Reflections on Ecclesia de Eucharistia - 18
Thomas Norris


Worship the Eucharistic Jesus and become who you are

The Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia radiates an air of awe in the presence of the Sacrament of the Altar. In fact, one objective of John Paul II in his gift to the Church is precisely to reawaken in the faithful this attitude of awe, to revive in them wonder towards the Most Holy Sacrifice (cf. nn. 5, 6).

This attitude is not only an affectionate feeling; actually, it is at the foundation of every science, both theological and human: it was the conviction of Plato and Aristotle, for whom wonder is the generating motor for every investigation and human science.

For this reason, the adoration offered to the Eucharist outside the Mass is not without importance for Catholic theology, especially for Eucharistic theology.

The text, in number 25, speaks of worship outside the Mass. It begins in this way: "The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church". It is not surprising that this worship is repeatedly recommended by the Magisterium of the Church, as Ecclesia de Eucharistia notes.

The objective of this article is to consider certain aspects of this worship that are expressed in the Blessing of the Most Holy Eucharist, in adoration and in the processions, especially for the feast of the Corpus Domini.

We will consider the following themes: the adoration and the building up of the Church as the love of the Eucharistic Christ spread abroad in space and time; the anthropological value of the worship; the philosophical importance of the theme of adoration in order to understand the adoration of the Eucharist. Finally, there will be an examination of the Marian factor that is actualized through the worship of the Eucharist.

Eucharistic adoration and its ecclesiological value

It is not without significance that the central paragraph on the worship offered to the Eucharist outside the Mass is found in the second chapter of the Encyclical. This chapter bears the title: "The Eucharist Builds the Church".

The Pope cites St Paul by taking a text from his "mini-Eucharistic treatise" in chapters 10 and 11 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communion (koinonia) of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion (koinonia) 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".

The communion with the Blood and Body of the Risen Lord not only builds the vertical communion with the Risen Lord, so to speak, but also builds the communion between all those communicating with the Lord. Vertical communion builds horizontal communion, while horizontal communion becomes the epiphany of vertical communion. Communion with Christ in the sacrament necessarily becomes communion also with all those who receive him.1

Thus, the "I" of man opens up and the new "We" is created. In this way, the Eucharist builds the Church (de Lubac). In fact, the Church is the body of the Lord produced by the Body and the Blood of Christ, the head of humanity and Lord of history who desired to give his flesh in food "for the life of the world (Jn 6:50)".

In the Johannine tradition we find certain insights that explain this Pauline understanding to which we are referring.

When Caiaphas as High Priest proposes that "It is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish" (Jn 11:50), the Evangelist interprets this advice in the following way: "Jesus was about to die for his nation, and not only for his own nation, but also to gather into one the sons of God who had been dispersed" (Jn 11:52).

It would be difficult to find a clearer affirmation of the paschal mystery's final goal. This is why Jesus, when entering into the hour in which he had to pass from this life to the Father, prays "so that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you" (Jn 17:21).

If by means of communion we are such a unity, above all a single body which is the Body of Jesus because we are thus members of one another, then how should we conduct ourselves? We must love each other mutually. There is simply no other way.

St Augustine's thought concerning the matter is very beautiful: "Because there is only one bread, we, although many, are only one body. And in this bread ii is suggested to you how you should love unity. In fact, is there any chance that bread is made out of one grain of wheat? Were there not many grains of wheat?".2

Throughout the pages of the New Testament, we discover in the acts and words of Jesus in the Gospel the art of loving. This art is a "skill" by which we can become what we are, the "eucharistized" body of the Paschal Christ.

We immediately see some specific passages on this art of loving.

We must love first. "He first loved us" (I Jn 4:19).

Then, just like Jesus who gave himself hyper hemon, for all (Mk 10:45), we must love all people, not only friends, Catholics, those who are agreeable.

Thirdly, we must love with actions, not only with words (cf. I Jn 3:18) but also with concrete gestures of service.

Then, we must love by making ourselves one with others in all things except evil.

Are we not taught this breakthrough in the art of loving in the very mystery of the Eucharist? The Word, who is God, was made flesh from the flesh of Mary, and then, "when he had loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (eis telos) (Jn 13:1). Therefore, he made himself our food and drink and shows us in a marvellous way the depth of his unity with us.

And once 'eucharistized', what should we do? We too must make ourselves one with others: "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Rom 12:15; cf. Phil 2:2).

The importance actually, the necessity of Eucharistic worship outside the Mass enters in at this point. In order to discover our Christian identikit, it is necessary to discover that it is a Eucharistic identity. And it is discovered because by adoring, because in adoration, things become realized, and realization is the life of religion (Cardinal Newman).

We need to adore! We need to reawaken love inside of us, the love that binds all people in a new humanity. This is an immense fruit that flows from Eucharistic adoration: discovering all of ourselves as members of the only Body of Christ, and finding the source of the Art of Loving as an obligatory way, as the true adventure for all Christians.

And not only through adoration do we find the strength to love according to that Art of Loving. Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say: "When I look at the Most Holy Eucharist, I think about the poor, and when I see the poor, I think about the Most Holy Eucharist".

The anthropological value: Eucharist reveals Man to man

Blaise Pascal used to say: "L'homme passe infiniment l'homme".3 Aristotle had already perceived the same idea and St Thomas would follow him with Anima quodammodo omnia, that is to say, "In a certain way, the soul is all things".4

This means that man immensely transcends himself. He feels the need to transcend himself towards Another who is immensely grander.

Perhaps St Augustine's formula chanced upon the best formulation: "Inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in Te" (Our heart is restless until it rests in You).5 Modern culture also recognizes the truth of the greatness of the human being, even if it often formally denies the existence of God.

This yearning, constitutive as it is of the human person, demonstrates and emphasizes a question that cannot be hidden because it arises from the human heart itself, and that is: where and how do we find that Supreme Being, or rather, the One who is Always Greater? This is the real question.

Visitors to Asia often see certain people who, in their own way, practice a latria (worship) towards their religious images. They bend down or get on their knees with their head to the ground towards concrete forms. And they offer some precious gifts. It is certainly a posture that expresses their essential devotion towards the One who is always greater. And it expresses this constitutive desire of man to recognize his dependence on Another.

This gives us a perspective for understanding the human meaning of adoration.

As we have seen, Jesus "loved us and gave himself for us, an oblation and sacrifice to God, for an odour of sweetness" (Eph 5:2). The invisible Son of the invisible Father becomes man, and being man and visible, he leaves himself totally present under the Eucharistic species.

This is the meaning of adoration: I recognize before me the mystery that encompasses me, I bow before the Sacred Host that contains the entire mystery of Christ as my mystery! "You are who you are and I have the privilege of a lifetime to recognize this".

An Irish poet once wrote:

"O Christ, this is what you have made:
In a crumb of bread the entire mystery"
(Patrick Kavanagh).

The founder of the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament, St Pierre-Julien Eymard, lived a life that was a type of continual discovery of the infinite treasures in the Eucharist. It was he who said the famous phrase: "Our age is sick because it does not worship".6

In order to live an authentically human life in tune with who we are as creatures dependent upon Another, the One who is Always Greater, we need to worship. By worshiping the Eucharistic Jesus, we become what we are!

The philosophic value: Eucharist manifests 'relatio'

According to revelation, the human person is made in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26). This means that man is a "You" for God. This is why religion is not something added to human nature as if it were an ornament.

On the contrary, man discovers himself only in the generous gift of himself, that is, by living in a state of relationship which is constitutive of his humanity. This is the famous teaching of the Second Vatican Council in Gaudium et Spes (cf. n. 22), which has been strongly repeated in the entire teaching ministry of John Paul II.

In the New Testament, this state of relationship is emphasized. God is revealed as a Trinity of infinite Persons. Each divine Person is a relatio subsistens (subsistent relationship). They live in an eternal perichoresis (cyclical movement) of love. This explains why Jesus, carrying on earth and in history the Trinitarian learning, puts love of God and others at the centre (cf. Mk 12:2834). It means that the relatio is at the centre of human existence.

Being a person means to find and to live from the state of relationship and for the state of relationship. In fact, Jesus prays to the Father and suffers so that "they may all be one just as we are one, I in them and you in me" (Jn 17: 22-23).

Eucharistic adoratio (adoration) in its various forms must be seen in this perspective: in a truly magnificent way it helps the human person become what he is. Actually, the worship offered to the Eucharist pushes a person to live the relatio with the Lord in the Sacrament, yes, but also with all the brethren.

Adoration is not at all a denial of individual human dignity; rather, it reveals the true greatness of the human being. It stresses that I am myself only by establishing relationships with God and others. Adoration teaches us that our life becomes realized if it is like an arrow in flight.

From the perspective of and with the eyes of Mary

With moving originality, John Paul II writes an entire chapter on the "Woman of the Eucharist", the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is described as the "first 'tabernacle' in history" (cf. n. 55). It is here that the Pope brings to the fore a parallel rich in depth: "There is a profound analogy between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the Body of the Lord".

In their own way, every believer also becomes a tabernacle of Jesus. We know that "Mary, however, was laying up all these words, meditating on these things in her heart", as Luke says (2:19; cf. 2:51). Here, there is an invitation to the whole Church to always recognize further the gift of the Son of God to humanity, as proof of the eternal love of the Triune God for humankind (cf. Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8; 8:32).

But is not this very thing the raison d'être of the worship offered to the Eucharist outside of the Mass? Mary is a model of it for everyone.

Urged on by the incarnate Love in her flesh, Mary visits Elizabeth in order to practice love towards her cousin by her presence, and in this way she begins the faith-pilgrimage of the Mother of Jesus, a via Mariae (cf. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 24). By means of adoration, Christians feel the tug on their part to walk on the road of love of others (cf. Eph 5:2), serving them with concrete acts of charity and thus becoming "a living Eucharist" for them.


Notes

1 Cf. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Weggemeinschaft des Glaubens. Kirches als Communio, Augsburg, 2002, Sec. 68-73.

2 St Augustine, Sermon 227 in Sant' Agostino, L'Eucaristia Corpo dells Chiesa, ed. Vittorino Grossi, Rome, 2000, 90. Usually, the Fathers combine ontology and symbolism, and thus realism and radiance. Cf., Henri de Lubac, Corpus Mysticum. L'Eucharistie et l'Église au Moyen Age, 2nd ed., Paris, 1949. St Thomas describes the Eucharist as the sacramentum unitatis (the sacrament of unity) in Bk. IV of his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, 12, 2, 1, 1; Idem, Summa Theologica III, 79, 1 and 5.

3 Blaise Pascal, Pensees, 434, ed. Brunschvicg.

4 St Thomas, Summa, I, 80, 1c.

5 St Augustine, Confessions, I, 1. Cf. Klaus Hemmerle, Wie Glauben im Leben Geht, Munich, 1995, 220-242.

6 Q. Moraschine and M. Pedrinazzi, San Pietro Giuliano Eymerd, Apostolo dell'Eucaristia, Rome, 1962, p. 5.


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
25 February 2004, page 8

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