CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP
THE YEAR OF THE EUCHARIST
SUGGESTIONS AND PROPOSALS
It has hardly been a year since the conclusion of the Year of the Rosary and we have yet again another initiative of the Holy Father: The Year of the Eucharist (October 2004 – October 2005). The second initiative continues what began in the first. The pastoral indications that the Pope outlined in his Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio ineunte, directed to the whole Church, has put both initiatives into the furrow of the Second Vatican Council and the Jubilee Year, placing the contemplation of Christ’s face at the center of the Church’s efforts (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, ch. I).
In fact, with Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the Pope invited us to contemplate Christ through the eyes and heart of Mary. Then the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia followed, which leads us to the “source” and “height” of Christian life, inviting us to renew our fervor in the celebration and adoration of the Eucharist. In unison with this Encyclical, the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum reminded us of the duty to assure that the liturgy be worthy of such a great Mystery.
Now, The Year of the Eucharist, guided and introduced by the Apostolic Letter Mane nobiscum Domine (October 7th, 2004), offers us an important pastoral occasion further to sensitize the Christian community, so that they make this wonderful Sacrifice and Sacrament the center of their lives.
The Holy Father has left the execution of this initiative in the hands of the local Churches. However, he has asked the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to offer “suggestions and proposals” (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 29), that could result useful for Pastors and pastoral workers at all levels, who in turn are called to do their part.
That is the character of this subsidy. This document does not pretend to be exhaustive, but limits itself to operative suggestions, only mentioning the essential. At times certain important themes and areas are only referred to. A chapter entitled Eucharistic “spirituality” is hoped to be very useful, at least as a stimulus, as regards formative and catechetical initiatives. It is very important to be sure, to receive the Eucharist not only in its aspect as a celebration, but also as a project of life, which is at the base of authentic “Eucharistic spirituality.”
We thank the Holy Father for yet another gift, and we entrust the success of this Year to the intercession of the Mother of God. In her school of “woman of the Eucharist,” we recover that “astonishment” when we encounter the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ, and the whole Church lives it with ever more fervor.
Faith in the Eucharist
Attention to the Word
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council
Missale Romanum, Institutio generalis Missalis Romani, Ed.
typica tertia, Typis Vaticanis 2002 (= IGMR)
Documents of John Paul II
Ecclesia de Eucharistia (April 17th, 2003)
Paul VI, Encyclical Letter
Mysterium fidei (September 3rd, 1965)
1. The horizon opened by the Year of the Eucharist refers to and promotes a long term activity, which unites the various dimensions of life in Christ and in the Church. The Eucharist is not another “theme” among others; it is the very heart of Christian life. “The celebration of the Mass, in as much as it is the action of Christ and of the hierarchically ordered people of God, constitutes the center of the entire Christian life, both for the universal and local Churches, as well as for the individual faithful. The Mass is at once the very pinnacle of God's action, whereby he sanctifies the world in Christ; and of man’s worship of the Father, adoring him through Christ his Son, in the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, in it, the Church commemorates the mysteries of redemption throughout the course of the year, so as to make them truly present in a certain manner. All the other sacred actions, and every activity in the Christian life are in strict relation with the Mass, from which they stem, and towards which they are ordered” (Institutio generalis Missalis Romani = IGMR, 16).
For this reason, the Eucharistic emphasis of this special year causes the Church to enumerate some of the fundamental activities in its life, seen both as a group, and as separately listed. The Holy Father highlighted this interpretive key by placing the initiative within a complete pastoral plan, which was proposed to the Church in Christological-Trinitarian terms during the years of preparation for the Jubilee year. This process gradually “unfolded” during the years following the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte. “The Year of the Eucharist is placed upon a background that, year in and year out, has become enriched, yet always maintaining the theme of Christ and the contemplation of his Face. In a certain sense, this year presents itself as a year of synthesis, a sort of culmination of the entire journey.” (Mane nobiscum Domine, 10).
Assuming this conclusion, the programming of initiatives during this year ought to take into account the diverse possibilities considered, and seek to stimulate the Church from various perspectives. In this chapter we propose to bring to mind, as synthetically as possible, a few theological–pastoral “perspectives” that would sketch out what could be called a “reference chart” for the suggestions and proposals that follow.
Faith in the Eucharist
2. “The Mystery of Faith” (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, ch. I). The Eucharist can be understood in the light of Biblical Revelation and Ecclesial Tradition. At the same time, reference to both of these elements is necessary so that the Eucharist can reveal its characteristic of “mystery of light” (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, ch. II), in some way allowing us to relive the “path of faith” described in the Gospel account of the two “disciples of Emmaus” which the Holy Father has chosen as “icon” for this Year of the Eucharist. Thus, the Eucharist is a mystery of light in as much as it supposes and implies the light of the Word of God, as well as the fact that the very “breaking of bread” shines a light upon the mystery of the Trinitarian God: in the very Paschal event of Christ’s death and resurrection, and consequently in his Eucharistic “memorial”, God reveals His being the God of love as His supreme trait.
The Year of the Eucharist presents itself above all as a period of intense catechesis about the Eucharist as believed by the Church. This catechesis should present the following:
* Sacred Scripture, taking from the texts concerning the “preparation” of this Mystery in the Old Testament and from the texts of the New Testament that regard the institution of the Eucharist as well as its various dimensions (cf., for example, the texts indicated in the Lectionary for the votive mass of the Holy Eucharist).
* Tradition: from the Fathers of the Church to the subsequent theological or magisterial developments, with particular attention to the Council of Trent, Vatican Council II and to recent documents of the Magisterium. The catechetical itineraries that each particular Church elaborates will find an authoritative and illuminative point of reference for this purpose in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
* Mytagogy: that is, a profound introduction into the mystery celebrated, by means of an explanation of the rites and prayers in the Ordo Missae and in the De sacra communione et de cultu mysterii eucharistici extra Missam.
* The riches offered by the history of spirituality: in particular how the Eucharist was believed and celebrated, as shown in the expressions of the saints. (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 62);
* Sacred art as a witness of faith in the Eucharistic mystery.
Eucharistic celebration and worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass
3. Received from and instituted by Christ, the Eucharist is celebrated by the Church according to established form (cf. IGMR and Prefaces to the Ordo Lectionum Missae). Eucharistic worship outside of the Mass is closely linked to its celebration, and ordered to it.
“A concrete task for this Year of the Eucharist, could be to study the Institutio Generalis of the Missale Romanum in depth in every parish community. The privileged way to be introduced into the mystery of salvation that is acted out in the holy “signs” rests upon faithfully following the progress of the Liturgical Year.” (Mane nobiscum Domine, 17).
Desiring to give simple “thematic” indications for pastoral workers, a few aspects are mentioned, around which one is invited to “examine oneself” with particular attention. The finality of this is to bring us to a more dignified celebration and a more fervent adoration of the Eucharistic Mystery. Taking into account the above-mentioned documents, the recent Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum would be of particular help. The following aspects should be considered:
* The place of celebration: church, altar, ambo, location of the presiding
During this Year of the Eucharist, it would be of particular interest to review each of these points. Of course, it is not easy to reach the loftiest goals set forth in each community’s pastoral life, but we ought to work towards them. “If the fruit of this year were only to revitalize in all the Christian communities the celebration of the Sunday Mass and to increase Eucharistic adoration outside of the Mass, this year of grace would have attained a significant result. Yet it is good to fix one’s gaze upon the heights and not to be content with mediocre measures, because we can always be assured of God’s help”. (Mane nobiscum Domine, 29).
4. In the Apostolic Letter Spiritus et Sponsa for the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Pope predicted that a “Eucharistic Spirituality” would develop within the Church. This is the perspective of a liturgy that nourishes and directs existence, shaping that which is lived by the believer into authentic “spiritual worship” (cf. Rom 12:1). Without this nurturing of a “Eucharistic Spirituality”, liturgical practice becomes easily reduced to “ritualism” that cancels the grace that pours forth from the celebration.
This is particularly applicable to the Eucharist: “The Church lives from the Eucharist”. The Eucharistic celebration is truly at the service of the life in Christ, in the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus it is necessary to take care to pass from the Eucharist celebrated, to the Eucharist lived: from the mystery that is lived to the renewal of life. For this reason, the present aid also offers a chapter highlighting Eucharistic spirituality. While still in this initial reference chart it would be useful to point out a few particularly significant points:
* The Eucharist is culmen et fons (the height and font) of the spiritual life itself, beyond the many other spiritual approaches;
* Regular reception of the Eucharist sustains the corresponding grace for single vocations and ways of life (ordained ministers; spouses and parents; consecrated persons…) and illumines the various situations of life (joys and sorrows, problems and projects, sickness and trials…);
* Charity, concord and brotherly love are fruits of the Eucharist and manifest the union with Christ that has taken place in the sacrament. At the same time, the exercise of charity in the state of grace is the condition by which one can fully celebrate the Eucharist. This is the “font”, but also an “epiphany” of communion (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, ch. III);
* The company of Christ among us inspires daily testimony, and furthers the building up of the earthy city: The Eucharist is our principle and mission plan (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, ch. IV).
Mary: icon of the “Eucharistic” Church
5. “If we wish to rediscover in all its richness the profound relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, we cannot neglect Mary, Mother and model of the Church.” Thus does the sixth chapter of the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia exhort us, where John Paul II recalls the profound relation that Mary possesses with the Eucharist and with the Church that lives from the Sacrament of the altar. The encounter with “God with us and for us” includes the Virgin Mary.
The Year of the Eucharist is a favorable occasion to intensify our reflection on this facet of the Mystery. So as more profoundly to live the sense of the Eucharistic Celebration, in order that it mark our lives, there is no better way than to let oneself be “taught” by Mary, “woman of the Eucharist”.
Apropos, it is important to remember what the Pope said in Rosarium Virginis Mariae n. 15, concerning the act of “being conformed to Christ with Mary”: she “enables us to enter naturally into Christ's life and as it were to share his deepest feelings.” On the other hand – the Pope continues in Ecclesia de Eucharistia – in the Eucharistic Celebration, in a certain sense, we always receive, along with the memorial of the death of Christ, the gift of Mary, a gift made to us at the foot of the cross in the person of John (Behold your mother: Jn. 19:27): “Experiencing the memorial of Christ's death in the Eucharist also means continually receiving this gift. It means accepting – like John – the one who is given to us anew as our Mother. It also means taking on a commitment to be conformed to Christ, putting ourselves at the school of his Mother and allowing her to accompany us. Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 57).
This year, these themes merit being the object of special meditation. (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 31).
Concerning the celebration of the Eucharist in communion with Mary, refer to the Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine, Praenotanda, 12-18.
The Saints as Witnesses of Eucharistic life
6. In Novo Millennio ineunte, n.30, the Pope invites all to place this pastoral journey into the perspective of sanctity. This invitation takes on special value in a year completely built up around to Eucharistic Spirituality. The Eucharist makes us saints, and their can be no sanctity that is not enveloped in Eucharistic life. “The one who feeds on me will have life because of me” (Jn. 6:57).
The truth of this is witnessed to by the “sensus fidei” of the entire people of God. In particular, there is special testimony of this given by the Saints, in whom the Paschal mystery of Christ stands out. John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 62: “Let us take our place, dear brothers and sisters, at the school of the Saints, who are the great interpreters of true Eucharistic piety. In them the theology of the Eucharist takes on all the splendor of a lived reality; it becomes “contagious” and, in a manner of speaking, it ‘warms our hearts’.” This is true for all the Saints.
A few of them lived this dimension with a particular intensity and with special gifts from the Spirit, communicating to their brothers this same fervor of love for the Eucharist. (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 31). There are innumerable examples: St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Ambrose, St. Bernard and St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Pasquale Baylón and St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Theresa of Avila, St. Peter Julian Eymard and St. Pio of Pietrelcina. There are even “martyrs of the Eucharist”, ancient and modern, from St. Tarsicius to St. Nicolas Pieck and companions, and St. Peter Maldonado.
The Year of the Eucharist will offer us a chance to rediscover these “witnesses”, whether they be renown by the Universal Church within the particular Churches. It is desirable that theological research deal with the saints, since what they lived is a significant “locus theologicus”: in the Saints “God speaks to us” (cf. Lumen Gentium, 50) and their spiritual experience (cf. Dei Verbum, 8), guaranteed by ecclesial discernment, shed light upon the Mystery. Walking in their light and in their footsteps it will be made easier to assure that this Year of grace be truly fruitful.
7. The Eucharist is at the center of the sacramental economy, as the culmination of Christian initiation. The Eucharist enlightens the other sacraments and it is their meeting-point. The very structure of the ritual makes the possibility available, or stipulates – excepting the sacrament of Reconciliation – that the sacraments be inserted into the Eucharistic Celebration (cf. Praenotanda of the various Rites; Redemptionis Sacramentum, 75-76).
The Liturgy of the Hours can be harmonized with the Eucharistic Celebration (cf. IGLH, 93-97).
Even the sacramentals, as in the case of the Blessing of an abbot, the Religious Profession, the Consecration of Virgins, the Conferring of Instituted or Extraordinary Ministries, funeral rites find their normal context within the Mass. The dedication of a Church or of the Altar takes place during the Mass.
There are even blessings that can be done during the Mass. (cf. Ordo coronandi imaginem Beatae Mariae Virginis; De Benedictionibus, 28).
It is true that there are blessings, acts of worship and devotional practices, that are not to be done during the Mass (cf. De Benedictionibus, 28; De sacra communione, 83; Redemptionis Sacramentum, 75-79; Directory on Popular Piety, 13, 204). Yet it is none the less true that no Christian prayer can exist without referring to the Eucharist, the supreme prayer of the Church, and indispensable for Christians. The many forms of private prayer as well as the various expressions of popular piety accomplish their true sense by preparing for the Eucharistic celebration and in prolonging its effects in one’s life.
We would now like to recall a few days, periods and ways of praying which refer to the Eucharist:
8. Sunday is the “original feast day”, “foundation and core of the whole liturgical year” (SC, 106). “When its significance and implications are understood in their entirety, Sunday in a way becomes a synthesis of the Christian life and a condition for living it well.” (Dies Domini, 81).
It is the day of Christ, and thus brings with it the memory of him who is the very foundation of the Christian faith. (cf. 1Cor. 15: 14-19). “As the day of Resurrection, Sunday is not only the remembrance of a past event: it is a celebration of the living presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of his own people. For this presence to be properly proclaimed and lived, it is not enough that the disciples of Christ pray individually and commemorate the death and Resurrection of Christ inwardly, in the secrecy of their hearts. (…) It is important therefore that they come together to express fully the very identity of the Church, the ekklesia, the assembly called together by the Risen Lord” (Dies Domini, 31). The Eucharistic Celebration is in fact the heart of Sunday.
The connection between the Risen One and the Eucharist is especially shown in the account of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk. 24:13-35), as they are guided by Christ Himself to enter intimately into the mystery by listening to the Word and in communion with the “breaking of bread” (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine). The gestures completed by Jesus: “He took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them” (Lk. 24:30), are the same as those he performed during the Last Supper, and which he incessantly performs, through His priests, in our Eucharist.
The particular character of the Sunday Mass, and the importance it takes on for the Christian life, demand that it be prepared with great attention, so that it be perceived as an epiphany of the Church (cf. Dies Domini, 34-36; Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 41, Novo Millennio ineunte, 36), and distinguish itself as a joyful and sung celebration with participation and involvement. (cf. Dies Domini, 50-51).
Reviving the Sunday Mass in the community ought to be the first task in this special year. If at least this goal is reached, along with an increase in Eucharistic adoration outside of the Mass, the Year of the Eucharist will have already achieved a significant result (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 23 and 29).
The Easter Vigil and communion
9. The Easter Vigil is at the heart of the liturgical year. In this feast, the Eucharistic Celebration is “the zenith, being the sacrament of Easter in its fullest sense, that is the memory of the sacrifice of the cross and the presence of the risen Christ, the completion of Christian initiation, and the promise of the eternal Easter” (Letter of Easter Celebrations, 90).
Upon recommending that the Eucharistic liturgy of the Paschal vigil not be celebrated in haste, making sure to give all of the rites and words their maximum expression, especially the Eucharistic communion, which is the moment of complete participation in the mystery celebrated during this holy night, it is advisable – leaving up to the decision of the diocesan Ordinary the evaluation of the opportuneness and circumstances, with complete respect for the liturgical norms (cf. Redemptionis Sacramentum, 100-107) – that the fullness of the Eucharistic sign received in the Paschal Vigil, be expressed by communion under the species of the bread and wine (cf. Letter of Paschal celebrations, 91 and 92).
The Easter octave is, as are the Sundays of the Easter season, of particular importance for the neophytes (cf. Ordo initiationis christianae adultorum, 37-40 e 235-239). It is customary for children to make their first communion during these Sundays. (cf. Letter of Paschal celebrations, 103). It is also recommended that communion be brought to the sick, especially during the Easter octave. (Letter of Paschal celebrations, 104).
During the Easter season, pastors ought to remind all of the meaning of the Church’s precept to receive Holy Communion during this sacred period (cf. C.I.C. can. 920). Proceeding in such a way will help to avoid that the precept be perceived in a minimalist sense, but rather as a necessary and convinced participation in the Eucharist, that involves one’s whole life and ought to be expressed, at least every Sunday.
10. The importance of the Chrism Mass which, according to tradition, is celebrated on the Thursday of Holy Week (for pastoral motives this Holy Mass can be transferred to another day as long as it is close to Easter: cf. Caeremoniale Episcoporum, 275) is well known. Besides inviting the priests from the various parts of the diocese to concelebrate with the Bishop, it is also continuously advised that the faithful participate in this Mass as well, and receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist during the celebration (cf. Letter of Paschal celebrations, 35).
In order to remind us – especially priests – about the mystery of Holy Thursday, from the beginning of his pontificate, the Holy Father John Paul II has always written a Letter to priests (in the year 2003 he wrote the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia).
Because of the special meaning of this day (cf. Caeremoniale Epicoporum, 97), all our attention ought to be focused on the mysteries that are remembered during the celebration of the “Last Supper of the Lord”: the institution of the Eucharist, The institution of the ministerial priesthood, and the commandment of the Lord concerning brotherly charity.
Opportune pastoral and festive indications are given for the evening Mass of Holy Thursday, such as Eucharistic processions and Eucharistic adoration afterwards, and can be consulted in the Letter of Paschal celebrations, 44-57 or in the Directory on popular piety, 141.
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
11. This feast, “extended to the entire Latin Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264, constitutes on the one hand, a response in the faith and in worship to heretical teachings regarding the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and on the other hand was the crowning moment in an entire history of ardent devotion towards the august Sacrament of the altar.” (Directory of Popular Piety, 160).
The Solemnity of Corpus Christi has inspired new forms of Eucharistic piety in the people of God, even up until our current day (cf. Directory of Popular Piety, 160-163). Amongst these forms of piety, the Eucharistic procession which prolongs the Eucharistic celebration so that the Christian people “render unto the Blessed Sacrament a public witness of faith and veneration,” (De sacra communione, 101; cf. CIC, can. 944) is particularly noteworthy. As such, “The traditional Corpus Christi procession should be lived with particular devotion in this year. Faith in the God who, in becoming incarnate, made himself our traveling companion, should be proclaimed everywhere, particularly in our streets and amongst our houses as an expression of our grateful love, and as a fount of inexhaustible blessings” (Mane nobiscum Domine, 18).
The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus might also assume a markedly eucharistic character.
The Eucharistic Celebration and the Liturgy of the Hours
12. The Liturgy of the Hours extends the Eucharistic mystery, “center and pinnacle of the Christian Community’s entire life,” throughout the day. This it does by its praise and thanksgiving, by recalling the mysteries of salvation, and by its prayers of petition as a foretaste of heavenly glory.
The Liturgy of the Hours is also an excellent means of preparation for the Eucharistic celebration inasmuch as by it are fostered those dispositions most necessary for the fruitful celebration of the Eucharist, such as faith, hope, charity, devotion, and the desire for abnegation of self” (IGLH, 12).
When circumstances permit, a tighter union between the Mass and Divine Office can be allowed, for example, incorporating Lauds, Midday Prayer or Vespers into the Eucharistic Liturgy, as per the indications and norms according to time and place (cf. IGLH, 93-97).
13. The admirable practice of gathering in prayer before the tabernacle, to adore Christ truly present therein, was born of the need to reserve the Lord’s Sacred Body for Communion for the sick and infirm. Recommended by the Church to her Pastors and her faithful, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is highly expressive of the bond between the celebration of the Lord’s Sacrifice and his permanent presence in the consecrated Host (cf. De sacra communione, 79-100; Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 25; Mysterium fidei; Redemptionis Sacramentum, 129-141).
By remaining in prayer before the Lord Jesus, truly living in the Blessed Sacrament, not only is our union with him matured, but we are better disposed to more fruitfully celebrate it and to prolong those existential and reverential attitudes raised by it.
These are expressed by the Church’s tradition in different ways:
- Simple visits to the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle: a brief encounter with Christ spurred on by faith in his true presence, and characterized by silent prayer;
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, exposed, as per liturgical norms, in the monstrance or pix, be it for shorter or longer durations of time;
- Perpetual adoration, the Quarant’Ore Devotion or other such forms which gather together an entire religious community, Eucharistic association or parish community, and which furnish the occasion for numerous expressions of Eucharistic piety (cf. Directory of Popular Piety, 165).
14. - Adoration and Sacred Scripture. “The prayers, hymns and chants used during Eucharistic exposition should all lead the faithful to focus their piety upon Christ the Lord. Readings of Sacred Scripture, together with a homily or brief exhortation moving the faithful to deepen in the Eucharistic mystery, may be used to increase the intimacy of their prayer. In such cases, it is recommendable that the faithful respond in song, and when appropriate, that they observe sacred silence,” (De sacra communione, 95).
15. - Adoration and the Liturgy of the Hours. “Part of the Liturgy of the Hours may also be celebrated before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed for a given length of time. This is particularly true of the celebration of the principal Hours. In such a celebration, in fact, the praise and thanksgiving which the Eucharistic Celebration and the Church render unto Christ – and by means of him, unto the Father in the name of the whole world – is extended throughout the day (De sacra communione, 96).
16. - Adoration and the Rosary. The Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae has already helped us overcome a certain vision of the Rosary as a strictly “Marian” prayer, by inviting us to value its eminently Christological character, in contemplating the mysteries of Christ through the eyes and heart of Mary. This it does both in communion with her, and in imitation of her example.
While it remains true that during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament one should not practice other devotions in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the Saints (cf. Directory of Popular Piety, 165), it should be understood, however, that the Magisterium does not exclude the Rosary: it is precisely by virtue of this Christocentric character that it is emphasized and developed. With a view to the upcoming Year of the Eucharist the Pope wrote: “The Rosary, understood in its deepest Biblical and Christocentric meaning which I recommended in the Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, can be a particularly adept means of Eucharistic contemplation in company with, and in the school of Mary” (Mane nobiscum Domine 18; cf. Redemptionis Sacramentum, 137; Directory of Popular Piety,165). As such, the pastoral elements offered in chapter 3 of Rosarium Virginis Mariae should be rediscovered and promoted. The reading of a Biblical passage; the meditative silence; the Christological clause following the name of Jesus in the center of the Hail Mary; the singing of the Gloria; a suitable conclusive prayer directed to Christ, possibly in the form of a litany – all of these favor the contemplative attitude which qualifies prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, reserved in the tabernacle or exposed. Hurriedly reciting the Rosary, not leaving sufficient space for the meditation of the mysteries or an insufficient Christological orientation are all elements hindering the encounter with Christ, truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar.
The Litanies of the Blessed Virgin, which are not necessarily bound to the recitation of the Rosary (cf. Directory of Popular Piety, 203), may be more opportunely replaced by litanies directed to the person of Christ (for example, the Litanies of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or of the Precious Blood of Christ).
17. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Processions and Eucharistic adoration normally finish with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament by the priest or deacon. Once this has taken place, the other ministers or persons in charge of the exposition repose the Blessed Sacrament within the tabernacle (cf. De sacra communione, 91).
Since Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament is not a form of Eucharistic devotion by itself, it should be preceded by a brief exposition, with a convenient period of prayer and silence. “Exposition with the sole end of imparting the Benediction is prohibited,” (De sacra communione, 89).
18. Eucharistic processions through the city streets help the faithful feel themselves to be the people of God, together with their Lord, proclaiming their faith in “God with us and for us” (cf. Redemptionis Sacramentum, 142-144; Directory of Popular Piety, 162-163). This is particularly true of the Eucharistic procession par excellence, that of Corpus Christi.
During these processions, care must be taken that the norms guaranteeing the dignity of the celebration and the necessary reverence toward the Blessed Sacrament are observed; and that the decorations used in the streets, the offering of flowers, the hymns and the prayers all manifest the people’s faith in, and praise of the Lord (cf. De sacra communione, 101-108).
19. Signs of faith and charity, and wholly unique manifestations of Eucharistic worship, Eucharistic congresses “should be considered a sort of ‘statio,’ that is, a sort of pause for prayer in which a community invites the Universal Church – or a local Church invites the other Churches in either the same region or nation, or in the entire world – to deepen together in the consideration of some aspect of the Eucharistic mystery, showing it public veneration in the bond of charity and unity” (De sacra communione, 109).
In order faithfully to carry this out, reference can be made to the indications made for their preparation and development in De sacra communione, 110-112.
20. A discourse on Eucharistic spirituality would require much more than these pages could propose. In effect, we will limit ourselves to a few “suggestions,” in the hope that the particular Churches take up the subject, providing their own stimuli and a broader space for specific initiatives of catechesis and formation. It is important that the Eucharist be understood not only in the aspects of its celebration, but also as a life-project, and that it be the base of an authentic “Eucharistic spirituality”.
The Year of the Eucharist is a propitious moment to broaden our horizons from the typical aspects of the Eucharistic celebration. Precisely because it is the heart of Christian life, the Eucharist does not finish within the Church walls, but needs to enter into the lives of those who participate in it. The sacrament of the Body of Christ is gratuitously given for the building up of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. The Eucharistic dispositions in which we are educated in the celebration of the Mass should be cultivated in the spiritual life, keeping in mind each person’s particular vocation and state of life. The Eucharist is truly the necessary nourishment for all believers in Christ, without distinction of age or condition.
The following considerations lay out a few suggestions for reflection, parting from some expressions used by the Liturgy, and particularly by the Latin text of the Missal. We would therefore like to underline how a liturgical spirituality is characterized by its foundation in the signs, rites and words of the celebration, and how it finds there a source of sure and abundant nourishment.
21. Listening to the Word
After reading from Sacred Scripture, the expression Verbum Domini – the Word of the Lord! – recalls the importance of what proceeds from the mouth of God, and makes us hear it not as something “distant” from us, however inspired it may be, but as the living word by which God addresses us. We are in the context of a true “dialogue of God with his people, a dialogue in which the marvels of salvation are proclaimed to us, and the demands of the Covenant continually re-proposed…” (Dies Domini, 41).
The Liturgy of the Word is a constitutive part of the Eucharist (cf. SC, 56; Dies Domini, 39-41). We gather together in the liturgical assembly to listen to what the Lord has to say to us – to each and every one of us. He speaks here and now, to those of us who listen to him with faith, believing that he alone has the words of eternal life, that his word is a lamp for our feet.
To participate in the Eucharist means to listen to the Lord so as to act in accordance with what he reveals to us, asks of us, and desires of our lives. The fruit of listening to the God who speaks to us through the Church when we listen to the Scriptures (cf. SC, 7) is matured in our day to day experience (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 13).
Attentiveness to the word spoken is at the beginning of the spiritual life. To believe in Christ is to listen to his word and put it into practice. It is docility to the voice of the Holy Spirit, the interior Master who guides us to the whole truth – not only to the truth to be known, but also to the truth to be lived out.
In order truly to listen to the Lord in the Liturgy of the Word, we need to learn how to “listen with the heart”. This capacity to “listen with the heart” requires that we set aside specific moments of the day, and not just our leftover scraps of time, to dedicate ourselves to reading Sacred Scripture. And so that the message heard in the Eucharistic Celebration not be lost the moment we leave the Church doors, it is convenient to find ways to prolong the hearing of God’s word, which he speaks to us in a thousand different ways through the circumstances of daily life, throughout the day.
Agnoscamus peccata nostra ut apti simus ad sacra mysteria celebranda.
Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison
As the above cited texts make clear, the penitential dimension is clearly present in the Eucharistic Celebration. This dimension does not only emerge during the penitential rite at the beginning of the Mass, with its various formulas invoking the Divine Mercy, but also emerges in the supplication to Christ in the Gloria, in the chanting of the Agnus Dei during the breaking of the bread, and in the prayer we direct to the Lord before participating in the Eucharistic banquet.
The Eucharist purifies the penitent’s heart and stimulates him to conversion, making him aware of his own miseries and moving him to seek God’s pardon. It must be stated, however, that this penitential aspect in no way substitutes the need for sacramental confession, which remains the only ordinary means whereby grave sin is forgiven, and the sinner is reconciled with God and with the Church.
This spiritual disposition should prolong itself throughout the day, sustained by the examination of conscience – that is, by the confrontation of our thoughts, words, works and omissions with the Gospel of Jesus.
Seeing our miseries clearly, as they are, frees us from attitudes of self-pity, maintains us in the truth before God, moves us to profess the mercy of the Heavenly Father, reveals to us the proper path to follow, and leads us to the Sacrament of Penance. This, in turn, then leads us to attitudes of praise and thanksgiving. Finally, a proper examination of conscience helps us to be benevolent towards our neighbors, to share in their fragility, and to pardon them. Christ’s monition to be reconciled with our brother before bringing our gift to the altar (cf. Mt 5,23–24), and Paul’s warning to examine one’s conscience before taking part in the Eucharist (“a person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup,” 1Cor 11:28), should be taken seriously. Without this penitential dimension, the Eucharist is weakened in one of its most profound dimensions.
Memores igitur, Domine, eiusdem Filii tui salutiferae passionis necnon mirabilis resurrectionis et ascensionis in caelum (Eucharistic Prayer III).
“If from the beginning Christians have celebrated the Eucharist and in a form whose substance has not changed despite the great diversity of times and liturgies, it is because we know ourselves to be bound by the command the Lord gave on the eve of his Passion: “Do this in remembrance of me” (CCC, 1356).
The Eucharist is, in a specific sense, “memorial” of the Lord’s death and resurrection. In celebrating the Eucharist, the Church celebrates the memorial of Christ, of all he has said and done, of his incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. In it the Church commemorates the memorial of all of salvation history, prefigured in the Old Testament.
It commemorates all that God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – has done for humanity, from the act of creation to mankind’s “re-creation” in Christ, awaiting his return, in which he will recapitulate all things in himself at the end of time.
The Eucharistic “memorial” urges us gratefully to recognize all the gifts received from God in Christ. It gives rise to a life marked by “gratitude,” springing from a sense of “gratuity,” and leading to a sense of “responsibility”.
In effect, remembering all that God has done for us nourishes our spiritual path. The prayer of the Our Father reminds us that we are sons of the Heavenly Father, brothers of Jesus, and sealed by the Holy Spirit who has been poured out into our hearts.
By remembering the gifts of nature (life, health, family...) we are moved to value them each with gratitude.
By remembering the gifts of grace (baptism and the other sacraments; the Christian virtues...) we are moved not only to thank God for them, but to put these talents to work, not letting them go to waste, but multiplying and fructifying them.
Hoc est Corpus meum. Hic est calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni Testamenti
Te igitur, clementissime Pater, per Iesum Christum, Filium tuum, Dominum nostrum, supplices rogamus ac petimus, uti accepta habeas et benedicas haec dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia illibata.
Memento, Domine, …omnium circustantium, quorum tibi fides cognita est et nota devotio, pro quibus tibi offerimus: vel qui tibi offerunt hoc sacrificium laudis.
Hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostrae, sed et cunctae familiae tuae (Eucharistic Prayer I).
Offerimus tibi, gratias referentes, hoc sacrificium vivum et sanctum (Eucharistic Prayer III)
The Eucharist is the sacrament of Christ’s Paschal sacrifice. From the moment of the Incarnation up until his last breath upon the Cross, the life of Jesus is an incessant holocaust, a constant handing over of himself to the Father’s will. This sacrifice reaches its high point on Calvary: As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out (Lumen Gentium, 3; CCC, 1364).
This unique and eternal sacrifice is made truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar. In truth, The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice (CCC, 1367).
To this sacrifice, the Church adds its own sacrifice, so as to become one body and one spirit in Christ, of which sacramental Communion is a sign (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11-16).
Participation in the Eucharist, obedience to the Gospel we hear, eating the Lord’s Body and drinking his Blood mean to make of our lives a pleasing sacrifice to God: per Christum, et cum Christo et in Christo.
Just as the ritual action of the Eucharist is based upon Christ’s sacrifice, “offered once and for all during the days of his earthly existence” (cf. Heb. 5:7-9), which it sacramentally represents, so our participation in the celebration should be accompanied by the offering of our very existence. In the Eucharist, the Church offers the sacrifice of Christ, offering itself together with him (cf. SC 48; IGMR, 79, f; Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 13).
The sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist is therefore a life commitment. From it stems the spirituality of sacrifice, of gift of self, of gratuity and of oblation demanded by authentic Christian living.
The bread and wine we bring to the altar represent our existence: the sufferings and the pledge of living Christ-like lives, according to the commandment he gave his disciples.
Our, “Here am I,” by which we let him think, speak and work in us is represented by our communion in the Body and Blood of Christ.
This is the root of the Eucharistic spirituality of sacrifice which should permeate our day: our work, our relationships, the thousand daily occupations; the commitment to live out our vocations as spouses, parents, children; the dedication to the entrusted ministry of our bishops, priests and deacons; the testimony of consecrated persons; the “Christian” sense of physical pain and moral sufferings; the responsibility to build up the earthly city in its various dimensions, according to the light of Gospel values.
Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare,
On the night in which he suffered, the night in which he instituted the sacrament of his Paschal sacrifice, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples… Jesus’ thanksgiving is re-lived in every Eucharistic celebration.
The term, “Eucharist” comes from the Greek term for “thanksgiving” (cf. CCC, 1328). This dimension emerges clearly in the dialogue introducing the Eucharistic Prayer. When the priest invites the faithful, “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God,” they respond, “It is right to give him thanks and praise.” The exordium of the Eucharistic prayer is always characterized by a formula which states the purpose of the gathering: “Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks…”
In expressing what takes place in the celebration, these formulas also express an attitude that cannot be lacking in those who have been regenerated in Christ. Thanksgiving is proper to whomever has been gratuitously loved, renewed, and pardoned. We do well to thank God always (time) and everywhere (space).
In this way a spirituality of true thanksgiving for the gifts received from God (life, health, family, the vocation, baptism, etc…) is irradiated.
This gratitude towards God is not only something for life’s great occasions, but is something we should always live. The saints thanked God in the midst of their trials, in the hour of martyrdom (St. Cyprian gave instructions to pay his executioner 25 gold pieces – cf. The Acts of the Martyrs, 3-6, Office of Readings for September 16th), and for the grace of the Cross… For whoever lives a Eucharistic spirit, every life-circumstance becomes an opportunity to thank God (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 26).
Thanking God always and “everywhere”: Wherever our daily affairs take us, at home, at work, in the hospital, at school…
The Eucharist also teaches us to unite ourselves in thanksgiving to all the Christians spread out throughout the world, thus uniting our thanksgiving to that of Christ himself.
26. Christ’s Presence
Laus, tibi Christe.
Mortem tuam annuntiamus, Domine, et tuam resurrectionem confitemur, donec venias.
Ecce Agnus Dei… Domine, non sum dignus…
“The principal ways by which Christ is present in the Church are gradually revealed in the Mass. He is present firstly in the assembly of the faithful, gathered in his name; he is present in his word, which is read in the Church and commented upon in the Homily; he is present in the minister; he is present finally, and above all else, in the Eucharistic species – a totally unique presence because in the sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ is wholly and entirely present, God and man, substantially and without interruption. It is precisely for this reason that the presence of Christ in the sacred species is called real: ‘This presence is called “real” not to exclude the idea that the others are “real” too, but rather to indicate presence par excellence’” (Mysterium fidei, 39) (De sacra communione, 6).
“There is a particular need to cultivate a lively awareness of Christ's real presence, both in the celebration of Mass and in the worship of the Eucharist outside Mass. Care should be taken to show that awareness through tone of voice, gestures, posture and bearing.” (Mane nobiscum Domine, 18).
As a visible sign of invisible realities, sacraments contain what they signify. The Eucharist is first and foremost an opus Dei. The Lord speaks and works, here and now, for us, by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. CCC, 1373). We express our faith in his real presence by means of the our professions of faith after having listened to the Word: Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ; and before receiving him in Communion: Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, say but the word, and I shall be healed.
The Eucharistic celebration should lead us to exclaim, as did the Apostles after having encountered him risen: We have seen the Lord! (Jn. 20:25). Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ is communion with the Risen One, foretaste of immortality, pledge of future glory.
The presence, warmth and light of God should remain in us and shine forth in our entire lives. Communion with Christ helps us to “see” the signs of the Divine presence in the world, and to “manifest” it to all whom we encounter.
27. Communion and Charity
Una voce dicentes.
Concede, ut, qui Corpore et Sanguine Filii tui reficimur, Spiritu eius Sancto repleti, unum corpus et unus spiritus inveniamur in Christo (Eucharistic Prayer III).
The Ordo Missae begins with the words, Populo congregato. The sign of the Cross at the beginning of the Mass manifests that the Church is the people gathered together in the name of the Trinity.
They gather together, in the same place, to celebrate the sacred mysteries and to respond to the Heavenly Father who calls his children to himself in Christ, in the love of the Holy Spirit.
The Eucharist is not a private action, but the action of Christ who always associates the Church to himself with an indissoluble marital bond (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, ch. III).
In the Liturgy of the Word, we hear the same Divine Word, source of communion for all those who put it into practice.
In the Eucharistic liturgy we offer up our lives – which we offer together with the whole Church who, in its sacred mysteries, disposes us to enter into communion with Christ in our presentation of bread and wine.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s sacrifice is made present in the offering of the Church (Look with favour on your Church’s offering, and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to Yourself): a spiritual offering, pleasing to the Father, through Christ, with Christ and in Christ.
The fruit of this association with the “living and holy sacrifice” is represented in sacramental communion: “Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ” (Eucharistic Prayer III).
This is the perennial source of ecclesial communion illustrated by St. John with the analogy of the vine and the branches, and by St. Paul with the image of the body. The Eucharist makes the Church (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia), filling it with God’s charity and spurring it on to live this same charity. That is why the offering of other goods or money for the poor, along with the gifts of bread and wine, serves as a reminder that the Eucharist is also a pledge of solidarity and a commitment to share our goods with others. This was the motivation behind the Holy Father’s sorrowful appeal: “Can we not make this Year of the Eucharist an occasion for diocesan and parish communities to commit themselves in a particular way to responding with fraternal solicitude to one of the many forms of poverty present in our world?” (Mane nobiscum Domine, 28).
Liturgical prayer, although always involving single participants, is always addressed to “us”. It is the voice of the Spouse which praises and pleads, una voce dicentes.
The same attitudes taken up by the participants express the communion between members of a single organism. “The same (physical) posture, which all the faithful should maintain, is a sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community, gathered together for the sacred Liturgy. This unity at once manifests and favors the intentions and sentiments of those who take part in it.” (IGMR, 42).
The sign of peace before Communion (or before the gifts are presented on the altar, as in the Ambrosian rite) is expressive of the “ecclesial communion” needed to enter into sacramental communion with Christ. This Communion builds up the Church as the visible reflection of the communion enjoyed by the Holy Trinity (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 34).
The communion between spouses is modeled after, purified and nourished by participation in the Eucharist.
The ministry of the Church’s pastors and the docility of the faithful to the magisterium are colored by the Eucharist.
The union of the sick and infirm’s sufferings with those of Christ is sealed by their participation in the Eucharist.
Our sacramental reconciliation after having “lost our way” is crowned by Eucharistic communion.
The harmonious communion amongst multiple charisms, functions, services, groups, and movements within the Church is assured by the sacred mystery of the Eucharist.
Communion amon the different activities, services, and associations within a parish is manifested by their participation in the same Eucharist.
The social fabric, woven together by the threads of peace, mutual understanding, and concord in the earthly city are sustained by the sacrament of “God with us and for us.”
Quiesce in Domino et exspecta eum (Ps 37:7)
Silence is a necessary element for recollection, interiorization, and inner prayer within the rhythm of the liturgical celebration (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 18). It is not mere emptiness or absence, but rather presence, receptiveness, responsiveness to the God who both speaks to and works for us, here and now. “Remain in silence before the Lord,” Psalm 37 (36):7 reminds us.
The truth is that prayer, with its different aspects – praise, petition, invocation, exclamation, lamentation, thanksgiving – is built upon the foundation of silence.
Two moments of particular significance within the Eucharistic celebration are the silence after the reading of the Word of God (cf. Ordo Lectionum Missae, 28; IGMR 128, 130, 136), and above all, after Communion with the Body and Blood of the Lord (cf. IGMR ,164).
These moments of silence are prolonged, in a certain sense, even outside the liturgical celebration in prayerful visits – in adoration and contemplation – to the Blessed Sacrament.
The silence found in the monastic tradition, in the Spiritual Exercises and in days of retreat: are these not prolongations of that same silence which is so characteristic of the Eucharistic celebration, so that the Lord’s presence in us can bear fruit in our souls?
We need to progress from the experience of liturgical silence (cf. Apostolic Letter, Spiritus et Sponsa, 13) to the “spirituality” of silence – to life’s contemplative dimension. If not rooted in silence, the word can easily become dissipated, transformed into noise, or blunted.
Procidebant ante sedentem in trono et adorabant viventem in saecula saeculorum (Ap 4:10)
The physical postures assumed during the Eucharistic Celebration – whether standing, sitting or kneeling – express the attitudes of our hearts. Thus, the community at prayer transmits a whole spectrum of sentiments and dispositions.
The posture of standing expresses the filial liberty given us by the Risen Christ, who has freed us from slavery to sin. That of sitting expresses the open-hearted receptiveness of Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus to hear his word. And finally, the posture of kneeling or of bowing low expresses the recognition of our humility before the Almighty Lord (cf. Phil 2:10).
When the priest and the faithful genuflect before the Eucharist (cf. IGMR, 43), they express their faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the altar. (cf. CCC, 1387).
By reflecting here below, by means of sacred signs, that liturgy celebrated in the heavenly sanctuary, we imitate the heavenly host who, “fall down before the one who sits on the throne and worship him, who lives forever and ever” (Apoc. 4:10).
If we adore the God who is “with us and for us” in the Eucharistic celebration, this spiritual attitude should prolong itself throughout the day in all we think and do. The ever-insidious temptation in managing the affairs of this world is to bend our knees before other idols, and not only before God.
Jesus words in rejecting the devil’s temptations in the desert should become our own pattern of thought, speech and action: “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve” (Mt 4:10).
In kneeling before the Eucharist and adoring the Lamb who allows us to celebrate the Pasch with him, we are taught not to bow down before man-made idols, and we given the capacity to obey him whomwe recognize as the only Lord of the Church and the world in a spirit of fidelity, docility and veneration.
Et ideo, choris angelicis sociati,
Propter quod caelestia tibi atque terrestria
“Christian joy is, in its essence, a participation in the fathomless joy – at once divine and human – in the heart of the glorified Jesus Christ” (Gaudete in Domino, II) and this participation in the joy of the Lord “cannot be disociated from the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery” (ibid., IV), particularly from the Eucharistic celebration of the Dies Domini.
“The festive character of the Sunday Eucharist expresses the joy that Christ communicates to his Church through the gift of the Spirit. Joy is precisely one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 14:17; Gal 5:22)” (Dies Domini, 56).
Numerous aspects within the Mass highlight the joy of Christ’s encounter with the brothers, be it in the words spoken (for example, in the Gloria, or in the preface), the gestures used, or the festive climate presented (as expressed in the inviting atmosphere, the use of ornaments and flowers, and the musical accompaniment, according to Liturgical seasons).
One particular expression of this heartfelt joy is in the music used within the ceremony, which is not simply an external embellishment to the Eucharistic celebration (cf. IGMR, 39; Dies Domini, 50; Chirograph for the Centennial of the Motu Proprio Tra le sollecitudini on sacred music).
The heavenly assembly, to which the Eucharistic assembly unites itself in celebrating the sacred mysteries, joyfully sings the praises of the immolated and eternally living Lamb, because with him there are no more tears or sorrow.
The singing of the Mass, as opposed to simply singing “during” the Mass allows us to experience the Lord Jesus who comes to enter into communion with us, “so that [his] joy may be in [us] and [our] joy may be complete.” (cf. Jn 15:11; 16:24; 17:13). You fill us with joy, Lord, by your very presence!
The joy of the Eucharistic celebration reverberates throughout the Sunday, teaching us always to rejoice in the Lord; to experience the joy of encountering others in fraternity and friendship; to share the joy we have received as a gift (cf. Dies Domini, 55-58).
It would be contradictory for those who take part in the Eucharist to let themselves be carried away by sadness. On the one hand, Christian joy does not deny suffering, concern, or hurt – to do so would be laughable naivety. But on the other, it teaches us that the tears of sowing contain the joy of harvest. The sufferings of Good Friday cause us to await the joy of Easter morning.
The Eucharist educates us to communicate the joy found therein to others, without seeking to keep this joy we receive as a gift to ourselves. God with us and for us marks our sadness, sorrows and sufferings with the seal of his presence. In calling us to communion with himself, he consoles us in every hardship so that we too can console those who in any way suffer affliction (cf. 2Cor.1:4).
Vere Sanctus es, Domine,
Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus… Ite, missa est.
Made up of believers from every tongue, people and nation, the Church is fruit of the mission Jesus entrusted to the Apostles, and is permanently invested with the missionary mandate (cf. Mt 28:16-20). “From the perpetuation of the sacrifice of the Cross and her communion with the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, the Church draws the spiritual power needed to carry out her mission. The Eucharist thus appears as both the source and the summit of all evangelization, since its goal is the communion of mankind with Christ and in him with the Father and the Holy Spirit” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 22).
In the universal prayer, the Eucharistic Prayer, and in the prayers for various intentions during the Mass, the intercession of the Church which celebrates the sacred mysteries embraces the whole world – humanity’s joys and sorrows, the sufferings and cries of the poor, and the longings for justice and peace felt in every corner of the globe (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 27-28).
The rite of dismissal within the Mass is not simply an announcement that the liturgical action is coming to a close. The blessing preceding the final dismissal, especially in its solemn formulations, reminds us that we leave the Church building with the mandate to testify to the world that we are “Christians”. Pope John Paul II reminds us: “The dismissal at the end of each Mass is a charge given to Christians, inviting them to work for the spread of the Gospel and the imbuing of society with Christian values” (Mane nobiscum Domine, 24). In fact, the entire fourth chapter of the Apostolic Letter, Mane nobiscum Domine deals with the theme of the Eucharist as principle and project of the mission.
The encounter with Christ is not a talent to be buried, but is meant to bear fruit in both word and work. Evangelization and missionary witness separate like centrifugal forces from their center in the Eucharistic banquet (cf. Dies Domini, 45). The mission is to bring Christ into all the different facets of life, of work, and of suffering in a convincing manner, so that the Gospel spirit becomes leaven within history, and the “project” of human relations be marked by solidarity and peace. “How could the Church fulfill her vocation without cultivating a constant relationship with the Eucharist, without nourishing herself with this food which sanctifies, without founding her missionary activity on this indispensable support? To evangelize the world there is need of apostles who are ‘experts’ in the celebration, adoration and contemplation of the Eucharist.” (John Paul II, Message for the World Missionary Day 2004, 3).
How can Christ be announced unless we regularly come to know him in his holy mysteries?
How can we witness to him without first nourishing ourselves at the fount of Eucharistic communion with him?
How can we hope to participate in the Church’s mission, by overcoming our individualism, unless we foster the Eucharistic bond which unites us to every brother and sister in the faith, and in fact to every person?
The Eucharist can justly be called the bread of mission. A beautiful image in this sense is the bread which was given to Elijah, so that he could continue to carry out his mission without giving in to the difficulties which faced him in his path: “Then, strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.” (1Kings 19: 8).
32. The following suggestions are proposed with a mind to helping individual Bishops, Episcopal Conferences and Religious Superiors give clear indications for the fruitful realization of the Year of the Eucharist (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 5 and 29).
33. Bishops’ Conferences
- Should prepare materials and activities – especially where the individual diocese is not capable of doing so alone – highlighting the Year of the Eucharist, favoring reflection by the priests and the faithful, and facing the weighty doctrinal and pastoral problems related to the theme within their specific dioceses (the shortage of priests, a lessening of importance given to the celebration of daily Mass by some priests, estrangement from Sunday Mass, the abandonment of Eucharistic worship and devotion, etc…)
- Should consider the most useful type and quality of television or radio broadcasts of the Eucharistic celebration (cf. Dies Domini, 54), especially with a mind to helping those who are incapable of directly participating in the Mass. As such, the following should be taken into consideration: The correctness and good taste of the decorations used; the quality of the commentaries; and the beauty and dignity of the celebration, so as to avoid spreading doubtful practices or excessive emphasis on the elements of spectacle, to name but a few.
They should also take note of other forms of prayer transmitted via radio or television, so that, for example, adoration within the Church be favored, not allowing the faithful to content themselves with “televised” adoration services.
Should propose specific initiatives for the opening and closing of the Year of the Eucharist in individual dioceses.
Should invite universities, educational faculties, institutes of studies and seminaries to deepen in their studies of this theme.
Should promote national Eucharistic congresses.
Should work to interest and co-involve priests in particular to carry out initiatives on a national level.
Should perform the solemn opening and closing of the official Year of the Eucharist within the dates prescribed by the Universal Church, as is most useful to the individual diocese:
A “seasonal” celebration, presided by the Bishop, is recommended to take place in the Cathedral or some other suitable location. When considered opportune, this celebration may commence in a Church or location close to where the celebration will take place. In such circumstances, the procession will be accompanied by the singing of the Litany of the Saints (cf. Caeremoniale Episcoporum, 261)
Should give great importance to the “stational Mass” presided over by the Bishop as a sign of Eucharistic communion within the particular Church (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 22).
Should invite the different diocesan officials and commissions (for example, in the areas of catechesis, liturgy, art, music, liturgy, education, care for the infirm, social concerns, family, clergy, consecrated life, youth work and lay movements) to promote at least one initiative during this Year of the Eucharist.
Should promote Eucharistic congresses and times for reflection and prayer.
Should value established encounters of the clergy (for example, participation in the Chrism Mass, monthly retreats, diocesan or vicarial meetings, yearly Spiritual Exercises and activities of ongoing formation) so as to deepen in Eucharistic themes on both a pastoral and spiritual level.
Give a eucharistic emphasis to the world day of prayer for the sanctification of priests on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Should promote awareness of those saints – especially those particularly relevant to a given diocese – most distinguished by their love of the Eucharist, and their writing or preaching about its mysteries.
Should be aware of the patrimony of art with Eucharistic themes – paintings, sculptures, icons, altars, tabernacles, and sacred vessels – which exists within the various Churches and museums within the diocese. These should be explained to the faithful by means of explanatory readings and promotional materials.
Should increase the practice of perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, identifying those Churches and chapels suitable for such a scope, publicizing those which already foster this practice, and assuring that they be open to the faithful at those times most convenient to them (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 18).
Should invite the youth in particular to unite the theme of the 20th World Youth Day, “We have come to worship Him” (Mt 2:2), with the Year of the Eucharist (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 30). An encounter of Eucharistic adoration for the youth on a diocesan level around Palm Sunday would be a significant event.
Should start Eucharistically-themed columns in weekly bulletins, diocesan newspapers, internet sites, and place spots on local television and radio sites.
The acceptance of the Holy Father’s invitation is to do everything possible this year, to cede to the Sunday Eucharistic celebration the central position that it ought to have in the parish, which is rightly called an “Eucharistic Community” (cf. SC, 42; Mane nobiscum Domine, 23; Dies Domini, 35-36; Eucharisticum mysterium, 26). Taking this into account, we suggest the following ideas:
- Should, establish a stable location for the various places used during the celebration (altar, ambo, presbytery) and for the Eucharist (tabernacle, adoration chapel) where necessary; obtain the various liturgical books; take care to guard the truth and beauty of the various signs (vestments, holy vessels, furnishings).
- Should increase or constitute liturgical groups in the parish. Look after the instituted ministers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, altar servers, Schola cantorum (choir) etc.
- Should dedicate singular attention to liturgical song, taking into account the indications of John Paul II in his recent document on Sacred Music.
- Should program various formative encounters during periods of the year – the Easter season and Lent – specializing in the Eucharist in Christian life and in the Church; a time that is especially adept for this, for both adults and children, is during the preparation for First Holy Communion.
- Should take up and teach the Institutio generalis Missalis Romani (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 17) and the Praenotanda of the Ordo Lectionum Missae; the De sacra communione et de cultu mysterii eucharistici extra Missam; the recent Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia and the Instruction that followed Redemptionis Sacramentum.
- Should educate the faithful on how to “be in the church”: what they should do when entering the church; genuflections and low bowings to the Blessed Sacrament; the atmosphere of recollection; indications to help them internally to participate in the Mass, especially during certain moments (the times of silence, personal prayer after communion) and teach them how to participate externally (the way of responding or interpreting the common parts). As regards communion under both species, we hold to the current norms (cf. SC, 55; IGMR, 281-287; Redemptionis Sacramentum, 100-107).
- Should celebrate appropriately the anniversary of the dedication of the parish church.
- Should rediscover “one’s own” parish church, making known the sense of that which is regularly seen in it: a guided reading about the altar, ambo, tabernacle, iconography, stained glass, entrance, etc. That which is visible in the church helps contemplate the invisible.
- Should promote Eucharistic worship – even offering practical approaches – and personal and communal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 18): visits, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Eucharistic benediction, the Quarant’Ore, Eucharistic processions. Consider the convenience of prolonging Eucharistic adoration after the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday (cf. Directory on popular piety, 141)
- Should propose concrete initiatives for special occasions (nocturnal adoration)
- Should check the frequency and the dignity with which Communion is brought to the sick.
- Should teach the Church’s discipline on Viaticum.
- Should spiritually accompany those who find themselves in irregular situations and, while not being able to receive Holy Communion, participate in the Holy Mass.
The Year of the Eucharist directly involves Shrines, places that are already called by their very nature, to offer to the faithful the abundant means of salvation: zealously announcing the Word of God, conveniently favoring liturgical life – especially with the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation – while promoting the approved forms of popular piety (cf. C.I.C. can. 1234, § 1; Directory on popular piety, 261-278).
For the faithful and pilgrims this year, shrines that have grown around Eucharistic miracles and piety are of special interest.
- In sanctuaries, the Eucharistic celebration is the centerpiece of many of the activities (evangelization, charity, culture). It would be useful to do the following:
* Starting from the particular devotion of the sanctuary, guide the pilgrims to an intense encounter with Christ;
* Ensure that participation in the Eucharistic celebration is exemplar;
* Encourage the participation of various groups in the same Eucharistic celebration of the Mass, properly articulated while being attentive to the diversity of languages, if it be the case. Here Gregorian Chaunt can be useful, at least taking into account the more simple melodies, above all during the Ordinary of the Mass, especially the Credo and the Lord’s Prayer (cf. Directory on Popular Piety, 268).
- Be sure to offer the possibility of praying before the Blessed Sacrament, taking care to maintain an atmosphere of recollection and community adoration. The position of the tabernacle ought to be well indicated (cf. IGMR, 314-317; Redemptionis Sacramentum, 130).
- Encourage the practice of the Sacrament of Penance, facilitating, according to the possibilities, confessionals and timetables that are practical for the faithful (cf. Directory on popular piety, 267).
37. Monasteries, Religious Communities and Institutes
Consecrated life is closely linked to the Eucharist (cf. Vita consecrata, 95; Congregation of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Starting Afresh from Christ, 26). Thus the Year of the Eucharist ought to serve as another stimulus to unite oneself to the heart of one’s own vocation and mission, both personal and communal.
In all the Rules and Constitutions, daily Mass and Eucharistic devotion are either prescribed or recommended.
- The Year of the Eucharist is an opportunity to program moments of reflection and examination:
- Rediscover in the life and writings of their founders or foundresses the Eucharistic piety they practiced and taught.
- Ask oneself: what type of witness to Eucharistic Life is offered by consecrated persons working in parishes, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, centers of spirituality, hostels, sanctuaries and monasteries?
- Review if the many orientations given by the Magisterium (cf. Dies Domini, 36), of participating in the Sunday Mass in the parish and of organizing themselves in unison with the local diocesan pastoral program where they live, are followed.
- Increase of the hours of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 18).
38. Seminaries and Houses of Formation
The special Year of the Eucharist is extremely significant for Seminaries and formation houses in which future diocesan and religious priests, as well as deacons, are formed (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 30).
Participation at the table of the Word and of the Eucharist matures the vocational response, and opens a candidate to the specific mission to which God calls him when he chooses him as shepherd of his people (cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, Instruction on Liturgical Formation in Seminaries, 8-27 and Appendix 30-41).
While the Eucharist sustains the daily path of formation, it also shows the seminarians the heart of their future ministry.
Special attention should be given to:
Foster the bond between theological formation and spiritual experience in the Eucharistic mystery.
Foster both interior and exterior participation in the celebration of the Mass.
Guarantee a thorough knowledge of liturgical theology, particularly the rites and texts of the Eucharistic celebration.
Guarantee a thorough practical knowledge of the rite of the Mass, and of its proper celebration. Such a formation must include: the function of celebrational space; the genres of the different texts, and their proper pronunciation; the ritual sequences; the parts of the Missal; the norms regulating the Eucharistic celebration within the Liturgical Calendar; and the legitimate possibility of selection of formulas.
Inculcate in the seminarians an understanding of the usefulness of a certain fluency in the Latin language, and Gregorian Chant, so as to be able to pray and chant in Latin when the need arises, and so rooting themselves in the tradition of the Church at prayer.
Increase Eucharistic adoration in its different forms – be it individually, be it as a community – including the rite of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Conveniently locating the Tabernacle so as to favor private prayer before it.
39. Associations, Movements, Confraternities
The principle motivations for inscribing oneself into an association, such as communion, a spirit of sharing, and fraternity are naturally linked to the Eucharistic mystery.
Some confraternities and associations are named explicitly for their devotion to the Eucharist, to the Blessed Sacrament.
The active participation of associations, groups and movements, each in accord with their own particular charisms, contributes positively to the edification and vitality of the Church, and finds its normal expression in the weekly participation in the Sunday Mass at the parish. (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 23; Dies Domini, 36).
The Year of the Eucharist:
- Is a call to reflect, reaffirm, interiorly assimilate, and progressively update traditional statutes.
- Is an opportunity for a deepening catechetical and mystagogical understanding of the Eucharist.
- Is a stimulus to dedicate more time to Eucharistic adoration, in an effort to draw other to participate in an authentic Eucharistic ‘apostolate’.
- Is an invitation to coordinate prayer and Christian charity.
40. This chapter is purposely schematic, but not for that reason less significant. The key reason for this approach is that on a cultural level there is a number of changing variables that must be specifically dealt with by the particular Churches spread throughout the world. Each particular Church finds itself inscribed in a determined context, with its own specific culture richness, peculiarities, and individual history. It is left to the particular Churches to incorporate and make concrete the themes here simply mentioned. It is not difficult to understand how important a stimulus the occasion of the Eucharistic Year should be for advancing research of the theme of how the Eucharist has been able, and remains capable of strongly influencing human culture.
41. Historical Research
The Eucharistic Year opens new research opportunities for Theological Faculties, Catholic Universities and Institutes of Higher Studies. Theological Faculties are particularly invited to give renewed attention to the suggestive path of combining the study of the biblical and doctrinal foundation of the Eucharist with the knowledge of lived Christian experience, especially in light of the lives of the saints.
42. Buildings, Monuments, and Libraries
The cathedrals, monasteries, shrines, as well as many churches represent in themselves authentic “cultural goods”. Often they are considered a focal point of cultural life in their respective areas. Thus, the Eucharistic Year may serve as a stimulus for renewing and promoting a new consciousness of the rich artistic and cultural patrimony brought to light by the Eucharistic theme. Presentations, conventions and publications of all types should be proposed and encouraged fostering collaboration with both ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical entities such as universities, colleges, study centers, cultural circles and publishing houses.
43. Art, Sacred Music, and Literature
The Eucharistic theme expressed in sacred art is both a witness to the faith believed as well as the transition of this same faith to the People of God. Numerous examples of this point, have been developed through the ages, both in the East and the West. Of special note we find the well known depictions of the Eucharistic theme in numerous works realized in the Roman catacombs. The understanding of Tradition permits us to be aware of the various “Eucharistic” connotations which have inspired past generations with the goal of confronting and imbuing contemporary production with this same inspiring spirit.
Here we will limit ourselves to expounding upon a few representational areas:
With reference to sacred art:
Concerning sacred music:
Concerning literature, theatre and movie production:
44. As regards all the aforementioned areas, it remains the work of the competent authorities to know how to find the most appropriate paths to follow. It would truly be a great accomplishment of the Eucharistic Year if the completed research could achieve a deeper understanding and greater sharing of this treasures which are the common heritage of Christianity amongst the diverse continents.
Along these same lines the Holy Father explicitly mentions in the document Mane nobiscum Domine when referring to the Eucharist that there must be a greater effort to bear witness to “the presence of the God in the world”. Addressing certain cultural tendencies which try to marginalize and eradicate the memory of the historical contribution of Christianity from among traditionally Christian societies, the Holy Father has written the following, “We should not be afraid to speak about God and to bear proud witness to our faith. The ‘culture of the Eucharist’ promotes a culture of dialogue, which here finds strength and nourishment. It is a mistake to think that any public reference to faith will somehow undermine the rightful autonomy of the State and civil institutions, or that it can even encourage attitudes of intolerance. If history demonstrates that mistakes have also been made in this area by believers, as I acknowledged on the occasion of the Jubilee, this must be attributed not to ‘Christian roots’, but to the failure of Christians to be faithful to those roots.” (Mane nobiscum Domine, 26).
45. A year of grace, fervor and mystagogy
At the conclusion of these pages, after so many suggestions and proposals it is fitting to once more call to mind the most essential point, remembering what the Holy Father has said in the Apostolic Letter Mane nobiscum Domine about a “Year of grace”. In fact, all that we hope to achieve will only find its full sense, if it is seen as a gift from God. These proposals should open new paths both for each individual and for the community so as to receive the abundant outpouring of grace always offered by the Spirit of God. The fiat of the Blessed Virgin should once more set the tone for the fiat of the whole Church, as it continually receives along with the Body and Blood of our Lord, the gift of the Mary’s maternity, “Behold, your Mother!” (cf . Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 57).
The renewal brought about by this holy year will most certainly depend on the depth of our prayer. We are all invited to celebrate, receive and adore the Eucharist with the same faith of the saints. How could we forget the fervor of the great Spanish mystic, Saint Teresa of Avila, whose feast we celebrate today in the liturgy? In reference to Eucharistic communion, she writes, “It is not necessary to go far to look for the Lord. For until our natural heat has consumed the accidents of the bread, the good Jesus is in us. Let us draw near to Him!” (Way of Perfection, 8).
This year should have as a special goal to help each one of us encounter Jesus in the Eucharist, so as to live in communion with him. To this end the Pope calls on all the Pastors to make a special effort particularly in the application of the mystagogical catechesis. With this in mind we would like to conclude with a typical passage of Western mystagogy, from the work De Mysteriis (n. 54) of Saint Ambrose:
From the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 15 October 2004, the liturgical memorial of Saint Theresa of Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church.
Francis Card. Arinze
All translations from the IGMR are unofficial, as are those from the IGLH (Institutio generalis de Liturgia Horarum), the Directory of Popular Piety, and the Lettera feste pasquali.