Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Eucharistic Mystery Calls For Our Response - Cardinal Francis Arinze (2006) Part 1

Many events in the Church in the last three years have in a special way oriented our attention to the Holy Eucharist. In April 2003, the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, gave to the Church the beautiful Encyclical Letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia. At his direction, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued the Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum in March 2004. A special Eucharistic Year declared by Pope John Paul was celebrated by the whole Church from October 2004 to October 2005. The October 2005 Synod of Bishops has the Eucharistic mystery as its theme. In this specially Eucharistic climate, it is fitting that we now reflect on what the Lord Jesus asks of us in this mystery of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharistic mystery calls for our response.

1. Holy Eucharist: Christ's inestimable gift 

We begin with a statement of fact. The Holy Eucharist is Christ's inestimable gift to his Church. He did not just live for us, work miracles, teach us, and suffer, die and rise again for love of us and for our salvation. He found a wonderful way to continue to be with us and to associate his Church with his sacrifice in a sacramental way. The Second Vatican Council summarises our faith in the Eucharistic mystery: "At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, a pledge of future glory is given to us" ( Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47; cf also Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1323).

The Holy Eucharist is sacrifice, sacrament and presence. As sacrifice, the Holy Eucharist is the sacramental re-presentation of the paschal mystery, that is, of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. "Do this as a memorial of me" (I Cor 11:25) is the injunction that Jesus gave his Church through the Apostles. At Holy Mass Jesus Christ associates the Church with himself in the offering of himself to God the Father. The Mass is offered for four principal motives: adoration, thanksgiving with praise, asking pardon for our sins with reparation, and requesting for what we need for body and soul.

The Holy Eucharist is also Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. At consecration the bread is no longer bread, it becomes the Body of Christ; the wine is no longer wine, it becomes the Blood of Christ. The Council of Trent teaches us that in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained" (DS, 1651; cf CCC, 1374). The Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist is therefore very much a part of our Catholic faith.

Jesus is present as our Eucharistic Lord. This type of presence is very special. It surpasses all other forms of presence. It is much more than his presence in the Word of God proclaimed in the liturgical assembly, or his presence in the people of God gathered in worship, or his presence and action in the priest celebrant, or even his presence and action in all the other Sacraments. We call the presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist the Real Presence (cf Paul VI: Mysterium Fidei, 39; Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7; CCC, 1374), because it is a very special presence, his presence par excellence. In front of this inestimable gift and mystery, what does Jesus ask of us?

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