49TH INTERNATIONAL EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS,
According to International Eucharistic Congress tradition, a commission was appointed to ensure follow-up on the reflection and recommendations that this Congress would wish to bequeath to the Church. With the texts of presentations made during the Congress, the Acts would therefore include a report containing certain wishes, questions and challenges that the participants would find useful for local Churches and the universal Church.
1. Eucharistic spirituality
Reflection in the workshops helped identify several traits of a Eucharistic spirituality that ideally should flourish in the Church. To express such spirituality, the key words could be love, communion, presence, paschal mystery. In this sense, discussions in the workshops referred to a personal relationship with Christ, recognizing the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but also in the poor, in life’s wounded. Participants wished to see the faithful make a close link between the Eucharist and the paschal mystery, but always without separating the cross of Christ from all the suffering of the world, the suffering of persons, the suffering at the heart of institutions.
A Eucharistic spirituality would adopt the instruction of Augustine, i.e. “we are what we receive”: the Body of Christ. This spirituality therefore insists on the ecclesial dimension, on communion with God and with our brothers and sisters. It emphasizes the virtues of union, pardon, mercy, self-giving, sacrifice, coherence between proclamation and action. It is therefore one of love.
The fruits of such spirituality:
“The development of a Eucharistic spirituality must be encouraged in all baptized persons. This spirituality links the liturgical action of the Mass – prolonged in Eucharistic worship outside of Mass – to Christian commitment at the heart of the world. It is fully centred on the paschal mystery accomplished once and for all in Jesus and continuously actualized in the Church of all time.”
2. Liturgical Action (The Mass)
In this regard, a number of very concrete proposals emerged from the workshops
“True Eucharistic spirituality is present when the celebration of the Mass engages the full participation of all the baptized – internal as well as external participation – and when the desire to give glory to God is combined with a strong awareness of the world he invites us to transform.”
3. Eucharistic Worship outside of Mass
The following points emerged from the workshops:
“The quality of contemplation, adoration and attention to the presence of Christ that characterizes Eucharistic devotion outside of Mass must be found again in the celebration of the Mass. Similarly, the multiple dimensions of the liturgical celebration must impart form to the practices of Eucharistic worship outside Mass: community participation, listening to the Word of God, intercession, offering, sacrifice, thanksgiving, commitment to the Church’s mission at the heart of the world.”
4. The Church, Body of Christ: Fabric of the Community
Always remembering St. Augustine’s words that we are what we receive, the Body of Christ, we rejoice that the workshops made multiple suggestions for energizing the community fabric of Eucharistic gatherings.
A sensitive issue was raised: how can persons excluded from communion be better integrated into parish life, into the liturgy?
“For our celebrations and our prayers to be real, they must spring from a true community and foster its deployment.”
5. The Church Engaged in Christ’s Mission: Transforming through Solidarity
The conviction was frequently expressed in the workshops that the truth of the Eucharist demands that a Christian community, far from withdrawing into itself, must be open and welcoming to others. The entire teaching of the Congress referred to the binomial:
The workshops therefore emphasized how the Eucharist calls on human beings to denounce the idols of our time, to engage in life-giving practices:
For all of these forms of involvement, participants emphasized the need for adequate training and the importance of appropriate analysis of the social context of our surroundings. Participants underlined a number of other points affecting this link between the Eucharist and the Church’s mission. It is hoped that
A recurring question: what are we doing for and with persons living in extreme poverty in our parishes?
“For our celebrations and our prayer to be real, they must send us on mission to the world by inspiring, nourishing and supporting our Christian commitment at the heart of the world.”
6. Catechesis of the Liturgy, toward the Liturgy, through the Liturgy
Throughout the four sessions of the workshops, there were multiple observations about the profound need to intensify the faith education of all believers. The Congress itself was a marvellous school in the faith. Workshop participants made a strong appeal for
It was noted that this initiation could take place before or after weekday Mass. It is hoped that priests, ministers and teachers can be found to guide this contemplative prayer and lead it through witnessing in their own lives.
“It is necessary to develop processes, tools and catechetical sites that promote greater knowledge of the Eucharist and a better capacity to participate in it fully– in the liturgy as in Eucharistic worship outside of Mass – especially in initiation to contemplative prayer.”
The table was royally adorned, superabundant: the Congress offered us teaching that was extremely rich, varied and faithful to the deepest reaches of the mystery. From the outset, the general theme reflected this firm intention to honour the divine initiative and the richness for humanity of the mystery that we celebrated throughout the entire week. Gift of God, Trinitarian gift so profoundly recognized by the symposium that immediately preceded the Congress, especially in the first day of its proceedings.
The catecheses of Cardinal Bergoglio on Wednesday, 18 June, and Cardinal Rigali’s homily on Thursday, 19 June, echoed them most movingly. Gift of God for the life of the world. Each Congress presentation expressed what the Eucharist represents for the life of the world. We recall the series of testimonies presented. In particular, we remember the catecheses of Bishop Tagle and Cardinals Toppo and Tumi.
The foundational theological document of the Congress articulated at the beginning the six sub-themes that would inspire teaching throughout the entire six days of the Congress:
In an undertaking of such scope the contribution of the workshops is extremely modest. As the Report Commission, we believe it is useful to add to this contribution of hundreds of Congress participants the reflections we shared in receiving the fruits of their efforts in the workshop sessions. We were readily able to observe that a number of points called for greater consideration in the Church in Canada and perhaps elsewhere.
1. Relationship: Eucharist — Social Engagement
We can only marvel at the fact that virtually all presentations (catecheses, testimonies, homilies) at this Congress underlined the social implications of Eucharistic participation, and particularly, the importance for the authenticity of the Eucharistic celebration, of living according to the model that Jesus gives us: a life given up for us, through love. The Commission has therefore come to hope that all Catholic social action movements will re-examine the place of the Eucharist in their action and that all adoration chapels, Eucharistic movements and others will examine their social consciousness.
2. Relationship: Eucharist — Paschal Mystery
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that among the most beautiful gifts relating to the Eucharist bequeathed to the Church by Vatican II is the fact that the Council underlined the close link between the Eucharist and the paschal mystery. Beginning with the first catecheses, those of Bishop D. W. Wuerl and Cardinal Barbarin, we were plunged into this Eucharist– paschal mystery connection. It was discussed in the workshops but the Commission believes that greater attention must be given to this link in all places providing catechetical, pastoral or theological formation in order to entrench into the hearts of Christians this fundamental perspective of the Eucharist as a memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection.
3. Relationship: Eucharist —Trinitarian Gift
The very first pages of the foundational document of the Congress invited participants to consider the Eucharist as a Trinitarian gift. The Congress catecheses, and perhaps more especially the homily of Cardinal Rigali on Thursday, 19 June which presented the Eucharist as a mystery of Trinitarian love, did not ignore this fundamental dimension. Nonetheless, it is felt that Christian communities need to return often to this profoundness of the mystery.
The symposium which preceded the Congress placed special emphasis on the Trinitarian perspective. The Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Scola, made a remarkable presentation on the topic. The Commission can only hope for continuation of this education of the people of God to recognize the Eucharist as a Trinitarian gift of love of the three who are one. Are Christians sufficiently attentive to the fact that the Eucharist, memorial of the paschal mystery, is an act of supreme adoration of Christ to the Father, adoration in which we are invited to unite ourselves with Christ?
Are Christians sufficiently attentive to the role of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist? Is special attention paid to the epiclesis? What attention is given to the grand Trinitarian doxology that concludes the Eucharistic prayer? Is it possible that our Eastern rite brothers and sisters have something important to share with us on this topic?
4. Relationship: Table of the Word - Table of the Bread of Life
In the Symposium preceding the Congress, Cardinal W. Kasper had already indicated his intuition that this question of the close link between the two Tables – Table of the Word and Table of the Bread of Life – would re-emerge in the Roman Synod on the Word of God. The workshops evoked the importance of meditating on the Biblical texts proposed in the first part of the Eucharistic celebration, but does Vatican II not remind us that “The Church always venerates the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s Body.” (DV, 21)
5. Relationship: Eucharist - Dies Domini
In the first catechesis of the Congress, Most Reverend D. W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, underlined the importance of the Eucharistic gathering on the Lord’s Day, not only to propose the faith but as well to renew Christ’s life within us. “We gather not as individuals isolated from each other and related only to Christ, but precisely as God’s family interrelated to each other and through the Church. We are made one in the Eucharist.”
At the end of the Congress, Cardinal F. Arinze recalled the martyrs of Abitène, in Proconsular Africa, who gave their lives rather than renounce Sunday Mass. The Commission regretted that the workshops did not give greater attention to the Sunday Eucharistic gathering, given the loss of interest of a large number of Christians for this engagement and the urgency of concerted pastoral action for its rehabilitation.
6. Relationship: Eucharist - Thanksgiving
The Commission members noted that the thanksgiving dimension of the Eucharist did not appear to have been emphasized. However, we are invited to give our attention to thanksgiving because of the very term “Eucharist” and the construction of the Eucharistic prayer framed by the call of the presider of the celebration to give thanks to our God, the assembly’s final response “It is right to give him thanks and praise,” and the Institution formula including the phrase “he gave thanks.” Would thanksgiving, the development of a culture of thanksgiving, not serve to highlight the Eucharist as gift of God?
7. Relationship: Eucharist - Mary
The foundational document of the Congress and the catechesis of Cardinal Bergoglio remarkably highlighted the Mary — Eucharist relationship. Based on Chapter 6 of Ecclesia de Eucharistia, which John Paul II devoted to Mary, Cardinal Bergoglio presented three images to illustrate how Mary, the Eucharistic woman, is a model of the Alliance between Christ and his spouse, the Church:
Again on this point, we feel that the Church should ensure follow-up to the Congress.
8. Relationship: Eucharist - Adoration outside of Mass
Two of the catechesis questions proposed to Congress participants during the second session of workshops, and all questions in the third session, asked for clarification on the Mass — adoration outside of Mass relationship. As a Commission, we feel that pastoral work is needed, in the words of Archbishop Tagle, to ensure Christian people more clearly perceive that “the sacrifice or spiritual worship of Jesus on the cross is his supreme act of adoration” and “in the Eucharist, we join Jesus in adoring the God of life.” Adoration outside of Mass would be poorly understood if it were not experienced as an extension of this supreme adoration.
9. Relationship: Eucharist — Sacrament of Christ’s Sacrifice
We note, finally, that the workshops do not appear to have considered the Eucharist as the sacrament of Christ’s sacrifice. We feel that Archbishop Tagle’s reflection on Christ’s sacrifice is a marvellous opening to this dimension of the mystery.