Online Edition – October 2005
Vol. XI, No. 7
Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod on the Eucharist
Excerpts from the working document for the Synodal Assembly in the Year of the Eucharist
The Instrumentum laboris is the working document for the General Assembly of bishops gathered this month in Rome for the Synod on the Eucharist. This synod concludes the Year of the Eucharist, an observance begun last October 7, with Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter, Mane Nobiscum Domine (“Stay with us, Lord”).
The Preface to the Instrumentum laboris, written by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, reviews the events leading to this eleventh general Synod of the world’s bishops.
In the light of foundational documents, such as Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II’s last encyclical, Archbishop Eterovic observes, “The question of great pastoral concern, episcopal responsibility and prophetic vision is to see how this rich patrimony of faith can be implemented in the Catholic Church, extended over five continents, in the initial years of the Third Millennium of Christianity and beyond”. This matter concerns not merely a review of the relevant documents of the Second Vatican Council, the archbishop wrote, but of how the Council’s “teachings on the Sacrament of the Eucharist have been applied in light of the Church’s Magisterium on the subject”.
Archbishop Eterovic comments that the Lineamenta for the synod, issued in 2004, “received a wide distribution in the Church and the world. Under the guidance of the bishops, the entire People of God made significant contributions on the topic in preparation for the synodal assembly”.
Bishops’ submissions in response to the Lineamenta, he writes, are considered “responses”, while others are classified as “observations”. Both were included in the Instrumentum laboris, which summarizes both. Thus the Instrumentum laboris “touches upon some doctrinal truths of notable influence in celebrating this sublime mystery of our faith, which puts in relief the Sacrament’s great pastoral richness. This document then is principally concentrated on the positive aspects of the celebration of the Eucharist which bring the faithful together and make them a community, despite their differences in race, language, nation and culture”.
“Mention is also made of various insufficiencies and oversights in the celebration of the Eucharist which, thanks be to God, are rather contained. Their inclusion, nonetheless, provides the occasion for clergy and the faithful to consider the due reverence and piety towards the Eucharist which is to characterize their celebration of this sacred mystery. Each section ends with various proposals from a number of responses which were a result of a profound pastoral reflection by particular Churches and other bodies which were consulted”, the preface says.
The document consists of four parts divided into two chapters each, and a conclusion. Because the subject of this synod is the very “source and summit” of the Catholic faith, we present this working document, slightly edited for space, for study and reflection. (Footnotes are indicated but text is omitted.) The complete document is accessible on the Vatican web site.
THE EUCHARIST AND TODAY’S WORLD
“For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world. They said to Him, ‘Lord, give us this bread always’”. (Jn 6:33-34)
Bread for Each Person in the World
2. When the people ask Jesus for a sign so they can believe, He tells the crowd that He Himself is the true bread that satisfies hunger (cf. Jn 6:35); He is the Bread come down from heaven for the life of the world. The present-day world also stands in need of this bread, if it is to have life. In the discourse in which Jesus presents Himself as the Bread for the life of the world, the crowd begs Him: “Lord, give us this bread always”. (Jn 6:34) This plea is charged with meaning, since it expresses a deep longing planted in the heart of not only the Church’s members but every person who seeks happiness, a happiness which is symbolized by the bread of eternal life. Despite various kinds of difficulties and contradictions, the world, in this year of the Lord 2005, aspires to happiness and desires the bread of life for soul and body. In response to this hunger of the human heart, Pope John Paul II made an earnest appeal to the Church’s members to use the Year of the Eucharist as an occasion to make a serious commitment to fight the tragedy of hunger, the affliction of illness, the loneliness of the elderly, the hardships of the unemployed and the struggles of immigrants. The actions in response to this appeal will be the measure for judging the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations….2
4. The synod is to take place in a period marked by strong contrasting forces within the human family. The idea of globalization gives the illusion of a united human race, in many cases as a result of the mass media which report happenings from every corner of the globe. For the most part, the last ten years have witnessed an exceptional development in technology. Unfortunately, globalization and technological progress have not lead to peace and greater justice between the rich nations and the poorer ones of the Third and Fourth Worlds. The situation makes one think that, while the synod fathers are gathering, acts of violence, terrorism and war will unfortunately continue in various parts of the world. At the same time, many brothers and sisters will fall victim to various illnesses, for example, AIDS, which brings devastation to entire sectors of populations, especially in poorer countries….
The Eucharist in Various Situations in the Church
5. The Lineamenta responses indicate that Mass attendance on Sundays is high in various particular Churches in the countries of Africa and also in some Asian countries. The opposite is the case in the majority of countries in Europe, America and Oceania. In some cases, the percentage of those who participate at Sunday Mass is as low as 5%. Generally speaking, the faithful who neglect to attend Mass on Sundays do not consider participating at Mass important in their life. Basically, they lack an understanding of the true nature of the Mass as Sacrifice and Eucharistic Banquet which gathers the faithful around the Lord’s altar….
Ongoing, intensive catechesis on the importance and obligation to participate at Holy Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation needs to be encouraged. At times, the obligatory character is minimized by a person’s insisting that its observance depends on how one feels at the moment.
6. Certain particular Churches are witnessing a significant decline in the practice of the faith and participation at Mass, prevalently among the young. This should lead to a reflection on how much time pastors and catechists spend in teaching the faith to children and youth as compared to time in social activities.
An increasingly secularized society has caused a weakening in the sense of mystery. This is witnessed in mis-interpretations and distorted ideas in the Council’s liturgical renewal, which has led to rites superficial in nature and devoid of spiritual significance. Nevertheless, some Christian communities have maintained a deep sense of mystery, so much so that the liturgy continues to have great meaning.
Some express a certain appreciation for inculturated liturgies which permit increased participation. As a result, Mass attendance has been on the rise, with many young people and adults more actively involved in the Church’s life and mission. In rural areas, the scarcity of clergy in parishes has resulted in the celebration of Mass at certain times each month or even each year. In these situations, the practice of entrusting a Sunday service to lay people is unavoidable.
7. People ought clearly to be taught that entering into the mystery of the Eucharist depends on a liturgical celebration which is done with dignity, due preparation and, above all, faith in the mystery itself. In this regard, the encyclical Redemptoris Missio can be of assistance, since it points out two causes for a lack of faith that is having a negative impact on the missionary spirit: the secularization of salvation and religious relativism. The former leads to a struggle in favor of the person, but a person reduced to only one dimension — earthbound.10 Such an attitude takes the minister of the mysteries of God and links his vocation to being simply a promoter of social justice. The latter leads to the destruction of Christian truth, since it maintains that one religion is as good as another.11 Far from allowing this to be a source of lament, Pope John Paul II appealed in his Apostolic Letter, Novo millennio ineunte, for a strengthening of the Church’s missionary activity.12
The synod’s topic can be developed properly by bearing the aforementioned in mind and remembering that for the Apostles and Church Fathers — consider Saint Justin alone13 — the Eucharist is the holiest action the Church can perform. She firmly believes that the Risen Lord is truly and fully present in the Eucharist. Christ’s presence is the Sacrament’s basic end.
Because of the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, the Church always approaches this mystery — the essence of the Liturgy — with fear and trembling, and likewise, with great trust. Reverence towards the mystery of the Eucharist and awareness of its sublime character are much needed today. This requires a structured program of formation. Much will depend, however, on having places which can serve as models, places where the Eucharist is truly believed and properly celebrated, places where people can personally experience what the Sacrament is — the only authentic response to a person’s every need in the search for life’s meaning.
The Eucharist and the Christian Meaning of Life
8. Each person questions the meaning of life: What is the meaning of my life? What is freedom? Why do suffering and death exist? Is there anything beyond the grave? In a word, does life have meaning or not?14 This questioning continues even though people often delude themselves into thinking that they are self-sufficient or fall victim to fear and uncertainty. Religion is the ultimate response to the search for life’s meaning, since it leads a person to the truth about himself in relation to the true God….
9. The Lineamenta responses lament a certain separation of the pastoral life from the Eucharist. The synod, therefore, could encourage the strengthening of the bond between life and mission. The Eucharist is the response to the signs of the times in contemporary culture. In a culture of death, the Eucharist is the culture of life. In an atmosphere of individual and societal selfishness, the Eucharist re-affirms total self-giving. Where there is hate and terrorism, the Eucharist places love. In response to scientific positivism, the Eucharist proclaims mystery. In desperate times, the Eucharist teaches a sure hope of a blessed eternity.
The Eucharist manifests that the Church and the future of the human race are bound together in Christ and in no other reality. He is the one, truly lasting rock. Therefore, Christ’s victory is the Christian People who believe, celebrate and live the Eucharistic mystery.
THE EUCHARIST AND ECCLESIAL COMMUNION
“Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread”. (I Cor 10:17)
Eucharistic Mystery: The Expression of Ecclesial Unity
10. In exhorting the faithful to flee from idolatry and to avoid eating flesh sacrificed to idols, Saint Paul highlights the Christian’s intimate bond of communion with the Body and Blood of Christ, thus making of the multitudes of the faithful, one body, one community and one Church…. (cf. I Cor 8:1-10)
The responses to the Lineamenta, in commenting on the Eucharist as the expression of ecclesial communion, highlight the following aspects of the subject which warrant particular treatment: the relation of the Eucharist to the Church; the relation of the Eucharist to the other Sacraments, especially Penance; the relation of the Eucharist to the faithful; and adverse situations or “shadows” in the celebration of the Eucharist.
The Relation of the Eucharist to the Church as “Bride and Body of Christ”
11. The Eucharist is the heart of ecclesial communion. From the many figures applied to the Church, the Second Vatican Council preferred one which expresses her totality — mystery. The Church is primarily the mystical encounter between God and humanity. As such, she is Spouse and Body of Christ, Mother and the People of God. Because of the mutual relationship between the Eucharist and the Church, the notes of the Creed can be applied to both — one, holy, catholic and apostolic — as illustrated in the Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia.20
The Eucharist builds the Church and the Church is the place where communion is realized with God and humanity. The Church is aware that the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity, holiness, apostolicity and catholicity and the sacrament essential to the Church as Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. At the same time, the marks of the Church are the bonds of catholic communion which give the Eucharistic celebration its legitimacy.
Pope John Paul II recalled that “the Church is the Body of Christ: we walk ‘with Christ’ to the extent that we are in relationship ‘with His body’”.21 This is the real basis for a certain manner of acting at the Eucharist and for observing the norms of celebration. This is the Church as Bride rendering obedience to Christ.
12. The Church makes the Eucharist and the Eucharist builds the Church. Although both were instituted by Christ, one in view of the other, the two terms of the well-known aphorism are not equivalent….
13. Catholic ecclesiology is expressed in the Anaphora of the Liturgy, in the so-called diptychs, which recall the Eucharistic aspect of the primacy of the pope, Bishop of Rome, as the interior principle of the universal Church. This is analogous to the role of the bishop in his particular Church.27 One Eucharist calls the one Church to unity, defying any break-down into multi-Churches. The one Church willed by Christ always returns to the Eucharist, which is realized in communion with the apostolic college, whose head is the Successor of Peter. This bond gives to the Eucharist its legitimate character. The Eucharistic unity willed by Christ does not result simply from the common union of so-called “Sister Churches”. The interior character of the Sacrament is communion with the Successor of Peter, who is the principle of unity in the Church and the recipient of the charism of unity and universality, that is, the Petrine charism. Ecclesial unity, then, is manifested in the unity of Christians in a sacramental and Eucharistic manner.
The Relation of the Eucharist to the Other Sacraments
14. A specific relationship exists between the Eucharist and the other sacraments. A treatment of this subject needs to bear in mind the teaching of the Council of Trent which states that the sacraments “contain the grace they signify”, and confer that grace in their celebration.28 All sacraments, ecclesiastical ministers and apostolic works are intimately bound to the Sacred Eucharist and are ordered to it.29 Therefore, the Sacrament of the Eucharist is “the perfection of all perfections”….30
17. The relation of Holy Orders to the Eucharist is seen primarily at Mass presided over by a bishop or priest in the Person of Christ the Head.
The Church’s teaching makes Holy Orders a requirement for the valid celebration of the Eucharist.
For this reason, many strongly recommended highlighting the fact that “in the celebration of the Eucharist, the ministerial priesthood differs from the common priesthood of the faithful in essence and not merely in degree”….34
The Close Bond Between the Eucharist and Penance
21. The Sacrament of Penance restores the bonds of communion broken by mortal sin.37 Consequently, the relation of the Eucharist to the Sacrament of Penance deserves particular attention. The responses point out the need to treat the Sacrament of Penance as geared towards the Eucharist and the Church, understanding it to be the necessary condition for encountering and adoring, in a spirit of holiness and purity of heart, the Lord who is All-Holy….
The relation of the Eucharist to Penance in today’s society greatly depends on both a sense of sin and a sense of the sacred. The distinction between good and evil oftentimes becomes a subjective matter. People today, by insisting that conscience is strictly a personal affair, risk losing a sense of sin.
22. Many Lineamenta responses refer to the rapport between the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
In many countries, persons have lost, or are gradually losing, an awareness that conversion is necessary for receiving the Eucharist. Its connection with the Sacrament of Penance is not always understood, e.g., the necessity of being in the state of grace before receiving Holy Communion. As a result, the obligation of confessing mortal sins is forgotten.39
The idea of communion as “food for the journey” has also caused a minimization of the necessity of being in the state of grace. Instead, just as proper nourishment presupposes a healthy, living being, so the Eucharist requires that a person be in the state of grace so the Baptismal commitment can be re-enforced. How can a person be in the state of mortal sin and receive the One who is a “medicine” of immortality and an “antidote” to death?40
Where many faithful know that they cannot receive communion while in mortal sin, they do not have a clear idea of what constitutes mortal sin. Others give no thought to it. Oftentimes, the situation creates a vicious circle: “I won’t receive communion because I have not gone to confession; I don’t go to confession, because I have no sins to confess”. Though such an attitude can be traced to a variety of causes, the principal one is a lack of proper catechesis on the subject.
Another rather widespread problem is created by a lack of access to the Sacrament of Penance at convenient times. In some countries, individual confessions have been eliminated….
Certainly, thought needs to be given to the great disproportion between the many who receive Holy Communion and the few who go to confession. The faithful frequently receive Holy Communion, without even thinking that they might be in the state of mortal sin. As a result, the receiving of Holy Communion by those who are divorced and civilly remarried is a common occurrence in various countries. At funeral Masses, weddings or other celebrations, many receive Holy Communion only out of the generally-held, mistaken conviction that a person cannot participate at Mass without receiving Holy Communion….
The Relation of the Eucharist to the Faithful
24. According to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and other documents of the Magisterium,45 the lay faithful are an essential part of the communion of the Church, which is structured hierarchically.
In the incarnation of the Word, God the Father made Himself visible and began a worship in spirit — conforming to reason — which is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Worship can no longer be “something learned by rote”. (Is 29:13) Christian worship has Christological and anthropological implications. Therefore, the participation of the faithful at liturgical celebrations, particularly the Eucharistic Liturgy, is essentially entering into this spiritual worship where God comes down to the individual and the individual is raised to God. The Eucharist itself, the Son’s memorial, is adoration which arises to the Father in the Holy Spirit. This is the basis of the liturgical renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council.
Many mention that the idea of participation is often limited to its exterior aspects. Not everyone understands that its true meaning comes from faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Participation in the Eucharist is rightly seen as the quintessential act in the Church’s life. It is communion with Trinitarian life: God the Father, the incarnate and risen Son of God and the Holy Spirit, who works the transformation and the “divinization” of human life.
The responses to the Lineamenta agree that the faithful need assistance in understanding the nature of the Eucharist and its connection to the incarnation of the Word, in addition to their seeing that their participation in the Eucharistic mystery is primarily an interior gift of themselves in heart and mind, before ever being an exterior act. For this purpose, the suggestion was made to give greater emphasis to the spousal aspect of the Eucharist in relation to the new covenant, using it as the model for the vocations of the Christian life —marriage, virginity and priesthood — so as to form Eucharistic persons and communities who love and serve, like Jesus in the Eucharist.
Shadows in the Celebration of the Eucharist
26. Regrettably, the Lineamenta responses also indicate that the ecclesial community is seriously concerned about and affected by shadows in the celebration of the Eucharist. Pope John Paul II already touched upon the subject in his Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia.47 The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments treated the matter more extensively in its Instruction Redemptionis sacramentum,48 which is an invitation to consider in an attentive, calm but nonetheless critical fashion, the way the Church celebrates this Sacrament, the source and summit of her life and mission. That this invitation comes at a moment when the Church is becoming more engaged in a dialogue with other religions and the world, shows the hand of Providence in the pope’s appeal. In this way, he teaches that the Church must always take a hard look at herself, if she is to speak faithfully about herself with those involved in dialogue, without losing her proper identity as the universal sacrament of salvation.
The following text describes various shadows which came to light in analyzing the Lineamenta responses. These observations should not be seen as merely transgressions of the rubrics or violations in liturgical practice but rather as indications of deep-rooted attitudes.
Regarding the observation of the Dies Domini, the responses refer to a decrease in participation at Mass on Sundays and Holy days of Obligation, due to a lack of understanding on the content and meaning of the Eucharistic mystery and to an attitude of indifference, particularly in progressively secularized countries, where oftentimes Sunday becomes just another workday.
It is widely held that Christ’s presence is a result of the community and not Christ Himself, who is the font and center of our communion and head of His Body, the Church.
Neglect of prayer, contemplation and adoration of the Eucharistic mystery has weakened the sense of the sacred in relation to this great Sacrament.
This situation can lead to compromising the truth of Catholic teaching concerning the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, traditionally called transubstantiation. It can also threaten faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a belief which suffers from ideas which intend to explain the Eucharistic mystery not so much in itself but rather from a subjective point of view, for example, in the use of terms like “trans-finalization” and “trans-signification”.
The responses note that the people are not always consistent in the faith they profess in the Sacrament and the moral implications of the Sacrament in both personal matters as well as in the general cultural and social arena.
Some Church documents are barely known, especially those of the Second Vatican Council, the great encyclicals on the Eucharist, including Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the Apostolic Letter Mane nobiscum Domine, and others. Some liturgical celebrations suffer from an improper balance, ranging from a passive following of rituals to an excessive creativity which sometimes draws too much attention to the celebrant of the Eucharist. The latter is often characterized by lengthy commentaries which do not allow the Eucharistic mystery to speak for itself through liturgical signs and formulas.
THE FAITH OF THE CHURCH IN THE MYSTERY OF THE EUCHARIST
THE EUCHARIST, GOD’S GIFT TO HIS PEOPLE
“The Mystery of Faith”
The Eucharist: the Mystery of Faith
27. Using the above phrase, the priest-presider at the Eucharist proclaims, in a spirit of awe, the Church’s faith in the risen Lord, really present under the elements of bread and wine, which have been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into His Body and Blood.
There is general insistence on the Second Vatican Council’s teaching which refers to the Eucharist as the center and heart of the Church’s life and, in a particular way, as the Mystery of Faith, God’s plan revealed in Jesus Christ. God who gives Himself to us, and is with us, is not only a gift and mystery of ineffable richness but also a gift and mystery continually to be rediscovered. The Mysterium fidei is the God who gives to us, the First, the Last and the Living One who has entered into time. The Lord Jesus is truly man and truly God in our midst. He is Son of God and Son of Man.
A well-known, Second Vatican Council text provides assistance in the matter of faith and mystery: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light…. Christ, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear”.49
The word “mystery”, occurring three times, summarizes the truth concerning Christ and the truth concerning each person. The question of the mystery of the Word, the mystery of the Father and the mystery of humanity are never unresolved; they find a response in Jesus Christ who is true God and true man. By making Himself “truly one of us” and being “united in a certain way with every man”,50 our Lord gives the full meaning of existence to all who desire it. He is not outside the human condition; He has brought the truth of creation to fulfillment, because “He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart”.51 Pope John Paul II has taken this text from his first encyclical Redemptor hominis52 and practically made it the Church’s manifesto in the new millennium, in which she is called to draw on the truth concerning Christ and the truth concerning humanity and its dignity, as found in the Gospel.
28. The fact and mystery of the incarnation, fulfilled in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, allows each person to participate in the divine life which is present in the Eucharist, the Bread of Eternal Life, because it has the power to overcome death. “Truly, truly I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death”. (Jn 8:51) Therefore, the resurrection is offered to humanity.
The Eucharist is also at the heart of the message proclaimed by all Christians to the world for two thousands years — we bear witness that Jesus Christ was crucified but is now risen from the dead. (cf. I Cor 15:3-5)
The Eucharist proclaims the death of Christ, whose drama all can understand. Likewise, it proclaims His resurrection, which requires a faith and openness to receive God into our world. In this way, a faith born in the Eucharist becomes the basis for a new way of acting which contains in itself the ultimate, definitive meaning of awaiting the Lord’s coming.
The trinomial — faith, liturgy and life — widely existent in pastoral circles, alludes to the fact that without faith the Eucharist cannot be celebrated or lived. Without faith, there can be no discussion on the subject of active participation in the liturgy.
The Eucharist: The New and Eternal Covenant
29. Citing Saint Irenaeus, The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: ‘Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking’”.53 In this statement, how can one not see God’s covenant in action, the very place where the individual is to live his faith commitment? “If you do not believe, surely you shall not be established” (Is 7, 9b), says the Lord. The Eucharist is the New and Eternal Covenant, the pact and testament left by Jesus in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
Indeed, the entire Church expresses her faith in the New and Eternal Covenant. After listening to the Word, faith is professed in the Eucharistic mystery, the revelation and gift of God Himself in Jesus Christ, which spurs Christians to give wholly and entirely of themselves. First and foremost in the Eucharist, faith means acknowledging and welcoming Jesus Christ in an encounter which totally engages a person in the depths of his being, as was the case in Mary, the model of a faith fully realized.
Faith and the Celebration of the Eucharist
30. The Lineamenta responses also treat various aspects of the faith required in the celebration of the Eucharist. The Sacrament manifests the primacy of the grace of God, who is always at the origin of everything, and His gift of the Holy Spirit, who makes us participate in His mysterious action in the Sacrament by changing the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus as well as making us holy. To approach the Eucharistic liturgy without faith in grace or without at least the desire to be in the state of grace, makes void any participation in worshipping in spirit and in truth.
The Eucharist proclaims the truth of God’s Word revealed in Jesus, the Word-Made-Flesh, who already bears in His Person the ultimate fulfillment of human history. If one goes to the Eucharistic liturgy with doubt rather than the assent of truth, real participation is impossible.
The gift of freedom, which the Creator gives to each person, makes the act of faith a free choice of adhering to the Person of Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6). In the Eucharistic liturgy, God reveals Himself but also remains hidden, so as to stimulate the believer’s reason and understanding to seek Him constantly and to find Him in everyday life. The liturgy leads to a deeper participation in this mystical action or mystagogy, to quote the technical term used by the Church Fathers.
According to the Apostles James and Paul, love actuates and completes faith. Faith effects a change in the believer’s heart, converting it and opening it to love. Faith and love, together with hope, are the basis of Christian identity. The Eucharist, the Sacrament of Love, leads a person to love and provides the basis and purpose for his existence. Without agape-love, there is no life in the Spirit.
In considering the full reception of Holy Communion, these aspects of participation find their ultimate expression in doing God’s will, a plea made in the Our Father. A person can certainly participate at Mass, even though the necessary conditions do not exist for him to receive Holy Communion. However, the person must always nourish a desire and determination to fulfill these conditions as soon as possible.
Personal Faith and the Church’s Faith
31. Communion with Christ and His Church teaches that a personal faith continuously tends towards an ecclesial dimension, just as the profession of faith in Baptism naturally tends towards the liturgy. For this reason, access to the Eucharist — which presupposes faith —can only come about through Baptism. If the grace of Baptism is lost through sin, the “arduous Baptism”, Penance, is required to return to the Eucharist.
Before partaking of the Eucharist, the profession of faith is renewed. This fundamental bond manifests the communion of each particular Church with the local Churches throughout the world, and also the primary union with the Church of Rome and its bishop, the necessary principle of the Church’s unity. Likewise, this reciprocity is expressed in the Anaphora, in the diptychs. In the Eucharist, we manifest both a personal faith and the faith of the Church.
Participation at the Eucharist leads to an increase in understanding the mystery of each person and his life and provides the strength for the Christian to defend his faith, when partial or erroneous explanations threaten it. Essentially, the liturgy is an integrating part of the lifelong journey in faith.
The general meaning of faith is primarily seen in the witness of the martyrs, who freely accepted death as a result of hatred towards the faith, oftentimes during or immediately after the celebration of the Eucharist. They were certain of truth and life; they followed Christ, who made a free offering of Himself, leaving a memorial of His sacrifice in the Eucharist. Indeed, the acts of martyrdom which are taking place in many Churches suffering open and ill-hidden persecutions, bear witness, in the fullest manner possible, that the Sacrament is the fons et culmen of the life and mission of the Church.
The Perception of the Eucharistic Mystery among the Faithful
32. Generally speaking, the responses to the Lineamenta reveal a certain decrease in the understanding of the mystery celebrated. The Eucharist as gift and mystery is not always perceived. This is witnessed in various cultural nuances. For example, in those countries enjoying a general climate of peace and prosperity — primarily western countries — many perceive the Eucharistic mystery as simply the fulfillment of a Sunday obligation and a meal of fellowship. Instead, in those countries experiencing wars and other difficulties, many understand the Eucharistic mystery more fully, that is, including its sacrificial aspect. The paschal mystery, celebrated in an unbloody manner on the altar, gives profound spiritual meaning to the sufferings of Catholic Christians in these lands, helping these people to accept them as a participation in the mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Some responses, coming from the Church in Africa, mention that the idea of sacrifice is indigenous to the cultures of that continent. Therefore, this understanding, properly taken and purified of elements extraneous to the Gospel, is often used in pastoral catechesis for a better understanding of the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist.
Catechesis is faced with the difficulty of preserving the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist as well as the idea of the Eucharist as a meal. Oftentimes, the latter receives more emphasis than the former.
To deal with these pastoral situations, many Lineamenta responses want an effective, faithful application of the liturgical renewal of the Second Vatican Council to reestablish a balance among the various aspects of the Eucharist. In this case, some thought that certain liturgical norms might be reviewed. Similarly, the suggestion was made to promote an adequate catechesis at all levels to help people better understand that the paschal mystery is renewed in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is the sacrifice of praise and communion, which causes the community to grow.
The Sense of the Sacred in the Eucharist
33. No one doubts the great effects resulting from the liturgical renewal prompted by the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. Indeed, the post-conciliar liturgy has greatly fostered the active, conscious and fruitful participation of the faithful in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar.54
Nevertheless, responses coming from various countries note some deficiencies and shadows in the celebration of the Eucharist on the part of both the clergy and the faithful, which seem to have their origin in a weakened sense of the sacred in the Sacrament. Safeguarding the Sacrament’s sacred character basically depends on being aware that the Eucharist is a mystery and gift, whose remembrance requires signs and words corresponding to its nature as a sacrament.
Certain actions which challenge a sense of the sacred, often mentioned in the Lineamenta responses, can be of assistance in treating the subject, for example, a neglect by the celebrant and the ministers to use proper liturgical vestments and the participants’ lack of befitting dress for Mass; the use of profane music in Church; the tacit consent to eliminate certain liturgical gestures thought to be too traditional, such as genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament; an inadequate catechesis for Communion in the hand and its improper distribution; a lack of reverence before, during and after the celebration of Holy Mass, not only by the laity but also the celebrant; the scant architectural and artistic quality of sacred buildings and sacred vessels; and instances of syncretism in integrating elements from other religions in the inculturation of liturgical forms.
All these negative realities, occurring more often in the Latin Liturgy than the Liturgies of the Eastern Churches, should not lead to great alarm, since they seem to be limited. Nevertheless, they ought to spur serious reflection on how to eliminate them and to ensure that the Eucharistic liturgies are places of praise, prayer, communion, listening, silence and adoration, out of deep reverence for the mystery of God, who is revealed in Christ under the elements of bread and wine, and out of the utter joy of feeling oneself a member of a community of the faithful reconciled with God the Father through the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist is the most sacred and highest form of prayer. It is the Great Prayer.
THE PASCHAL MYSTERY AND THE EUCHARIST
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”. (I Cor 11:26)
The Centrality of the Paschal Mystery
34. Every Eucharistic celebration renews the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, bread broken for the life of the world and blood poured out for the redemption of humanity and the liberation of the cosmos. (cf. Rm 8:19-23)
The synod topic ought to lead to a rediscovery of Jesus’ paschal mystery as the mystery of salvation, which gives rise to the life and mission of the Church. The Eucharist is revealed as Gift: the Lord gives Himself; He is God-with-us. The Eucharist is His Person and His life given for us. The Lord exercises His priestly, prophetic and kingly mission in the Eucharist….
Sacrifice, Memorial and Meal
36. The Lineamenta responses indicate a general need to examine thoroughly the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist and a hope that this truth of our faith be presented with greater clarity, according to the recent Magisterium of the Church.
The Second Vatican Council has already provided a theological reflection on Jesus’ sacrifice as a complete and totally gratuitous offering of Himself to God the Father for the salvation of the world. Though numerous texts mention this aspect of the Sacrament, the reference in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium to the idea of sacrifice in the exercise of the priestly ministry deserves particular attention: “priests … exercise their sacred function in the Eucharistic liturgy or synaxis, where, acting in the Person of Christ and proclaiming His mystery, they join the offering of the faithful to the sacrifice of their Head. Until the Lord comes again (cf. I Cor 11:26), they re-present and apply in the Sacrifice of the Mass the one sacrifice of the New Testament, namely the sacrifice of Christ offering Himself once and for all to His Father as a spotless victim (cf. Heb 9:11-28)”.57
The Catechism of the Catholic Church58 treats the subject in the subheading: “The Sacramental Sacrifice: Thanksgiving, Memorial, Presence” which indicates that the prevalent name, without prejudice to the others, is the Sacramental Sacrifice, namely, that the sacrificial death of Christ saved us from our sins and that the Sacrament gives each of us the possibility to experience its effects. Thanksgiving is therefore rendered to God through His sacrifice, through recalling His sacrifice, and through the presence of His sacrifice in the Body given up and in the Blood poured out. An act of thanksgiving is made to the Father for creation and for the salvation of humanity and the world.
Considering the Eucharist in this way can lay to rest any opposition between the notions of sacrifice and meal. In fact, if a supper is intended in using the second term, the notion of sacrifice would be included, since it would denote the Supper of the Lamb who was slain. Employing the second term as a synonym for communion would also manifest the end or summit of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
The Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, in treating the Eucharist as sacrifice,59 also teaches that the Church re-presents Christ’s sacrifice as an act of intercession, namely, the Son offers Himself in His flesh and thereby becomes the mediator between humanity and the Father. The Church of Christ is united in this offering through the Anaphora or Eucharistic Prayer. This offering is not new; rather it is the one and same offering accomplished on the Cross, though in an unbloody manner. This understanding is helpful in reading the following reference from the Encyclical: “The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it”.60 Recounting what comes about as a result of the sacrificial love of the Lord is simply to repeat the Encyclical’s contents.
37. Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension and Pentecost are real happenings; they help us to know that the Lord’s enduring, substantial presence in the Sacrament is not a mere type or metaphor. Doubts that God’s power can work in matter account for the fact that some see the Sacrament only as a symbol of Christ’s presence. In the context of the other ways in which Christ is present in the Church, the paschal mystery allows us to understand the nature of the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist resulting from the change of the elements or transubstantiation. The bread becomes the Body given up and broken for our salvation: Corpus Christi salva me; the wine becomes the Blood poured out and the overflowing of divine delight: Sanguis Christi inebria me.61 Because the Eucharist is the real and substantial presence of Christ in the “poverty” of the sacramental elements, the Sacrament can sow the seeds of a new history in the world.62 The paschal mystery confirms the condescension of God and the kenosis [emptying] of the Son, without any compromise to the absolute transcendence of the Trinity.
Jesus’ words “take and eat” primarily mean the gift of Himself to us which in turn leads to the fellowship of the table, the unity of the Church community and the commitment to share bread with the needy. All this gives rise to adoration, namely, the ongoing worship of the Lord, who accompanies the People of God on its pilgrimage.
Transubstantiation takes place in the consecration of the bread and wine. The responses recommend that the theology of the act of consecration be explained by drawing from the ecclesial traditions of both East and West. In particular, the consecration should be seen as the faithful imitation of what the Lord did and commanded at the Last Supper and as the result of the invocation of the Holy Spirit in the epiclesis. A clearer theology on the act of consecration would be very useful in ecumenical dialogue with the Eastern Churches which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church. Likewise, it would help eliminate some shadows mentioned in the Lineamenta responses, for example, the use of hosts with leaven or other ingredients; the celebration of Mass with ordinary bread; improvisation during the Eucharistic Prayer; the recitation of certain parts of the Eucharistic Prayer by the people at the insistence of the celebrant and the fractio panis [breaking the bread] at the moment of consecration.
The Real Presence
38. The Lord willed His presence in the Sacrament so that He could be near humanity, provide Himself as nourishment for humanity and continually abide in the Church community. Some responses mention that humanity’s response is faith in Christ’s Real and Substantial Presence, in accordance with the teachings of the Encyclical Letters Ecclesia de Eucharistia and Mysterium fidei. Faith in Christ’s presence in the Sacrament includes other dimensions, that is, a sense of mystery and the various ways to express it, the positioning of the tabernacle and conduct at Mass, not to mention the Sacrament’s eschatological significance as the pledge of future glory. Indeed, the Sacrament is also the anticipation of the ultimate, eternal reality as the Church journeys in pilgrimage towards the house of the heavenly Father. This final dimension is seen, for example, in the lives of persons in the consecrated life who patiently await the Bridegroom.
In the Apostolic Letter Mane nobiscum Domine, for the Year of the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II proposed the following doctrinal synthesis concerning the presence of the living Christ in His Church: “All these dimensions of the Eucharist come together in one aspect which more than any other makes a demand on our faith: the mystery of the ‘Real’ Presence. With the entire tradition of the Church, we believe that Jesus is truly present under the Eucharistic species. This presence — as Pope Paul VI rightly explained — is called ‘real’ not in an exclusive way, as if to suggest that other forms of Christ’s presence are not real, but par excellence, because Christ thereby becomes substantially present, whole and entire, in the reality of His Body and Blood. Faith demands that we approach the Eucharist fully aware that we are approaching Christ Himself. It is precisely His presence which gives the other aspects of the Eucharist — as meal, as memorial of the paschal mystery, as eschatological anticipation — a significance which goes far beyond mere symbolism. The Eucharist is a mystery of presence, the perfect fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to remain with us until the end of the world”.63
This citation confirms the teaching called for in various responses to the Lineamenta. The one hidden in the Sacrament is the kingly Mediator between God and humanity, the Eternal High Priest, the Divine Master, the Judge of the living and the dead, the God-Man, the Word-Made-Flesh and the One who mystically gathers together all the faithful into the great community of the Church. This is the way He presents Himself at Mass.
39. Some Lineamenta responses, however, mention that, at times, a certain way of acting indicates that transubstantiation and the Real Presence are understood in a symbolic sense only. Many responses noted that some celebrants at the liturgy seem more like showmen, who must draw people’s attention to themselves, instead of servants of Christ, called to conduct the faithful to union with Him.64 Obviously, such a way of acting has negative repercussions on the people who run the risk of being confused in both their faith in and understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament.
True and proper liturgical signs and gestures, aimed at expressing faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, have been used in Church tradition, for example, the attentive purification of sacred vessels after communion, the steps to be taken when the Eucharistic species might accidentally fall to the floor, genuflections before the tabernacle, the use of the communion plate, the regular replacement of consecrated hosts reserved in the tabernacle, the keeping of the tabernacle key in a secure place and the celebrant’s composure and concentration in keeping with the transcendent and divine character of the Sacrament. Omitting or neglecting any of these sacred gestures, which are significantly important externally, would clearly not contribute to preserving a sound faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Sacrament. The responses therefore suggest that the gestures and signs expressing faith in the Real Presence be included in a proper mystagogy and liturgical catechesis.
40. Furthermore, it must not to be forgotten that faith in the Real Presence of the dead and risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament has a culminating point in Eucharistic adoration, a firmly grounded tradition in the Latin Church. Such a practice — rightly highlighted in many Lineamenta responses — should not be presented as something apart from the Eucharistic celebration but as its natural continuation. The responses also indicate that some particular Churches are experiencing a reawakening in Eucharistic adoration, which, in each case, is to be done in a dignified and solemn manner.
Likewise, the positioning of the tabernacle in an easily seen place is another way of attesting to faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. In this regard, the responses to the Lineamenta request that significant thought be given to the proper location of the tabernacle in Churches, with due attention to canonical norms.65 It is worth considering whether the removal of the tabernacle from the center of the sanctuary to an obscure, undignified corner or to a separate chapel, or whether to have placed the celebrant’s chair in the center of the sanctuary or in front of the tabernacle — as was done in many renovations of older churches and in new constructions — has contributed in some way to a decrease in faith in the Real Presence.
The responses also note that instructions in the construction and re-structuring of churches often insist in a particular way on the positioning of the tabernacle to express an awareness of the Real Presence. When this is done, it results in an increase in faith and adoration. Churches ought to remain places of prayer and adoration and not be transformed into museums. This is also the case for cathedrals and basilicas of great historic and artistic value.
THE EUCHARIST IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH
CELEBRATING THE EUCHARIST OF THE LORD
“And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age”. (Mt 28:20)
“We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence…”66
41. The celebration of Holy Mass begins with an acknowledgment that God is present where two or more are united in His name and that we stand before Him in His presence. In participating at Mass, we ought to be aware that we are at the wellspring of grace: “Our hymn of praise ad