[T]he sacraments constitute the events of a time which is the tension between the Resurrection and the Parousia …. Thus during the delay of the Parousia, the Eucharist prevents humanity, in this foretaste of celestial food …. And the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity which gathers about Christ of glory, present in the community, all nations in order to offer them through His hands to the Father.
The beautiful sections of Pope Paul VI’s encylical Mysterium Fidei (1965), are the ones dealing with the manner in which Our Lord is present in the Church today. Christmastide is nothing if not about the Presence of Someone who makes a difference in our lives, who redeems us from sin, who gives Himself completely, par excellence, to us in the Eucharist. The Presence is not about the doing of nice things, but offering us concretely eternal life. As Saint Ignatius of Antioch famously said of the Eucharist, the Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist is given to us as the “medicine of immortality.”
Glory of the New Born Christ Child in presence of God Father and the Holy Spirit (Annakirche, Vienna) Adam and Eve are represented bellow Jesus Christ Ceiling painted by Daniel Gran (1694-1757).
35. All of us realize that there is more than one way
in which Christ is present in His Church. We want to go into this very joyful
subject, which the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy presented briefly, at
somewhat greater length. Christ is present in His Church when she prays, since
He is the one who “prays for us and prays in us and to whom we pray: He
prays for us as our priest, He prays in us as our head, He is prayed to by us
as our God”; and He is the one who has promised, “Where two or three
are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” He is
present in the Church as she performs her works of mercy, not just because
whatever good we do to one of His least brethren we do to Christ Himself, but
also because Christ is the one who performs these works through the Church and
who continually helps men with His divine love. He is present in the Church as
she moves along on her pilgrimage with a longing to reach the portals of
eternal life, for He is the one who dwells in our hearts through faith, and who
instills charity in them through the Holy Spirit whom He gives to us.
The end times are indeed near at hand. That is not to say that the “12/12/2012” Mayan prediction of the end of the world is true –it is not– or that the rapture approach is insightful. But if you really believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior then an acknowledgement of our living in the end times is the right way to live. The Scripture readings in these final weeks of the liturgical year, but especially this week, prepare the believer to face the fact of the final things, sometimes called the Four Last Things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell. We can’t get away from these things. If we could, then there would be no need of a Messiah, of the Cross and Resurrection, the Eucharist, the sacraments, the Church, and a spiritual life; no need for salvation. If there is no probability of hell, then there is no need of salvation.
So how can we honestly and proactively approach today’s feast, and this holiday season in a way that will get us past the public façade of wise-guy banter and beyond the disconnect between hard realities and sincere beliefs and honest ideals? How might we bravely allow our deeper humanity to shine forth in the midst of some extreme assaults on such things as tenderness, hope, and compassion?
Today’s readings, along with monastic wisdom and psychological insight suggest the following: Daily if not hourly slow down the frantic pace of our media interaction, verbosity, and endless tasks: daily if not hourly return to the temple of our own person and the holy and fertile ground of our interior life. Daily if not continually express appreciation for whatever someone does that makes my life richer today: Daily or at least once in a while do something simple but concrete and different, for the express purpose of nurturing the human spirit, within yourself, for someone else, and for the future.
In these days in the post Christ the King observance and before Advent, let’s pray for the grace to know ourselves more deeply so as to accept more fully “divine work” in our lives with the gift of discernment showing us the way to the Father.
The observance of Corpus Christi, sometimes called Corpus Domini (The Body of the Lord). In places like Rome, the traditional day to observe this feast is Thursday, connecting with Holy Thursday. A portion of the Pope’s homily is noted below (the full text is here).
… the sacredness of the Eucharist. Also here we heard in the recent past of a certain misunderstanding of the authentic message of Sacred Scripture. The Christian novelty in regard to worship was influenced by a certain secularist mentality of the 60s and 70s of the past century. It is true, and it remains always valid, that the center of worship is now no longer in the rites and ancient sacrifices, but in Christ himself, in his person, in his life, in his paschal mystery. And yet, from this fundamental novelty it must not be concluded that the sacred no longer exists, but that it has found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, incarnate divine Love. The Letter to the Hebrews, which we heard this evening in the Second Reading, speaks to us precisely of the novelty of the priesthood of Christ, “high priest of the good things that have come” (Hebrews 9:11), but it does not say that the priesthood is finished. Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15), established in his blood, which purifies our “conscience from dead works” (Hebrews 9:14). He did not abolish the sacred, but brought it to fulfillment, inaugurating a new worship, which is, yes, fully spiritual but which however, so long as we are journeying in time, makes use again of signs and rites, of which there will be no need only at the end, in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will no longer be a temple (cf. Revelation 21:22). Thanks to Christ, the sacred is more true, more intense and, as happens with the Commandments, also more exacting! Ritual observance is not enough, but what is required is the purification of the heart and the involvement of life.
Pope Benedict XVI
Corpus Christi at the Basilica of St. John Lateran
7 June 2012