“The triumph of the Eucharist”, the great fresco by Raphael which can be admired by visitors to the Vatican rooms depicts a “militant” Church below – a little agitated – a on high the Church “triumphant”, with Christ gentle and invoking a blessing, surrounded by Mary, John the Baptist, the apostles and saints. All the lines, movements and spaces of that great fresco, culminate in the monstrance.
With this apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis” Benedict XVI has created a similar fresco, using words, theology and the bishops propositions from the 2005 synod, which had as its theme “The Eucharist source and summit of the Churches Life and Mission”.
The dictate “source and summit” first appeared in the documents of the second Vatican council. It met with great success among theologians and priests, yet it did not help in the subsequent veritable marginalization of the Eucharist in favour of doctrinal explanations, from group’s experience, from social denunciation to an almost complete abandonment of the sacrament, considered a private and useless devotion
Benedict XVI ‘s successful undertaking lies in having explained, as in a short catechism, that everything, really and truly everything subsists in and is held together thanks to the Eucharist: action and contemplation; mysticism and social obligations; marriage and celibacy; religious and lay faithful; authority and obedience.
Priests choosing celibacy; indissoluble marriage for wed couples; virginity as a free gift that is not imposed by external forces, are explicit elements relay the truth container in the Eucharist, the place where for eternity – that is in every moment even now - we receive God’s life, gifted to us by Christ. By eliminating, reducing, refusing, and rendering banal any of these elements we are suppressing the greatness of this gifted Life.
This Life – which is truth and love – there for our taking, is the most precious treasure the Church has to offer the world. Followers of Buddhism or Hinduism find themselves disillusioned when faced with reality, in Islam or Marxism, followers are tempted to destroy the present so that his god or idealism may triumph; post modern man, who has destroyed all “orientations” finds himself with a freedom that is a “sterile pleasure”. The Pope speaks of the Eucharist as the beginning of a new world, as a taste of beauty and life which we can partake of now, because “in the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus shows us in particular the truth about the love which is the very essence of God. It is this evangelical truth which challenges each of us and our whole being” (n. 2).
From this rediscovery of the Eucharist Benedict XVI awaits a resumption of the Christian mission towards all cultures, religions and societies, he even speaks of it in terms of a “challenge a” (n. 78). To make the Eucharist known and understood throughout the world, there is a need for “recognisable” witnesses, not simple bearers of ideas, or protagonists of exceptional experiences, but priests in love with Christ, lay people in love with live and children, politicians capable of belonging to the Church without “ifs” or “buts”.
The true sign that Christ is present in the Eucharist, that “glimpse of heaven on earth” (n. 35) is manifest in the architectural beauty of Churches, in our care of the rite, in our carrying signs of hope to the abyss in which humanity carries out its debates. The Pope asks that the “strengthened by the mystery” believers denounce poverty, the arms race, the lack of religious freedom, the pollution of creation; that we favour the refugees and the sick. He reminds us that everything succeeds from adoration, not by pushing the Eucharist aside but by placing it at the centre of our lives and the life of the world. Humanity’s “true joy” lies in “recognizing that the Lord is still with us, our faithful companion along the way” (n. 97). [Asia News.it] Tip O' the Hat to Amy of Open Book
I'm not one who reads a lot of theology books. And I was complaining the other day that when I do read the Bible, I always skip the Book of Revelation because I don't understand it and it doesn't matter anyway when the end of the world will happen because Jesus said "No man will know the day or the hour." So what is the purpose of trying to make sense out of the Book of Revelation?
Two different people within a day recommended that I pick up a copy of Scott Hahn's short book, The Lamb's Supper, and read it. I don't believe in coincidences. So I bought the book. I've read it once and am going page by page through it a second time identifying the references to the Book of Revelation in it. I'll post my report when I have finished.
Get Hahn's book after you read Sacramentum Caritatis; after you read Hahn's book a few times, go back and re-read Sacramentum Caritatis. That's what I 'm going to do.
From the earliest times, Christian teachers have spoken of the Bible as having a literal sense and a spiritual sense. The literal sense may describe a historical person, place, or event. The spiritual Sense speaks — through that same person, place, or event — to reveal a truth about Jesus Christ, or the moral life, or the destiny of our souls, or all three.Tradition teaches us, however, that the literal sense is foundational. Yet identifying the literal sense of the Book of Revelation is a most difficult enterprise, and it’s bound to be controversial. After all, interpreters are sharply divided over whether the book is literally describing past events or future events — or past and future events, for Apocalypse may apply quite concretely to both. . . .) [Hahn, p. 91]
John and Jesus were speaking about the end of history. I think, however, that they were also — and primarily — speaking about the end of a world; the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, and with it the end of the world of the Old Covenant, with its sacrifices and rituals, its barriers to gentiles, and its barriers between heaven and earth. Yet the Parousia (or “coming”) of Jesus was to be more than an ending; it was a beginning, a new Jerusalem, a New Covenant, a new heaven and earth. . . . We should not forget that the original meaning of the Greek Parousia is “presence”, and Jesus’ presence is real and abiding in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. So when John and Jesus said “soon”, I believe they meant it quite literally. For the Church is the kingdom already begun on earth, and it is the place of the Parousia in every Mass. [Hahn, p. 93]In spite of our redefinitions, the Book of Revelation captures that powerful sense of Jesus’ imminent Parousia — His coming that takes place right now. The Apocalypse shows us that He is here in fullness — in kingship, in judgment, in warfare, in priestly sacrifice, in Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity — whenever Christians celebrate the Eucharist. . . . When Jesus comes again at the end of time, He will not have a single drop more glory than He has right now upon the altars and in the tabernacles of our churches. God dwells among mankind, right now, because the Mass is heaven on earth. [Hahn, p. 116]
The Lamb's Supper, The Mass as Heaven on Earth, Doubleday, 1999; ISBN 0-385-49659-1