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Online Edition - Vol. IX, No. 2: April 2003

Pope John Paul II: Encyclical on the Eucharist Imminent -- Cardinal Ratzinger: New book on Blessed Sacrament published in March -- English translation of IGMR released for United States

Pope John Paul II: Encyclical on the Eucharist Imminent

Pope John Paul II's new encyclical on the Eucharist will be released on Holy Thursday, according to Vatican sources. It will be the fourteenth encyclical issued during his pontificate.

The central importance of the Eucharist has been evident in many of the Holy Father's other works. This encyclical will reportedly be a comprehensive compendium of his teaching.

In his Apostolic Letter Dies Domini (The Lord's Day), issued on Pentecost, 1998, the Pope emphasized that the Eucharist is absolutely fundamental to authentic Christian life, and reveals the meaning of human history:

"Since Sunday is the weekly Easter, recalling and making present the day upon which Christ rose from the dead, it is also the day which reveals the meaning of time. It has nothing in common with the cosmic cycles according to which natural religion and human culture tend to impose a structure on time, succumbing perhaps to the myth of eternal return. The Christian Sunday is wholly other! Springing from the Resurrection, it cuts through human time, the months, the years, the centuries, like a directional arrow which points them towards their target: Christ's Second Coming. Sunday foreshadows the last day, the day of the Parousia, which in a way is already anticipated by Christ's glory in the event of the Resurrection.

"In fact, everything that will happen until the end of the world will be no more than an extension and unfolding of what happened on the day when the battered body of the Crucified Lord was raised by the power of the Spirit and became in turn the wellspring of the Spirit for all humanity" (DD 75).

"It is crucially important that all the faithful should be convinced that they cannot live their faith or share fully in the life of the Christian community unless they take part regularly in the Sunday Eucharistic assembly. The Eucharist is the full realization of the worship which humanity owes to God, and it cannot be compared to any other religious experience. A particularly efficacious expression of this is the Sunday gathering of the entire community, obedient to the voice of the Risen Lord who calls the faithful together to give them the light of His word and the nourishment of His Body as the perennial sacramental wellspring of redemption. The grace flowing from this wellspring renews mankind, life and history" (DD 81).

In Novo Millennio Ineuente [At the beginning of the new millennium], issued January 6, 2001, the pope repeated this emphasis, "It is a fundamental duty, to be fulfilled not just in order to observe a precept but as something felt as essential to a truly informed and consistent Christian life. We are entering a millennium which already shows signs of being marked by a profound interweaving of cultures and religions, even in countries which have been Christian for many centuries. In many regions Christians are, or are becoming, a 'little flock' (Lk 12:32). This presents them with the challenge, often in isolated and difficult situations, to bear stronger witness to the distinguishing elements of their own identity. The duty to take part in the Eucharist every Sunday is one of these. The Sunday Eucharist which every week gathers Christians together as God's family round the table of the Word and the Bread of Life, is also the most natural antidote to dispersion. It is the privileged place where communion is ceaselessly proclaimed and nurtured. Precisely through sharing in the Eucharist, the Lord's Day also becomes the Day of the Church, when she can effectively exercise her role as the sacrament of unity" [NMI 36].

Cardinal Ratzinter: An Intimate God

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who worked closely with Pope John Paul II on the new encyclical on the Eucharist, has just published a new book on the Blessed Sacrament, In Dio Vicino (An Intimate God).

Although the book is currently available only in Italian, Zenit News Agency ( www.zenit.org ) provided some quotes from it:

"In the crisis of faith we are experiencing, the critical issue seems to be increasingly the correct celebration and correct understanding of the Eucharist", observes the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"The Eucharist, and the community that celebrates it, will be full in the measure in which we prepare ourselves in silent prayer before the presence of the Lord and become persons who want to communicate with truth", explains Cardinal Ratzinger.

"The Eucharist is God as response, as a presence that responds. Now the initiative of the divine-human relation no longer depends on us, but on Him, and so it becomes really serious.

"This is why, in the realm of Eucharistic adoration, prayer reaches a totally new level; only now it involves both parties, and only now is it something serious. What is more, not only does it involve the two parties, but only now is it fully universal: When we pray in the presence of the Eucharist, we are never alone. The whole Church that celebrates the Eucharist prays with us.

"In this prayer we are no longer before a God we have thought about, but before a God who has really given Himself to us; before a God who has made Himself communion for us, who thus liberates us from our limits through communion and leads us to the Resurrection", Cardinal Ratzinger concludes. "This is the prayer we must seek again".

English translation of IGMR released for United States

The long-awaited English translation of the rules for celebration of Mass, the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (IGMR) appeared on the USCCB website on March 31 ( http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/current/revmissalisromanien.shtml ). A study translation by the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy in 2000 was later revised by ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy), but this effort was returned to that translation body for repairs.

Although the IGMR is in effect, and is being implemented, along with its "American Adaptations" in many US dioceses, the absence of an authoritative English translation has been partly responsible for considerable confusion.

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