THE YEAR OF THE EUCHARIST
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Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
THE YEAR OF THE EUCHARIST
SUGGESTIONS AND PROPOSALS
October 15, 2004
It has hardly been a year since the conclusion of the Year of the Rosary and we have yet again another initiative of the Holy Father: The Year of the Eucharist (October 2004 October 2005). The second initiative continues what began in the first. The pastoral indications that the pope outlined in his Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio ineunte, directed to the whole Church, has put both initiatives into the furrow of the Second Vatican Council and the Jubilee Year, placing the contemplation of Christ’s face at the center of the Church’s efforts (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, ch. I).
In fact, with Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the pope invited us to contemplate Christ through the eyes and heart of Mary. Then the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia followed, which leads us to the "source" and "height" of Christian life, inviting us to renew our fervor in the celebration and adoration of the Eucharist. In unison with this Encyclical, the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum reminded us of the duty to assure that the liturgy be worthy of such a great Mystery.
Now, The Year of the Eucharist, guided and introduced by the Apostolic Letter Mane nobiscum Domine (October 7th, 2004), offers us an important pastoral occasion further to sensitize the Christian community, so that they make this wonderful Sacrifice and Sacrament the center of their lives.
The Holy Father has left the execution of this initiative in the hands of the local Churches. However, he has asked the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to offer "suggestions and proposals" (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 29), that could result useful for Pastors and pastoral workers at all levels, who in turn are called to do their part.
That is the character of this subsidy. This document does not pretend to be exhaustive, but limits itself to operative suggestions, only mentioning the essential. At times certain important themes and areas are only referred to. A chapter entitled Eucharistic "spirituality" is hoped to be very useful, at least as a stimulus, as regards formative and catechetical initiatives. It is very important to be sure, to receive the Eucharist not only in its aspect as a celebration, but also as a project of life, which is at the base of authentic "Eucharistic spirituality."
We thank the Holy Father for yet another gift, and we entrust the success of this Year to the intercession of the Mother of God. In her school of "woman of the Eucharist," we recover that "astonishment" when we encounter the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ, and the whole Church lives it with ever more fervor.
1. Reference Chart
Faith in the Eucharist
The Eucharistic celebration and worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass
Mary: icon of the "Eucharistic" Church.
The saints as witnesses of Eucharistic life
2. In Reference to Worship
The Easter Vigil and communion
The Solemnity of Corpus Christi
The Celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours
3. Guidelines of Eucharistic Spirituality
Attention to the Word
The Presence of Christ
Communion and charity
4. Initiatives and Pastoral Tasks
Monasteries, Religious communities and Institutes
Seminaries and Houses of Formation
Associations, Movements and Confraternities
5. The Cultural Journey
Buildings, monuments, libraries
Art, Sacred music, literature
Quoted Documents and abbreviations cited
The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council
The Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium (= SC)
The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium
The Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum
Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, Ed. typica tertia, Typis Vaticanis 2002 (= IGMR)
Missale Romanum, Ordo Lectionum Missae, Ed. typica altera, Ed. Vatican Library 1981.
Rituale Romanum, De Sacra communione et de cultu mysterii eucharistici extra Missam, Ed. typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1974 (= De sacra communione).
Caeremoniale Episcoporum, Ed. typica, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1984.
Rituale Romanum, De Benedictionibus, Ed. typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis 1985.
Liturgia Horarum, Institutio Generalis de Liturgia Horarum, Ed. typica altera, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1985 (= IGLH)
Ordo initiationis christianae adultorum, Ed. typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis 1972.
Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine, Ed. typica, Ed. Vatican Library 1987.
Ordo coronandi imaginem B. Mariae Virginis, Ed. typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis 1981.
Documents of John Paul II
Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (April 17th, 2003)
Apostolic Letter Mane nobiscum Domine (October 7th, 2004)
Apostolic Letter Dies Domini (May 31st, 1998)
Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte (January 6th, 2001)
Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (October 16th, 2002)
Apostolic Letter Spiritus et Sponsa (December 4th, 2003)
Letter for the 100th anniversary of the Motu Proprio Tra le Sollecitudine on Sacred Music (November 22nd, 2003)
Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata (March 25th, 1996)
Message for World Mission Day 2004
Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Mysterium fidei (September 3rd, 1965)
Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino (May 9th, 1975)
Codex Iuris Canonici (=CIC)
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1992 (= CCC)
Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction Eucharisticum mysterium (May 25th, 1967)
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (March 25th, 2004)
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Directory on popular piety and the Liturgy, principles and guidelines, Vatican City 2002 (= Directory on popular piety)
Congregation for Divine Worship, Circular Letter on the Preparation and the Celebration of the Easter Celebrations (January 16th, 1988) (= Letter on Easter Celebrations)
Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Instruction Starting Afresh from Christ: A Renewed Commitment to Consecrated Life in the Third Millennium (May 19th, 2002)
Congregation for Catholic Education, Instruction Liturgical Formation in Seminaries (June 3rd, 1979)
1. Reference Chart
1. The horizon opened by the Year of the Eucharist refers to and promotes a long term activity, which unites the various dimensions of life in Christ and in the Church. The Eucharist is not another "theme" among others; it is the very heart of Christian life. "The celebration of the Mass, in as much as it is the action of Christ and of the hierarchically ordered people of God, constitutes the center of the entire Christian life, both for the universal and local Churches, as well as for the individual faithful. The Mass is at once the very pinnacle of God’s action, whereby he sanctifies the world in Christ; and of man’s worship of the Father, adoring him through Christ his Son, in the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, in it, the Church commemorates the mysteries of redemption throughout the course of the year, so as to make them truly present in a certain manner. All the other sacred actions, and every activity in the Christian life are in strict relation with the Mass, from which they stem, and towards which they are ordered" (Institutio generalis Missalis Romani [IGMR] 16).
For this reason, the Eucharistic emphasis of this special year causes the Church to enumerate some of the fundamental activities in its life, seen both as a group, and as separately listed. The Holy Father highlighted this interpretive key by placing the initiative within a complete pastoral plan, which was proposed to the Church in Christological-Trinitarian terms during the years of preparation for the Jubilee year. This process gradually "unfolded" during the years following the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte. "The Year of the Eucharist is placed upon a background that, year in and year out, has become enriched, yet always maintaining the theme of Christ and the contemplation of his Face. In a certain sense, this year presents itself as a year of synthesis, a sort of culmination of the entire journey." (Mane nobiscum Domine, 10).
Assuming this conclusion, the programming of initiatives during this year ought to take into account the diverse possibilities considered, and seek to stimulate the Church from various perspectives. In this chapter we propose to bring to mind, as synthetically as possible, a few theologicalpastoral "perspectives" that would sketch out what could be called a "reference chart" for the suggestions and proposals that follow.
Faith in the Eucharist
2. "The Mystery of Faith" (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, ch. I). The Eucharist can be understood in the light of Biblical Revelation and Ecclesial Tradition. At the same time, reference to both of these elements is necessary so that the Eucharist can reveal its characteristic of "mystery of light" (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, ch. II), in some way allowing us to relive the "path of faith" described in the Gospel account of the two "disciples of Emmaus" which the Holy Father has chosen as "icon" for this Year of the Eucharist. Thus, the Eucharist is a mystery of light in as much as it supposes and implies the light of the Word of God, as well as the fact that the very "breaking of bread" shines a light upon the mystery of the Trinitarian God: in the very Paschal event of Christ’s death and resurrection, and consequently in his Eucharistic "memorial", God reveals His being the God of love as His supreme trait.
The Year of the Eucharist presents itself above all as a period of intense catechesis about the Eucharist as believed by the Church. This catechesis should present the following:
Sacred Scripture, taking from the texts concerning the "preparation" of this Mystery in the Old Testament and from the texts of the New Testament that regard the institution of the Eucharist as well as its various dimensions (cf., for example, the texts indicated in the Lectionary for the votive mass of the Holy Eucharist).
Tradition: from the Fathers of the Church to the subsequent theological or magisterial developments, with particular attention to the Council of Trent, Vatican Council II and to recent documents of the Magisterium. The catechetical itineraries that each particular Church elaborates will find an authoritative and illuminative point of reference for this purpose in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Mytagogy: that is, a profound introduction into the mystery celebrated, by means of an explanation of the rites and prayers in the Ordo Missae and in the De sacra communione et de cultu mysterii eucharistici extra Missam [Holy Communion and Worship Outside of Mass].
The riches offered by the history of spirituality: in particular how the Eucharist was believed and celebrated, as shown in the expressions of the saints. (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 62);
Sacred art as a witness of faith in the Eucharistic mystery.
Eucharistic celebration and worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass
3. Received from and instituted by Christ, the Eucharist is celebrated by the Church according to established form (cf. IGMR and Prefaces to the Ordo Lectionum Missae). Eucharistic worship outside of the Mass is closely linked to its celebration, and ordered to it.
"A concrete task for this Year of the Eucharist, could be to study the Institutio Generalis of the Missale Romanum in depth in every parish community. The privileged way to be introduced into the mystery of salvation that is acted out in the holy "signs" rests upon faithfully following the progress of the Liturgical Year." (Mane nobiscum Domine, 17).
Desiring to give simple "thematic" indications for pastoral workers, a few aspects are mentioned, around which one is invited to "examine oneself" with particular attention. The finality of this is to bring us to a more dignified celebration and a more fervent adoration of the Eucharistic Mystery. Taking into account the above-mentioned documents, the recent Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum would be of particular help. The following aspects should be considered:
The place of celebration: church, altar, ambo, location of the presiding celebrant…;
The liturgical assembly: the sense and way they live of their "full, conscious and active" participation. (cf. SC 14);
The various functions: the priest who acts in persona Christi, the deacons, other ministries and services;
The dynamics of the celebration: The bread of the Word to the bread of the Eucharist (cf. Ordo Lectionum Missae, 10);
The times of the liturgical celebration: Sunday, week days, the liturgical year;
The relation of the Eucharist with the other sacraments, sacramentals and rites…
Interior and exterior participation: in particular, respect for the "moments" of silence;
Song and Music;
General observance of the liturgical norms;
Communion of the sick and viaticum (cf. De sacra communione);
The adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, personal prayer;
During this Year of the Eucharist, it would be of particular interest to review each of these points. Of course, it is not easy to reach the loftiest goals set forth in each community’s pastoral life, but we ought to work towards them. "If the fruit of this year were only to revitalize in all the Christian communities the celebration of the Sunday Mass and to increase Eucharistic adoration outside of the Mass, this year of grace would have attained a significant result. Yet it is good to fix one’s gaze upon the heights and not to be content with mediocre measures, because we can always be assured of God’s help". (Mane nobiscum Domine, 29).
4. In the Apostolic Letter Spiritus et Sponsa for the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Pope predicted that a "Eucharistic Spirituality" would develop within the Church. This is the perspective of a liturgy that nourishes and directs existence, shaping that which is lived by the believer into authentic "spiritual worship" (cf. Rom 12:1). Without this nurturing of a "Eucharistic Spirituality", liturgical practice becomes easily reduced to "ritualism" that cancels the grace that pours forth from the celebration.
This is particularly applicable to the Eucharist: "The Church lives from the Eucharist". The Eucharistic celebration is truly at the service of the life in Christ, in the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus it is necessary to take care to pass from the Eucharist celebrated, to the Eucharist lived: from the mystery that is lived to the renewal of life. For this reason, the present aid also offers a chapter highlighting Eucharistic spirituality. While still in this initial reference chart it would be useful to point out a few particularly significant points:
The Eucharist is culmen et fons (the height and font) of the spiritual life itself, beyond the many other spiritual approaches;
Regular reception of the Eucharist sustains the corresponding grace for single vocations and ways of life (ordained ministers; spouses and parents; consecrated persons) and illumines the various situations of life (joys and sorrows, problems and projects, sickness and trials);
Charity, concord and brotherly love are fruits of the Eucharist and manifest the union with Christ that has taken place in the sacrament. At the same time, the exercise of charity in the state of grace is the condition by which one can fully celebrate the Eucharist. This is the "font", but also an "epiphany" of communion (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, ch. III);
The company of Christ among us inspires daily testimony, and furthers the building up of the earthy city: The Eucharist is our principle and mission plan (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, ch. IV).
Mary: icon of the "Eucharistic" Church
5. "If we wish to rediscover in all its richness the profound relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, we cannot neglect Mary, Mother and model of the Church." Thus does the sixth chapter of the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia exhort us, where John Paul II recalls the profound relation that Mary possesses with the Eucharist and with the Church that lives from the Sacrament of the altar. The encounter with "God with us and for us" includes the Virgin Mary.
The Year of the Eucharist is a favorable occasion to intensify our reflection on this facet of the Mystery. So as more profoundly to live the sense of the Eucharistic Celebration, in order that it mark our lives, there is no better way than to let oneself be "taught" by Mary, "woman of the Eucharist".
Apropos, it is important to remember what the pope said in Rosarium Virginis Mariae n. 15, concerning the act of "being conformed to Christ with Mary": she "enables us to enter naturally into Christ’s life and as it were to share His deepest feelings." On the other hand the pope continues in Ecclesia de Eucharistia in the Eucharistic Celebration, in a certain sense, we always receive, along with the memorial of the death of Christ, the gift of Mary, a gift made to us at the foot of the cross in the person of John (Behold your mother: Jn. 19:27): "Experiencing the memorial of Christ’s death in the Eucharist also means continually receiving this gift. It means accepting like John the one who is given to us anew as our Mother. It also means taking on a commitment to be conformed to Christ, putting ourselves at the school of his Mother and allowing her to accompany us. Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist." (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 57).
This year, these themes merit being the object of special meditation. (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 31).
Concerning the celebration of the Eucharist in communion with Mary, refer to the Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine, Praenotanda, 12-18.
The Saints as Witnesses of Eucharistic life
6. In Novo Millennio ineunte, n.30, the pope invites all to place this pastoral journey into the perspective of sanctity. This invitation takes on special value in a year completely built up around to Eucharistic Spirituality. The Eucharist makes us saints, and there can be no sanctity that is not enveloped in Eucharistic life. "The one who feeds on me will have life because of me" (Jn. 6:57).
The truth of this is witnessed to by the "sensus fidei" of the entire people of God. In particular, there is special testimony of this given by the Saints, in whom the Paschal mystery of Christ stands out. John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 62: "Let us take our place, dear brothers and sisters, at the school of the Saints, who are the great interpreters of true Eucharistic piety. In them the theology of the Eucharist takes on all the splendor of a lived reality; it becomes "contagious" and, in a manner of speaking, it ‘warms our hearts’." This is true for all the Saints.
A few of them lived this dimension with a particular intensity and with special gifts from the Spirit, communicating to their brothers this same fervor of love for the Eucharist. (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 31). There are innumerable examples: St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Ambrose, St. Bernard and St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Pasquale Baylón and St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Theresa of Avila, St. Peter Julian Eymard and St. Pio of Pietrelcina. There are even "martyrs of the Eucharist", ancient and modern, from St. Tarsicius to St. Nicolas Pieck and companions, and St. Peter Maldonado.
The Year of the Eucharist will offer us a chance to rediscover these "witnesses", whether they be renown by the Universal Church within the particular Churches. It is desirable that theological research deal with the saints, since what they lived is a significant "locus theologicus": in the Saints "God speaks to us" (cf. Lumen Gentium, 50) and their spiritual experience (cf. Dei Verbum, 8), guaranteed by ecclesial discernment, shed light upon the Mystery. Walking in their light and in their footsteps it will be made easier to assure that this Year of grace be truly fruitful.
2. In Reference to Worship
7. The Eucharist is at the center of the sacramental economy, as the culmination of Christian initiation. The Eucharist enlightens the other sacraments and it is their meeting-point. The very structure of the ritual makes the possibility available, or stipulates excepting the sacrament of Reconciliation that the sacraments be inserted into the Eucharistic Celebration (cf. Praenotanda of the various Rites; Redemptionis Sacramentum, 75-76).
The Liturgy of the Hours can be harmonized with the Eucharistic Celebration (cf. IGLH, 93-97).
Even the sacramentals, as in the case of the Blessing of an abbot, the Religious Profession, the Consecration of Virgins, the Conferring of Instituted or Extraordinary Ministries, funeral rites find their normal context within the Mass. The dedication of a Church or of the Altar takes place during the Mass.
There are even blessings that can be done during the Mass. (cf. Ordo coronandi imaginem Beatae Mariae Virginis; De Benedictionibus, 28).
It is true that there are blessings, acts of worship and devotional practices, that are not to be done during the Mass (cf. De Benedictionibus, 28; De sacra communione, 83; Redemptionis Sacramentum, 75-79; Directory on popular piety, 13, 204). Yet it is none the less true that no Christian prayer can exist without referring to the Eucharist, the supreme prayer of the Church, and indispensable for Christians. The many forms of private prayer as well as the various expressions of popular piety accomplish their true sense by preparing for the Eucharistic celebration and in prolonging its effects in one’s life.
We would now like to recall a few days, periods and ways of praying which refer to the Eucharist:
8. Sunday is the "original feast day", "foundation and core of the whole liturgical year" (SC, 106). "When its significance and implications are understood in their entirety, Sunday in a way becomes a synthesis of the Christian life and a condition for living it well." (Dies Domini, 81).
It is the day of Christ, and thus brings with it the memory of him who is the very foundation of the Christian faith. (cf. 1Cor. 15: 14-19). "As the day of Resurrection, Sunday is not only the remembrance of a past event: it is a celebration of the living presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of His own people. For this presence to be properly proclaimed and lived, it is not enough that the disciples of Christ pray individually and commemorate the death and Resurrection of Christ inwardly, in the secrecy of their hearts…. It is important therefore that they come together to express fully the very identity of the Church, the ekklesia, the assembly called together by the Risen Lord" (Dies Domini, 31). The Eucharistic Celebration is in fact the heart of Sunday.
The connection between the Risen One and the Eucharist is especially shown in the account of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk. 24:13-35), as they are guided by Christ Himself to enter intimately into the mystery by listening to the Word and in communion with the "breaking of bread" (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine). The gestures completed by Jesus: "He took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them" (Lk. 24:30), are the same as those he performed during the Last Supper, and which he incessantly performs, through His priests, in our Eucharist.
The particular character of the Sunday Mass, and the importance it takes on for the Christian life, demand that it be prepared with great attention, so that it be perceived as an epiphany of the Church (cf. Dies Domini, 34-36; Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 41, Novo Millennio ineunte, 36), and distinguish itself as a joyful and sung celebration with participation and involvement. (cf. Dies Domini, 50-51).
Reviving the Sunday Mass in the community ought to be the first task in this special year. If at least this goal is reached, along with an increase in Eucharistic adoration outside of the Mass, the Year of the Eucharist will have already achieved a significant result (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 23 and 29).
The Easter Vigil and communion
9. The Easter Vigil is at the heart of the liturgical year. In this feast, the Eucharistic Celebration is "the zenith, being the sacrament of Easter in its fullest sense, that is the memory of the sacrifice of the cross and the presence of the risen Christ, the completion of Christian initiation, and the promise of the eternal Easter" (Letter of Easter Celebrations, 90).
Upon recommending that the Eucharistic liturgy of the Paschal vigil not be celebrated in haste, making sure to give all of the rites and words their maximum expression, especially the Eucharistic communion, which is the moment of complete participation in the mystery celebrated during this holy night, it is advisable leaving up to the decision of the diocesan Ordinary the evaluation of the opportuneness and circumstances, with complete respect for the liturgical norms (cf. Redemptionis Sacramentum, 100-107) that the fullness of the Eucharistic sign received in the Paschal Vigil, be expressed by communion under the species of the bread and wine (cf. Letter of Paschal celebrations, 91 and 92).
The Easter octave is, as are the Sundays of the Easter season, of particular importance for the neophytes (cf. Ordo initiationis christianae adultorum, 37-40 e 235-239). It is customary for children to make their first communion during these Sundays. (cf. Letter of Paschal celebrations, 103). It is also recommended that communion be brought to the sick, especially during the Easter octave. (Letter of Paschal celebrations, 104).
During the Easter season, pastors ought to remind all of the meaning of the Church’s precept to receive Holy Communion during this sacred period (cf. C.I.C. can. 920). Proceeding in such a way will help to avoid that the precept be perceived in a minimalist sense, but rather as a necessary and convinced participation in the Eucharist, that involves one’s whole life and ought to be expressed, at least every Sunday.
10. The importance of the Chrism Mass which, according to tradition, is celebrated on the Thursday of Holy Week (for pastoral motives this Holy Mass can be transferred to another day as long as it is close to Easter: cf. Caeremoniale Episcoporum, 275) is well known. Besides inviting the priests from the various parts of the diocese to concelebrate with the Bishop, it is also continuously advised that the faithful participate in this Mass as well, and receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist during the celebration (cf. Letter of Paschal celebrations, 35).
In order to remind us especially priests about the mystery of Holy Thursday, from the beginning of his pontificate, the Holy Father John Paul II has always written a Letter to priests (in the year 2003 he wrote the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia).
Because of the special meaning of this day (cf. Caeremoniale Epicoporum, 97), all our attention ought to be focused on the mysteries that are remembered during the celebration of the "Last Supper of the Lord": the institution of the Eucharist, The institution of the ministerial priesthood, and the commandment of the Lord concerning brotherly charity.
Opportune pastoral and festive indications are given for the evening Mass of Holy Thursday, such as Eucharistic processions and Eucharistic adoration afterwards, and can be consulted in the Letter of Paschal celebrations, 44-57 or in the Directory on popular piety, 141.
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
11. This feast, "extended to the entire Latin Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264, constitutes on the one hand, a response in the faith and in worship to heretical teachings regarding the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and on the other hand was the crowning moment in an entire history of ardent devotion towards the august Sacrament of the altar." (Directory of Popular Piety, 160).
The Solemnity of Corpus Christi has inspired new forms of Eucharistic piety in the people of God, even up until our current day (cf. Directory of Popular Piety, 160-163). Amongst these forms of piety, the Eucharistic procession which prolongs the Eucharistic celebration so that the Christian people "render unto the Blessed Sacrament a public witness of faith and veneration," (De sacra communione, 101; cf. CIC, can. 944) is particularly noteworthy. As such, "The traditional Corpus Christi procession should be lived with particular devotion in this year. Faith in the God who, in becoming incarnate, made himself our traveling companion, should be proclaimed everywhere, particularly in our streets and amongst our houses as an expression of our grateful love, and as a fount of inexhaustible blessings" (Mane nobiscum Domine, 18).
The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus might also assume a markedly Eucharistic character.
The Eucharistic Celebration and the Liturgy of the Hours
12. The Liturgy of the Hours extends the Eucharistic mystery, "center and pinnacle of the Christian Community’s entire life," throughout the day. This it does by its praise and thanksgiving, by recalling the mysteries of salvation, and by its prayers of petition as a foretaste of heavenly glory.
The Liturgy of the Hours is also an excellent means of preparation for the Eucharistic celebration inasmuch as by it are fostered those dispositions most necessary for the fruitful celebration of the Eucharist, such as faith, hope, charity, devotion, and the desire for abnegation of self" (IGLH, 12).
When circumstances permit, a tighter union between the Mass and Divine Office can be allowed, for example, incorporating Lauds, Midday Prayer or Vespers into the Eucharistic Liturgy, as per the indications and norms according to time and place (cf. IGLH, 93-97).
13. The admirable practice of gathering in prayer before the tabernacle, to adore Christ truly present therein, was born of the need to reserve the Lord’s Sacred Body for Communion for the sick and infirm. Recommended by the Church to her Pastors and her faithful, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is highly expressive of the bond between the celebration of the Lord’s Sacrifice and his permanent presence in the consecrated Host (cf. De sacra communione, 79-100; Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 25; Mysterium fidei; Redemptionis Sacramentum, 129-141).
By remaining in prayer before the Lord Jesus, truly living in the Blessed Sacrament, not only is our union with him matured, but we are better disposed to more fruitfully celebrate it and to prolong those existential and reverential attitudes raised by it.
These are expressed by the Church’s tradition in different ways:
Simple visits to the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle: a brief encounter with Christ spurred on by faith in his true presence, and characterized by silent prayer;
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, exposed, as per liturgical norms, in the monstrance or pix, be it for shorter or longer durations of time;
Perpetual adoration, the Quarant’Ore Devotion or other such forms which gather together an entire religious community, Eucharistic association or parish community, and which furnish the occasion for numerous expressions of Eucharistic piety (cf. Directory of Popular Piety, 165).
14. – Adoration and Sacred Scripture. "The prayers, hymns and chants used during Eucharistic exposition should all lead the faithful to focus their piety upon Christ the Lord. Readings of Sacred Scripture, together with a homily or brief exhortation moving the faithful to deepen in the Eucharistic mystery, may be used to increase the intimacy of their prayer. In such cases, it is recommendable that the faithful respond in song, and when appropriate, that they observe sacred silence," (De sacra communione, 95).
15. – Adoration and the Liturgy of the Hours. "Part of the Liturgy of the Hours may also be celebrated before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed for a given length of time. This is particularly true of the celebration of the principal Hours. In such a celebration, in fact, the praise and thanksgiving which the Eucharistic Celebration and the Church render unto Christ and by means of him, unto the Father in the name of the whole world is extended throughout the day (De sacra communione, 96).
16. – Adoration and the Rosary. The Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae has already helped us overcome a certain vision of the Rosary as a strictly "Marian" prayer, by inviting us to value its eminently Christological character, in contemplating the mysteries of Christ through the eyes and heart of Mary. This it does both in communion with her, and in imitation of her example.
While it remains true that during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament one should not practice other devotions in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the Saints (cf. Directory of Popular Piety, 165), it should be understood, however, that the Magisterium does not exclude the Rosary: it is precisely by virtue of this Christocentric character that it is emphasized and developed. With a view to the upcoming Year of the Eucharist the Pope wrote: "The Rosary, understood in its deepest Biblical and Christocentric meaning which I recommended in the Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, can be a particularly adept means of Eucharistic contemplation in company with, and in the school of Mary" (Mane nobiscum Domine 18; cf. Redemptionis Sacramentum, 137; Directory of Popular Piety,165). As such, the pastoral elements offered in chapter 3 of Rosarium Virginis Mariae should be rediscovered and promoted. The reading of a Biblical passage; the meditative silence; the Christological clause following the name of Jesus in the center of the Hail Mary; the singing of the Gloria; a suitable conclusive prayer directed to Christ, possibly in the form of a litany all of these favor the contemplative attitude which qualifies prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, reserved in the tabernacle or exposed. Hurriedly reciting the Rosary, not leaving sufficient space for the meditation of the mysteries or an insufficient Christological orientation are all elements hindering the encounter with Christ, truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar.
The Litanies of the Blessed Virgin, which are not necessarily bound to the recitation of the Rosary (cf. Directory of Popular Piety, 203), may be more opportunely replaced by litanies directed to the person of Christ (for example, the Litanies of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or of the Precious Blood of Christ).
17. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Processions and Eucharistic adoration normally finish with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament by the priest or deacon. Once this has taken place, the other ministers or persons in charge of the exposition repose the Blessed Sacrament within the tabernacle (cf. De sacra communione, 91).
Since Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament is not a form of Eucharistic devotion by itself, it should be preceded by a brief exposition, with a convenient period of prayer and silence. "Exposition with the sole end of imparting the Benediction is prohibited," (De sacra communione, 89).
18. Eucharistic processions through the city streets help the faithful feel themselves to be the people of God, together with their Lord, proclaiming their faith in "God with us and for us" (cf. Redemptionis Sacramentum, 142-144; Directory of Popular Piety, 162-163). This is particularly true of the Eucharistic procession par excellence, that of Corpus Christi.
During these processions, care must be taken that the norms guaranteeing the dignity of the celebration and the necessary reverence toward the Blessed Sacrament are observed; and that the decorations used in the streets, the offering of flowers, the hymns and the prayers all manifest the people’s faith in, and praise of the Lord (cf. De sacra communione, 101-108).
19. Signs of faith and charity, and wholly unique manifestations of Eucharistic worship, Eucharistic congresses "should be considered a sort of ‘statio,’ that is, a sort of pause for prayer in which a community invites the Universal Church or a local Church invites the other Churches in either the same region or nation, or in the entire world to deepen together in the consideration of some aspect of the Eucharistic mystery, showing it public veneration in the bond of charity and unity" (De sacra communione, 109).
In order faithfully to carry this out, reference can be made to the indications made for their preparation and development in De sacra communione, 110-112.
3. Lines of Eucharistic spirituality
20. A discourse on Eucharistic spirituality would require much more than these pages could propose. In effect, we will limit ourselves to a few "suggestions," in the hope that the particular Churches take up the subject, providing their own stimuli and a broader space for specific initiatives of catechesis and formation. It is important that the Eucharist be understood not only in the aspects of its celebration, but also as a life-project, and that it be the base of an authentic "Eucharistic spirituality".
The Year of the Eucharist is a propitious moment to broaden our horizons from the typical aspects of the Eucharistic celebration. Precisely because it is the heart of Christian life, the Eucharist does not finish within the Church walls, but needs to enter into the lives of those who participate in it. The sacrament of the Body of Christ is gratuitously given for the building up of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. The Eucharistic dispositions in which we are educated in the celebration of the Mass should be cultivated in the spiritual life, keeping in mind each person’s particular vocation and state of life. The Eucharist is truly the necessary nourishment for all believers in Christ, without distinction of age or condition.
The following considerations lay out a few suggestions for reflection, parting from some expressions used by the Liturgy, and particularly by the Latin text of the Missal. We would therefore like to underline how a liturgical spirituality is characterized by its foundation in the signs, rites and words of the celebration, and how it finds there a source of sure and abundant nourishment.
21. Listening to the Word
After reading from Sacred Scripture, the expression Verbum Domini the Word of the Lord! recalls the importance of what proceeds from the mouth of God, and makes us hear it not as something "distant" from us, however inspired it may be, but as the living word by which God addresses us. We are in the context of a true "dialogue of God with his people, a dialogue in which the marvels of salvation are proclaimed to us, and the demands of the Covenant continually re-proposed" (Dies Domini, 41).
The Liturgy of the Word is a constitutive part of the Eucharist (cf. SC, 56; Dies Domini, 39-41). We gather together in the liturgical assembly to listen to what the Lord has to say to us to each and every one of us. He speaks here and now, to those of us who listen to him with faith, believing that he alone has the words of eternal life, that his word is a lamp for our feet.
To participate in the Eucharist means to listen to the Lord so as to act in accordance with what he reveals to us, asks of us, and desires of our lives. The fruit of listening to the God who speaks to us through the Church when we listen to the Scriptures (cf. SC, 7) is matured in our day to day experience (cf. Mane nobiscum Domine, 13).
Attentiveness to the word spoken is at the beginning of the spiritual life. To believe in Christ is to listen to his word and put it into practice. It is docility to the voice of the Holy Spirit, the interior Master who guides us to the whole truth not only to the truth to be known, but also to the truth to be lived out.
In order truly to listen to the Lord in the Liturgy of the Word, we need to learn how to "listen with the heart". This capacity to "listen with the heart" requires that we set aside specific moments of the day, and not just our leftover scraps of time, to dedicate ourselves to reading Sacred Scripture. And so that the message heard in the Eucharistic Celebration not be lost the moment we leave the Church doors, it is convenient to find ways to prolong the hearing of God’s word, which he speaks to us in a thousand different ways through the circumstances of daily life, throughout the day.
Agnoscamus peccata nostra ut apti simus ad sacra mysteria celebranda.
Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis
Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi: miserere nobis
Domine non sum dignus ut intres
As the above cited texts make clear, the penitential dimension is clearly present in the Eucharistic Celebration. This dimension does not only emerge during the penitential rite at the beginning of the Mass, with its various formulas invoking the Divine Mercy, but also emerges in the supplication to Christ in the Gloria, in the chanting of the Agnus Dei during the breaking of the bread, and in the prayer we direct to the Lord before participating in the Eucharistic banquet.
The Eucharist purifies the penitent’s heart and stimulates him to conversion, making him aware of his own miseries and moving him to seek God’s pardon. It must be stated, however, that this penitential aspect in no way substitutes the need for sacramental confession, which remains the only ordinary means whereby grave sin is forgiven, and the sinner is reconciled with God and with the Church.
This spiritual disposition should prolong itself throughout the day, sustained by the examination of conscience that is, by the confrontation of our thoughts, words, works and omissions with the Gospel of Jesus.
Seeing our miseries clearly, as they are, frees us from attitudes of self-pity, maintains us in the truth before God, moves us to profess the mercy of the Heavenly Father, reveals to us the proper path to follow, and leads us to the Sacrament of Penance. This, in turn, then leads us to attitudes of praise and thanksgiving. Finally, a proper examination of conscience helps us to be benevolent towards our neighbors, to share in their fragility, and to pardon them. Christ’s monition to be reconciled with our brother before bringing our gift to the altar (cf. Mt 5,2324), and Paul’s warning to examine one’s conscience before taking part in the Eucharist ("a person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup," 1Cor 11:28), should be taken seriously. Without this penitential dimension, the Eucharist is weakened in one of its most profound dimensions.
Memores igitur, Domine, eiusdem Filii tui salutiferae passionis necnon mirabilis resurrectionis et ascensionis in caelum (Eucharistic Prayer III).
"If from the beginning Christians have celebrated the Eucharist and in a form whose substance has not changed despite the great diversity of times and liturgies, it is because we know ourselves to be bound by the command the Lord gave on the eve of his Passion: "Do this in remembrance of me" (CCC, 1356).
The Eucharist is, in a specific sense, "memorial" of the Lord’s death and resurrection. In celebrating the Eucharist, the Church celebrates the memorial of Christ, of all he has said and done, of his incarnation, death, resurrect