Manifesting the multiform wisdom of God
Forty years ago, the Second Vatican Council invited Religious
Institutes, via the Document Perfectae Caritatis, to renew
themselves in order to reincarnate a more spiritual consecrated life in
the contemporary cultural context, closely linked to the Gospel and
their charism, keeping pace with the Church and at the service of the
Faithful to the directives of the Church, the consecrated life has
complied with John Paul II's desire to involve all the faithful fully in
Eucharistic reflection and is grateful to the Church, which points to
the privileged way of the Eucharist, the heart of both her ecclesial
life and consecrated life.
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent image of the
total gift of their lives made by consecrated persons. It is a
proclamation of that gift of self which was to reveal in the Eucharist
the fullness of its radical meaning as a gift that goes to the extreme,
a gift that knows no bounds of space or time.
In the Eucharistic celebration, the gift a Religious makes of his or
her entire life is integrated into Christ's response to the Father's
The person called to choose Christ sees in the incorporation into
Jesus, brought about through Baptism and more fully expressed in
religious consecration, the unique meaning of his or her life. This
commitment is at the very heart of the growth process of the consecrated
person and finds in the Eucharistic Sacrifice sublime fulfilment: "He
who eats me will live because of me" (Jn 6:57).
The purpose of the total conversion of one's entire life has this as
its end: "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me" (Gal
2:20). A special transformation of the consecrated person takes place to
the extent that one makes room for Christ, who is present and wants to
dwell in his disciples: "Abide in me, and I in you" (Jn 15:4).
In the Eucharist, Christ receives and lives within every consecrated
person; hence, all consecrated persons are aware that they are receiving
Christ, alive and true, who dies and is raised every day for their sake.
The need of this bread for the journey of consecrated persons is
proportionate to the measure of their serious dedication to daily tasks
and to the generosity that allows them to empty themselves of their own
desires and take on those Christ proposes.
Spiritual strength in the Eucharist
Furthermore, frequent Communion and Eucharistic adoration enable
consecrated persons to discern God's will for them and accept it
Christ's will, mediated by Scripture, and the face of Christ
contemplated in the Blessed Sacrament, are expressed in life through the
Eucharist, which provides consecrated men and women with the spiritual
strength they need and enables them to draw grace from its very source.
Thus, for consecrated persons, a life of grace is brought about which
makes them "partakers in the divine nature" (II Pt 1:4); by practising
the virtues of faith, hope and charity, they become the sacrament, sign
and instrument of the mission Christ has entrusted to his Church: "As
the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20:21).
On the altar of the world consecrated men and women take upon
themselves the commitment to transform their life so that, in a certain
way, it will become an entirely Eucharistic life.
"Indeed... the mission consists in making Christ present to the world
through personal witness. This is the challenge, this is the primary
task of the consecrated life! The more consecrated persons allow
themselves to be conformed to Christ, the more Christ is made present
and active in the world for the salvation of all" (Vita Consecrata,
The account of the washing of the feet shows Christ in the act of
serving. The power of this account is the witness. Jesus is the teacher
who accomplishes things, who does what he says.
"Even today, those who follow Christ on the path of the evangelical
counsels intend to go where Christ went and to do what he did" (ibid.,
n. 75), without being afraid of the "hour", since, "although [he was]
deeply troubled, Jesus does not flee before his 'hour"' (Ecclesia de
Eucharistia, n. 4).
"On the night when he was betrayed" (I Cor 11:23): few words, indeed,
in order to indicate the humanly inexplicable context of the gift.
The Eucharist is a sacrifice in the strict sense, a gift of Christ's
love and obedience to the very end of his life.
"The sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot therefore
be understood as something separate, independent of the Cross or only
indirectly referring to the sacrifice of Calvary" (Ecclesia de
Eucharistia, n. 12). Consecrated persons who have made the "sequela
Christi" their life's meaning are also closely bound to the Cross.
In fact, there is no consecrated life without the Cross; and it is
absurd for people to wear a cross around their necks or pinned to their
habits unless they effectively, unreservedly and generously build up the
Body of Christ in accordance with God's plan and after the example of
Jesus, who did not refuse his hour: the hour of the Cross and of his
The sacrificial value of the Eucharist, "in which the sacrifice of the
Cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord's
body and blood" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 12), is present in
every community that offers it, and in Eucharistic communion, "the
yearning for fraternal unity deeply rooted in the human heart" is
fulfilled (ibid., n. 24).
Participation in the Eucharistic banquet raises the fraternal
communion of the consecrated person above any communion lived on a
merely convivial level. "The bread which we break, is it not a
participation in the Body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who
are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1 Cor
The creative power of unity that flows from the Eucharist creates
community, while it consolidates and increases the love of those who
have consecrated their lives to God and find themselves in a real
family, gathered in the name of the Lord.
Gifts of God for others
Fraternal communion "is a God-enlightened space in which to
experience the hidden presence of the Risen Lord.... This comes about
through the mutual love of all the members of the community, a love
nourished by the Word and by the Eucharist" (Vita Consecrata, n.
"By its very nature the Eucharist is at the centre of the consecrated
life, both for individuals and for communities" (ibid., n. 95),
making possible those fraternal relations by which Religious carry one
another's burdens with mutual esteem (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, n.
The grace and strength provided by the Eucharistic sacrifice work, on
the one hand, within the individual, nourishing his or her personal
holiness; on the other hand, they place the person in a specific
community, nourished by Christ's Body.
Thus, Jesus nourishes the holiness of individuals and groups with his
divine holiness. Because of the particular choice made by consecrated
persons, this is vital to fraternal life.
In fact, fraternal life is not sustained by human bonds but responds to
a call in which it is Christ who offers himself as the one meaning of
life. This is what makes the fraternal life of consecrated persons
different from many other forms of community experience and, at the same
time, guarantees it.
In fraternal life not only do Religious experience being a gift to
God, but they also experience being a gift to God for others, which
attests to the truth of the gift of self (cf. ibid., n. 6).
Every Institute witnesses in its own particular way to the Gospel
message and the Eucharistic reality upon which it lives. This specific
aspect of witness, called "charism", is fostered by fraternal life,
penetrates it and is a source of boundless energy for apostolic work.
The living source of the Spirit
By service and dynamic unity to their community, Religious sacrifice
themselves, inwardly cultivating the paschal meaning of their gift of
self and witnessing to the eschatological aspect of their consecration.
The Eucharist then becomes "the daily viaticum and source of the
spiritual life for the individual and for the Institute" (Vita
Consecrata, n. 95).
This living source of the Spirit which nourishes consecrated life
guarantees the ability to see and welcome the Lord.
Simeon and Anna at the Presentation can be considered figures
symbolic of long and serious fidelity to serving God, whose sincerity
enables them to recognize a child as the Lord and to welcome him as
Active expectation and the encounter with Jesus fill the life of
these two venerable believers, who can be viewed as the ultimate image
of the consecrated person in his or her final encounter with the Lord.
At that moment, the bread of the journey, the Eucharist, will cease to
be such and will become full and eternal communion. The final Amen will
conclude our life so that, like that of Mary, it may become completely a
"Magnificat" (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, n. 58).
The Church, ever attentive to the signs of the times, continues to
propose anew the centrality of Christ and of his Paschal Mystery as the
principal means of responding to today's needs.
Consecrated life also feels called to do this, thus enabling the
Church not merely to be "equipped for every good work and to be prepared
for the work of the ministry unto the building-up of the Body of Christ,
but also to appear adorned with the manifold gifts of her children, like
a bride adorned for her husband, and to manifest in herself the
multiform wisdom of God" (Perfectae Caritatis, n. 1).