1. “Stay with us, Lord, for it is almost evening” (cf.
Lk 24:29). This was the insistent invitation that the two disciples
journeying to Emmaus on the evening of the day of the resurrection addressed to
the Wayfarer who had accompanied them on their journey. Weighed down with
sadness, they never imagined that this stranger was none other than their
Master, risen from the dead. Yet they felt their hearts burning within them (cf.
v. 32) as he spoke to them and “explained” the Scriptures. The light of the
Word unlocked the hardness of their hearts and “opened their eyes” (cf. v.
31). Amid the shadows of the passing day and the darkness that clouded their
spirit, the Wayfarer brought a ray of light which rekindled their hope and led
their hearts to yearn for the fullness of light. “Stay with us”, they
pleaded. And he agreed. Soon afterwards, Jesus' face would disappear, yet the
Master would “stay” with them, hidden in the “breaking of the bread”
which had opened their eyes to recognize him.
2. The image of the disciples on the way to Emmaus
can serve as a fitting guide for a Year when the Church will be particularly
engaged in living out the mystery of the Holy Eucharist. Amid our questions and
difficulties, and even our bitter disappointments, the divine Wayfarer continues
to walk at our side, opening to us the Scriptures and leading us to a deeper
understanding of the mysteries of God. When we meet him fully, we will pass from
the light of the Word to the light streaming from the “Bread of life”, the
supreme fulfilment of his promise to “be with us always, to the end of the age”
(cf. Mt 28:20).
3. The “breaking of bread”—as the Eucharist was
called in earliest times—has always been at the centre of the Church's life.
Through it Christ makes present within time the mystery of his death and
resurrection. In it he is received in person as the “living bread come down
from heaven” (Jn 6:51), and with him we receive the pledge of eternal
life and a foretaste of the eternal banquet of the heavenly Jerusalem. Following
the teaching of the Fathers, the Ecumenical Councils and my own Predecessors, I
have frequently urged the Church to reflect upon the Eucharist, most recently in
the Encyclical Ecclesia
Here I do not intend to repeat this teaching, which I trust will be more deeply
studied and understood. At the same time I thought it helpful for this purpose to
dedicate an entire Year to this wonderful sacrament.
4. As is known, the Year of the Eucharist will
be celebrated from October 2004 to October 2005. The idea for this celebration
came from two events which will serve to mark its beginning and end: the
International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place from 10-17 October
2004 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of
Bishops, which will be held in the Vatican from 2-29 October 2005 on the
theme: “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church”.
I was also guided by another consideration: this year's World
Youth Day will
take place in Cologne from 16-21 August 2005. I would like the young people to gather around the
Eucharist as the vital source which nourishes their faith and enthusiasm. A
Eucharistic initiative of this kind had been on my mind for some time: it is a
natural development of the pastoral impulse which I wanted to give to the Church,
particularly during the years of preparation for the Jubilee and in the years
that followed it.
5. In the present Apostolic Letter, I wish to reaffirm
this pastoral continuity and to help everyone to grasp its spiritual
significance. As for the particular form which the Year of the Eucharist will
take, I am counting on the personal involvement of the Pastors of the particular
Churches, whose devotion to this great Mystery will not fail to suggest suitable
approaches. My Brother Bishops will certainly understand that this initiative,
coming as it does so soon after the celebration of the Year of the Rosary,
is meant to take place on a deeply spiritual level, so that it will in no way
interfere with the pastoral programmes of the individual Churches. Rather, it
can shed light upon those programmes, anchoring them, so to speak, in the very
Mystery which nourishes the spiritual life of the faithful and the initiatives
of each local Church. I am not asking the individual Churches to alter their
pastoral programmes, but to emphasize the Eucharistic dimension which is part of
the whole Christian life. For my part, I would like in this Letter to offer some
basic guidelines; and I am confident that the People of God, at every level,
will welcome my proposal with enthusiasm and fervent love.
IN THE WAKE OF THE COUNCIL
Looking towards Christ
6. Ten years ago, in Tertio
November 1994), I had the joy of proposing to the Church a programme of
preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. It seemed to me that
this historic moment presented itself as a great grace. I realized, of course,
that a simple chronological event, however evocative, could not by itself bring
about great changes. Unfortunately the Millennium began with events which were
in tragic continuity with the past, and often with its worst aspects. A scenario
emerged which, despite certain positive elements, is marred by acts of violence
and bloodshed which cause continued concern. Even so, in inviting the Church to
celebrate the Jubilee of the two-thousandth anniversary of the Incarnation, I
was convinced—and I still am, more than ever!—that this celebration would be
of benefit to humanity in the “long term”.
Jesus Christ stands at the centre not just of the
history of the Church, but also the history of humanity. In him, all things are
drawn together (cf. Eph 1:10; Col 1:15-20). How could we
forget the enthusiasm with which the Second Vatican Council, quoting Pope Paul
VI, proclaimed that Christ is “the goal of human history, the focal point of
the desires of history and civilization, the centre of mankind, the joy of all
hearts, and the fulfilment of all aspirations”?(1) The Council's teaching gave
added depth to our understanding of the nature of the Church, and gave believers
a clearer insight not only into the mysteries of faith but also into earthly
realities, seen in the light of Christ. In the Incarnate Word, both the mystery
of God and the mystery of man are revealed.(2) In him, humanity finds redemption
7. In the Encyclical Redemptor
at the beginning of my Pontificate, I developed this idea, and I have frequently
returned to it on other occasions. The Jubilee was a fitting time to invite
believers once again to consider this fundamental truth. The preparation for the
great event was fully Trinitarian and Christocentric. Within this plan, there
clearly had to be a place for the Eucharist. At the start of this Year of the
Eucharist, I repeat the words which I wrote in Tertio
“The Year 2000 will be intensely Eucharistic; in the Sacrament of the
Eucharist the Saviour, who took flesh in Mary's womb twenty centuries ago,
continues to offer himself to humanity as the source of divine life”.(3) The
International Eucharistic Congress, held that year in Rome, also helped to focus
attention on this aspect of the Great Jubilee. It is also worth recalling that
my Apostolic Letter Dies
written in preparation for the Jubilee, invited believers to meditate on Sunday
as the day of the Risen Lord and the special day of the Church. At that time I
urged everyone to rediscover the celebration of the Eucharist as the heart of
Contemplating with Mary the face of Christ
8. The fruits of the Great Jubilee were collected in
the Apostolic Letter Novo
In this programmatic document, I suggested an ever greater pastoral engagement
based on the contemplation of the face of Christ, as part of an ecclesial
pedagogy aimed at “the high standard” of holiness and carried out especially
through the art of prayer.(5) How could such a programme be complete without a
commitment to the liturgy and in particular to the cultivation of Eucharistic
life? As I said at the time: “In the twentieth century, especially since
the Council, there has been a great development in the way the Christian
community celebrates the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. It is necessary
to continue in this direction, and to stress particularly the Sunday
Eucharist and Sunday itself, experienced as a special day of faith,
the day of the Risen Lord and of the gift of the Spirit, the true weekly Easter”.(6)
In this context of a training in prayer, I recommended the celebration of the
Liturgy of the Hours, by which the Church sanctifies the different hours of
the day and the passage of time through the liturgical year.
9. Subsequently, with the proclamation of the Year of
the Rosary and the publication of the Apostolic Letter Rosarium
I returned to the theme of contemplating the face of Christ, now from a
Marian perspective, by encouraging once more the recitation of the Rosary.
This traditional prayer, so highly recommended by the Magisterium and so dear to
the People of God, has a markedly biblical and evangelical character, focused on
the name and the face of Jesus as contemplated in the mysteries and by the
repetition of the “Hail Mary”. In its flow of repetitions, it represents a
kind of pedagogy of love, aimed at evoking within our hearts the same love
that Mary bore for her Son. For this reason, developing a centuries-old
tradition by the addition of the mysteries of light, I sought to make this
privileged form of contemplation an even more complete “compendium of the
Gospel”.(7) And how could the mysteries of light not culminate in the Holy
From the Year of the Rosary to the Year of the
10. In the midst of the Year of the Rosary, I
issued the Encyclical Letter Ecclesia
with the intention of shedding light on the mystery of the Eucharist in its
inseparable and vital relation to the Church. I urged all the faithful to
celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice with due reverence, offering to Jesus
present in the Eucharist, both within and outside Mass, the worship demanded by
so great a Mystery. Above all, I suggested once again the need for a Eucharistic
spirituality and pointed to Mary, “woman of the Eucharist”,(8) as its model.
The Year of the Eucharist takes place against
a background which has been enriched by the passage of the years, while
remaining ever rooted in the theme of Christ and the contemplation of his face.
In a certain sense, it is meant to be a year of synthesis, the high-point of
a journey in progress. Much could be said about how to celebrate this year.
I would simply offer some reflections intended to help us all to experience it
in a deeper and more fruitful way.
THE EUCHARIST, A MYSTERY OF LIGHT
“He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the
things concerning himself” (Lk 24:27)
11. The account of the Risen Jesus appearing to the two
disciples on the road to Emmaus helps us to focus on a primary aspect of the
Eucharistic mystery, one which should always be present in the devotion of the
People of God: The Eucharist is a mystery of light! What does this mean,
and what are its implications for Christian life and spirituality?
Jesus described himself as the “light of the world”
(Jn 8:12), and this quality clearly appears at those moments in his life,
like the Transfiguration and the Resurrection, in which his divine glory shines
forth brightly. Yet in the Eucharist the glory of Christ remains veiled. The
Eucharist is pre-eminently a mysterium fidei. Through the mystery of his
complete hiddenness, Christ becomes a mystery of light, thanks to which
believers are led into the depths of the divine life. By a happy intuition, Rublëv's
celebrated icon of the Trinity clearly places the Eucharist at the centre of the
life of the Trinity.
12. The Eucharist is light above all because at every
Mass the liturgy of the Word of God precedes the liturgy of the Eucharist in the
unity of the two “tables”, the table of the Word and the table of the Bread.
This continuity is expressed in the Eucharistic discourse of Saint John's Gospel,
where Jesus begins his teaching by speaking of the mystery of his person and
then goes on to draw out its Eucharistic dimension: “My flesh is food indeed,
and my blood is drink indeed” (Jn 6:55). We know that this was
troubling for most of his listeners, which led Peter to express the faith of the
other Apostles and of the Church throughout history: “Lord, to whom can we go?
You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68). In the account of the
disciples on the road to Emmaus, Christ himself intervenes to show, “beginning
with Moses and all the prophets”, how “all the Scriptures” point to the
mystery of his person (cf. Lk 24:27). His words make the hearts of the
disciples “burn” within them, drawing them out of the darkness of sorrow and
despair, and awakening in them a desire to remain with him: “Stay with us,
Lord” (cf. v. 29).
13. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, in the
sought to make “the table of the word” offer the treasures of Scripture more
fully to the faithful.(9) Consequently they allowed the biblical readings of the
liturgy to be proclaimed in a language understood by all. It is Christ himself
who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church.(10) The Council
Fathers also urged the celebrant to treat the homily as part of the liturgy,
aimed at explaining the word of God and drawing out its meaning for the
Christian life.(11) Forty years after the Council, the Year of the Eucharist can
serve as an important opportunity for Christian communities to evaluate their
progress in this area. It is not enough that the biblical passages are read
in the vernacular, if they are not also proclaimed with the care, preparation,
devout attention and meditative silence that enable the word of God to touch
people's minds and hearts.
“They recognized him in the breaking of bread”
(cf. Lk 24:35)
14. It is significant that the two disciples on the
road to Emmaus, duly prepared by our Lord's words, recognized him at table
through the simple gesture of the “breaking of bread”. When minds are
enlightened and hearts are enkindled, signs begin to “speak”. The Eucharist
unfolds in a dynamic context of signs containing a rich and luminous message.
Through these signs the mystery in some way opens up before the eyes of the
As I emphasized in my Encyclical Ecclesia
it is important that no dimension of this sacrament should be neglected. We are
constantly tempted to reduce the Eucharist to our own dimensions, while in
reality it is we who must open ourselves up to the dimensions of the Mystery.
“The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and
15. There is no doubt that the most evident dimension
of the Eucharist is that it is a meal. The Eucharist was born, on the
evening of Holy Thursday, in the setting of the Passover meal. Being a meal
is part of its very structure. “Take, eat... Then he took a cup and... gave it
to them, saying: Drink from it, all of you” (Mt 26:26, 27). As such, it
expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with us and which we
ourselves must build with one another.
Yet it must not be forgotten that the Eucharistic meal
also has a profoundly and primarily sacrificial meaning.(13) In the
Eucharist, Christ makes present to us anew the sacrifice offered once for all
on Golgotha. Present in the Eucharist as the Risen Lord, he nonetheless
bears the marks of his passion, of which every Mass is a “memorial”, as the
Liturgy reminds us in the acclamation following the consecration: “We announce
your death, Lord, we proclaim your resurrection...”. At the same time, while
the Eucharist makes present what occurred in the past, it also impels us
towards the future, when Christ will come again at the end of history. This
“eschatological” aspect makes the Sacrament of the Eucharist an event which
draws us into itself and fills our Christian journey with hope.
“I am with you always...”
16. 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.(14) 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 symbol- ism. The
Eucharist is a mystery of presence, the perfect fulfilment of Jesus' promise to
remain with us until the end of the world.
Celebrating, worshiping, contemplating
17. The Eucharist is a great mystery! And it is one
which above all must be well celebrated. Holy Mass needs to be set at the
centre of the Christian life and celebrated in a dignified manner by every
community, in accordance with established norms, with the participation of the
assembly, with the presence of ministers who carry out their assigned tasks, and
with a serious concern that singing and liturgical music be suitably
“sacred”. One specific project of this Year of the Eucharist might be
for each parish community to study the General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
The best way to enter into the mystery of salvation made present in the sacred
“signs” remains that of following faithfully the unfolding of the liturgical
year. Pastors should be committed to that “mystagogical” catechesis
so dear to the Fathers of the Church, by which the faithful are helped to
understand the meaning of the liturgy's words and actions, to pass from its
signs to the mystery which they contain, and to enter into that mystery in every
aspect of their lives.
18. There is a particular need to cultivate a lively
awareness of Christ's real presence, both in the celebration of Mass and in
the worship of the Eucharist outside Mass. Care should be taken to show that
awareness through tone of voice, gestures, posture and bearing. In this regard,
liturgical law recalls—and I myself have recently reaffirmed(15)—the
importance of moments of silence both in the celebration of Mass and in
Eucharistic adoration. The way that the ministers and the faithful treat the
Eucharist should be marked by profound respect.(16) The presence of Jesus in the
tabernacle must be a kind of magnetic pole attracting an ever greater
number of souls enamoured of him, ready to wait patiently to hear his voice and,
as it were, to sense the beating of his heart. “O taste and see that the Lord
is good!” (Ps 34:8).
During this year Eucharistic adoration outside Mass should
become a particular commitment for individual parish and religious communities.
Let us take the time to kneel before Jesus present in the Eucharist, in order to
make reparation by our faith and love for the acts of carelessness and neglect,
and even the insults which our Saviour must endure in many parts of the world.
Let us deepen through adoration our personal and communal contemplation, drawing
upon aids to prayer inspired by the word of God and the experience of so many
mystics, old and new. The Rosary itself, when it is profoundly understood in the
biblical and christocentric form which I recommended in the Apostolic Letter Rosarium
will prove a particularly fitting introduction to Eucharistic contemplation, a
contemplation carried out with Mary as our companion and guide.(17)
This year let us also celebrate with particular
devotion the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, with its traditional
procession. Our faith in the God who took flesh in order to become our companion
along the way needs to be everywhere proclaimed, especially in our streets and
homes, as an expression of our grateful love and as an inexhaustible source of
“Abide in me, and I in you” (Jn
19. When the disciples on the way to Emmaus asked Jesus
to stay “with” them, he responded by giving them a much greater gift:
through the Sacrament of the Eucharist he found a way to stay “in” them.
Receiving the Eucharist means entering into a profound communion with Jesus.
“Abide in me, and I in you” (Jn 15:4). This relationship of profound
and mutual “abiding” enables us to have a certain foretaste of heaven on
earth. Is this not the greatest of human yearnings? Is this not what God had
in mind when he brought about in history his plan of salvation? God has placed
in human hearts a “hunger” for his word (cf. Am 8:11), a hunger which
will be satisfied only by full union with him. Eucharistic communion was given
so that we might be “sated” with God here on earth, in expectation of our
complete fulfilment in heaven.
One bread, one body
20. This special closeness which comes about in
Eucharistic “communion” cannot be adequately understood or fully experienced
apart from ecclesial communion. I emphasized this repeatedly in my Encyclical
The Church is the Body of Christ: we walk “with Christ” to the extent that
we are in relationship “with his body”. Christ provided for the creation and
growth of this unity by the outpouring of his Holy Spirit. And he himself
constantly builds it up by his Eucharistic presence. It is the one Eucharistic
bread which makes us one body. As the Apostle Paul states: “Because there is
one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread”
(1Cor 10:17). In the mystery of the Eucharist Jesus builds up the Church
as a communion, in accordance with the supreme model evoked in his priestly
prayer: “Even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also
be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21).
21. The Eucharist is both the source of
ecclesial unity and its greatest manifestation. The Eucharist is an epiphany
of communion. For this reason the Church sets conditions for full
participation in the celebration of the Eucharist.(18) These various limitations
ought to make us ever more conscious of the demands made by the communion
which Jesus asks of us. It is a hierarchical communion, based on the
awareness of a variety of roles and ministries, as is seen by the reference to
the Pope and the Diocesan Bishop in the Eucharistic Prayer. It is a fraternal
communion, cultivated by a “spirituality of communion” which fosters
reciprocal openness, affection, understanding and forgiveness.(19)
“... of one heart and soul” (Acts
22. At each Holy Mass we are called to measure
ourselves against the ideal of communion which the Acts of the Apostles
paints as a model for the Church in every age. It is the Church gathered around
the Apostles, called by the word of God, capable of sharing in spiritual goods
but in material goods as well (cf. Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35). In this
Year of the Eucharist the Lord invites us to draw as closely as possible to
this ideal. Every effort should be made to experience fully those occasions
mentioned in the liturgy for the Bishop's “Stational Mass”, which he
celebrates in the cathedral together with his presbyters and deacons, with the
participation of the whole People of God. Here we see the principal
“manifestation” of the Church.(20) It would be praiseworthy to specify other
significant occasions, also on the parochial level, which would increase a
sense of communion and find in the Eucharistic celebration a source of renewed
The Lord's Day
23. In a particular way I ask that every effort be made
this year to experience Sunday as the day of the Lord and the day of the Church.
I would be happy if everyone would reflect once more on my words in the
Apostolic Letter Dies
“At Sunday Mass, Christians relive with particular intensity the experience of
the Apostles on the evening of Easter, when the Risen Lord appeared to them as
they were gathered together (cf. Jn 20:19). In a sense, the People of God
of all times were present in that small nucleus of disciples, the first-fruits
of the Church”.(21) During this year of grace, priests in their pastoral
ministry should be even more attentive to Sunday Mass as the celebration
which brings together the entire parish community, with the participation of
different groups, movements and associations.
THE EUCHARIST, PRINCIPLE AND PLAN OF “MISSION”
“They set out immediately” (cf.
24. The two disciples of Emmaus, upon recognizing the
Lord, “set out immediately” (cf. Lk 24:33), in order to report what
they had seen and heard. Once we have truly met the Risen One by partaking of
his body and blood, we cannot keep to ourselves the joy we have experienced. The
encounter with Christ, constantly intensified and deepened in the Eucharist,
issues in the Church and in every Christian an urgent summons to testimony
and evangelization. I wished to emphasize this in my homily announcing the
Year of the Eucharist, based on the words of Saint Paul: “As often as you
eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he
comes” (1 Cor 11:26). The Apostle closely relates meal and
proclamation: entering into communion with Christ in the memorial of his Pasch
also means sensing the duty to be a missionary of the event made present in that
rite.(22) The dismissal at the end of each Mass is a charge given to
Christians, inviting them to work for the spread of the Gospel and the imbuing
of society with Christian values.
25. The Eucharist not only provides the interior
strength needed for this mission, but is also —in some sense—its plan.
For the Eucharist is a mode of being, which passes from Jesus into each
Christian, through whose testimony it is meant to spread throughout society and
culture. For this to happen, each member of the faithful must assimilate,
through personal and communal meditation, the values which the Eucharist
expresses, the attitudes it inspires, the resolutions to which it gives rise.
Can we not see here a special charge which could emerge from this Year
of the Eucharist?
26. One fundamental element of this plan is
found in the very meaning of the word “Eucharist”: thanksgiving. In Jesus,
in his sacrifice, in his unconditional “yes” to the will of the Father, is
contained the “yes”, the “thank you” and the “amen” of all humanity.
The Church is called to remind men and women of this great truth. This is
especially urgent in the context of our secularized culture, characterized as it
is by a forgetfulness of God and a vain pursuit of human self-sufficiency.
Incarnating the Eucharistic “plan” in daily life, wherever people live and
work—in families, schools, the workplace, in all of life's settings—means
bearing witness that human reality cannot be justified without reference to
the Creator: “Without the Creator the creature would disappear”.(23)
This transcendent point of reference, which commits us constantly to give thanks
for all that we have and are—in other words, to a “Eucharistic”
attitude—in no way detracts from the legitimate autonomy of earthly
realities,(24) but grounds that autonomy more firmly by setting it within its
In this Year of the Eucharist Christians ought
to be committed to bearing more forceful witness to God's presence in the world.
We should not be afraid to speak about God and to bear proud witness to our
faith. The “culture of the Eucharist” promotes a culture of dialogue, which
here finds strength and nourishment. It is a mistake to think that any public
reference to faith will somehow undermine the rightful autonomy of the State and
civil institutions, or that it can even encourage attitudes of intolerance. If
history demonstrates that mistakes have also been made in this area by
believers, as I acknowledged on the occasion of the Jubilee, this must be
attributed not to “Christian roots”, but to the failure of Christians to be
faithful to those roots. One who learns to say “thank you” in the manner of
the crucified Christ might end up as a martyr, but never as a persecutor.
The way of solidarity
27. The Eucharist is not merely an expression of
communion in the Church's life; it is also a project of solidarity for
all of humanity. In the celebration of the Eucharist the Church constantly
renews her awareness of being a “sign and instrument” not only of intimate
union with God but also of the unity of the whole human race.(25) Each Mass,
even when celebrated in obscurity or in isolation, always has a universal
character. The Christian who takes part in the Eucharist learns to become a promotor
of communion, peace and solidarity in every situation. More than ever, our
troubled world, which began the new Millennium with the spectre of terrorism and
the tragedy of war, demands that Christians learn to experience the Eucharist as
a great school of peace, forming men and women who, at various levels of
responsibility in social, cultural and political life, can become promotors of
dialogue and communion.
At the service of the least
28. There is one other point which I would like to
emphasize, since it significantly affects the authenticity of our communal
sharing in the Eucharist. It is the impulse which the Eucharist gives to the
community for a practical commitment to building a more just and fraternal
society. In the Eucharist our God has shown love in the extreme, overturning
all those criteria of power which too often govern human relations and radically
affirming the criterion of service: “If anyone would be first, he must be last
of all and servant of all” (Mc 9:35). It is not by chance that the
Gospel of John contains no account of the institution of the Eucharist, but
instead relates the “washing of feet” (cf. Jn 13:1-20): by bending
down to wash the feet of his disciples, Jesus explains the meaning of the
Eucharist unequivocally. Saint Paul vigorously reaffirms the impropriety of a
Eucharistic celebration lacking charity expressed by practical sharing with the
poor (cf.1Cor 11:17-22, 27-34).
Can we not make this Year of the Eucharist an
occasion for diocesan and parish communities to commit themselves in a
particular way to responding with fraternal solicitude to one of the many forms
of poverty present in our world? I think for example of the tragedy of hunger
which plagues hundreds of millions of human beings, the diseases which afflict
developing countries, the loneliness of the elderly, the hardships faced by the
unemployed, the struggles of immigrants. These are evils which are
present—albeit to a different degree—even in areas of immense wealth. We
cannot delude ourselves: by our mutual love and, in particular, by our concern
for those in need we will be recognized as true followers of Christ (cf. Jn
13:35; Mt 25:31-46). This will be the criterion by which the authenticity
of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged.
29. O Sacrum Convivium, in quo Christus sumitur!
The Year of the Eucharist has its source in the amazement with which the
Church contemplates this great Mystery. It is an amazement which I myself
constantly experience. It prompted my Encyclical Ecclesia
As I look forward to the twenty-seventh year of my Petrine ministry, I consider
it a great grace to be able to call the whole Church to contemplate, praise, and
adore in a special way this ineffable Sacrament. May the Year of the
Eucharist be for everyone a precious opportunity to grow in awareness of the
incomparable treasure which Christ has entrusted to his Church. May it encourage
a more lively and fervent celebration of the Eucharist, leading to a Christian
life transformed by love.
There is room here for any number of initiatives,
according to the judgement of the Pastors of the particular Churches. The
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will
not fail to provide some helpful suggestions and proposals. I do not ask,
however, for anything extraordinary, but rather that every initiative be marked
by a profound interiority. If the only result of this Year were the revival in
all Christian communities of the celebration of Sunday Mass and an increase in
Eucharistic worship outside Mass, this Year of grace would be abundantly
successful. At the same time, it is good to aim high, and not to be content with
mediocrity, since we know we can always count on God's help.
30. To you, dear Brother Bishops, I commend this
Year, confident that you will welcome my invitation with full apostolic zeal.
Dear priests, who repeat the words of
consecration each day, and are witnesses and heralds of the great miracle of
love which takes place at your hands: be challenged by the grace of this special
Year; celebrate Holy Mass each day with the same joy and fervour with which you
celebrated your first Mass, and willingly spend time in prayer before the
May this be a Year of grace also for you, deacons,
who are so closely engaged in the ministry of the word and the service of the
altar. I ask you, lectors, acolytes and extraordinary ministers of holy
communion, to become ever more aware of the gift you have received in the
service entrusted to you for a more worthy celebration of the Eucharist.
In particular I appeal to you, the priests of the
future. During your time in the seminary make every effort to experience the
beauty not only of taking part daily in Holy Mass, but also of spending a
certain amount of time in dialogue with the Eucharistic Lord.
Consecrated men and women,
called by that very consecration to more prolonged contemplation: never forget
that Jesus in the tabernacle wants you to be at his side, so that he can fill
your hearts with the experience of his friendship, which alone gives meaning and
fulfilment to your lives.
May all of you, the Christian faithful,
rediscover the gift of the Eucharist as light and strength for your daily lives
in the world, in the exercise of your respective professions amid so many
different situations. Rediscover this above all in order to experience fully the
beauty and the mission of the family.
I have great expectations of you, young people,
as I look forward to our meeting at the next World Youth Day in Cologne.
The theme of our meeting—“We have come to worship him”—suggests
how you can best experience this Eucharistic year. Bring to your encounter with
Jesus, hidden in the Eucharist, all the enthusiasm of your age, all your hopes,
all your desire to love.
31. We have before us the example of the Saints, who in
the Eucharist found nourishment on their journey towards perfection. How many
times did they shed tears of profound emotion in the presence of this great
mystery, or experience hours of inexpressible “spousal” joy before the
sacrament of the altar! May we be helped above all by the Blessed Virgin Mary,
whose whole life incarnated the meaning of the Eucharist. “The Church, which
looks to Mary as a model, is also called to imitate her in her relationship with
this most holy mystery”.(26) The Eucharistic Bread which we receive is the
spotless flesh of her Son: Ave verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine. In
this Year of grace, sustained by Mary, may the Church discover new enthusiasm
for her mission and come to acknowledge ever more fully that the Eucharist is
the source and summit of her entire life.
To all of you I impart my Blessing as a pledge of grace
From the Vatican, on 7 October, the Memorial of Our
Lady of the Rosary, in the year 2004, the twenty-sixth of my Pontificate.
(1) Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern
World Gaudium et Spes, 45.
(2) Cf. ibid., 22.
(3) No. 55: AAS 87 (1995), 38.
(4) Cf. Nos. 32-34: AAS 90 (1998), 732-734.
(5) Cf. Nos. 30-32: AAS 93 (2001), 287-289.
(6) Ibid., 35: loc. cit., 290-291.
(7) Cf. Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (16
October 2002), 19-21: AAS 95 (2003), 18-20.
(8) Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17
April 2003), 53: AAS 95 (2003), 469.
(9) Cf. No. 51.
(10) Ibid., 7.
(11) Cf ibid., 52.
(12) Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17
April 2003), 10: AAS 95 (2003), 439.
(13) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de
Eucharistia (17 April 2003), 10: AAS 95 (2003), 439. Congregation for
Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Redemptionis
Sacramentum on certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the
Most Holy Eucharist (25 March 2004), 38: L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly
Edition in English, 28 April 2004, Special Insert, p.3.
(14) Cf. Encyclical Letter Mysterium Fidei (3
September 1965), 39: AAS 57 (1965), 764; Sacred Congregation of Rites,
Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium on the Worship of the Eucharistic
Mystery (25 May 1967), 9: AAS 59 (1967), 547.
(15) Cf. Message Spiritus et Sponsa, for the
fortieth anniversary of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum
Concilium (4 December 2003), 13: AAS 96 (2004), 425.
(16) Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the
Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum on
certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy
Eucharist (25 March 2004): L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in
English, 28 April 2004, Special Insert.
(17) Cf. ibid., 137, loc. cit., p.11.
(18) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de
Eucharistia (17 April 2003), 44: AAS 95 (2003), 462; Code of Canon
Law, canon 908; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 702;
Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directorium Oecumenicum
(25 March 1993), 122-125, 129-131: AAS 85 (1993), 1086-1089; Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Ad Exsequendam (18 May 2001): AAS
93 (2001), 786.
(19) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo
Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 43: AAS 93 (2001), 297.
(20) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council,
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 41.
(21) No. 33: AAS 90 (1998), 733.
(22) Cf. Homily for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood
of Christ (10 June 2004): L'Osservatore Romano, 11-12 June 2004, p.6.
(23) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral
Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 36.
(25) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral
Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 1.
(26) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de
Eucharistia (17 April 2003), 53: AAS 95 (2003), 469.