“Abide in me, and I in you” (Jn 15:4)
19. When the disciples on the way to Emmaus asked Jesus to stay “with” them, he responded by giving them a much greater gift: through the Sacrament of the Eucharist he found a way to stay “in” them. Receiving the Eucharist means entering into a profound communion with Jesus. “Abide in me, and I in you” (Jn 15:4). This relationship of profound and mutual “abiding” enables us to have a certain foretaste of heaven on earth. Is this not the greatest of human yearnings? Is this not what God had in mind when he brought about in history his plan of salvation? God has placed in human hearts a “hunger” for his word (cf. Am 8:11), a hunger which will be satisfied only by full union with him. Eucharistic communion was given so that we might be “sated” with God here on earth, in expectation of our complete fulfilment in heaven.
One bread, one body
20. This special closeness which comes about in Eucharistic “communion” cannot be adequately understood or fully experienced apart from ecclesial communion. I emphasized this repeatedly in my Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. The Church is the Body of Christ: we walk “with Christ” to the extent that we are in relationship “with his body”. Christ provided for the creation and growth of this unity by the outpouring of his Holy Spirit. And he himself constantly builds it up by his Eucharistic presence. It is the one Eucharistic bread which makes us one body. As the Apostle Paul states: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1Cor 10:17). In the mystery of the Eucharist Jesus builds up the Church as a communion, in accordance with the supreme model evoked in his priestly prayer: “Even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21).
21. The Eucharist is both the source of ecclesial unity and its greatest manifestation. The Eucharist is an epiphany of communion. For this reason the Church sets conditions for full participation in the celebration of the Eucharist.(18) These various limitations ought to make us ever more conscious of the demands made by the communion which Jesus asks of us. It is a hierarchical communion, based on the awareness of a variety of roles and ministries, as is seen by the reference to the Pope and the Diocesan Bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer. It is a fraternal communion, cultivated by a “spirituality of communion” which fosters reciprocal openness, affection, understanding and forgiveness.(19)
“... of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32)
22. At each Holy Mass we are called to measure ourselves against the ideal of communion which the Acts of the Apostles paints as a model for the Church in every age. It is the Church gathered around the Apostles, called by the word of God, capable of sharing in spiritual goods but in material goods as well (cf. Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35). In this Year of the Eucharist the Lord invites us to draw as closely as possible to this ideal. Every effort should be made to experience fully those occasions mentioned in the liturgy for the Bishop's “Stational Mass”, which he celebrates in the cathedral together with his presbyters and deacons, with the participation of the whole People of God. Here we see the principal “manifestation” of the Church.(20) It would be praiseworthy to specify other significant occasions, also on the parochial level, which would increase a sense of communion and find in the Eucharistic celebration a source of renewed fervour.
The Lord's Day
23. In a particular way I ask that every effort be made this year to experience Sunday as the day of the Lord and the day of the Church. I would be happy if everyone would reflect once more on my words in the Apostolic Letter Dies Domini. “At Sunday Mass, Christians relive with particular intensity the experience of the Apostles on the evening of Easter, when the Risen Lord appeared to them as they were gathered together (cf. Jn 20:19). In a sense, the People of God of all times were present in that small nucleus of disciples, the first-fruits of the Church”.(21) During this year of grace, priests in their pastoral ministry should be even more attentive to Sunday Mass as the celebration which brings together the entire parish community, with the participation of different groups, movements and associations.