Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pope Benedict on Eucharistic Adoration

Over the last few days, the first Plenary Session of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments under its new Prefect, His Eminence Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, took place. The focus theme of its work was Eucharistic Adoration. On Friday, the members were received in audience by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Here is an NLM translation of the allocution the Holy Father gave on that occasion with some particularly relevant sections highlighted:

My Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear brothers!

With great joy and deep gratitude I receive you, on the occasion of the Plenary Session of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. On this important occasion I am pleased, first, to extend my cordial greetings to the Prefect, the Lord Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, whom I thank for the words with which he illustrated the work done in these days and gave expression to the feelings of those who are present here today. [NLM note: Cardinal Cañizares in his addres to the Holy Father specifically mentioned the recent letter of the Pope regarding the lifting of the excommunication of the bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre in 1988 and assured the Holy Father of the unanimous adhesion of the members of the Congregation to the content of the letter, and of their filial collaboration, most sincere and profound closeness and loving solidarity.] I extend my affectionate greeting and my heartfelt thanks to all the Members and Officials of the Dicastery, starting with the Secretary, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, and the Under Secretary, through to all the others who, in different tasks, provide with expertise and dedication their service for "the regulation and promotion of the sacred liturgy" (Pastor Bonus, no. 62). In the Plenary Session you have reflected on the Mystery of the Eucharist and, in particular, on the theme of Eucharistic adoration. I know well that, following the publication of the Instruction "Eucharisticum mysterium" of 25 May 1967 and the promulgation, on 21 June 1973, of the Document "De sacra communione et cultu mysterii eucharistici extra Missam", the insistence on the theme of the Eucharist as the inexhaustible source of holiness has been a concern of the first priority for the dicastery.

I have therefore willingly accepted the proposal that the Plenary Session occupy itself with the subject of Eucharistic adoration, in the confidence that a renewed collegial reflection on this practice could contribute to make clear, within the limits of competence of the Congregation, the liturgical and pastoral means with which the Church of our times can promote the faith in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist and ensure to the celebration of Mass throughout the dimension of adoration. I stressed this aspect in the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, in which I gathered the fruits of the XI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod, held in October 2005. In it, highlighting the importance of the intrinsic relationship between celebration and adoration of the Eucharist (cf. no. 66), I quoted the teaching of Saint Augustine: "Nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit; peccemus non adorando" [NLM translation: "No one eat this flesh, if he has not adored it before; for we sin if we do not adore."] (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 98, 9: CCL 39, 1385). The Synod Fathers have not failed to express concern about a certain confusion generated, after the II Vatican Council, about the relationship between Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 66). In this was echoed what my Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, had already expressed about the deviations that have sometimes contaminated the post-conciliar liturgical renewal, revealing "a very reductive understanding of the Eucharistic Mystery" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 10 ).

The Second Vatican Council emphasized the unique role that the Eucharistic Mystery has in the life of the faithful (Sacrosanctum Concilium, nos. 48-54, 56). As Pope Paul VI has repeatedly affirmed: "the Eucharist is a very great mystery, even properly, as the Sacred Liturgy says, the mystery of faith" (Mysterium fidei, no. 15). The Eucharist is indeed at the very origins of the Church (cf. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 21) and is the source of grace, constituting an incomparable opportunity for both the sanctification of humanity in Christ and for the glorification of God. In this sense, on the one hand , all the Church's activities are ordered towards the mystery of the Eucharist (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 10; Lumen gentium, no. 11; Presbyterorum ordinis, no. 5; Sacramentum caritatis, no. 17), and, on the other hand, it is in virtue of the Eucharist that "the Church continually lives and grows" (Lumen gentium, no. 26). Our task is to appreciate the invaluable treasure of this ineffable mystery of faith "both in the celebration of the Mass itself and in the worship of the sacred species, which are preserved after Mass to extend the grace of the Sacrifice" (Instruction Eucharisticum mysterium, no. 3, lit. g). The doctrine of the transsubstantiation of bread and wine and of the Real Presence are truths of the Faith already evident in Scripture itself, and then confirmed by the Fathers of the Church. Pope Paul VI, in this regard, recalled that "not only has the Catholic Church always taught, but also lived the faith in the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, always adoring with latreutic worship, which is only due to God, so great a Sacrament" (Mysterium Fidei, no. 56; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1378).

It is worth recalling in this regard, the various meanings which the word "adoration" has in Greek and in Latin. The Greek word proskýnesis indicates the gesture of submission, the acknowledgment of God as our true measure, the norm of which we accept to follow. The Latin word ad-oratio, however, denotes the physical contact, the kiss, the embrace, which is implicit in the idea of love [NLM note: the root here is "os", mouth; the ancient oriental gesture of greeting a ruler, translated into Latin as "adoratio", involved touching the right hand to the mouth]. The aspect of submission foresees a relationship of union, because he to whom we submit is Love. Indeed, in the Eucharist adoration must become union: union with the living Lord and then with his Mystical Body. As I told the young people on the plain of Marienfeld, in Cologne, during the Holy Mass on the occasion of the XX World Youth Day, on August 2005: " God no longer simply stands before us as the One who is totally Other. He is within us, and we are in him. His dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread outwards to others until it fills the world, so that his love can truly become the dominant measure of the world."(Insegnamenti, vol. I, 2005, pp. 457 f.). In this perspective, I reminded the young people that in the Eucharist one lives the "first fundamental transformation of violence into love, of death into life; this brings other transformations in its wake. Bread and wine become his Body and Blood. But the transformation must not stop there; on the contrary, the process of transformation must hee fully begin. The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn."(ibid., p. 457).

My predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter "Spiritus et Sponsa", on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium on the Sacred Liturgy, urged to take the necessary steps to deepen the experience of renewal. This is important also with respect to the subject of Eucharistic adoration. Such a deepening will be possible only through an increased knowledge of the mystery in full fidelity to sacred Tradition and increasing the liturgical life within our communities (cf. Spiritus et Sponsa, nos. 6-7). In this regard, I appreciate in particular that the Plenary Session has occupied itself with the subject of educating the entire People of God in the Faith, with special attention to the seminarians, to promote the growth in a spirit of true Eucharistic adoration. St. Thomas, in fact, explains: "That in this sacrament is present the true Body and the true Blood of Christ cannot be learned with the senses, but by faith alone, which is based on the authority of God" (Summa theologiæ, III, 75, 1; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1381).

We are living the days of Holy Lent, which is not only a journey of more intense spiritual apprenticeship, but also an effective preparation to better celebrate Holy Easter. Recalling three penitential practices very dear to biblical and Christian tradition - prayer, almsgiving, fasting -, let us encourage each other to rediscover and live with renewed fervor fasting not only as an ascetic practice, but also as preparation for the Eucharist and as a spiritual weapon to fight against any eventual inordinate attachment to ourselves. May this intense period of liturgical life help us to remove everything which distracts the mind and to intensify what nourishes the soul, opening it to the love of God and neighbor. With these sentiments, I express already now to all of you my best wishes for the coming Feast of Easter, and while I thank you for the work you have done in this Plenary Session, as well as for all the work of the Congregation, I impart to each of you with affection my Blessing.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: