Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy
Online Edition - October 2005
Vol. XI, No. 7
Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod on the Eucharist
Excerpts from the working document for the Synodal Assembly in the Year of the Eucharist
The Instrumentum laboris is the working document for the General Assembly of bishops gathered this month in Rome for the Synod on the Eucharist. This synod concludes the Year of the Eucharist, an observance begun last October 7, with Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter, Mane Nobiscum Domine (“Stay with us, Lord”).
The Preface to the Instrumentum laboris, written by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, reviews the events leading to this eleventh general Synod of the world’s bishops.
In the light of foundational documents, such as Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II’s last encyclical, Archbishop Eterovic observes, “The question of great pastoral concern, episcopal responsibility and prophetic vision is to see how this rich patrimony of faith can be implemented in the Catholic Church, extended over five continents, in the initial years of the Third Millennium of Christianity and beyond”. This matter concerns not merely a review of the relevant documents of the Second Vatican Council, the archbishop wrote, but of how the Council’s “teachings on the Sacrament of the Eucharist have been applied in light of the Church’s Magisterium on the subject”.
Archbishop Eterovic comments that the Lineamenta for the synod, issued in 2004, “received a wide distribution in the Church and the world. Under the guidance of the bishops, the entire People of God made significant contributions on the topic in preparation for the synodal assembly”.
Bishops’ submissions in response to the Lineamenta, he writes, are considered “responses”, while others are classified as “observations”. Both were included in the Instrumentum laboris, which summarizes both. Thus the Instrumentum laboris “touches upon some doctrinal truths of notable influence in celebrating this sublime mystery of our faith, which puts in relief the Sacrament’s great pastoral richness. This document then is principally concentrated on the positive aspects of the celebration of the Eucharist which bring the faithful together and make them a community, despite their differences in race, language, nation and culture”.
“Mention is also made of various insufficiencies and oversights in the celebration of the Eucharist which, thanks be to God, are rather contained. Their inclusion, nonetheless, provides the occasion for clergy and the faithful to consider the due reverence and piety towards the Eucharist which is to characterize their celebration of this sacred mystery. Each section ends with various proposals from a number of responses which were a result of a profound pastoral reflection by particular Churches and other bodies which were consulted”, the preface says.
The document consists of four parts divided into two chapters each, and a conclusion. Because the subject of this synod is the very “source and summit” of the Catholic faith, we present this working document, slightly edited for space, for study and reflection. (Footnotes are indicated but text is omitted.) The complete document is accessible on the Vatican web site.
THE EUCHARIST AND TODAY’S WORLD
“For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world. They said to Him, ‘Lord, give us this bread always’”. (Jn 6:33-34)
Bread for Each Person in the World
2. When the people ask Jesus for a sign so they can believe, He tells the crowd that He Himself is the true bread that satisfies hunger (cf. Jn 6:35); He is the Bread come down from heaven for the life of the world. The present-day world also stands in need of this bread, if it is to have life. In the discourse in which Jesus presents Himself as the Bread for the life of the world, the crowd begs Him: “Lord, give us this bread always”. (Jn 6:34) This plea is charged with meaning, since it expresses a deep longing planted in the heart of not only the Church’s members but every person who seeks happiness, a happiness which is symbolized by the bread of eternal life. Despite various kinds of difficulties and contradictions, the world, in this year of the Lord 2005, aspires to happiness and desires the bread of life for soul and body. In response to this hunger of the human heart, Pope John Paul II made an earnest appeal to the Church’s members to use the Year of the Eucharist as an occasion to make a serious commitment to fight the tragedy of hunger, the affliction of illness, the loneliness of the elderly, the hardships of the unemployed and the struggles of immigrants. The actions in response to this appeal will be the measure for judging the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations....2
4. The synod is to take place in a period marked by strong contrasting forces within the human family. The idea of globalization gives the illusion of a united human race, in many cases as a result of the mass media which report happenings from every corner of the globe. For the most part, the last ten years have witnessed an exceptional development in technology. Unfortunately, globalization and technological progress have not lead to peace and greater justice between the rich nations and the poorer ones of the Third and Fourth Worlds. The situation makes one think that, while the synod fathers are gathering, acts of violence, terrorism and war will unfortunately continue in various parts of the world. At the same time, many brothers and sisters will fall victim to various illnesses, for example, AIDS, which brings devastation to entire sectors of populations, especially in poorer countries....
The Eucharist in Various Situations in the Church
5. The Lineamenta responses indicate that Mass attendance on Sundays is high in various particular Churches in the countries of Africa and also in some Asian countries. The opposite is the case in the majority of countries in Europe, America and Oceania. In some cases, the percentage of those who participate at Sunday Mass is as low as 5%. Generally speaking, the faithful who neglect to attend Mass on Sundays do not consider participating at Mass important in their life. Basically, they lack an understanding of the true nature of the Mass as Sacrifice and Eucharistic Banquet which gathers the faithful around the Lord’s altar....
Ongoing, intensive catechesis on the importance and obligation to participate at Holy Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation needs to be encouraged. At times, the obligatory character is minimized by a person’s insisting that its observance depends on how one feels at the moment.
6. Certain particular Churches are witnessing a significant decline in the practice of the faith and participation at Mass, prevalently among the young. This should lead to a reflection on how much time pastors and catechists spend in teaching the faith to children and youth as compared to time in social activities.
An increasingly secularized society has caused a weakening in the sense of mystery. This is witnessed in mis-interpretations and distorted ideas in the Council’s liturgical renewal, which has led to rites superficial in nature and devoid of spiritual significance. Nevertheless, some Christian communities have maintained a deep sense of mystery, so much so that the liturgy continues to have great meaning.
Some express a certain appreciation for inculturated liturgies which permit increased participation. As a result, Mass attendance has been on the rise, with many young people and adults more actively involved in the Church’s life and mission. In rural areas, the scarcity of clergy in parishes has resulted in the celebration of Mass at certain times each month or even each year. In these situations, the practice of entrusting a Sunday service to lay people is unavoidable.
7. People ought clearly to be taught that entering into the mystery of the Eucharist depends on a liturgical celebration which is done with dignity, due preparation and, above all, faith in the mystery itself. In this regard, the encyclical Redemptoris Missio can be of assistance, since it points out two causes for a lack of faith that is having a negative impact on the missionary spirit: the secularization of salvation and religious relativism. The former leads to a struggle in favor of the person, but a person reduced to only one dimension earthbound.10 Such an attitude takes the minister of the mysteries of God and links his vocation to being simply a promoter of social justice. The latter leads to the destruction of Christian truth, since it maintains that one religion is as good as another.11 Far from allowing this to be a source of lament, Pope John Paul II appealed in his Apostolic Letter, Novo millennio ineunte, for a strengthening of the Church’s missionary activity.12
The synod’s topic can be developed properly by bearing the aforementioned in mind and remembering that for the Apostles and Church Fathers consider Saint Justin alone13 the Eucharist is the holiest action the Church can perform. She firmly believes that the Risen Lord is truly and fully present in the Eucharist. Christ’s presence is the Sacrament’s basic end.
Because of the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, the Church always approaches this mystery the essence of the Liturgy with fear and trembling, and likewise, with great trust. Reverence towards the mystery of the Eucharist and awareness of its sublime character are much needed today. This requires a structured program of formation. Much will depend, however, on having places which can serve as models, places where the Eucharist is truly believed and properly celebrated, places where people can personally experience what the Sacrament is the only authentic response to a person’s every need in the search for life’s meaning.
The Eucharist and the Christian Meaning of Life
8. Each person questions the meaning of life: What is the meaning of my life? What is freedom? Why do suffering and death exist? Is there anything beyond the grave? In a word, does life have meaning or not?14 This questioning continues even though people often delude themselves into thinking that they are self-sufficient or fall victim to fear and uncertainty. Religion is the ultimate response to the search for life’s meaning, since it leads a person to the truth about himself in relation to the true God....
9. The Lineamenta responses lament a certain separation of the pastoral life from the Eucharist. The synod, therefore, could encourage the strengthening of the bond between life and mission. The Eucharist is the response to the signs of the times in contemporary culture. In a culture of death, the Eucharist is the culture of life. In an atmosphere of individual and societal selfishness, the Eucharist re-affirms total self-giving. Where there is hate and terrorism, the Eucharist places love. In response to scientific positivism, the Eucharist proclaims mystery. In desperate times, the Eucharist teaches a sure hope of a blessed eternity.
The Eucharist manifests that the Church and the future of the human race are bound together in Christ and in no other reality. He is the one, truly lasting rock. Therefore, Christ’s victory is the Christian People who believe, celebrate and live the Eucharistic mystery.
THE EUCHARIST AND ECCLESIAL COMMUNION
“Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread”. (I Cor 10:17)
Eucharistic Mystery: The Expression of Ecclesial Unity
10. In exhorting the faithful to flee from idolatry and to avoid eating flesh sacrificed to idols, Saint Paul highlights the Christian’s intimate bond of communion with the Body and Blood of Christ, thus making of the multitudes of the faithful, one body, one community and one Church.... (cf. I Cor 8:1-10)
The responses to the Lineamenta, in commenting on the Eucharist as the expression of ecclesial communion, highlight the following aspects of the subject which warrant particular treatment: the relation of the Eucharist to the Church; the relation of the Eucharist to the other Sacraments, especially Penance; the relation of the Eucharist to the faithful; and adverse situations or “shadows” in the celebration of the Eucharist.
The Relation of the Eucharist to the Church as “Bride and Body of Christ”
11. The Eucharist is the heart of ecclesial communion. From the many figures applied to the Church, the Second Vatican Council preferred one which expresses her totality mystery. The Church is primarily the mystical encounter between God and humanity. As such, she is Spouse and Body of Christ, Mother and the People of God. Because of the mutual relationship between the Eucharist and the Church, the notes of the Creed can be applied to both one, holy, catholic and apostolic as illustrated in the Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia.20
The Eucharist builds the Church and the Church is the place where communion is realized with God and humanity. The Church is aware that the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity, holiness, apostolicity and catholicity and the sacrament essential to the Church as Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. At the same time, the marks of the Church are the bonds of catholic communion which give the Eucharistic celebration its legitimacy.
Pope John Paul II recalled that “the Church is the Body of Christ: we walk ‘with Christ’ to the extent that we are in relationship ‘with His body’”.21 This is the real basis for a certain manner of acting at the Eucharist and for observing the norms of celebration. This is the Church as Bride rendering obedience to Christ.
12. The Church makes the Eucharist and the Eucharist builds the Church. Although both were instituted by Christ, one in view of the other, the two terms of the well-known aphorism are not equivalent....
13. Catholic ecclesiology is expressed in the Anaphora of the Liturgy, in the so-called diptychs, which recall the Eucharistic aspect of the primacy of the pope, Bishop of Rome, as the interior principle of the universal Church. This is analogous to the role of the bishop in his particular Church.27 One Eucharist calls the one Church to unity, defying any break-down into multi-Churches. The one Church willed by Christ always returns to the Eucharist, which is realized in communion with the apostolic college, whose head is the Successor of Peter. This bond gives to the Eucharist its legitimate character. The Eucharistic unity willed by Christ does not result simply from the common union of so-called “Sister Churches”. The interior character of the Sacrament is communion with the Successor of Peter, who is the principle of unity in the Church and the recipient of the charism of unity and universality, that is, the Petrine charism. Ecclesial unity, then, is manifested in the unity of Christians in a sacramental and Eucharistic manner.
The Relation of the Eucharist to the Other Sacraments
14. A specific relationship exists between the Eucharist and the other sacraments. A treatment of this subject needs to bear in mind the teaching of the Council of Trent which states that the sacraments “contain the grace they signify”, and confer that grace in their celebration.28 All sacraments, ecclesiastical ministers and apostolic works are intimately bound to the Sacred Eucharist and are ordered to it.29 Therefore, the Sacrament of the Eucharist is “the perfection of all perfections”....30
17. The relation of Holy Orders to the Eucharist is seen primarily at Mass presided over by a bishop or priest in the Person of Christ the Head.
The Church’s teaching makes Holy Orders a requirement for the valid celebration of the Eucharist.
For this reason, many strongly recommended highlighting the fact that “in the celebration of the Eucharist, the ministerial priesthood differs from the common priesthood of the faithful in essence and not merely in degree”....34
The Close Bond Between the Eucharist and Penance
21. The Sacrament of Penance restores the bonds of communion broken by mortal sin.37 Consequently, the relation of the Eucharist to the Sacrament of Penance deserves particular attention. The responses point out the need to treat the Sacrament of Penance as geared towards the Eucharist and the Church, understanding it to be the necessary condition for encountering and adoring, in a spirit of holiness and purity of heart, the Lord who is All-Holy....
The relation of the Eucharist to Penance in today’s society greatly depends on both a sense of sin and a sense of the sacred. The distinction between good and evil oftentimes becomes a subjective matter. People today, by insisting that conscience is strictly a personal affair, risk losing a sense of sin.
22. Many Lineamenta responses refer to the rapport between the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
In many countries, persons have lost, or are gradually losing, an awareness that conversion is necessary for receiving the Eucharist. Its connection with the Sacrament of Penance is not always understood, e.g., the necessity of being in the state of grace before receiving Holy Communion. As a result, the obligation of confessing mortal sins is forgotten.39
The idea of communion as “food for the journey” has also caused a minimization of the necessity of being in the state of grace. Instead, just as proper nourishment presupposes a healthy, living being, so the Eucharist requires that a person be in the state of grace so the Baptismal commitment can be re-enforced. How can a person be in the state of mortal sin and receive the One who is a “medicine” of immortality and an “antidote” to death?40
Where many faithful know that they cannot receive communion while in mortal sin, they do not have a clear idea of what constitutes mortal sin. Others give no thought to it. Oftentimes, the situation creates a vicious circle: “I won’t receive communion because I have not gone to confession; I don’t go to confession, because I have no sins to confess”. Though such an attitude can be traced to a variety of causes, the principal one is a lack of proper catechesis on the subject.
Another rather widespread problem is created by a lack of access to the Sacrament of Penance at convenient times. In some countries, individual confessions have been eliminated....
Certainly, thought needs to be given to the great disproportion between the many who receive Holy Communion and the few who go to confession. The faithful frequently receive Holy Communion, without even thinking that they might be in the state of mortal sin. As a result, the receiving of Holy Communion by those who are divorced and civilly remarried is a common occurrence in various countries. At funeral Masses, weddings or other celebrations, many receive Holy Communion only out of the generally-held, mistaken conviction that a person cannot participate at Mass without receiving Holy Communion....
The Relation of the Eucharist to the Faithful
24. According to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and other documents of the Magisterium,45 the lay faithful are an essential part of the communion of the Church, which is structured hierarchically.
In the incarnation of the Word, God the Father made Himself visible and began a worship in spirit conforming to reason which is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Worship can no longer be “something learned by rote”. (Is 29:13) Christian worship has Christological and anthropological implications. Therefore, the participation of the faithful at liturgical celebrations, particularly the Eucharistic Liturgy, is essentially entering into this spiritual worship where God comes down to the individual and the individual is raised to God. The Eucharist itself, the Son’s memorial, is adoration which arises to the Father in the Holy Spirit. This is the basis of the liturgical renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council.
Many mention that the idea of participation is often limited to its exterior aspects. Not everyone understands that its true meaning comes from faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Participation in the Eucharist is rightly seen as the quintessential act in the Church’s life. It is communion with Trinitarian life: God the Father, the incarnate and risen Son of God and the Holy Spirit, who works the transformation and the “divinization” of human life.
The responses to the Lineamenta agree that the faithful need assistance in understanding the nature of the Eucharist and its connection to the incarnation of the Word, in addition to their seeing that their participation in the Eucharistic mystery is primarily an interior gift of themselves in heart and mind, before ever being an exterior act. For this purpose, the suggestion was made to give greater emphasis to the spousal aspect of the Eucharist in relation to the new covenant, using it as the model for the vocations of the Christian life marriage, virginity and priesthood so as to form Eucharistic persons and communities who love and serve, like Jesus in the Eucharist.
Shadows in the Celebration of the Eucharist
26. Regrettably, the Lineamenta responses also indicate that the ecclesial community is seriously concerned about and affected by shadows in the celebration of the Eucharist. Pope John Paul II already touched upon the subject in his Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia.47 The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments treated the matter more extensively in its Instruction Redemptionis sacramentum,48 which is an invitation to consider in an attentive, calm but nonetheless critical fashion, the way the Church celebrates this Sacrament, the source and summit of her life and mission. That this invitation comes at a moment when the Church is becoming more engaged in a dialogue with other religions and the world, shows the hand of Providence in the pope’s appeal. In this way, he teaches that the Church must always take a hard look at herself, if she is to speak faithfully about herself with those involved in dialogue, without losing her proper identity as the universal sacrament of salvation.
The following text describes various shadows which came to light in analyzing the Lineamenta responses. These observations should not be seen as merely transgressions of the rubrics or violations in liturgical practice but rather as indications of deep-rooted attitudes.
Regarding the observation of the Dies Domini, the responses refer to a decrease in participation at Mass on Sundays and Holy days of Obligation, due to a lack of understanding on the content and meaning of the Eucharistic mystery and to an attitude of indifference, particularly in progressively secularized countries, where oftentimes Sunday becomes just another workday.
It is widely held that Christ’s presence is a result of the community and not Christ Himself, who is the font and center of our communion and head of His Body, the Church.
Neglect of prayer, contemplation and adoration of the Eucharistic mystery has weakened the sense of the sacred in relation to this great Sacrament.
This situation can lead to compromising the truth of Catholic teaching concerning the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, traditionally called transubstantiation. It can also threaten faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a belief which suffers from ideas which intend to explain the Eucharistic mystery not so much in itself but rather from a subjective point of view, for example, in the use of terms like “trans-finalization” and “trans-signification”.
The responses note that the people are not always consistent in the faith they profess in the Sacrament and the moral implications of the Sacrament in both personal matters as well as in the general cultural and social arena.
Some Church documents are barely known, especially those of the Second Vatican Council, the great encyclicals on the Eucharist, including Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the Apostolic Letter Mane nobiscum Domine, and others. Some liturgical celebrations suffer from an improper balance, ranging from a passive following of rituals to an excessive creativity which sometimes draws too much attention to the celebrant of the Eucharist. The latter is often characterized by lengthy commentaries which do not allow the Eucharistic mystery to speak for itself through liturgical signs and formulas.
THE FAITH OF THE CHURCH IN THE MYSTERY OF THE EUCHARIST
THE EUCHARIST, GOD’S GIFT TO HIS PEOPLE
“The Mystery of Faith”
The Eucharist: the Mystery of Faith
27. Using the above phrase, the priest-presider at the Eucharist proclaims, in a spirit of awe, the Church’s faith in the risen Lord, really present under the elements of bread and wine, which have been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into His Body and Blood.
There is general insistence on the Second Vatican Council’s teaching which refers to the Eucharist as the center and heart of the Church’s life and, in a particular way, as the Mystery of Faith, God’s plan revealed in Jesus Christ. God who gives Himself to us, and is with us, is not only a gift and mystery of ineffable richness but also a gift and mystery continually to be rediscovered. The Mysterium fidei is the God who gives to us, the First, the Last and the Living One who has entered into time. The Lord Jesus is truly man and truly God in our midst. He is Son of God and Son of Man.
A well-known, Second Vatican Council text provides assistance in the matter of faith and mystery: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light.... Christ, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear”.49
The word “mystery”, occurring three times, summarizes the truth concerning Christ and the truth concerning each person. The question of the mystery of the Word, the mystery of the Father and the mystery of humanity are never unresolved; they find a response in Jesus Christ who is true God and true man. By making Himself “truly one of us” and being “united in a certain way with every man”,50 our Lord gives the full meaning of existence to all who desire it. He is not outside the human condition; He has brought the truth of creation to fulfillment, because “He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart”.51 Pope John Paul II has taken this text from his first encyclical Redemptor hominis52 and practically made it the Church’s manifesto in the new millennium, in which she is called to draw on the truth concerning Christ and the truth concerning humanity and its dignity, as found in the Gospel.
28. The fact and mystery of the incarnation, fulfilled in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, allows each person to participate in the divine life which is present in the Eucharist, the Bread of Eternal Life, because it has the power to overcome death. “Truly, truly I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death”. (Jn 8:51) Therefore, the resurrection is offered to humanity.
The Eucharist is also at the heart of the message proclaimed by all Christians to the world for two thousands years we bear witness that Jesus Christ was crucified but is now risen from the dead. (cf. I Cor 15:3-5)
The Eucharist proclaims the death of Christ, whose drama all can understand. Likewise, it proclaims His resurrection, which requires a faith and openness to receive God into our world. In this way, a faith born in the Eucharist becomes the basis for a new way of acting which contains in itself the ultimate, definitive meaning of awaiting the Lord’s coming.
The trinomial faith, liturgy and life widely existent in pastoral circles, alludes to the fact that without faith the Eucharist cannot be celebrated or lived. Without faith, there can be no discussion on the subject of active participation in the liturgy.
The Eucharist: The New and Eternal Covenant
29. Citing Saint Irenaeus, The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: ‘Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking’”.53 In this statement, how can one not see God’s covenant in action, the very place where the individual is to live his faith commitment? “If you do not believe, surely you shall not be established” (Is 7, 9b), says the Lord. The Eucharist is the New and Eternal Covenant, the pact and testament left by Jesus in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
Indeed, the entire Church expresses her faith in the New and Eternal Covenant. After listening to the Word, faith is professed in the Eucharistic mystery, the revelation and gift of God Himself in Jesus Christ, which spurs Christians to give wholly and entirely of themselves. First and foremost in the Eucharist, faith means acknowledging and welcoming Jesus Christ in an encounter which totally engages a person in the depths of his being, as was the case in Mary, the model of a faith fully realized.
Faith and the Celebration of the Eucharist
30. The Lineamenta responses also treat various aspects of the faith required in the celebration of the Eucharist. The Sacrament manifests the primacy of the grace of God, who is always at the origin of everything, and His gift of the Holy Spirit, who makes us participate in His mysterious action in the Sacrament by changing the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus as well as making us holy. To approach the Eucharistic liturgy without faith in grace or without at least the desire to be in the state of grace, makes void any participation in worshipping in spirit and in truth.
The Eucharist proclaims the truth of God’s Word revealed in Jesus, the Word-Made-Flesh, who already bears in His Person the ultimate fulfillment of human history. If one goes to the Eucharistic liturgy with doubt rather than the assent of truth, real participation is impossible.
The gift of freedom, which the Creator gives to each person, makes the act of faith a free choice of adhering to the Person of Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6). In the Eucharistic liturgy, God reveals Himself but also remains hidden, so as to stimulate the believer’s reason and understanding to seek Him constantly and to find Him in everyday life. The liturgy leads to a deeper participation in this mystical action or mystagogy, to quote the technical term used by the Church Fathers.
According to the Apostles James and Paul, love actuates and completes faith. Faith effects a change in the believer’s heart, converting it and opening it to love. Faith and love, together with hope, are the basis of Christian identity. The Eucharist, the Sacrament of Love, leads a person to love and provides the basis and purpose for his existence. Without agape-love, there is no life in the Spirit.
In considering the full reception of Holy Communion, these aspects of participation find their ultimate expression in doing God’s will, a plea made in the Our Father. A person can certainly participate at Mass, even though the necessary conditions do not exist for him to receive Holy Communion. However, the person must always nourish a desire and determination to fulfill these conditions as soon as possible.
Personal Faith and the Church’s Faith
31. Communion with Christ and His Church teaches that a personal faith continuously tends towards an ecclesial dimension, just as the profession of faith in Baptism naturally tends towards the liturgy. For this reason, access to the Eucharist which presupposes faith can only come about through Baptism. If the grace of Baptism is lost through sin, the “arduous Baptism”, Penance, is required to return to the Eucharist.
Before partaking of the Eucharist, the profession of faith is renewed. This fundamental bond manifests the communion of each particular Church with the local Churches throughout the world, and also the primary union with the Church of Rome and its bishop, the necessary principle of the Church’s unity. Likewise, this reciprocity is expressed in the Anaphora, in the diptychs. In the Eucharist, we manifest both a personal faith and the faith of the Church.
Participation at the Eucharist leads to an increase in understanding the mystery of each person and his life and provides the strength for the Christian to defend his faith, when partial or erroneous explanations threaten it. Essentially, the liturgy is an integrating part of the lifelong journey in faith.
The general meaning of faith is primarily seen in the witness of the martyrs, who freely accepted death as a result of hatred towards the faith, oftentimes during or immediately after the celebration of the Eucharist. They were certain of truth and life; they followed Christ, who made a free offering of Himself, leaving a memorial of His sacrifice in the Eucharist. Indeed, the acts of martyrdom which are taking place in many Churches suffering open and ill-hidden persecutions, bear witness, in the fullest manner possible, that the Sacrament is the fons et culmen of the life and mission of the Church.
The Perception of the Eucharistic Mystery among the Faithful
32. Generally speaking, the responses to the Lineamenta reveal a certain decrease in the understanding of the mystery celebrated. The Eucharist as gift and mystery is not always perceived. This is witnessed in various cultural nuances. For example, in those countries enjoying a general climate of peace and prosperity primarily western countries many perceive the Eucharistic mystery as simply the fulfillment of a Sunday obligation and a meal of fellowship. Instead, in those countries experiencing wars and other difficulties, many understand the Eucharistic mystery more fully, that is, including its sacrificial aspect. The paschal mystery, celebrated in an unbloody manner on the altar, gives profound spiritual meaning to the sufferings of Catholic Christians in these lands, helping these people to accept them as a participation in the mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Some responses, coming from the Church in Africa, mention that the idea of sacrifice is indigenous to the cultures of that continent. Therefore, this understanding, properly taken and purified of elements extraneous to the Gospel, is often used in pastoral catechesis for a better understanding of the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist.
Catechesis is faced with the difficulty of preserving the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist as well as the idea of the Eucharist as a meal. Oftentimes, the latter receives more emphasis than the former.
To deal with these pastoral situations, many Lineamenta responses want an effective, faithful application of the liturgical renewal of the Second Vatican Council to reestablish a balance among the various aspects of the Eucharist. In this case, some thought that certain liturgical norms might be reviewed. Similarly, the suggestion was made to promote an adequate catechesis at all levels to help people better understand that the paschal mystery is renewed in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is the sacrifice of praise and communion, which causes the community to grow.
The Sense of the Sacred in the Eucharist
33. No one doubts the great effects resulting from the liturgical renewal prompted by the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. Indeed, the post-conciliar liturgy has greatly fostered the active, conscious and fruitful participation of the faithful in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar.54
Nevertheless, responses coming from various countries note some deficiencies and shadows in the celebration of the Eucharist on the part of both the clergy and the faithful, which seem to have their origin in a weakened sense of the sacred in the Sacrament. Safeguarding the Sacrament’s sacred character basically depends on being aware that the Eucharist is a mystery and gift, whose remembrance requires signs and words corresponding to its nature as a sacrament.
Certain actions which challenge a sense of the sacred, often mentioned in the Lineamenta responses, can be of assistance in treating the subject, for example, a neglect by the celebrant and the ministers to use proper liturgical vestments and the participants’ lack of befitting dress for Mass; the use of profane music in Church; the tacit consent to eliminate certain liturgical gestures thought to be too traditional, such as genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament; an inadequate catechesis for Communion in the hand and its improper distribution; a lack of reverence before, during and after the celebration of Holy Mass, not only by the laity but also the celebrant; the scant architectural and artistic quality of sacred buildings and sacred vessels; and instances of syncretism in integrating elements from other religions in the inculturation of liturgical forms.
All these negative realities, occurring more often in the Latin Liturgy than the Liturgies of the Eastern Churches, should not lead to great alarm, since they seem to be limited. Nevertheless, they ought to spur serious reflection on how to eliminate them and to ensure that the Eucharistic liturgies are places of praise, prayer, communion, listening, silence and adoration, out of deep reverence for the mystery of God, who is revealed in Christ under the elements of bread and wine, and out of the utter joy of feeling oneself a member of a community of the faithful reconciled with God the Father through the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist is the most sacred and highest form of prayer. It is the Great Prayer.
THE PASCHAL MYSTERY AND THE EUCHARIST
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”. (I Cor 11:26)
The Centrality of the Paschal Mystery
34. Every Eucharistic celebration renews the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, bread broken for the life of the world and blood poured out for the redemption of humanity and the liberation of the cosmos. (cf. Rm 8:19-23)
The synod topic ought to lead to a rediscovery of Jesus’ paschal mystery as the mystery of salvation, which gives rise to the life and mission of the Church. The Eucharist is revealed as Gift: the Lord gives Himself; He is God-with-us. The Eucharist is His Person and His life given for us. The Lord exercises His priestly, prophetic and kingly mission in the Eucharist....
Sacrifice, Memorial and Meal
36. The Lineamenta responses indicate a general need to examine thoroughly the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and a hope that this truth of our faith be presented with greater clarity, according to the recent Magisterium of the Church.
The Second Vatican Council has already provided a theological reflection on Jesus’ sacrifice as a complete and totally gratuitous offering of Himself to God the Father for the salvation of the world. Though numerous texts mention this aspect of the Sacrament, the reference in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium to the idea of sacrifice in the exercise of the priestly ministry deserves particular attention: “priests ... exercise their sacred function in the Eucharistic liturgy or synaxis, where, acting in the Person of Christ and proclaiming His mystery, they join the offering of the faithful to the sacrifice of their Head. Until the Lord comes again (cf. I Cor 11:26), they re-present and apply in the Sacrifice of the Mass the one sacrifice of the New Testament, namely the sacrifice of Christ offering Himself once and for all to His Father as a spotless victim (cf. Heb 9:11-28)”.57
The Catechism of the Catholic Church58 treats the subject in the subheading: “The Sacramental Sacrifice: Thanksgiving, Memorial, Presence” which indicates that the prevalent name, without prejudice to the others, is the Sacramental Sacrifice, namely, that the sacrificial death of Christ saved us from our sins and that the Sacrament gives each of us the possibility to experience its effects. Thanksgiving is therefore rendered to God through His sacrifice, through recalling His sacrifice, and through the presence of His sacrifice in the Body given up and in the Blood poured out. An act of thanksgiving is made to the Father for creation and for the salvation of humanity and the world.
Considering the Eucharist in this way can lay to rest any opposition between the notions of sacrifice and meal. In fact, if a supper is intended in using the second term, the notion of sacrifice would be included, since it would denote the Supper of the Lamb who was slain. Employing the second term as a synonym for communion would also manifest the end or summit of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
The Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, in treating the Eucharist as sacrifice,59 also teaches that the Church re-presents Christ’s sacrifice as an act of intercession, namely, the Son offers Himself in His flesh and thereby becomes the mediator between humanity and the Father. The Church of Christ is united in this offering through the Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer. This offering is not new; rather it is the one and same offering accomplished on the Cross, though in an unbloody manner. This understanding is helpful in reading the following reference from the Encyclical: “The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it”.60 Recounting what comes about as a result of the sacrificial love of the Lord is simply to repeat the Encyclical’s contents.
37. Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension and Pentecost are real happenings; they help us to know that the Lord’s enduring, substantial presence in the Sacrament is not a mere type or metaphor. Doubts that God’s power can work in matter account for the fact that some see the Sacrament only as a symbol of Christ’s presence. In the context of the other ways in which Christ is present in the Church, the paschal mystery allows us to understand the nature of the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist resulting from the change of the elements or transubstantiation. The bread becomes the Body given up and broken for our salvation: Corpus Christi salva me; the wine becomes the Blood poured out and the overflowing of divine delight: Sanguis Christi inebria me.61 Because the Eucharist is the real and substantial presence of Christ in the “poverty” of the sacramental elements, the Sacrament can sow the seeds of a new history in the world.62 The paschal mystery confirms the condescension of God and the kenosis [emptying] of the Son, without any compromise to the absolute transcendence of the Trinity.
Jesus’ words “take and eat” primarily mean the gift of Himself to us which in turn leads to the fellowship of the table, the unity of the Church community and the commitment to share bread with the needy. All this gives rise to adoration, namely, the ongoing worship of the Lord, who accompanies the People of God on its pilgrimage.
Transubstantiation takes place in the consecration of the bread and wine. The responses recommend that the theology of the act of consecration be explained by drawing from the ecclesial traditions of both East and West. In particular, the consecration should be seen as the faithful imitation of what the Lord did and commanded at the Last Supper and as the result of the invocation of the Holy Spirit in the epiclesis. A clearer theology on the act of consecration would be very useful in ecumenical dialogue with the Eastern Churches which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church. Likewise, it would help eliminate some shadows mentioned in the Lineamenta responses, for example, the use of hosts with leaven or other ingredients; the celebration of Mass with ordinary bread; improvisation during the Eucharistic Prayer; the recitation of certain parts of the Eucharistic Prayer by the people at the insistence of the celebrant and the fractio panis [breaking the bread] at the moment of consecration.
The Real Presence
38. The Lord willed His presence in the Sacrament so that He could be near humanity, provide Himself as nourishment for humanity and continually abide in the Church community. Some responses mention that humanity’s response is faith in Christ’s Real and Substantial Presence, in accordance with the teachings of the Encyclical Letters Ecclesia de Eucharistia and Mysterium fidei. Faith in Christ’s presence in the Sacrament includes other dimensions, that is, a sense of mystery and the various ways to express it, the positioning of the tabernacle and conduct at Mass, not to mention the Sacrament’s eschatological significance as the pledge of future glory. Indeed, the Sacrament is also the anticipation of the ultimate, eternal reality as the Church journeys in pilgrimage towards the house of the heavenly Father. This final dimension is seen, for example, in the lives of persons in the consecrated life who patiently await the Bridegroom.
In the Apostolic Letter Mane nobiscum Domine, for the Year of the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II proposed the following doctrinal synthesis concerning the presence of the living Christ in His Church: “All these dimensions of the Eucharist come together in one aspect which more than any other makes a demand on our faith: the mystery of the ‘Real’ Presence. With the entire tradition of the Church, we believe that Jesus is truly present under the Eucharistic species. This presence as Pope Paul VI rightly explained is called ‘real’ not in an exclusive way, as if to suggest that other forms of Christ’s presence are not real, but par excellence, because Christ thereby becomes substantially present, whole and entire, in the reality of His Body and Blood. Faith demands that we approach the Eucharist fully aware that we are approaching Christ Himself. It is precisely His presence which gives the other aspects of the Eucharist as meal, as memorial of the paschal mystery, as eschatological anticipation a significance which goes far beyond mere symbolism. The Eucharist is a mystery of presence, the perfect fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to remain with us until the end of the world”.63
This citation confirms the teaching called for in various responses to the Lineamenta. The one hidden in the Sacrament is the kingly Mediator between God and humanity, the Eternal High Priest, the Divine Master, the Judge of the living and the dead, the God-Man, the Word-Made-Flesh and the One who mystically gathers together all the faithful into the great community of the Church. This is the way He presents Himself at Mass.
39. Some Lineamenta responses, however, mention that, at times, a certain way of acting indicates that transubstantiation and the Real Presence are understood in a symbolic sense only. Many responses noted that some celebrants at the liturgy seem more like showmen, who must draw people’s attention to themselves, instead of servants of Christ, called to conduct the faithful to union with Him.64 Obviously, such a way of acting has negative repercussions on the people who run the risk of being confused in both their faith in and understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament.
True and proper liturgical signs and gestures, aimed at expressing faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, have been used in Church tradition, for example, the attentive purification of sacred vessels after communion, the steps to be taken when the Eucharistic species might accidentally fall to the floor, genuflections before the tabernacle, the use of the communion plate, the regular replacement of consecrated hosts reserved in the tabernacle, the keeping of the tabernacle key in a secure place and the celebrant’s composure and concentration in keeping with the transcendent and divine character of the Sacrament. Omitting or neglecting any of these sacred gestures, which are significantly important externally, would clearly not contribute to preserving a sound faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Sacrament. The responses therefore suggest that the gestures and signs expressing faith in the Real Presence be included in a proper mystagogy and liturgical catechesis.
40. Furthermore, it must not to be forgotten that faith in the Real Presence of the dead and risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament has a culminating point in Eucharistic adoration, a firmly grounded tradition in the Latin Church. Such a practice rightly highlighted in many Lineamenta responses should not be presented as something apart from the Eucharistic celebration but as its natural continuation. The responses also indicate that some particular Churches are experiencing a reawakening in Eucharistic adoration, which, in each case, is to be done in a dignified and solemn manner.
Likewise, the positioning of the tabernacle in an easily seen place is another way of attesting to faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. In this regard, the responses to the Lineamenta request that significant thought be given to the proper location of the tabernacle in Churches, with due attention to canonical norms.65 It is worth considering whether the removal of the tabernacle from the center of the sanctuary to an obscure, undignified corner or to a separate chapel, or whether to have placed the celebrant’s chair in the center of the sanctuary or in front of the tabernacle as was done in many renovations of older churches and in new constructions has contributed in some way to a decrease in faith in the Real Presence.
The responses also note that instructions in the construction and re-structuring of churches often insist in a particular way on the positioning of the tabernacle to express an awareness of the Real Presence. When this is done, it results in an increase in faith and adoration. Churches ought to remain places of prayer and adoration and not be transformed into museums. This is also the case for cathedrals and basilicas of great historic and artistic value.
THE EUCHARIST IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH
CELEBRATING THE EUCHARIST OF THE LORD
“And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age”. (Mt 28:20)
“We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence...”66
41. The celebration of Holy Mass begins with an acknowledgment that God is present where two or more are united in His name and that we stand before Him in His presence. In participating at Mass, we ought to be aware that we are at the wellspring of grace: “Our hymn of praise adds nothing to your greatness but brings us your saving grace”.67 In the Liturgy, a person looks not at himself but God.
It is not our praise but His action which makes the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the center of the cosmic liturgy in which the Trinity is present, eternally adored by Mary and the angels who serve God. They offer us a model of service. The Three-in-One-God is also adored by the saints and the just, who enjoy the beatific vision and make intercession for us, and by the souls of the faithful, who are being purified in the sure hope of seeing God. At Mass, the Church is manifested as the Family of God, according to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa....68
42. The proper structure and elements of the celebration of the Eucharist are explained in The General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, especially in the Byzantine tradition the most diffuse in the Eastern Catholic Churches and other traditions. The celebration of the Eucharist calls for a humble obedience to these canonical norms by the priest and ministers.
To foster due respect and reverence for the Eucharist, the sacred ministers should make a proper preparation in prayer before the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice in which the Lord makes Himself present through their hands. Afterwards, they should make an act of thanksgiving to God.70
Regrettably, some responses indicate that these times of preparation and thanksgiving are not always observed. At the same time, however, it must be acknowledged that there are many members of the clergy including bishops, priests and deacons and many lay persons who make these acts of praise and thanksgiving with much spiritual benefit. In this regard, many responses strongly recommend a preparation for the celebration of the Eucharist through silence and prayer, while drawing upon the various venerable traditions of worship.
The Liturgy of the Word
45. Bible readings, the Responsorial Psalm, the Acclamation before the Gospel, the Homily and the Profession of Faith make up the Liturgy of the Word. God spoke to us through His Son, the Word-Made-Flesh. The Divine Word is uniquely one and, since it brings about what is expressed, it is likewise the Bread of Life, the sign which He has accomplished. In recalling the Emmaus account (cf. Lk 24:13-35), Pope John Paul II showed the inseparable connection between the Table of the Word and the Table of the Eucharist.71 Consequently, the Liturgy of the Word together with the Liturgy of the Eucharist constitute a single, inseparable act of worship.
The Liturgy of the Word is associated with God’s revelation in the Old Testament. The exceeding richness of God’s powerful presence, the glory of the Chosen People of Israel, has become a part of the Catholic Liturgy, because of the Word-Made-Flesh, who died and rose for the salvation of all.
Furthermore, the Second Vatican Council teaches that Jesus’ revelation goes beyond the mere codification of the Scriptural texts, which do not express it entirely.72 His word remains alive in the Church, who transmits it through the ages and makes it accessible in the sign of the Sacrament. The proclamation made by Jesus is not separate from His presence in the Sacrament; they create a unity never before seen and never to be repeated again.
His incarnation, passion, death and resurrection are word and event which are to be viewed and contemplated. The word calls one back to the event. The Eucharistic mystery will always exist in the Church’s life as a synthesis of word and event, which leads to contemplation....
The Liturgy of the Eucharist
48. The Presentation of the Gifts is followed by the Eucharistic Prayer, which, in various formulations in the East and West, perceives the Church in light of the Trinity, with her beginning in creation, her summit in the paschal mystery and her end in bringing together in unity, at the end of time, of all things in Christ. Consequently, the Eucharistic Prayer begins with the celebrant’s calling upon the faithful to lift up their hearts to the Lord. The word “Anaphora” means to raise the gifts and ourselves on high to the Father through the Son, the source of salvation.
In the epiclesis, the Church begs the Father to send the Holy Spirit, with His mighty power, upon the gifts. The epiclesis, which takes place after the consecration in the Eastern liturgy, emphasizes the bond between the Eucharist and the mystery of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit on the assembled community. “We ask you, Lord, as you sent your Holy Spirit on your holy disciples and apostles, in the same way, pour out your Holy Spirit to sanctify our soul, our body and our spirit”.73 The Spirit is invoked on those who are to receive Holy Communion for the grace to give themselves to others and live a life in accordance with the Sacrament they celebrate.
At the center of the Eucharistic Prayer are the Lord’s words of institution over the bread and wine. This is the consecration, the solemn moment when the Risen Lord becomes really present under the elements of bread and wine. The consecration guarantees the continuity of the Eucharist through time, from Christ to the Apostles and their successors and collaborators the bishops and priests who, in their hierarchical ministry, act in the name of the Lord for the benefit of the Church.
49. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal recommends that “the faithful who are properly disposed”76 receive Holy Communion. The proper disposition comes from discerning that the Body of the Lord is not ordinary bread but the Bread of Life for those who are reconciled to the Father. Just as sharing an ordinary meal presupposes good relations, so the Eucharist is the Sacrament of those reconciled. The Eucharist is the end of a journey of reconciliation with God and the Church through the Sacrament of Penance. In this way, Christ’s compassion is manifested in the saving of souls, the supreme law of the Church. After reconciliation through the Sacrament of Penance and the return to the state of grace, the Communion Rite is the immediate preparation for Holy Communion. More emphasis should be given to the importance of the grace of the Sacrament as a good never to be denied to anyone who is properly disposed.77 The necessary conditions are amply set forth in the canonical and liturgical norms; there is no need to add others....
51. Attention should be given to the subject of ars celebrandi, so the faithful may be lead to true worship, reverence and adoration. The priest’s outstretched hands are a lowly, humble appeal; “we humbly pray,” is said in all the Eucharistic Prayers.80 For the priest, humility in word and disposition is consonant with Christ who is meek and humble of heart....
Based on the fact that the Lord entrusted the Eucharist to the Apostles and that the Church transmits the same faith in the Eucharist, the bishop has a particular responsibility for the Eucharist and the duty to ensure that the faithful’s participation at the Eucharist be “full, conscious and active”.81 Every Eucharistic celebration in a particular diocese takes place in communion with the bishop and depends on his authority.82 He is watchful that the faithful have the opportunity to participate at Mass and that the Sacrament be celebrated in a dignified, becoming manner, without any abuses. In liturgical celebration, the sensus ecclesiæ transcends specific situations, groups and cultures. As primus mysteriorum Dei dispensator, the bishop, on a regular basis, celebrates Holy Mass in the cathedral, the Mother-Church and heart of the diocese. This Eucharistic liturgy ought to be an example for the entire diocese....
The Word and the Bread of Life
53. Many Lineamenta responses speak of the relation between Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Word, mentioning that, in some cases, the faithful are running the risk of gradually losing a sense of the difference between Eucharistic celebrations and other kinds of celebrations. This pastoral problem arises, for example, in places where deacons or extraordinary ministers frequently preside over communion liturgies. The same is true in some places where the faithful prefer to participate in a Liturgy of the Word rather than travel to a neighboring parish to participate at Mass....
54. In this matter, the question arises as to the excessive number of Liturgies of the Word, in place of Holy Mass, which risks reducing Christian worship to a service of the assembly. Instead, catechesis would be useful in mission stations which are awaiting the assignment of a priest to celebrate the Eucharist. In fact, in this case, it would be better to speak of “liturgies awaiting a priest” instead of “priest-less liturgies”....
[Some] responses also mention the need to explain clearly the threefold office of priest, prophet and king, when speaking of the difference between the ordained and non-ordained ministry. In this way, the priest-minister of the sacred mysteries will also be identified as communicator, mystagogue and witness of these sacred mysteries. Finally, to overcome a certain confusion in the Church on the ordained ministry, the recommendation was made, among others, to promote the appropriate documents of the Magisterium, such as the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis on the priest, sign of Christ the Head, Bridegroom and Shepherd....
The Meaning of Norms
56. In speaking of the instauratio of the liturgy, the Lineamenta responses returned again to the new Ordo Missae and The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which treat the elements of the liturgy of the universal Church.
Liturgical norms can be considered guides for entering into mystery....
Norms show the apostolic character of the Eucharist. These same norms are also a basic requirement of the Sacrament’s sacred character. The Blessed Sacrament must always be approached with the utmost reverence. For this reason, priests are said to be consecrated, as the bishop’s instruction before priestly ordination recalls: “Your ministry will perfect the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful by uniting it to Christ’s sacrifice, the sacrifice which is offered sacramentally through your hands. Know what you are doing and imitate the mystery you celebrate. In the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection, make every effort to die to sin and to walk in the new life of Christ”....86
57. Many responses to the Lineamenta cite various causes for the neglect of these norms: an insufficient knowledge of the history and theological meaning of the rites; a wish to be novel; and a distrust that ritual signs are capable of speaking to people. Some responses maintain that norms are not observed because of shortcomings in The General Instruction of the Roman Missal. For example, inadequate translations of liturgical texts and the lack of precision in the rubrics leave the celebrant at liberty to improvise certain parts. Some responses make specific reference to the need to take great care in translating liturgical texts by entrusting this challenging work to specialists, under the bishops’ supervision and with the approval of the competent congregation of the Holy See.
In teaching about norms or issuing them, a basic principle must be borne in mind: just as an over-estimation of the faithful’s formation could have contributed to practical difficulties in introducing liturgical reform, one must not underestimate popular sentiment or the faithful’s capacity to accept an appeal to return to basic truths.
An Urgent Pastoral Program
58. Generally speaking, the Lineamenta responses provide a picture of the shadows existent in the celebration of the Eucharist.
Where some liturgical rubrics are treated with mistrust, others seem to be adopted to provoke changes inspired by ideologies or theological misconceptions, not a few of which come from movements and groups seeking changes in the liturgy.
Oftentimes the universal norms, commonly maintained by the Church as an expression of her catholicity, stand in contrast to certain liturgical celebrations of some ecclesial movements. Competent Church authorities are called upon to offer major clarity in this matter, so as to avoid confusion. In using the vernacular, the rite’s structure needs to be respected. This is the only way to emphasize, in a visible fashion, the unity of the Catholic Church of the western tradition. The faithful show a particular sensitivity to arbitrary changes in the rite.
In some cases, too much inventiveness leads to a manipulation of the Mass and the use of extraneous texts in place of the ones specified. Such an attitude often creates conflict between the clergy and the laity and even within the presbyterate itself.
59. To dispel these shadows, the same responses to the Lineamenta make a few recommendations.
The ongoing formation of the clergy needs to rekindle a spirit of communal prayer to strengthen a disposition of humbly adhering to the spirit and letter of liturgical norms. In this way, they can render true service to the People of God, which is called in the Divine Liturgy to give thanks and to raise supplication to its Lord in the Holy Spirit.
Existing principles for integrating elements of local culture in the liturgical celebrations need to be studied in-depth. New instructions, which are clearer and more precise, could be published, particularly in light of the recent revision of The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Instruction Redemptionis sacramentum and Varietates legitimæ of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
The implications of faith in the Eucharist need to be explained to the faithful. In the Eucharist, the faithful are nourished with the Body of the Risen Christ. In each Eucharistic celebration throughout the world, the Risen Lord, conqueror of sin and death, goes beyond the limits of time and space and is really present under the elements of bread and wine. Therefore, it is the Body of the Glorified Lord, which is changed into the Bread of Angels and is destined as food for a humanity that is called to share the beatific vision, in the Communion of Saints, in eternal adoration of the Three-in-One God.
A proper catechesis can do away with misconceptions which might perceive the Eucharist in a magical, superstitious or spiritualistic manner. Such catechesis is very appropriate at Masses for healing which take place in some countries.
Precautionary measures should be taken to prevent any sacrilege to consecrated hosts, which occurs in Satanic rites and so-called “Black Masses”.
60. The People of God, gathered in the Lord’s House, give thanks and praise through speaking, listening, singing and moments of silence.
Various responses to the Lineamenta recommend that singing at Mass and Eucharistic Adoration be done in a dignified manner. The faithful need to know the standard Gregorian chants, which have been composed to meet the needs of people of all times and places, in virtue of their simplicity, refinement and agility in form and rhythm. As a result, the songs and hymns presently in use need to be reconsidered.87 To enter into sacred or religious usage, instrumental or vocal music is to have a sense of prayer, dignity and beauty. This requires an integrity of form, expressing true artistry.... Gregorian chant fulfills these needs and can therefore serve as a model, according to Pope John Paul II.88 Musicians and poets should be encouraged to compose new hymns, according to liturgical standards, which contain authentic catechetical teaching on the paschal mystery, Sunday and the Eucharist.
61. Some responses particularly mentioned the use of musical instruments, referring to the general guidelines contained in the Constitution Sacrosanctum concilium.89 In this regard, a certain appreciation was often voiced in the Latin tradition for the organ, whose majestic sound adds solemnity to worship and is conducive to contemplation....
[Some responses] lamented the poor quality of translations of liturgical texts and many musical texts in current languages, maintaining that they lacked beauty and were sometimes theologically unclear, thereby contributing to a weakening of Church teaching and to a misunderstanding of prayer. A few responses made particular mention of music and singing at Youth Masses. In this regard, it is important to avoid musical forms which, because of their profane use, are not conducive to prayer. Some responses note a certain eagerness in composing new songs, to the point of almost yielding to a consumer mentality, showing little concern for the quality of the music and text, and easily overlooking the artistic patrimony which has been theologically and musically effective in the Church’s liturgy.
In keeping with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium,90 the suggestion was made that, at international gatherings, the liturgy be in Latin, at least the Eucharistic Prayer, to facilitate a proper participation of the concelebrants and those who are not familiar with the local vernacular language....
The Dignity of the Sacred Space
62. The Lineamenta made reference to the role of art. The dignity of what pertains to the celebration of the Eucharist expresses faith in the sacred mysteries and effectively contributes to nourishing the faith of both the sacred ministers and the faithful. This attitude is seen in the proper arrangement of the sacred space, in an appropriate placement of the tabernacle and chair....
The liturgy manifests that the People of God are hierarchically ordered and geared to active participation. The altar is the most holy part of the Church building and is elevated to indicate that God’s work is far superior to all human works. The linens which cover it are symbolic of the purity which is necessary to encounter the divine. Like the Church building, the altar is dedicated to the Lord only, and cannot be used for any other purpose.
63. The responses raise the concern that oftentimes the Church building is used for profane events, such as concerts and theatrical events which are not always religious in nature. The liturgy of the dedication of a Church recalls that the community offers the Church building entirely to the Lord. Therefore, it cannot be used for any other purpose apart from its consecration.
Some responses reported other occurrences, opposed to aforementioned Church tradition, which obscure the sense of the sacred and the transcendent character of the sacred mysteries.... [Such as the] tendency to turn the altar around to face the people in practice eliminating the presbytery.... In doing so, what might be gained in communication might not sufficiently safeguard a sense of the sacred, which is also an essential part of liturgical celebrations.
Some responses are very encouraging, however.... For example, in some churches, kneelers have returned along with the practice of the faithful kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer. Tabernacles, previously not clearly visible, have again been placed in the sanctuary or in a prominent place. The planning of new churches is providing greater prominence to art, decoration, vestments and sacred vessels....
ADORING THE LORD IN MYSTERY
“But in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you”. (I Pt 3:15)
From Celebration to Adoration
64. Adoration should be foremost in the minds of the celebrant and the liturgical assembly in the presence of an Almighty God who makes Himself really present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Oftentimes in the Catholic Church, this act of adoration continues after Holy Mass in various ways....
The Eucharist is a complete act of worship, at one and the same time a sacrifice, memorial and banquet, which is to be contemplated. Such an understanding surmounts the psychological difficulty which erroneously holds that adoration and reverence is an anomalous form of the liturgy and which questions acts of worship of the Eucharist, such as exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Eucharistic Benediction.
Sentiments of Adoration
65. Some of the more serious problems in many western countries and some countries on other continents are: a crisis in prayer and reducing the celebration of the Eucharist to mere precept or to a simple celebration of the community. Oftentimes these ideas are imported as a result of pastoral workers.
The Lineamenta responses want to see a complete and entire renewal in prayer, specifically as gift, covenant and communion,91 and its many forms blessing, adoration, praise, thanksgiving, supplication, expiation and intercession. Without a timely catechesis in this regard, the faithful will be unable to reap the benefits of the liturgy which is the regula fidei in holy signs.
The responses consistently ask for greater times and spaces dedicated to adoration and meditation....
Eucharistic adoration for the clergy was also encouraged. The suggestion was made to have parishes coordinate days of solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, so that in dioceses especially larger ones the People of God might have occasion to adore the Eucharistic Lord in various parishes each week. Restoring the practice of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in those places where it has been abandoned, above all on Sunday afternoons, could lead to an increase in Eucharistic devotion. Vespers or Lauds could be recited before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. An hour of adoration between Masses could be introduced in parishes having many scheduled Masses, for example, afternoon Masses in certain city parishes.
Moreover, other forms of Eucharistic devotion need to be encouraged, such as adoration on Holy Thursday, processions with the Blessed Sacrament, above all on the solemnity of Corpus Christi, Eucharistic visits, Forty Hours Devotion and communal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. According to the Magisterium, these actions lead to prayer for forgiveness by the faithful, especially for offenses to the Blessed Sacrament.92 Expressions of popular piety connected with the Eucharist, such as songs, floral displays and decorations need to be justly appreciated.
66. Prayer begins in a silence which leads to an awareness of being in the Lord’s presence, where He speaks to the heart and prompts a response in the great prayer of the liturgy or in Eucharistic adoration outside of Mass. This dialogue takes place through visible, religious gestures: the sign of the cross, hand movements, genuflections, bows, standing and sitting, processions and other external actions.93 Many Lineamenta responses call for catechesis concerning these visible gestures which are made authentic by a proper inner disposition....
Awaiting the Lord
67. The Risen Christ is “the first-born from the dead”. (Col 1:18) These words of the Apostle Paul express the revealed truth that, for the Christian, death is not the end of everything, but, on the contrary, the entrance into a new and mysterious life, characterized by an intimate, personal relationship with the Lord who gives happiness beyond every expectation.
Nevertheless, it must be borne in mind that certain cultural factors tend to obliterate every prospect of life beyond death. The individual’s claim of total ethical autonomy renders unacceptable, or at least irrelevant, any idea of reward or punishment after death for our moral behavior.
Various responses point out that the eschatological truth of the Eucharist is missing in catechesis today. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes reference to this in the subheading: “The Eucharist, Pledge of Future Glory”.94 It also speaks of the Eucharist as the foretaste of the banquet in the Kingdom of God and the manifestation of the Communion of Saints. Of course, awaiting these events is not foreign to living an earthly life, as seen in the following prayer: “Lord, bring to perfection within us the communion we share in this sacrament. May our celebration have an effect in our lives”.95
68. The eschatological tension between the present and future can be explained by the coming, at the Liturgy each day, of the One who is, who was and who is to come. He, the Risen and Living One, is always present. Consequently, the Eucharist is the Sacrament of the presence of He who said: “I am with you always, to the close of the age”. (Mt 28:20) Some responses to the Lineamenta lament that this aspect is treated only in the Latin liturgy, in funeral Masses, in Masses on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day or in some prayers of intercession for the dead.
Many are aware that the Eucharist is the source of communion with the dear departed and the saints, but not the foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Therefore, even though the Communion of Saints is celebrated throughout the liturgical year, thought might be given to dedicating the entire month of November to celebrating this mystery with intercessory prayers for the dead.
As for mentioning the name of the deceased during Mass, despite the existence of specific norms in the matter, many responses speak of abuses which range from refusing to make any mention to an excessive repetition.
These responses also indicate, however, that emphasis on the eschatological aspect of the Eucharistic mystery is increasing, as witnessed in praying ad Oriente [towards the East], when possible, and in properly presenting the bond between Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and Eucharistic adoration, at which time we pray, in words of the Anaphora, “when He comes again” and “looking forward to His coming in glory”, that we may come into the fullness of His presence and that He may seat us at the eschatological banquet at the end of time.96 The Eucharist is the medicine of immortality, because it is an antidote to sin and takes away venial sins. The Sacrament increases the power of grace which sanctifies and prepares the soul for eternal life, the soul which calls out to the Lord who comes: “Maranàtha”. (I Cor 16:22; cf. Rev 22:20)
69. The responses ask that greater attention be given to the celebration of the Eucharist on the Dies Domini, a Holy Day of Obligation in the Church for the community of faith and every believer. In this context, emphasis is placed on the importance of the community coming together to celebrate that the Lord is coming into its midst. Without faith, however, we cannot even speak of the Lord’s Day, let alone live it. Sundays provide an opportunity to view the world in light of the Eucharist. The Mass is Christ’s sacrifice which changes the world and calls upon the Church to become an offering, extending herself to all.
The Eucharist is also the source of a culture of pardon, difficult for many today. During the Eucharistic celebration the request is often made for forgiveness and a life renewed. Pope John Paul II called upon us to see as “a significant consequence of the eschatological tension inherent in the Eucharist”,97 the planting of seeds of a lively hope in daily life and creating new signs in the world, so that the Eucharist can be said to be truly lived.
The Lord’s Day is also the day of solidarity and sharing with the poor, in so much as the Eucharist is the bond of fellowship and the source of communion. Indeed, “from the Sunday Mass there flows a tide of charity destined to spread into the whole life of the faithful, beginning by inspiring the very way in which they live the rest of Sunday”.98
70. Without Sunday Mass and an encounter with the Lord, faith remains without nourishment; God’s Word receives no hearing nor is the communal dimension of the Church lived. For many, the only contact with the Church is Sunday Mass; their faith depends on this moment in their lives. Missing Sunday Mass gradually leads to missing Christ in life. All members of the People of God, especially the clergy, those in the consecrated life, catechists and members of ecclesial movements, ought to be involved in promoting respect for the Lord’s Day. Coming together in synodal assembly should lead to a rediscovery of the profound theological and spiritual significance of Sunday as the Lord’s Day and its proper celebration, which in turn will have very positive effects in the faithful, their families and entire communities....
One of the most challenging aspects of the Church’s pastoral program today is helping others rediscover the joy of celebrating the Eucharist on Sundays, because the world increasingly tends to see the day as simply a time of relaxation and not one of profound communion and celebration. Equally challenging is attempting to encourage entire families to participate at Holy Mass. In this way, the “domestic church” the family broadens its Christian horizons and, in communion with other families other “domestic churches” rediscovers that it is a living part of the great Family of God, the Catholic Church....
THE EUCHARIST IN THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the vine cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me”. (Jn 15:4)
The Eucharist: Font of Christian Morality
71. The metaphor of the vine and the branches in Saint John’s Gospel, occurring during the Last Supper discourse, has not only an ecclesial but a moral significance. The life of grace received through the Eucharist is the guarantee of authentic ecclesial communion and the source of the moral life, characterized by good works. The Eucharist is the basis of righteous behavior for the person who has this vital union with Christ.
Many responses to the Lineamenta insist on the relation of the personal and ecclesial aspects of the Eucharist to the moral life, holiness and one’s mission in the world. The ongoing presence and action of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Lord received through Holy Communion, is the source of dynamism in the spiritual life, in the pursuit of holiness and in the faithful’s vocation to witness to Christ.
Consequently, the Eucharist and the moral life are inseparable, not only because nourishment by the Blessed Sacrament leads to interior transformation but also because those reborn in Baptism to life according to the Spirit to the new moral life, not according to the flesh are by nature drawn to Jesus in the Eucharist. Indeed, the Eucharist fortifies the Christian sense of living; its celebration is service to God and others as well as a witness in the world to the values contained in the Gospel. In this way, the three dimensions of the Christian life liturgia, martyria and diakonia demonstrate a continuity between the Sacrament celebrated and the Sacrament adored and between the commitment to bear witness to Christ in the temporal order and the communion which is built up through service in charity, especially to the poor.
72. Various responses have insisted on the relationship between the Eucharist and the moral life, pointing to a significant awareness of the importance of the moral duty flowing from the reception of Holy Communion. Many refer to the fact that too many receive the Sacrament without having sufficiently reflected on their moral state in life.100 Some receive Communion while denying the teachings of the Church or publicly supporting immoral choices in life, such as abortion, without thinking that they are committing an act of grave personal dishonesty and causing scandal. Some Catholics do not understand why it might be a sin to support a political candidate who is openly in favor of abortion or other serious acts against life, justice and peace. Such attitudes lead to, among other things, a crisis in the meaning of belonging to the Church and in a clouding of the distinction between venial and mortal sin.
Many responses note that some Catholics don’t always act in a way which distinguishes them from other persons; they succumb to the temptation to corruption in various situations and levels of society.
Oftentimes, the specific demands of the moral life are not looked upon as connected to the role of the Church as Teacher. Some feel that her teachings need to be re-assessed by each individual conscience. In other areas, bishops are committing themselves to clearly pointing out the contradiction of invoking freedom of conscience or religious freedom as the criteria for dismissing Church teaching. The responses insist on the faithful’s duty to seek the truth and correctly form their conscience.
Positively speaking, many are attempting to make the Eucharist a part of their lives and consider the Sacrament a source of strength in conquering sin. This happens particularly in parishes where various ministers, charitable organizations, prayer groups and lay associations are strongly active.
73. The Lineamenta responses offer some suggestions in dispelling the dichotomy between Church teachings and the moral stance of the faithful. Firstly, increasing emphasis needs to be given to the necessity of sanctification and personal conversion and to the unity between Church teaching and the moral life. Furthermore, the faithful should be continually encouraged to see the Eucharist as the source of moral strength, holiness and spiritual advancement. Finally, fundamental importance needs to be given in catechesis to the bond between the Eucharist and the construction of a just society through each one’s personal responsibility actively to participate in the Church’s mission in the world. In this sense, Catholics who occupy significant positions in political life and various social activity have a particular obligation.
The Church has great hope in her young people who are increasingly being drawn to the Eucharist as a precious treasure, an inexhaustible source of renewal in the Church’s life and the seed of hope for the world. Therefore, it is not surprising that the topic chosen for World Youth Day, in Cologne, August 16-21, 2005, “We Have Come to Worship Him” (Mt 2:2), has a profound Eucharistic significance. The valuable contribution of this important event deserves attention in synodal discussion. For the occasion, Pope John Paul II said: “I would like the young people to gather around the Eucharist as the vital source which nourishes their faith and enthusiasm”.101 Consequently, it is rightly suggested that Catholic schools give greater importance to teaching the faith, particularly Eucharistic spirituality, to the younger generations.
The Eucharist, the Real Presence of the Risen Lord, leads to perfection and holiness in the Christian life. Reaching such a goal requires the grace of God, the believer’s good dispositions and an ongoing catechesis for persons of every kind.
Eucharistic Persons and Communities
74. The Eucharist demonstrates its efficacy in the fruits of a new life in the world, in the fruits of holiness and becoming more God-like, that is, in the fruits of eternal life. In this sense, the Eucharist is seen as the Sacrament of Intense Spirituality.
Many responses speak of a positive development in Eucharistic spirituality. In fact, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has recently been reestablished in many places. In this regard, Eucharistic devotion in parish and non-parish churches is said to be increasing, as witnessed in time dedicated to Eucharistic adoration and the institution of special chapels for this purpose. The procession of Corpus Christi is taking place more and more and the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours before the Blessed Sacrament exposed is being promoted. These devotions are receiving important attention by the new movements. In places of true catechetical and liturgical formation, the faithful clearly perceive the difference between Mass and other liturgical celebrations and devotional practices; they devoutly participate in all Eucharistic initiatives proposed by their pastors. Generally speaking, it can be said that Eucharistic devotion is nourished by all these practices, a devotion which can be viewed as a total gift of self to the Lord in spirit, soul and body.
Some responses, however, are less encouraging. They speak of the abandonment of the practice of Eucharistic benediction; the closing of churches for a greater part of the day albeit for fear of theft making private adoration of the Eucharist by the faithful almost impossible; the placing of the tabernacle in a separate or little-noticed place, which a good part of the faithful, upon entering the Church, cannot easily find, thus making them unaware of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and keeping them from praying; the decrease in the custom of visiting the Blessed Sacrament for personal prayer and meditation; the lack of a catechesis which teaches the distinction between Holy Mass and other liturgical celebrations or devotional practices; and an overly individualistic idea of Mass which obstructs a just appreciation of the communal aspect of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
75. Various responses to the Lineamenta call for a significant emphasis on the ecclesial aspect of the Eucharist to overcome every form of individualism and a renewal in Eucharistic spirituality which, integrating a devotion to the Risen Christ, presents the Sacrament as the beginning of the redemption of the world.
Inspired by the words of Pope John Paul II in the Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia,102 some desire promoting the lives of the saints and blesseds who have been models of spirituality and the Eucharistic life....
Mary, Woman of the Eucharist
76. The Most Holy Virgin Mary stands out among all the saints as a model of holiness and Eucharistic spirituality. According to Church Tradition, she is commemorated with veneration in all the Eucharistic Prayers of the Mass and in a particularly significant way in the Eastern Catholic Churches. Various responses call for a clearer explanation of the role of the Virgin Mary in the Eucharistic liturgy.
Mary is so intimately bound to the Eucharistic mystery that she is rightly called “Woman of the Eucharist” in the Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia.104 The life of Mary of Nazareth manifests in a sublime way the exclusive relationship between the Mother and the Son of God, who took His Body and Blood from her body and blood. In the same way, her life shows the intimate relationship uniting the Church to the Eucharist, since the Most Holy Virgin is the model and figure of the Church, whose life and mission have their source and summit in the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary’s association with the Eucharist comes more from the interior disposition which characterized her whole life than from her active participation at the moment of the institution of the Sacrament. Her life, which has a profound ecclesial significance, also has a Eucharistic character. By offering her virginal womb in the incarnation of the Word of God, Mary lived the spirit of the Eucharist even before the Sacrament was instituted. For nine months she was the living tabernacle of God. She then acted in a Eucharistic and ecclesial way, when she presented the Child Jesus to the shepherds, the Magi and the High Priest in the Temple. She offered the blessed fruit of her womb to the People of God and the Gentiles, so that they might adore Him and acknowledge Him as Messiah. Analogously, this is also true in her presence as well as her concern and intercession at Cana, when the Son worked His first sign in which He made an offering of Himself through a miracle. The Virgin Mary made a similar gesture under the cross, as she participated in the sufferings of her Son. Afterwards, she received Christ’s body into her arms and placed it in the tomb as the secret seed of resurrection and new life for the salvation of the world. She again made an offering Eucharistic and ecclesial in nature by her presence at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the first gift of the Risen Lord to the Church at her beginning.
The Virgin Mary was conscious of having conceived Christ for the salvation of all humanity. Her awareness became more evident in her participation in the paschal mystery, when her Son entrusted all the faithful to her in the person of the Apostle John, with the words “Woman, behold your Son”. (Jn 19:26) Like the Virgin Mary, the Church also makes the Lord Jesus present through the celebration of the Eucharist and gives Him to all, so that they might have life in abundance. (cf. Jn 10:10)
THE EUCHARIST AND THE MISSION OF EVANGELIZATION
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age”. (Mt 28:19-20)
A Eucharistic Attitude
77. The sending of missionaries to evangelize all peoples, entrusted by Christ to His disciples, is founded on Baptism, the Sacrament which opens the way to a new life marked by the indelible character of the children of God. The work of evangelization includes the formation of conscience in accord with a style of evangelical life centered on both the proclamation of the Good News and the new commandment of love, of which the Eucharist is the summit and inexhaustible source.
The Lineamenta responses recount that the times call for a renewed commitment to evangelization. Though the number of adult-baptisms and membership in the Church is growing, there are many people who must come to know Christ and His Gospel, and still others who, while knowing Him, are in need of a new evangelization. Pope John Paul II was the first to use this phrase and explain its meaning. He intended to say that evangelization should be “new in its ardor, new in its methods, new in its expression”.105 While this definition referred to a renewed sense of joyous witness in evangelizers, it reconfirmed the perennial and unchangeable content of the Good News of Jesus Christ, presented anew in terms understandable by people today....
The Eucharist has always empowered the choices and the ethical and moral behavior of believers, affecting philosophy, art, literature and even civil and legal institutions, thereby contributing to fashioning the features of an entire civilization, in personal and family life as well as in cultural, political and social life. The Eucharist moves Christians to a commitment for justice in the today’s world: “The Eucharist not only provides the interior strength needed for this mission, but is also in some sense its plan. For the Eucharist is a mode of being, which passes from Jesus into each Christian, through whose testimony it is meant to spread throughout society and culture.... Incarnating the Eucharistic ‘plan’ in daily life, wherever people live and work in families, schools, the workplace, in all of life’s settings means bearing witness that human reality cannot be justified without reference to the Creator: ‘Without the Creator the creature would disappear’”.106 Pope John Paul II defined all this as a “Eucharistic attitude” which ought to spur Christians to bear witness more forcefully to God’s presence in the world, to not be afraid to speak about God and proudly to bear the signs of our faith in witness and dialogue with all. Consequently, promoting and spreading the “culture of the Eucharist” is a special task of the Year of the Eucharist.107
Social Implications of the Eucharist
78. An essential effect of Eucharistic communion is a charity which ought to permeate social life. The Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI spoke of the many ways in which Christ is present in His Church.108 Christians need help in seeing the faith-implications of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and His presence in their brothers and sisters, especially in the poor and those on the periphery of society.
Love for the poor and those on the periphery of society was not simply the subject of Jesus’ preaching; it gave meaning to His entire life. The solution to humanity’s great and small problems is not a weak or rhetorical love, but a love which Christ in the Eucharist taught us, that is, a self-giving love, diffused and sacrificed. We need to pray that Christ conquers our human resistance and makes each of us a credible witness to His love.
The topic of the 48th International Eucharistic Congress, “The Eucharist, Light and Life of the New Millennium”, intends to assert that Christ, the Light of the World, is to enlighten the world in the new millennium with the power of a life renewed according to the logic of the Gospel. In today’s so-called “globalized” world, lacking in solidarity, conditioned by an increasingly sophisticated technology and marked by international terrorism and other forms of violence and exploitation, the Eucharist maintains its timeless message, which is necessary in constructing a society where communion, solidarity, freedom, respect for the person, hope and trust in God prevail.
The Eucharist and Inculturation
79. Faith takes form in culture and a culture is also the result of faith. All know the priceless cultural treasure accrued over the ages in the liturgy of East and West: prayers, the richness of many rites and works of architecture, plastic arts and sacred music. This shows how religion is connected to culture, a complex of what humanity creates of the good and meaningful. Culture furnishes the faith with the instruments needed to express the truth revealed by God and proclaimed in the liturgy....
General principles of inculturation are clearly expressed in the conciliar decree Ad gentes,110 in the Instruction Varietates legitimae on the Roman Liturgy and Inculturation,111 and in numerous other related pronouncements of the Magisterium....112
Nevertheless, difficulties abound when attempts are made to put these principles into action. Two major risks are falling into archaism or seeking modernity at all costs. What is necessary in the process is never to forget the goal of the Church’s mission, namely, the evangelization of all peoples in their cultural settings. Inculturation, then, is not simply adaptation but a dynamic encounter between the culture of a certain place and the culture which comes from the Gospel. Consequently, before deciding to incorporate certain elements of a local culture into the liturgy, the Gospel should be proclaimed and a great effort made to instruct people in the faith, namely, catechesis and formation at all levels which will result in a new, evangelized culture. Therefore, episcopal conferences and other competent bodies should judge if introducing elements from the people’s customs into the liturgy, as a living part of their culture, can enrich the liturgical action without causing adverse effects to the faith and the piety of the faithful.
80. Various responses mention certain problems in attempts at liturgical inculturation. Though done in good faith, some can cause shadows in relation to the Eucharist. For example, local elements, such as songs, dance and attire, do not sufficiently undergo a process of purification, ensuring that only what is suitable for Eucharistic worship is incorporated into the celebration of the liturgy. Many cases of liturgical adaptation, promoted in good faith but without an adequate knowledge of local culture, are causing scandal among the faithful, who remain confused at the Eucharist by seeing inappropriate meanings attributed to familiar actions in some of their rites.
Other Lineamenta responses report positive results in the area of inculturation, primarily in the field of sacred music. In each case, it is recommended that inculturation be done under the auspices of a diocesan ordinary, with the supervision of the episcopal conference and the recognitio of the Holy See. At the same time, the process requires a faithful application of the norms in the areas of inculturation and innovation, all the while avoiding any inappropriate changes which might be done in the name of inculturation.
Certain responses ask for the use of Latin, particularly at international celebrations, to express the unity and catholicity of the rite of the Mother Church of Rome. In this case, it is desirable that Christians everywhere know how to pray and chant some basic texts of the Latin liturgy, such as the Gloria, Credo and the Our Father.
The Eucharist and Peace
81. Before distributing Holy Communion, the bishop or priest addresses his prayer to the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, who said to His disciples “peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you”. (Jn 14:27) The celebrant calls upon the Lord Jesus to give to His Church “peace and unity ... for ever and ever”.115
The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Peace, realized after our celebration of the Sacrament of Penance which reconciles us to God and our neighbor. This Sacrament makes real the grace conveyed in the Risen Lord’s greeting, “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19) The Sacrament of the Eucharist also provides believers with the grace needed to put the spirit of the beatitudes into practice, particularly the beatitude proclaimed by Jesus Christ: “Blessed are the peacemakers”. (Mt 5:9) Through the sacrifice of the Cross Christ has conquered sin, death and every kind of division and hatred. Risen from the dead, Our Lord spreads His peace to those near and far. (cf. Eph 2:17)
For families, communities and the entire Church, peace of heart is the gift of the Risen Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Whoever approaches the Sacrament ought already to possess God’s peace, which sin impairs. Venial sins are pardoned in the Penitential Rite at the beginning of Mass; but mortal sins require absolution in the Sacrament of Penance. The Eucharist fortifies the gift of peace and provides to all those who receive it the grace of becoming themselves peacemakers wherever they are.
82. The faithful ought to rediscover the Eucharist as the dynamic force of reconciliation and peace with God and others. In today’s world, with its many divisions and differences in some cases legitimate Christians would do well, in gathering around the Table of the Lord, to rediscover their common roots, which are found in Him. Assisted by the Word of God and the homily of the celebrant, the faithful will grow in faith, hope and charity and receive comfort through prayer, reflection and adoration. In this way, they can greater commit themselves to their duty of building a better world, increasingly more just and peaceful. They are to consider well the various choices made in political and social areas, so that their life does not contradict the basic norms of the Gospel, which underlie the Church’s social teaching.
This aspect of the Eucharist is not always understood, thereby creating conflicting attitudes which become a source of contradiction and scandal between persons and communities. In the reconciliation of her members, the Church celebrates and worships the Eucharist as the Sacrament of Piety, the Sign of Unity and the Bond of Charity.116
83. Entrusting herself to the Eucharist as the inexhaustible source of grace, the Church promotes the cause of peace in a world vexed by conflicts, violence, terrorism and wars which wound the dignity of persons and whole peoples, thereby hindering their development. The Catholic Church never tires of proclaiming the Gospel of Peace (cf. Eph 6:15) and promoting various initiatives to end wars and encourage dialogue and collaboration in bringing peace to the world.
The Eucharist is the memorial of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who is “our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility”. (Eph 2:14) The Sacrament guides the Church in the urgent, difficult mission of peace, opening her to work together in this effort with all people of good will. The Eucharist, Sacrament of those reconciled with God and others (cf. Col 1:22), also provides the incentive to undertake “the ministry of reconciliation”. (II Cor 5:18) God’s Word teaches that all have sinned (cf. Rom 3:23) and, as a result, all have need of forgiveness. Consequently, the Church proposes to everyone a break from the vicious circle of violence and hate by finding the power to seek forgiveness and to forgive.
In the name of the Church, the Holy Father and the Holy See continue to be involved actively in the international forum, ardently supporting the cause of peace, fostering dialogue and collaboration with respect to international rights and, among others, working for the reduction of armaments and a ban on arms of mass destruction. In this work which depends on prayer, persuasion and education, Pope John Paul II’s messages for the World Day of Peace have particular importance.
Conscious that true peace can only come from on high (cf. James 1:17; Lk 2:14), the Church implores this great gift from God, while working to create every possibility for the spread of peace in this world, until peace shines fully in eternity, where the God of life promises to peacemakers the gifts of peace, blessing, light and joy. (cf. Mt 5:9)
The Eucharist and Unity
84. In the Eucharistic Prayer, the Church also begs Almighty God to bestow His gift of unity. This gift concerns the very nature of the Church, willed by Jesus Christ, whose essential marks are one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
The Lord Jesus, before accepting the sacrifice of the cross, prayed for unity among His disciples: “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one”. (Jn 17:11) Christians of every age are included in the Lord’s “priestly prayer”. In fact, Jesus Christ prayed for both the unity of the apostles and the unity of those who, through them, would believe in Him. (cf. Jn 17:20) The unity of the Lord Jesus’ disciples comes from the very nature of the Church. Unity is also one of the reasons which makes her credible: “Even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may all be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. (Jn 17:21)
Unfortunately, sins against unity have been present in the Church’s life in this world. In addition to the son of perdition (cf. Jn 17:12), the early community had to deal with false prophets (cf. I Jn 4:1) and with those who left the community, because, in reality, they never really belonged to it. (cf. I Jn 2:19) Saint Paul had to warn the community to “take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to doctrine”. (Rm 16:17) He himself had clearly to intervene in the community at Corinth to save it from divisions (cf. I Cor 1:12), caused by worldly people devoid of the Spirit. (cf. Jude 19)
Regrettably, the scandal of divisions exists at various levels in the Church today. The Eucharist should be a strong appeal to all to guard the internal unity of families, parish communities, ecclesial movements, religious orders and entire dioceses. The Eucharist also provides the grace to restore unity among all Christians, members of the Body of Christ: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread”. (I Cor 10:17)
Jesus Christ’s “priestly prayer” includes those who believe in Him. (cf. Jn 17:20) Unfortunately, through the course of history, Christianity has experienced painful divisions in various Churches and ecclesial communities. Because of this sin of divisions, which is the source of scandal for the world, prayer and work is necessary to make whole the seamless garment of Christ. (cf. Jn 19:23-24) All Christians are called to bring God’s work to completion, each according to his vocation and responsibility. Every one has the duty to pray that Jesus’ words be fulfilled: “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd”. (Jn 10:16) In response to the Lord’s word, the entire Church prays through the mouth of her Universal Pastor who pleads: “Lord, remember your promise. Grant that we may be one flock and one shepherd! Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!”117
The Eucharist and Ecumenism
85. Without doubt, ecumenism is a gift of the Holy Spirit and a necessary course to be pursued by the Church. After the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and the Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio, a long, fruitful relationship developed between the Church and ecclesial communities. The process has created bonds of unity, some already existent at various levels, in seeking the day of full communion which will be sealed in the common celebration of the Eucharist. This urgent, inescapable task specially concerns the Eastern Churches which are not yet in full communion with us. Since the Catholic Church acknowledges the validity of their Sacrament of the Eucharist, it is permissible, under certain conditions, for Catholics to receive Holy Communion in these Churches. Likewise, members of these Churches can also be welcomed at the Table of the Lord in the Catholic Church, when they are unable to approach a validly ordained priest of their Church.
A favorable rapport has also developed between the Church and communities from the Reformation. The relation of these communities to the Sacrament of the Eucharist is proving, in good part, to be a delicate yet promising experience....
The responses to the Lineamenta emphasize that the liturgy ought to be respected as part of the Church’s culture and not traded as some social initiative. Pope John Paul II, following the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, declared in his first encyclical: “Although it is true that the Eucharist always was and must continue to be the most profound revelation of the human brotherhood of Christ’s disciples and confessors, it cannot be treated merely as an ‘occasion’ for manifesting this brotherhood. When celebrating the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the full magnitude of the divine mystery must be respected, as must the full meaning of this sacramental sign in which Christ is really present and is received, the soul is filled with grace and the pledge of future glory is given”.120 This teaching supports the understanding that the Eucharist presupposes ecclesial communion.121 Saying that the Eucharist is the sign of the unity of the Church, His Body, does not refer to the nature of the Sacrament, but to its effect.122
Ecumenical meetings are a privileged occasion for better understanding the Church’s doctrine on the Eucharist and Christian unity. While painfully accepting the divisions which forestall communal participation at the Table of the Lord, the Church does not cease encouraging people to pray for the return of the days when all believers enjoyed full unity in Christ.123 Some Lineamenta responses, however, mention that at such meetings Catholics sometimes lack clarity in presenting Eucharistic doctrine. In certain cases, these meetings deliberately do not include the Eucharist among the various celebrations; while others include it and invite all, without distinction, to receive Holy Communion. Some also lament problems created by some Protestant communities who seek conversions among immigrants, especially the Hispanic, inviting them to attend religious services which are oftentimes called “Mass”.
Many pastors, however, following the teachings of the Church in the matter, are offering encouraging signs through their efforts, in a spirit of concern and charity, to bring about the ecclesial unity desired, while not overlooking the fact that the Eucharist is the ultimate goal in the ecumenical process aimed at seeking unity in faith. Since the end of ecumenism is unity, the celebration of the Eucharist clearly cannot be the means to bring unification. Until unity in the faith is achieved, that unity cannot be anticipated. Only in light of a unity which presupposes and is confirmed by the Eucharist can the true meaning of “intercommunion” be understood.
The Eucharist and Intercommunion
86. Divisions among Christians is a source of anguish. Working to reestablish communion with our separated brothers and sisters, who do not share our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, is an urgent, necessary task. Precise canonical norms and clear Church teaching exist in the matter. They compel the Church to continue to search for unity and always to state clearly what stands in the way of full communion and what conditions exist for the reception of communion in sacris.124 Many Catholics are aware and appreciate the Church’s directives in this matter, seeing in them a sure reason to pray for our separated sisters and brothers, until full union is achieved
Some Lineamenta responses also allude to cases of an ill-interpreted egalitarianism which has led to certain errors. Many presume to receive communion in sacris without a proper faith in the Sacrament and full communion with the Church. This attitude is surprising, since it makes no sense not to belong to a Church community and, at the same time, to want to receive the Eucharist, which is a sign of belonging to that community, or not to accept the pastors and the doctrine of the Church and, at the same time, to want to take part in the sacraments celebrated by them. This way of thinking might come from a lack of clarity on the difference between the unity of the Church and the unity of the human race: the first is the sign and instrument of the second, which has yet to be accomplished.
Furthermore, the responses mention that, when non-Catholics are present at a celebration of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church, the celebrant, in some cases, invites them to approach the altar, not to receive Holy Communion but to be given a blessing. The same is done in the distribution of the antidoron in the Byzantine rite. On these occasions the Catholic teaching on Holy Communion is observed and presented without compromise. Ecumenical meetings in various countries celebrate a Liturgy of the Word to avoid any misunderstanding about the Sacrament of the Eucharist. When non-Catholics or non-Christians participate at Holy Mass, a booklet with the essentials of celebration would be very useful, so that they can follow what takes place.
Finally, many responses to the Lineamenta manifest a certainty that a faithful observance of the Church’s directives in the matter of intercommunion can be the occasion to truly express love for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and for those of other Christian confessions as well to bear witness to the truth.125 While most responses seem to agree that a common profession of faith in the Eucharist must precede the reception of Holy Communion at Mass, the manner of presenting the mystery of the Eucharist in ecumenical dialogue still needs clarification, so as to avoid two opposite extremes: complete exclusion beforehand and a relativism. The proper response in ecumenism requires maintaining a sound approach, while preserving the truth about the Sacrament and our Catholic identity.
Ite missa est
87. The words at the end of the celebration of the Eucharist, Ite missa est, bring to mind the missionary mandate of the Risen Lord to His disciples before His Ascension into heaven: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”. (Mt 28:19) In fact, the conclusion of every Mass is immediately linked to being sent forth in mission, a task involving all the baptized, each according to his proper vocation in the People of God: bishops, priests, deacons, those in the consecrated life, members of the ecclesial movements and the laity. Bearing witness is essential in fulfilling this mission; it is the first duty of every Christian sent forth into the world. In fact, “Without witnesses there can be no witness, just as without missionaries there can be no missionary activity”.126 This characteristic of missionary activity flows from the very words of Jesus: “from this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”. (Jn 13:35) Mission is humanly demanding and requires effort. Where does the power come from, if not the Eucharist, the inexhaustible source of mission, true font of communion and solidarity and real origin of reconciliation and peace?
The ultimate goal of evangelization is a personal encounter of every human being with Jesus Christ who is alive and present in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, which the Church offers as bread for the life of the world. The Eucharistic finality of mission also has its basis in the teaching of Jesus Christ, who calls all people of good will to His Table, without distinction or prejudice (cf. Mt 22:1-13; Lk 14:16-24) and offers His sacrifice for the salvation of all. (cf Mt 26:26-29; Lk 22:15-20; Mk 14:22-25; I Cor 11:23-25) The Eucharist, therefore, is the summit towards which all the Church’s missionary activity tends, including the specific mission ad gentes. In fact, what sense would proclaiming the Gospel have, if not to bring everyone to communion with Christ and others? This communion is most fully expressed in a liturgical and sacramental manner at Holy Mass, which is the foretaste of the Eternal Banquet in heaven.
The Eucharist is then the pulsating heart of mission; it is its authentic source and its only end. Many Lineamenta responses, therefore, rightly request promoting a renewal of the missionary task inherent in the celebration of the Eucharist. This comes from looking with apostolic fervor and zeal at the world in the initial years of the Third Millennium and seeing that it stands in need, more than ever, of peace, love and fraternal communion, gifts which can only be found in Jesus Christ.
88. Consequently, Christians ought to witness to the missionary aspect of the Eucharist, which makes them spontaneously proclaim to the world and others the wonders of God-Made-Man, present under the signs of bread and wine, who, in communion, enters their life to bring about a change. This is what concerns Christians who live in a secularized world, where the majority of those distant from God are in continuous spiritual travail in their search for Him, though He is never far from them. Such is the zeal of missionaries, who, driven by their love for God, make the initial proclamation of the Good News to persons who have not yet known the Gospel of Jesus Christ or who do not know it sufficiently or fully.
The spirit of dialogue and respect owed to the values inherent in the realities they encounter, impel Christians to propose the missionary aspect of the Sacrament to people of good will, in obedience to the Lord’s command: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation”. (Mk 16:15)
This exalted yet arduous task requires total dedication, even to the point of martyrdom. Engaged in this necessary work for the Church, the Lord’s disciples draw their strength from the Eucharist, whose celebration throughout the world is a confirmation of the promise: “Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age”. (Mt 28:20)
89. The celebration of the XI General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is to conclude the Year of the Eucharist, the entire Church is called to consider the great mystery in which the depths of her vocation and life lie hidden. In fact, “the Church draws her life from the Eucharist”;127 the Eucharist “contains the entire mystery of our salvation”.128 “Thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew!”129 The Year of the Eucharist, then, cannot come to a close without a collegial gathering of the Successor of Peter, the head of the episcopal college, and the college’s members in the episcopal order. In this manner, they will celebrate the great gift of the Eucharist, nourish themselves with the Bread of Life, adore the Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament and reflect on the precious treasure which Christ entrusted to His Church. They will enable the mission of evangelization to advance with renewed apostolic fervor and concrete pastoral guidelines, adapted to the needs of the Christian community and the deepest longing of every person today.
In the Apostolic Letter Mane nobiscum Domine, the pastors of the Church were called upon to take initiatives aimed at ensuring that the Eucharist be celebrated with not only greater vitality and fervor, but above all, with “a profound interiority”.130 Love for Eucharistic worship comes from rediscovering, in the prayer of adoration and thanksgiving, the beauty of the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice. The devout reception of the Sacrament leads to hope in the promised things which lie beyond the perspective of everyday life, so strongly limited by the cultural effects of materialism and consumerism. Consequently, the Eucharist becomes a transforming force in culture, because the Sacrament is the manifestation of communion and the place of encounter between the People of God and the dead and risen Christ, the source of life and hope. The Eucharist is the seed of a new world and the true school of dialogue, reconciliation, love, solidarity and peace.
90. The shadows of Eucharistic celebration, mentioned in faithfulness to the information contained in the Lineamenta responses, will be dispersed to the extent that synod discussion and afterwards, Church discussion again discovers the greatness and beauty of the gift of the Eucharistic mystery and does not veer from the synod’s principal aim. Through the experience of episcopal collegiality, the synod is to consider the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the Church today and see how the Eucharist might truly become the source and summit of her life and mission, namely, of the new evangelization, which the world greatly needs.
Indeed, the Eucharistic mystery sacrifice, memorial and banquet provides the Church, in every aspect of her life, with an inexhaustible spring of grace for celebrating the sacramental re-presentation of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, for living the personal encounter with the Lord, for constructing ecclesial communion on the solid foundation of love and for foretasting the glory yet to come of the Wedding of the Lamb. In the life of the entire Church everything reaches its summit in the Eucharistic mystery, the final end of all her activity: from catechesis to the reception of the other sacraments, from popular devotion to the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and from meditation on God’s Word to personal and communal prayer. The Eucharist is the heart of ecclesial communion.
If the Church is, in Christ, a kind of Sacrament, she is a sign and instrument of not only intimate union with God but also the unity of the whole human race.131 Consequently, the Eucharist as the Lord’s living presence also becomes the source of the Church’s universal mission. Bishops, priests and deacons receive grace from the Eucharist to proclaim the Gospel with pastoral concern in today’s world. Missionaries draw courage from the Eucharist to bring the good news of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth. Those in the consecrated life are strengthened in the Eucharist to live the ideal of the Christian life through their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The Eucharist provides light and vigor for the laity so that they can transform temporal realities according to the new commandment to love God and one’s neighbor. The Eucharist emboldens those Christians who suffer persecution to bear witness to Christ in the world. The Church’s evangelizing mission has its ultimate goal in the union on earth of all people in Christ, ever-present in the Eucharistic mystery, in anticipation of the definitive union of humanity at the Eternal Banquet in heaven. As a result, the Eucharist is the culminating point of all pastoral work and every missionary endeavor. Likewise, the Sacrament is at the heart of evangelization and human promotion. In fact, those who receive the Bread of Life and proclaim the Eucharistic mystery to the world are also to defend life in all its stages and have a due respect for all creation. The faithful who eat the Bread-Come-Down-From-Heaven feel a duty to contribute to building a more just world, where God’s will is done and each person is assured of “our daily bread”.
In their discussions, the synod fathers will rely on the prayers of the whole Church, including the holy men and women whose lives provide fitting examples of authentic Eucharistic theology and devotion. Encouraged and sustained by their prayerful intercession, we proceed on our pilgrimage through the joys and sorrows of this present age.
Among the saints, the Mother of God has a unique place, since the Son of God was born from her spotless body Ave, verum corpus, natum de Maria Vergine. As a result, she has for all time a unique relationship to the Eucharistic mystery. In Mary, Woman of the Eucharist par excellence, the Church contemplates the most perfect model of herself. Likewise, she beholds beforehand the realization of the “new heaven” and the “new earth”, eagerly awaited by all creation. In invoking Mary’s patronage with trust and devotion, the Church will rekindle anew her fervent desire to make the Eucharist the source and summit of her entire life and mission, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of all people and the world.132
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