Saturday, March 19, 2005

Selections from the Pope's Holy Thursday Letter highlights

Holy Thursday Letter

This is such a beautiful letter. Reiterating many Eucharistic truths of the faith - transubstantiation, sacrifice, in persona christe, Eucharistic adoration, etc...

"I will take as my inspiration the words of Eucharistic consecration, which we say every day "in persona Christi" in order to make present on our altars the sacrifice made once and for all on Calvary. These words provide us with illuminating insights for priestly spirituality: If the whole Church draws life from the Eucharist, all the more then must the life of a priest be "shaped" by the Eucharist. So for us, the words of institution must be more than a formula of consecration, they must be a "formula of life."

5. "Hoc facite in meam commemorationem." These words of Jesus have been preserved for us not only by Luke (22:19) but also by Paul (1 Corinthians 11:24). We should keep in mind that they were spoken in the context of the Paschal meal, which for the Jews was indeed a "memorial" (in Hebrew, "zikkar├┤n"). On that occasion the Israelites relived the Exodus first and foremost, but also the other important events of their history: the call of Abraham, the sacrifice of Isaac, the Covenant of Sinai, the many acts of God in defense of his people. For Christians too, the Eucharist is a "memorial," but of a unique kind: it not only commemorates, but sacramentally makes present the death and resurrection of the Lord.

Jesus said: "Do this in memory of me." The Eucharist does not simply commemorate a fact; it commemorates Him! Through his daily repetition "in persona Christi" of the words of the "memorial," the priest is invited to develop a "spirituality of remembrance." At a time when rapid social and cultural changes are weakening the sense of tradition, and leading the younger generation especially to risk losing touch with their roots, the priest is called to be, within the community entrusted to him, the man who faithfully remembers the entire mystery of Christ: prefigured in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New, and understood ever more deeply, under the guidance of the Spirit, as Jesus explicitly promised: "He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26).

6. "Mysterium fidei!" Every time he proclaims these words after consecrating the bread and wine, the priest expresses his ever-renewed amazement at the extraordinary miracle worked at his hands. It is a miracle which only the eyes of faith can perceive. The natural elements do not lose their external characteristics, since the "species" remain those of bread and wine; but their "substance," through the power of Christ's word and the action of the Holy Spirit, is changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. On the altar, then, Christ crucified and risen is "truly, really and substantially" present in the fullness of his humanity and divinity. What an eminently sacred reality! That is why the Church treats this mystery with such great reverence, and takes such care to ensure the observance of the liturgical norms intended to safeguard the sanctity of so great a sacrament.

We priests are the celebrants, but also the guardians of this most sacred mystery. It is our relationship to the Eucharist that most clearly challenges us to lead a "sacred'' life. This must shine forth from our whole way of being, but above all from the way we celebrate. Let us sit at the school of the saints! The Year of the Eucharist invites us to rediscover those saints who were vigorous proponents of Eucharistic devotion (cf. "Mane Nobiscum Domine," 31). Many beatified and canonized priests have given exemplary testimony in this regard, enkindling fervor among the faithful present at their celebrations of Mass. Many of them were known for their prolonged Eucharistic adoration. To place ourselves before Jesus in the Eucharist, to take advantage of our "moments of solitude'' and to fill them with this Presence, is to enliven our consecration by our personal relationship with Christ, from whom our life derives its joy and its meaning."

Beautiful. Reminds me of Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Mysterium Fidei that upset not a few people who did not like the fact that the Pope was reiterating the unchanging teaching of the church regarding the Eucharistic mystery.(See Fr. Hardon's Explanation) Especially upholding the necessity of the use of the word "transubstantiation" in reference to the nature of the Eucharistic species. Some people at the time thought that the term "transubstantiation" was outdated and too scholastic and that our times required a reformulation of concepts of our faith to fit with the times. Paul VI said:

"These formulas—like the others that the Church used to propose the dogmas of faith—express concepts that are not tied to a certain specific form of human culture, or to a certain level of scientific progress, or to one or another theological school. Instead they set forth what the human mind grasps of reality through necessary and universal experience and what it expresses in apt and exact words, whether it be in ordinary or more refined language. For this reason, these formulas are adapted to all men of all times and all places."

This letter reminds me of Paul VI's letter because the Holy Father is addressing concerns regarding the understanding and the celebration of the Eucharist as well. And given that this is the Year of the Eucharist. We would do well to read this letter again.

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