Interview With Father Jesús Castellano Cervera
ROME, 7 MAY 2003 (ZENIT).
In his encyclical "Ecclesia de
Eucharistia" John Paul II dedicates Chapter 6 to the
"School of Mary, 'Woman of the Eucharist.'"
To understand in greater depth the relation between the Blessed Virgin
and the Eucharist, ZENIT interviewed Discalced Carmelite Father Jesús
Castellano Cervera, president of the Teresianum School of Theology and
an expert in Marian studies and consultor of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith.
Q: Don't you consider somewhat singular the Pope's decision to dedicate
a whole chapter to Mary in an encyclical
on the Eucharist?
Father Castellano: Mary's relation to the Eucharist is evident,
especially if two fundamental aspects of the Eucharist are considered.
The first is the continuity of the mystery of the Incarnation, exactly
as John presents it in Chapter 6 of the Gospel: indissoluble connection
between the Word made flesh [see John 1:14] and the flesh that he gives
for the life of the world [see John 6:51 and following]. The chapter in
the prologue of the Gospel, verse 14, uses the same expression "the
Word became flesh," and also "I shall give you my flesh."
In the measure that the mystery of the Incarnation is connected to the
Virgin, of whom the Word takes flesh, we can say that it is a central
aspect of the Eucharist, and not a devotional aspect.
St. Augustine himself said in the Commentary on Psalm 98:9: "Of the
flesh of Mary, he took flesh, in this flesh the Lord walked here, and he
has given us this same flesh to eat for our salvation; and no one eats
that flesh without having first adored it ... as we do not sin adoring
it but sin if we do not adore it."
The second fundamental aspect is that the Eucharist is the memorial of
the death of Christ, and in that moment of Calvary, John recalls Mary's
presence at the foot of the cross. It is a presence in which the Virgin
is associated with the mystery and with the offering of Christ to the
Father, and in the offering of herself to the Father.
We cannot not think of the Virgin Mary, present in this mystery, of
which the Eucharist is the sacramental connection; therefore, either
because the Incarnation or because of the sacrifice of the cross, Mary
Moreover, there are numerous expressions of the Fathers of the Church
that bring the mystery of the Incarnation closer to that of the
Q: Could you give an example?
Father Castellano: Peter Chrysologus said that Christ "is the bread
that sowed in the Virgin, leavened in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion,
baked in the oven of the sepulcher, kept in the Church, taken to the
altars, gives the faithful heavenly food every day."
In the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas made a comparison between
the virginal birth, which is of a supernatural order, and the
eucharistic conversion, which is also supernatural.
The relation between the Eucharist and the Virgin is an integral part of
the whole Tradition. In some Eastern rites, for example in the Ethiopian
liturgy, they recite: "You are the basket of this bread of burning
flame and the cup of this wine. O Mary, who produce in your womb the
fruit of the oblation."
And also: "O Virgin, who brought to fruition what we are about to
eat and who made to gush forth what we are about to drink. O bread that
lives in you: life-giving bread and salvation for the one who eats it
Q: However, we must admit that at present this relation between Mary and
the Eucharist is not known or reflected upon.
Father Castellano: In reality, the Pontiffs have always stressed this
aspect of Tradition. Paul VII, for example, in "Marialis Cultus"
exhorted [us] "to live the Eucharist with the sentiments of faith
and love of Mary, Virgin who listened, Virgin of prayer, Virgin who
offered, Virgin Mother, as well as Virgin model and teacher of spiritual
worship in daily life, transforming herself in a pleasing offering to
We could also refer to John Paul II, who introduced the Institution of
the Eucharist among the luminous mysteries of the holy rosary.