Ecclesia de Eucharistia
On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church
On Holy Thursday 2003, Saint John Paul II wrote Ecclesia de Eucharistia, a letter to all the faithful of the world. Its short six chapters explore and explain the essential nature of the Eucharist to the Church. His fourteenth and final encyclical, he calls for all men and women to find the face of Christ, personally and intimately alive in the Eucharist. As we close the Bread of Life Discourse this weekend, here is some of the Conclusion of his encyclical, which quotes both the musical prelude and Gospel we hear today.
Ave verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine, vere passum, immolatum, in cruce pro homine! Here is the Church’s treasure, the heart of the world, the pledge of fulfillment for which each man and women, even unconsciously, yearns. A great and transcendent mystery, indeed, and one that taxes our mind’s ability to pass beyond appearances. Here are senses fail us: visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur, in the word of the hymn Adoro te devote; yet faith alone, rooted in the word of Christ handed down to us by the Apostles, is sufficient for us. Allow me, like Peter at the end of the Eucharistic discourse in John’s Gospel, to say once more to Christ, in the name of the whole Church and in the name of each of you: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68) (n. 59).
In a time when many Catholics have left the faith, do not believe or struggle, with the True Presence, let us remember those words of Peter and the words of John Paul II:
In the Eucharist we have Jesus, we have his redemptive sacrifice, we have his resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience and love of the Father. Were we to disregard the Eucharist, how could we overcome our own deficiency? The mystery of the Eucharist—sacrifice, presence, banquet—does not allow for reduction or exploitation; it must be experienced and lived in its integrity, both in its celebration and in the intimate converse with Jesus which takes place after receiving communion or in a prayerful moment of Eucharistic adoration apart from Mass (n. 60-61).
Ave verum corpus! Hail, true Body!