its ontological density – the realism of “being.” The “I Am” of Jesus Christ is not consciousness, but divine Being.

John 8, 24: “For if you do not believe that I am (εγω ειμί), you will die in your sin.” John 8, 28: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am (εγω ειμί);” John 8, 58: “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I am (εγω ειμί).”

(εγω ειμί) is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Yahweh, the God who revealed Himself to Moses as “I AM.”

c) Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., preacher to the papal household of John Paul II, made the following remarks on these texts:

“One day I was saying mass in an enclosed monastery. The gospel passage for the day was that page in John where Jesus keeps repeating his `I Am:’ `You will die in your sins unless you believe that I Am…When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I Am… Before Abraham was, I Am’ (Jn. 8: 24, 28, 58). The fact that, contrary to all grammatical rule, I Am was written in the lectionary with two capital letters and evidently implied something more mysterious, struck a spark. The words `exploded’ inside me. Yes, I knew that in John’s gospel there were a number of examples ego eimi, `I Am,’ pronounced by Jesus and that this was an important feature of John’s Christology. But this was an inert, unproductive piece of knowledge. I had never found it in the least disturbing. That day however it was quite different. It happened at Easter time and it seemed to me as though the Risen One himself were proclaiming his divine name in the sight of heaven and earth. His `I Am!’ lit up and filled the universe. I felt myself to be infinitely small, like someone from the side-lines accidentally witnessing an unforeseen and extraordinary event or some great spectacle of nature. It was nothing more than an emotion of faith, but one of those experiences which, once over, leave a deep yearning in the heart.
"Anxious to know more about Christ’s `I Am,’ I consulted the modern commentaries on the Fourth Gospel and found them virtually unanimous in seeing an allusion in these words of Jesus to the divine name, as it appears for instance in Isaiah 43:10: `That you may know and believe me and understand that I Am.’ Centuries before this, St. Augustine had associated these words of Jesus with the revelation of the divine name in Exodus 3:14 and concluded, `It seems to me that, by saying, `Unless you believe that I Am,’ the Lord Jesus Christ had not meant to tell us anything other than this: `Yes, unless you believe that I am God, you will die in your sins.’”

d) Robert Sokolowski gives an account of the disclosure of the divine “I” of Christ in the Mass by showing the transition from the intracosmic “we” of the text of the Eucharistic Prayer to the transcendent “I” of Christ at the moment of the Institution.[5]

“Most of the prayers said by the priest during the Mass are stated in the first person plural. The priest says that `we’ come before God and pray, and he asks for blessings and forgiveness for `us.’ He prays in the name of the congregation and the whole Church. In particular, all the prayers in the Eucharistic prayer are expressed in the first person plural. From the prayer of thanksgiving in the Preface, through the invocation of the Holy Spirit, through the memorial and offering that follow the institutional narrative, through the intercessions and final doxology, the priest addresses God the Father by expressing `our’ thanks, praise, and petition. At the central point of the Canon, however, within the context set by the prayers spoken by `us,’ and within the narrative describing the Last Supper, which is also stated by `us,’ the celebrant begins to quote the words of Jesus at the Last Supper and, within this quotation, he speaks in the first person singular: `This is my body…This is the cup of my blood.’ Correlated with this quotational use of the first person singular is a citational use of the second person plural, referring to those whom Christ addressed: `Take this, all of you, and eat it… Take this, all of you, and drink from it.’ The same form is used when the priest, speaking in the voice of Christ, says that his body `will be given up for you,’ and that his blood `will be shed for you and for all.’
“This change of person, even within a quotation, is dramatic and profound. It is not merely a grammatical change. The words express a change of perspective, a difference in intentionality and disclosure. We as a group of Christians at worship, we as addressing the Father, living in our own present time and place, scattered into countless celebrations of the Eucharist all over the earth, `we’ are now all brought together to the single time, place, and perspective from which Jesus, at the Passover he celebrated with his disciples, anticipates his own sacrificial death. The one event on Calvary that we commemorate and reenact was first anticipated, before it occurred, by Jesus. It awash anticipated and accepted by him as the will of the Father. In our Eucharistic liturgy, through our quotation, we join in the perspective he had on the event that was to take place, that has taken place.
“St. Thomas observes that the use of the first person singular in the Eucharistic consecration is different from its usage in the other sacraments. In the cases of baptism and penance, for example, when the minister of the sacrament says, `I baptize you,’ or `I absolve you from your sins,’ he speaks in his own voice. Aquinas says that eh `form’ or verbal expression of such sacraments is stated `by the minister speaking in his own person.’ The minister, speaking as a minister of the Church, expresses himself as the one doing the baptizing and the one forgiving the sins. In the Eucharist, however, the `my’ stated in the words of consecration is the first person singular uttered by Christ and only quoted by the priest. St. Thomas says that the words expressed in this sacrament are now spoken as though spoken by Christ himself: `The minister who accomplishes this sacrament does nothing except to state the words of Christ.’”

What is of grave import here is to understand that the “I” of Jesus Christ pertains to a totally transcendent order and that although His self-gift took place in time and space, the “I” of Christ cannot be “circumscribed” by time and space and limited to it. This is the point of the “Christian Distinction” that Sokolowski labors in his “The God of Faith and Reason."[7] It is the presence of this “I” in the time and space of the ubiquitous and ever-recurring transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the "I” that is the nuclear fission, the explosion that transformed and continues to transform the world.
This Distinction is perhaps best clarified by saying that the Christian God is neither more Being because He has created nor would be less had He not. And this because the Being of God is of a totally distinct order than that of creation. To be specific, there is nothing in the Christian God that is not personal. God has revealed Self to be Three Persons who are pure relations as self-gift, such that the Father is the act of engendering the Son; the Son is the act of glorifying the Father; and the Spirit is the personification of the self-giving of the Two. Hence, there cannot be one without the other. Their “to be” is to-be-in-relation. Hence, God as totally personal is one as a triple act of self-giving. Yet they are irreducible to each other as opposing relations. Hence, God is a plurality of Persons. Such a state of affairs can only take place when to be = to-be-in-relation. And such a way of being is not given in creation save in the human person who is created in the image and likeness of the Son. Therefore, only where there is “I” can there be such being-in-relation. Hence, the “intrusion” of the “I Am” of the Son into time and space is an explosion, nuclear fission dynamizing a new way of being in the created cosmos.
6) The Sacrifice of Calvary is the Sacrifice of the Mass: In what does this sacrifice consist? It consists in the relational “I” of the Logos to the Father, taking the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth (there is no human person) as His own, and subduing the sin that imbues it (“For our sakes he made him to be sin,” 2 Cor. 5, 21). The human will of Christ, laden with sin, will be turned toward self, while the “I” of Christ is pure relation to the Father. The contradiction of these radical tendencies produces the internal disruption that we could not possibly fathom but which appears in the form of bleeding from within in Gethsemane.

“He turns, and lo! There is blood upon His garment and in His footprints. Whence come these first-fruits of the passion of the Lamb? No soldier’s scourge has touched His shoulders, nor the hangman’s nails His hands and feet. My brethren, He has bled before His time; He has shed blood; yes, and it is His agonizing soul which has broken up His framework of flesh and poured it forth. His passion has begun from within. That tormented Heart, the seat of tenderness and love, began at length to labour and to beat with a vehemence beyond its nature; `the foundations of the great deep were broken up;’ the red streams rushed forth so copious and fierce as to overflow the veins, and bursting through the pores, they stood in a thick dew over His whole skin; then forming into drops, they rolled down full and heavy, and drenched the ground.”[8]

Ratzinger describes this intrinsic priesthood of self-mastery that is the essence of the suffering of the very “I” of the Son:

“Thus the Logos adopts the being of the man Jesus into his own being and speaks of it in terms of is own I: `For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me’ (Jn. 6, 38). In the Son’s obedience, where both wills become one single Yes to the will of the Father, communion takes place between human and divine being. The `wondrous exchange,’ the `alchemy of being,’ is realized here as a liberating and reconciling communication, which becomes a communion between Creator and creature. It is in the pain of this exchange, and only here, that that fundamental change takes place in man, the change which alone can redeem him and transform the conditions of the world. Here community is born, here the Church comes into being. The act whereby we participate in the Son’s obedience, which involves man’s genuine transformation, is also the only really effective contribution toward renewing and transforming society and the world as a whole.”[9]
Christ’s New Mediation: Not Between Things and God, But Between Self and God: Christological Anthropology:

In this way, as God-man, Christ mediates between Himself and the Father. The anthropology speaks of subduing self as originally created earth that must be worked, mastered so as to become wholly one’s own. This is unique to an enfleshed person.[10] In this sense, the one comes to own one’s self, and to take possession of self and so be able to give or not give self. This is the pre-condition of the relationality and self-giftedness in the human person as revealed in the prototype of man who is Christ. This is the site of the real pain and the grounding of the ability to suffer in the body in a redemptive, free, fashion as gift. You can’t give what you don’t have. Only self-mastery gives self-possession.

Since priesthood means mediation, Christ inaugurates a new priesthood in his Person. The previous Jewish priesthood was levitical. But, as St. Paul says in Hebrews: “it is evident that our Lord has sprung out of Judah, and Moses spoke nothing at all about priests when referring to this tribe. And it is yet far more evident if there arise another priest, according to the likeness of Melchisedech, who has become so not according to the Law of carnal commandment but according to a life that cannot end” (Heb 7, 14-17). “But now he has obtained a superior ministry, in proportion as he is mediator of a superior covenant, enacted on the basis of superior promises… For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their mind, and upon their hearts I will write them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people…(8, 10) But when Christ appeared as high priest of the good things to come, he entered once for all through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands (that is, not of this creation), nor again by virtue of blood of goats and calves, but by virtue of his own blood, into the Holies, have obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkled ashes of a heifer sanctify the unclean unto the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit offered himself unblemished unto God, …And this is why he is mediator of a new covenant (9, 11-14) . For Jesus has not entered into a Holies made by hands, a mere copy of the true, but into heaven itself, to appear now before the face of God on our behalf; nor yet has he entered to offer himself often as the high priest enters into the Holies year after year with blood not his own; for in that case he must have suffered often since the beginning of the world. But as it is, once for all at the end of the ages, he has appeared for the destruction of sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed unto men to die once and after this comes the judgment, so also was Christ offered once to take away the sins of many.” (9, 24-28)

Jesus Christ is the Prototype, Not the Exception to Man

“In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself….”

The paradigm shift consists in experiencing man in terms of Jesus Christ instead of considering Him to be an “exception” to man. Until the Second Vatican Council, Jesus Christ was considered from above from the transcendent side of the Trinity, while man was considered from below in the observation of the animals with the specific difference of rationality. Christ was a transcendent relational Person; man was an immanent person as an in-itself substance distinguished from the animals only by rationality. Ratzinger says,

“The second great misunderstanding [in mediaeval Christology] is to see Christ as the simply unique ontological exception which must be treated as such. This exception is an object of highly interesting ontological speculation, but it must remain separate in its box as an exception to the rule and must not be permitted to mix with the rest of human thought…. Scripture expresses this point by calling Christ the last Adam or `the second Adam.’ It thereby characterizes him as the true fulfillment of the idea of the human person, in which the direction of meaning of this being comes fully to light for the first time. If it is true, however, that Christ is not the ontological exception, if from his exceptional position he is, on the contrary, the fulfillment of the entire human being, then the Christological concept of person is an indication for theology of how person is to be understood as such. In fact, this concept of person, or simply the dimension that has become visible here, has always acted as a spark in intellectual history and it has propelled development, even when it had long come to a standstill in theology” [11](underline mine).[12]

7) “The Priestly Soul:”

All the faithful, by the sacraments of Baptism and Orders, share in and are called to exercise this mediation that is the priesthood of Christ. St. Josemaria Escriva called it “the priestly soul” whereby each faithful and minister are called to be “priests of their own existence” by mastering themselves, getting possession of themselves to make the self-gift on the occasion of ordinary work. In this way, men and women live the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the street that is Christ’s Calvary. As he said on another occasion, “There is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.”[13] On another occasion, he said, “Look,” pointing to a drawing he had made of a circle containing a cross with special proportions: “This will be the seal of the Work. A seal, not a coat of arms, which is something Opus Dei won’t have. It represents the world and, embedded inside the world, the Cross.” And in a meditation given in 1968, he said: “All the works of men take place on a sort of altar; and each one of you, in that union of contemplative souls which makes up your day, in some way says `his Mass,’ which lasts for twenty-four hours, until the following Mass, which lasts another twenty-four hours, and so on until the end of our lives.[14]

8) “The Lay Mentality:”

Freedom is fullness of being who one is by self-possession. One who has mastered self, and keeps mastering self, enters into possession of self. He/she is not determined to this or that by extrinsic necessity such as instinct, drives, etc. Freedom is the ability to decide about oneself. But that is the work of self-mastery.
The prototype of freedom is God. Ratzinger said, “The real God is bound to himself in threefold love and is thus pure freedom. Man’s vocation is to be this image of God, to become like him. Man is not untranscendably shut up in his or her finiteness. Certainly, he or she must first learn to accept his or her finiteness. He or she must recognize that he or she is not self-sufficient and not autonomous. He or she must give up the lie of independence of all relationships and doing what you want. He or she must say yes to his or her need, yes to the other person, yes to creation, yes to the limitation and direction of his or her own nature [The “good,” by the way is the truth of self-giving as imaging the divine Person of the Son as obedience]. The person who can merely choose between arbitrary options is not yet free. The free person is only someone who takes the criteria for his or her action from within and needs to obey no external compulsion. For this reason the person who has become at one with his or her essential nature, at one with truth itself, is free. The person who is at one with truth [i.e., image of God as self-gift] no longer acts according to external necessities and compulsions; in him or her nature, desire and action have come to coincide. In this way man within the finite can come into contact with the infinite, bind himself or herself to it and thus, precisely by recognizing his or her limits, himself or herself become infinite. Thus at the end it becomes visible once again that the Christian doctrine of freedom is not some petty moralism. It is guided by a comprehensive vision of man: it sees man in a historical perspective that at the same time transcends all history.”[15]


On the Mass as sacrifice, John Paul II wrote: “The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it. What is repeated is its memorial celebration, its `commemorative representation’ (memorialis demonstratio), 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.
“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.”

Benedict XVI said that the Mass is festal to the extent that the Mass answers the question of death. To not resolve death is ultimately not to be festal in truth. “We have said that liturgy is festal, and the feast if 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…. 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… 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”[17] (italics/bold mine).

[1] John L. Allen, Jr. Opus Dei, Doubleday (2005) 1.
[2] Cardinal Francis George remarked: “We cannot permit him [God] to have power or we will lose our freedom. If God can make no demands, then religion is necessarily a hobby. It is what we do in our leisure time, particularly in the kind of leisure time we have invented with the weekend…. It is leisure time. It is a time for self-expression. If religion is one form of self-expression and if you want to express yourself that way, then that’s fine. If it’s not, that’s fine too. In any event, neither religion nor church nor God can make demands on what you do with your free time, what you do in your leisure time. Religion is a leisure time activity, not a way of life;” The Laity and the Contemporary Cultural Milieu, Origins, September 11, 2003, p. 3.
[3] J. Ratzinger, God is Near Us, Ignatius (2003) 85-86.
[4] Raniero Cantalamessa, Jesus Christ, The Holy One of God, The Liturgical Press (1991) 45-46.
[5] Keep in mind the “Christian Distinction” is the radical difference between the pagan gods and the God Who reveals Himself to be Creator. The pagan gods, including the One of Plato and the Prime Mover of Aristotle, were the greatest and the most, but always within the experienced cosmos. The revealed and revealing God of Judeo-Christianity stands over and above the created cosmos such that He would not be less if the cosmos did not exist; and He is not more now that it is. The very texture of the Creator-Being of
Revelation is “other” than that of creation. In this concrete point, that “texture” is personal and subjective as “I” and is totally relational in the sense that each of the divine Persons is totally relational as self-gift.
The most difficult point to grasp here is that the distinction between God and the world takes place in two different epistemological horizons. The God of revelation is grasped by the experience of self-gift that is called faith. The knowledge of the Revealer is a consciousness before it is a concept. The gods of the cosmos are known conceptually and are based on sensation and abstraction, but not on the experience of self-giving, a self-giving (faith) that is a response to revelation that is self-giving on the part of God. Sokolowski says: “The Christian distinction between the world and God may receive its precise verbal formulation in a theoretical context, since it is described especially by theologians and philosophers, but the the distinction does not emerge for the first time in this theoretical setting. It receives its formulation in reflective thought because it has already been achieved in the life that goes on before reflective thinking occurs. The distinction is lived in Christian life, and most originally it was lived and expressed in the life of Jesus, after having been anticipated, and hence to some extent possessed, in the Old Testament history which Jesus completed. The Christian distinction between God and the world is there for us now, as something for us to live and as an issue for reflection, because it was brought forward in the life and teaching of Christ, and because that life and teaching continue to be available in the life and teaching of the Church. This is how the Christian understanding of God as creator, the understanding that Anselm formulates for us, has ben in fact achieved;” Robert Sokolowski, The God of Faith and Reason UNDP (1982) 23-24.
[6] R. Sokolowski, Eucharistic Presence, A Study in the Theology of Disclosure, CUA (1993) 13-15.
[7] UNDP (1982) 21-40.
[8] John Henry Newman Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion PPS.
[9] J. Ratzinger, Behold the Pierced One, Ignatius (1984) 92-93.
[10] If God had not become man, He could not master Himself since there is nothing created to master. Only a God-man and a person created in the image of the divine Persons that is enfleshed can be priest in the sense of mastering self and making the gift of self. As unincarnate divine Person, He is fullness of relation as self-giving in given act.
[11] J. Ratzinger, “Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology,” Communio 17 (Fall 1990) 449-450.
[12] The orientation of the Magisterial documents leading up to “Mane Nobiscum Domine” as the blueprint of a year of the Eucharist, is aimed at the praxis of the Second Vatican Council and the entire pontificate of John Paul II. The goal is to create a new world culture dynamized by the human person as worker (subject) and not merely on such social structures such as Capitalism or Socialism (object). Since Christ is the very revelation and meaning of man, Adam being merely a “type,” the prototype of work for man will be revealed in the supreme “work” of Jesus Christ, the obedience to the Father as death on the Cross. True obedience is not extrinsic performance, but submission of the very “I” of the person. And since the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the instantiation of that eternal act of Self-gift of the Logos to the Father that transcends time and space, the Mass becomes the template and meaning of all human work. That template and that meaning is the action of self-gift.
[13] Conversations, 114.
[14] Meditation, St. Joseph our Father and Lord, 19 march 1968.
[15] J. Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism and Politics, Crossroad (1988) 274-275.
[16] John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #12.
[17] J. Ratzinger, Feast of Faith, Ignatius (1981 in German; 1986 in English) 64-65.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Triumph of the Holy Cross: September 14, 2005


Old Testament: “On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, `Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’
“At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel” The people complained to Moses, who brought the affair before the Lord. The Lord said: “’Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived”
(Numbers 21, 4-9).

Jesus Himself makes the interpretation: “Jesus said to Nicodemus: `No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven; and the Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, wo that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (Jn. 3, 13-17).

On August 7, 1931, St. Josemaria Escriva heard during the consecration of the Mass: “a voice, as always, perfect, clear; `and when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself!’ (Jn. 12, 32). And the precise concept: not in the sense of Scripture do I say this to you; I say it to you in the sense that you are to raise Me up in all human activities, in the sense that all over the world there should be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, who will be other Christs.”
“This experience brought with it a deepened sense of the meaning and importance of secularity and of the work of Catholics in all professions and trades. It was precisely in the midst of their normal human activities that the men and women of Opus De were to strive to become other Christs.”

* * * * * * *

This “lifting up” is Calvary, and it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Benedict XVI wrote on September 11, 2005:

“Next Wednesday, Sept. 14, we celebrate the liturgical feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. In the year dedicated to the Eucharist, this celebration has a particular significance: It invites us to meditate on the profound and indissoluble bond that unites the Eucharistic celebration with the mystery of the cross. Each holy Mass, in fact, actualizes Christ’s redeeming sacrifice. To Golgotha and to the `hour’ of the death on the cross – wrote our beloved John Paul II in the encyclical `Ecclesia de Eucharistia,’ returns `[e]very priest who celebrates Holy Mass, together with the Christian community which takes part in it’ (#14).”

The Mass is the Sacrifice of the Cross:

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, avove 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 fact 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.”

What is this death? The exercise of the “priestly soul” with the “lay mentality.” Priesthood means mediation. Instead of mediating between this and that in some extrinsic fashion, Jesus Christ is priest in that He mediates intrinsically between Himself and the Father. His mediation is intrinsic in that He is “priest of His own existence.” He masters Himself to get possession of His (now) whole Self to make the gift of Himself. This is the meaning of freedom that underlies choice. You cannot choose this or that if you have not mastered self to be able to make that choice. Otherwise, you are determined ad unum. The divine Person of the Logos makes the human will of the man Jesus of Nazareth – laden with sin (2 Cor 5, 21) – His own (He exercises the freedom that belongs to God Himself). As His own, Christ, the God-man, obeys the Father with His human will to death on the Cross - for us.
We are baptized into the Person of Christ, and therefore into His Act of Self-mastery and Self-gift. The power to exercise that act is given to us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. To exercise self-mastery/self-gift on the occasion of the ordinary activities of the secular world is to fulfill the words spoken to St. Josemaria, “that you are to raise Me up in all human activities, in the sense that all over the world there should be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, who will be other Christs.” This is not theocratic triumphalism but finding the quid divinum (the becoming “another Christ”) in the quotidian activities of every day.
It also constitutes and increases “secularity” in that it is the most profound exercise of the freedom of autonomy, that is, taking oneself in one’s own hands, mastering self and making the gift of service on the occasion of ordinary secular work. It makes sense of John Paul II’s: “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom” (Veritatis Splendor #85).
The triumph of the Cross, then, consists in constituting people into “other Christs” and hence into eternal life. The Eucharist as Cross then is “like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being… Only this intimate explosion of good conquering evil can then trigger off the series of transformations that little by little will change the world. All other changes remain superficial and cannot save” (Benedict XVI at the Concluding Mass in Cologne, Sunday August 21, 2005).
[1] J. F. Coverdale, “Uncommon Faith,” Scepter (2002) 90.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

(AN ANALOGY): On the Occasion of the Death of Peter Signorelli

Once upon a time, twin boys were conceived in the same womb. Seconds, minutes, hours passes as the two dormant lives developed. The spark of life glowed until it fanned fire with the formation of their embryonic brains. With their simple brains came feeling, and with feeling, perception; a perception of surroundings, of each other, of self.

When they perceived the life of each other and their own life, they knew that life was good, and they laughed and rejoiced: the one saying, “Lucky are we to have been conceived, and to have this world,” and the other chiming, “Blessed be the Mother who gave us this life and each other.”

Each budded and grew arms and fingers, lean legs and stubby toes. They stretched their lungs, churned and turned in their new-found world. They explored their world, and in it found the life cord which gave them life from the precious Mother’s blood. So they sang, “How great is the love of the Mother that she shares all she has with us!” And they were pleased and satisfied with their lot.

Weeks passed into months, and with the advent of each new month, they noticed a change in each other and each began to see a change in himself. “We are changing,” said the one. “What can it mean?”

“It means,” replied the other, “that we are drawing near to birth.”

An unsettling chill crept over the two, and they both feared, for they knew that birth meant leaving all their world behind.

Said the one, “Were it up to me, I would d live here forever.”

“We must be born,” said the other. “It has happened to all others who were here.” For indeed there was evidence of life there before, as the Mother had borne others.

“But mightn’t there be a life after birth?”

“How can there be a life after birth?” cried the one. “Do we not shed our life cord and also the blood tissues? And have you ever talked to one who has been born? Has anyone ever re-entered the womb after birth?”

“No!” He fell into despair, and in his despair he moaned, “If the purpose of conception and al our growth is that it be ended in birth, then truly our life is absurd.”

Resigned to despair, the one stabbed the darkness with his unseeing eyes and as he clutched his precious life cord to his chest said, “If this is so, and life is absurd, then there really can be no Mother.”

“But there is a Mother,” protested the other. “Who else gave us nourishment"

“We get our own nourishment, and our world has always been here. And if there is a Mother, where is she? Have you ever seen her? Does she talk to you? No! We invented the Mother because it satisfied a need in us. It made us feel secure and happy.”

Thus while one raved and despaired, the other resigned himself to birth, and placed his trust in the hands of the Mother.

Hours ached into days, and days fell into weeks. And it came time. Both knew their birth was a t hand, and both feared what they did not know. As the one was the first to be conceived, so he was the first to be born, the other following after.

They cried as they were born into the light. And coughed out fluid and gasped the dry air. And when they were sure they had been born, they opened their eyes, seeing for the first time, and found themselves cradled in the warm love of the Mother! They lay open-mouthed, awe-struck before the beauty and truth they could not have hoped to have known.

(I don’t have the name of the priest, nor the Church [perhaps “Star of the Sea” {something appropriate like that}] but I believe it was from Marblehead, MA).

Monday, September 05, 2005

Labor Day 2005

1) The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City. In 1884, the first Monday of September was selected as the holiday celebration. Its purpose was to exhibit "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the workers and their families. It was the growing tension produced by the exploitation of the worker by capital whereby his work, and therefore his person, was being reduced to the status of "thing" or commodity to be bought and sold.

2) It is an excellent opportunity for us to re-consider the primacy of persons over structures enshrined in the Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under then- Cardinal Josef Ratzinger. There it reads: "The priority given to structures and technical organization over the person and the requirements of his dignity is the expression of a materialistic anthropology and is contrary to the construction of a just social order [75]. Consequently, "the priority of work over capital places an obligation in justice upon employers to consider the welfare of the workers before the increase of profits. They have a moral obligation not to keep capital unproductive and, in making investments, to think first of the common good. The latter requires a prior effort to consolidate jobs or create new ones in the production of goods that are really useful. The right to private property is inconceivable without resonsibilities to the common good. It is subordinated to the higher principle which states that goods are meant for all" [87].

3) The Church therefore teaches: "The life of Jesus of Nazareth, a real `Gospel of work,' offers us the living example and principle of the radical cultural transformation which is essential for solving the grave problems which must be faced by the age in which we live. He, who, though He was God, became like us in all things, devoted the greater part of His earthly life to manual labor. The culture which our age awaits will be marked by the full recognition of the dignity of human work, which appears in all its nobilityand fruitfulness in the light of the mysteries of creation and redemption. Recognized as an expression of the person, work becomes a source of creative meaning and effort" [82].

4) "Thus the solution of most of the serious problems related to poverty is to be found in the promotion of a true civilization of work. In a sense, work is the key to the whole social question. It is therefore in the domain of work that priority must be given to the action of liberation in freedom. Because the relationship between the huan person and work is radical and vital [83]," we should remember that the human person "finds himself by the sincere giving of himself" (Gaudium et Spes #24), and that this self-giving takes place on the occasion of work, any kind of work. It is not the kind of work that distinguishes persons as greater or lesser, but the giving of the self on the occasion of that work. And since culture means cultivation of persons, the development of a true social and prosperous culture - nationally and globally - depends on this development of a spirituality of work.

5) The development of structures like unions arises from the instrinsic relationality of the human person as a right: "the right of association." "Their task is to defend the existential interests of workers in all sectors in which their rights are concerned" [Laborem Exercens # 20]. However "it remains true ... that structures established for people's good are of themselves incapable of securing and guaranteeing that good... It is therefore necessary to work simultaneously for the conversion of hearts and for the improvement of structures. For the sin which is at the root of unjust situations is, in a true and immediate sense, a voluntary act which has its source in the freedom of individuals. Only in a derived and secondary sense is it applicable to structures, and only in this sense can one speak of `social sin.' "[Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation" #75]

Benedict XVI, Recorded Live: His Ecumenism? It's Right Here.

The Complete transcript of Pope Joseph Ratzinger’s address to non-Catholic Christians, delivered in Luther’s homeland.

With the addition of all of his off-the-cuff remarks by Sandro Magister ROMA, September 1, 2005 – Benedict XVI often enjoys speaking off the cuff. This is also true in the case of very demanding topics. He did so in his remarks to the priests of Valle d’Aosta, during his vacation in the mountains, at the end of July.
He did it in his homily for the feast of the Assumption of Mary, in the little church of Castel Gandolfo.
And he did so in Cologne, in his August 19 address to the representatives of the Protestant and Orthodox Churches.
On that day, the journalists had received an advance copy of the written text, in various languages. And this is the text to which they referred in their reports.
But in reality, Benedict XVI said much more. On a number of occasions he raised his eyes from the text and improvised.
A quantitative idea of the variations can be gathered from the fact that the speech that pope Joseph Ratzinger delivered, in German, is almost twice as long as the initial written text: 2,010 words versus 1,179.
The pope read almost the entirety of the written text. He left out only this line:
“Dialogue cannot come at the price of truth; dialogue must be carried out in charity and truth.”
And in a more extensive improvisation, he passed over a few of the other written lines, but developed the concepts that they contained.
But more than the quantity, it is the quality of what the pope added that makes it necessary to reread attentively the “ecumenical” speech that he actually delivered.

* * *

Benedict XVI began with a bit of irony. After sitting down, he pointed out: “this does not mean I wish to speak ‘ex cathedra’.”
And later he said: “Excuse me if I have expressed a personal opinion; it seemed right to do so.”
And yet the “personal opinion” that he had just expressed was of tremendous weight. Ratzinger said that he did not believe in an ecumenism focused exclusively on institutions. For him, the serious question is how the Church should bear witness to the Word of God in the world: this is a problem Christianity has faced since the second century, and since then the question has been resolved through decisions which, according to Ratzinger, should still hold true for the Church of today.
In another improvised passage, Benedict XVI rejected “what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one's own faith history.” Because “true catholicity” is multiform: “unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity.”
Toward the end, he indicated as an exemplary way the “interiorized and spiritualized ecumenism” of the community of Taizé and its founder, Roger Schutz, who just days before had been “so tragically snatched from life.”
But here is the complete transcript – in the English version prepared by the Vatican’s offices – of the speech that Benedict XVI addressed to the representatives of the non-Catholic Churches on the evening of August 19, in Cologne.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
(The underlined words are the ones that the pope added off the cuff, departing from the written text)
Dear brothers and sisters,
Permit me to remain seated after such a strenuous day. This does not mean I wish to speak "ex cathedra". Also, excuse me for being late. Unfortunately, Vespers took longer than foreseen and the traffic was slower moving than could be imagined.
I would like now to express the joy I feel on the occasion of my Visit to Germany, in being able to meet you and offer a warm greeting to you, the Representatives of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities.
As a native of this country, I am quite aware of the painful situation which the rupture of unity in the profession of the faith has entailed for so many individuals and families. This was one of the reasons why, immediately following my election as Bishop of Rome, I declared, as the successor of the apostle Peter, my firm commitment to making the recovery of full and visible Christian unity a priority of my pontificate.
In doing so, I wished consciously to follow in the footsteps of two of my great predecessors: pope Paul VI, who over 40 years ago signed the conciliar decree on ecumenism “Unitatis Redintegratio”, and pope John Paul II, who made that document the inspiration for his activity.
In ecumenical dialogue Germany without a doubt has a place of particular importance. We are the country where the Reformation began; however, Germany is also one of the countries where the ecumenical movement of the 20th century originated.
With the successive waves of immigration in the last century, Christians from the Orthodox Churches and the ancient Churches of the East also found a new homeland in this country. This certainly favoured greater contact and exchanges so that now there is a dialogue between we three.
Together we can rejoice in the fact that the dialogue, with the passage of time, has brought about a renewed sense of our brotherhood and has created a more open and trusting climate between Christians belonging to the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities. My venerable predecessor, in his encyclical “Ut Unum Sint” (1995), saw this as an especially significant fruit of dialogue (cf. nn. 41ff.; 64).
I feel the fact that we consider one another brothers and sisters, that we love one another, that together we are witnesses of Jesus Christ, should not be taken so much for granted. I believe that this brotherhood is in itself a very important fruit of dialogue that we must rejoice in, continue to foster and to practice.
Among Christians, fraternity is not just a vague sentiment, nor is it a sign of indifference to truth. As you just said, bishop, it is grounded in the supernatural reality of the one baptism which makes us all members of the one body of Christ (cf. I Cor 12: 13; Gal 3: 28; Col 2: 12). Together we confess that Jesus Christ is God and Lord; together we acknowledge him as the one mediator between God and man (cf. I Tm 2: 5), and we emphasize that together we are members of his body (cf. “Unitatis Redintegratio”, n. 22; “Ut Unum Sint”, n. 42).
Based on this essential foundation of baptism, a reality comes from him which is a way of being, then of professing, believing and acting. Based on this crucial foundation, dialogue has borne its fruits and will continue to do so.
I would like to mention the re-examination of the mutual condemnations, called for by John Paul II during his first visit to Germany. I recall with some nostalgia that first visit. I was able to be present when we were together at Mainz in a fairly small and authentic fraternal circle. Some questions were put to the pope and he described a broad theological vision in which reciprocity was amply treated.
That colloquium gave rise to an episcopal, that is, a Church commission, under ecclesial responsibility. Finally, with the contribution of theologians it led to the important “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” (1999) and to an agreement on basic issues that had been a subject of controversy since the 16th century.
We should also acknowledge with gratitude the results of our common stand on important matters, such as the fundamental questions involving the defence of life and the promotion of justice and peace.
I am well aware that many Christians in Germany, and not only in this country, expect further concrete steps to bring us closer together. I myself have the same expectation.
It is the Lord's commandment, but also the imperative of the present hour, to carry on dialogue with conviction at all levels of the Church's life. This must obviously take place with sincerity and realism, with patience and perseverance, in complete fidelity to the dictates of one's conscience in the awareness that it is the Lord who gives unity, that we do not create it, that it is he who gives it but that we must go to meet him. [1]
I do not intend here to outline a programme for the immediate themes of dialogue – this task belongs to theologians working alongside the bishops: the theologians, on the basis of their knowledge of the problem; the bishops from their knowledge of the concrete situation in the Church in our country and in the world.
May I make a small comment: [2] now, it is said that following the clarification regarding the doctrine of justification, the elaboration of ecclesiological issues and the questions concerning ministry are the main obstacles still to be overcome. In short, this is true, but I must also say that I dislike this terminology, which from a certain point of view delimits the problem since it seems that we must now debate about institutions instead of the Word of God, as though we had to place our institutions in the centre and fight for them. I think that in this way the ecclesiological issue as well as that of the "ministerium" are not dealt with correctly.
The real question is the presence of the Word in the world. In the second century the early Church primarily took a threefold decision: first, to establish the canon, thereby stressing the sovereignty of the Word and explaining that not only is the Old Testament "hài graphài" [the Scriptures], but together with the New Testament constitutes a single Scripture which is thus for us the master text.
However, at the same time the Church has formulated an apostolic succession, the episcopal ministry, in the awareness that the Word and the witness go together; that is, the Word is alive and present only thanks to the witness, so to speak, and receives from the witness its interpretation. But the witness is only such if he or she witnesses to the Word.
Third and last, the Church has added the "regula fidei" [rule of faith] as a key for interpretation. I believe that this reciprocal compenetration constitutes an object of dissent between us, even though we are certainly united on fundamental things.
Therefore, when we speak of ecclesiology and of ministry we must preferably speak in this combination of Word, witness and rule of faith, and consider it as an ecclesiological matter, and therefore together as a question of the Word of God, of his sovereignty and humility inasmuch as the Lord entrusts his Word, and concedes its interpretation, to witnesses which, however, must always be compared to the "regula fidei" and the integrity of the Word. Excuse me if I have expressed a personal opinion; it seemed right to do so.
Another urgent priority in ecumenical dialogue arises from the great ethical questions of our time; in this area, contemporary man, who is searching, rightly expects a common response on the part of Christians, which, thanks be to God, in many cases has been forthcoming.
There are so many common declarations by the German bishops' conference and the Evangelical Churches in Germany that we can be grateful for, but unfortunately, this does not always happen. Because of contradictory positions in this area our witness to the Gospel and the ethical guidance which we owe to the faithful and to society lose their impact and often appear too vague, with the result that we fail in our duty to provide the witness that is needed in our time.
Our divisions are contrary to the will of Jesus and they disappoint peoples' expectations. I think that we must work with new energy and dedication to bring a common witness into the context of these great ethical challenges of our time.
And now let us ask ourselves: what does it mean to reestablish the unity of all Christians? We all know there are numerous models of unity and you know that the Catholic Church also has as her goal the full visible unity of the disciples of Christ, as defined by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in its various documents (cf. “Lumen Gentium”, nn. 8, 13; “Unitatis Redintegratio”, nn. 2, 4, etc.). This unity, we are convinced, indeed subsists in the Catholic Church, without the possibility of ever being lost (cf. “Unitatis Redintegratio”, n. 4); the Church in fact has not totally disappeared from the world.
On the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return: that is, to deny and to reject one's own faith history. Absolutely not! It does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline. Unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity: in my homily for the solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul on 29 June last, I insisted that full unity and true catholicity in the original sense of the word go together. As a necessary condition for the achievement of this coexistence, the commitment to unity must be constantly purified and renewed; it must constantly grow and mature. To this end, dialogue has its own contribution to make. More than an exchange of thoughts, an academic exercise, it is an exchange of gifts (cf. “Ut Unum Sint”, n. 28), in which the Churches and the Ecclesial Communities can make available their own riches (cf. “Lumen Gentium”, nn. 8, 15; “Unitatis Redintegratio”, nn. 3, 14ff.; “Ut Unum Sint”, nn. 10-14). As a result of this commitment, the journey can move forward, step by step, as the Letter to the Ephesians says, until at last we will all "attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4: 13). It is obvious that this dialogue can develop only in a context of sincere and committed spirituality. We cannot "bring about" unity by our powers alone. We can only obtain unity as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, spiritual ecumenism – prayer, conversion and the sanctification of life – constitutes the heart of the meeting and of the ecumenical movement (cf. “Unitatis Redintegratio”, n. 8; “Ut Unum Sint”, 15ff., 21, etc.). It could be said that the best form of ecumenism consists in living in accordance with the Gospel.
I would also like in this context to remember the great pioneer of unity, Bro. Roger Schutz, who was so tragically snatched from life. I had known him personally for a long time and had a cordial friendship with him. He often came to visit me and, as I already said in Rome on the day of his assassination, I received a letter from him that moved my heart, because in it he underlined his adherence to my path and announced to me that he wanted to come and see me. He is now visiting us and speaking to us from on high. I think that we must listen to him, from within we must listen to his spiritually-lived ecumenism and allow ourselves to be led by his witness towards an interiorized and spiritualized ecumenism.
I see good reason in this context for optimism in the fact that today a kind of "network" of spiritual links is developing between Catholics and Christians from the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities: each individual commits himself to prayer, to the examination of his own life, to the purification of memory, to the openness of charity. The father of spiritual ecumenism, Paul Couturier, spoke in this regard of an "invisible cloister" which unites within its walls those souls inflamed with love for Christ and his Church. I am convinced that if more and more people unite themselves interiorly to the Lord's prayer "that all may be one" (Jn 17: 21), then this prayer, made in the name of Jesus, will not go unheard (cf. Jn 14: 13; 15: 7, 16, etc.). With the help that comes from on high, we will also find practical solutions to the different questions which remain open, and in the end our desire for unity will come to fulfilment, whenever and however the Lord wills. Now let us all go along this path in the awareness that walking together is a form of unity. Let us thank God for this and pray that he will continue to guide us all. "
Notes: [1] The written text, in this part not read by Benedict XVI, continues by saying: “Dialogue cannot come at the price of truth; dialogue must be carried out in charity and truth.” [2] In the written text the “small comment,” which the pope developed at length in his spontaneous remarks, was limited to these few lines: “The ecclesiological questions, and especially those of the consecrated ministry, or the priesthood, are beyond a doubt connected to the question of the relationship between Scripture and the Church; that is, of insistence upon the right interpretation of the Word of God and its unfolding within the life of the Church”