Holy Eucharist: April 2007 Archives

Holding Fast to the Hard Saying

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Third Saturday of Paschaltide

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Acts 9:31-42
Psalm 115: 12-13, 14-15, 16-17
John 6: 60-69

A Eucharistic Lectio Divina

If in your lectio divina this past week, you submitted to the guidance of the Church (as Terry does) and opened yourself to the brightness shining from the sixth chapter of Saint John, the Eucharist has been at the heart of your reading, your repeating, your prayer, and your contemplation. This Third Week of Paschaltide was a kind of Eucharistic retreat. How well did we live it? It is not too late to claim today the Eucharistic graces reserved for us by our Lord for this week of listening to His discourse on the Bread of Life.

Peter Confessing the Mystery

In his Encyclical on the Eucharist, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II gave us a commentary on today’s Gospel. This is what he said: “Here is the Church’s treasure, the heart of the world, the pledge of the fulfillment for which each man and woman, even unconsciously, yearns. A great and transcendent mystery, indeed, and one that taxes our mind’s ability to pass beyond appearances. Here our senses fail us: visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur, in the words of the hymn Adoro Te Devote; yet faith alone, rooted in the word of Christ handed down to us by the Apostles, is sufficient for us. Allow me, like Peter at the end of the Eucharistic discourse in John’s Gospel, to say once more to Christ, in the name of the whole Church and in the name of each of you: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’ (Jn 6:68).”

Peter Addressing Christ

Christ spoke, revealing the astonishing mystery of the Eucharist. Peter responded. It is Peter’s response addressed to Christ that is the first manifestation of his place in the plan of God for the Church. Peter addressing Christ necessarily precedes Peter addressing the world, and this in all times and places. In the Mass, the Church does something similar. After the words of consecration, the priest intones “Mystery of Faith.” Mysterium fidei: a seal placed on all that has been said and done up to this point. The response of the praying Church is a confession of the mystery addressed directly to Christ really present: “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come.”

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For my flesh is food indeed,
and my blood is drink indeed.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
abides in me, and I in him.
As the living Father sent me,
and I live because of the Father,
so he who eats me
will live because of me (John 6:55–57).

Two years ago, on the occasion of one of nine Requiem Masses offered after the death of Pope John Paul II, Msgr. Leonardo Sandri spoke of the Servant of God's lifelong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. This week's Gospels — taken each day from the sixth chapter of Saint John — are an invitation to seek the Face of Christ and His Sacred Heart in the adorable mystery of the Eucharist. It seems to me that this invitation is addressed first of all to priests.

Today, as in the past, the Church will become resplendent with holiness through the spiritual renewal of the priesthood, and the spiritual renewal of the priesthood is inseparable from the restoration of eucharistic amazement to the Sacred Liturgy. Holiness and beauty are intrinsically related. The priest ties the knot that binds them one to the other: a humble awareness and joyful demonstration of the sacred in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries.

Here is an excerpt from Msgr. Sardi's homily given on 13 April 2005:

In Ecclesia de Eucharistia Pope John Paul II revealed to us the secret of his total dedication to Christ, to the Gospel, and to the Church: “For more than half a century,” wrote the Pope,” each day, since November 2 1946 on which I celebrated my first Mass in the crypt of Saint Leonard in the cathedral of Wawel in Krakow, my eyes have rested on the host and on the chalice. Each day my faith has been able to recognize in the consecrated bread and wine the Divine Wayfarer who one day walked alongside of the two disciples of Emmaus to open their eyes to the light and their hearts to hope.”

How great was his love for Christ really present in the Sacrament of the Altar! This love became a kind of invocation in the very title of his Apostolic Letter, Mane Nobiscum, Domine, his last document on the Year of the Eucharist. Stay with us, Lord! How can we not see in the death of the Pope, coinciding with the Pasch of the Year of the Eucharist a mysterious summons to the intensity with which John Paul II participated in the sacrifice of Christ? Each day, for over fifty years, he pronounced the words of the Consecration: “This is my Body offered in sacrifice for you.” In a very special way, the Pope made these words his own during the final period of his life in which he completed the total gift of himself. It was as if he continuously renewed his Totus tuus ego sum through the hands of the Mother of his Master, as we read in his spiritual testament. We who, as his collaborators, had the grace of accompanying him during these last months, followed with trepidation this most personal Mass in which the Pope, in union with the Passion of Christ, made the gift of his own person, through pain and suffering, to the Church and to the world.

Moreover, those who more closely shared the daily activity of the Pope, were witness to his profound love for the Eucharist. Before taking important decisions, he would always remain a long time before the Most Holy Sacrament, take with him into his private chapel the dossiers to be examined and reserving a planned time of reflection and prayer before the Tabernacle. Every choice in this way emerged only from his seeking the will of God for the true good of the Church.

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Yesterday morning, together with Leonard and Mark, my friends from the U.S., I visited the Carceri or hermitages hidden on the wooded slopes of Mount Subasio above Assisi. In a chapel that is part of the small monastic complex built there by Saint Bernardino of Siena in 1400, I discovered this beautiful fresco of the Precious Blood flowing from the pierced side of Jesus Crucified into a chalice held by an angel. I am always spellbound by depictions of the Holy Face of Jesus and of His Open Side. Here in Italy I find them everywhere.

Note that in this image Jesus is living. His eyes are open; He offers His Blood consciously, willingly, and with infinite love. The fresco is situated just above and behind a stone altar where Holy Mass would have been celebrated; it represents the very mystery that is actualized so often as the Eucharistic commandment of the Lord is carried out: "Do ye this in remembrance of me" (1 Cor 11:24).

Mane Nobiscum, Domine

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Jacopo Pontormo painted this Supper at Emmaus for the Carthusian monastery of Galluzzo sometime between 1523 and 1527. He includes Carthusian monks in the scene, men living at the time he was working on the painting. He brings a once–and–for–all event of the past into the present; something wonderfully effected in every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Notice the large feet of the disciples: feet accustomed to walking Palestine's dusty roads. The cats barely visible under the table and the puppy in the lower left corner add to the painting's homely realism. The "eye of God" above the head of Our Lord is an unfortunate later addition.

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Wednesday of Pascha

Acts 3:1-10
Psalm 104: 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9 (R. 3b)
Luke 24: 13-35

A Eucharistic Icon

With each passing year the unfolding of the Resurrection Gospel of Emmaus becomes more luminous, more transparent like the favourite page in an old book, the page that with each reading delights one anew. The repetition and ritual recurrence of the Word shapes and reshapes the Church, making her ever more perfectly Christ’s beloved Bride, the Companion of the New Adam, born from His pierced side. You recall that it was this very page of the Gospel that was given us by the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II as the heart of his message for the Year of the Eucharist. He presented the mystery of Emmaus as a kind of Eucharistic icon.

Stay With Us, Lord

Mane nobiscum, Domine. “Stay with us, Lord, for it is almost evening” (Lk 24:29). In making these words the title of his Apostolic Letter for the Year of the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II gave the Church a clear orientation for our times. He gave each one of us a kind of personal spiritual direction. More than that, he taught us to pray using these very words: Mane nobiscum, Domine. “Stay with us, Lord.” He taught us to pray as the Holy Spirit had taught the two disciples on the road to Emmaus to pray. Poor wayfarers they were: bewildered and dejected men, sorrowing and not quite knowing what to think, not quite knowing what to do with their lives.

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This Wondrous Sacrament

Sacramentum Caritatis calls the Most Holy Eucharist "this wondrous sacrament." It goes on to speak of the amazement -- the stupefaction -- that the Apostles felt in witnessing what the Lord did and said during the Mystical Supper. "What wonder," writes Pope Benedict XVI, "must the Eucharistic mystery also awaken in our own hearts" (Sacramentum Caritatis, 1).

Eucharistic Amazement

Sacramentum Caritatis resonates with the words of Pope John Paul II in the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia"

"I would like to rekindle this Eucharistic “amazement” by the present Encyclical Letter, in continuity with the Jubilee heritage which I have left to the Church in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte and its Marian crowning, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. To contemplate the Face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “programme” which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization. To contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of His Body and His Blood. The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist; by Him she is fed and by Him she is enlightened. The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a “mystery of light”. Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (Lk 24:31)" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 6).

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Tuesday of Holy Week

Isaiah 49:1–6
Psalm 34:13, 1–2
John 13:21–33, 36–38

Go and Prepare the Passover for Us

Sunday’s solemn chant of the Passion according to Saint Luke cast the whole of this Great and Holy Week in a Eucharistic light. I was moved to hear Jesus say, not only to a certain man in the city, but to me, and to us, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it” (Lk 22:8). For once the disciples were quick to obey: “And they went, and found it as He had told them; and prepared the Passover” (Lk 22:13). They must have sensed an urgency in their Master’s voice; they must have read on his face something of the desire for this pasch that blazed in his heart: “With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer” (Lk 22:15).

The Body and Blood of Christ

Saint Luke’s account of the Passion began with the wondrous account of the institution: “And He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave to them, saying: ‘This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me. And likewise the chalice after supper, saying, ‘This chalice which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in My Blood’” (Lk 22:19–20). It was impossible to hear these words on Sunday and not sense that they were given us, in some way, as a key to the rest of the week and to the Paschal Triduum.

The Eucharist and the Cross

Today’s Introit was the very one that we will sing on Maundy Thursday on the threshold of the Sacred Triduum: “It is for us to glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection: through whom we have been saved and set free” (cf. Gal 6:14). We are given it today in a kind of contemplative rehearsal of the mysteries that will unfold. We are to sing it, and to hear it, in a Eucharistic key. We glory in the Eucharist as we glory in the Cross because the Eucharist is the sacramental demonstration of the Cross. Is this not what the Apostle teaches? “For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall show forth the death of the Lord, until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26). The Eucharist makes present the Cross. The Eucharist is the sacrifice of the Cross set before the eyes of faith, not as something dim and ineffectual, but as an astonishing inbreaking, here and now, of “the power of God and the wisdom of God”(1 Cor 1:24). This is the source of our “Eucharistic amazement.” This is this realization that leaves us, together with the saints of every age, “lost, all lost in wonder.”

O Great Passion

The Eucharist is the awful reality of the Christus passus. The mystery of the suffering Christ is made present to us and for us. For our healing, his wounds are pressed against ours. For our cleansing, his Blood flows impetuous like a torrent. For our life, his breath is given over in death. The Eucharist is the Crucified “lifted up and drawing all men to himself”(cf. Jn 12:32). It is the Eucharist that causes us to cry out, “O great Passion! O deep wounds! O outpouring of Blood! O death suffered in every bitterness, give us life.”

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Reflections on Sacramentum Caritatis

With the approach of Maundy Thursday — the solemn commemoration of the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist and of the Priesthood — I feel compelled to return to the Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis in search of whatever may be helpful to me personally, and to other priests desirous of growing in the friendship of Christ.

The Priest, Friend of the Bridegroom

The theme that emerges straightaway is that of the friendship of Christ. Before all else, the priest — every priest — is The Friend of Christ or, as Saint John the Baptist puts it, “the friend of the Bridegroom” (Jn 3:29).

Amazed By the Sacrament of Charity

“1. The sacrament of charity, the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of Himself, thus revealing to us God's infinite love for every man and woman. This wondrous sacrament makes manifest that "greater" love which led Him to "lay down His life for his friends" (Jn 15:13). Jesus did indeed love them "to the end" (Jn 13:1). In those words the Evangelist introduces Christ's act of immense humility: before dying for us on the Cross, He tied a towel around himself and washed the feet of His disciples. In the same way, Jesus continues, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, to love us "to the end," even to offering us his body and his blood. What amazement must the Apostles have felt in witnessing what the Lord did and said during that Supper! What wonder must the eucharistic mystery also awaken in our own hearts!”

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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