Spirituality Year of the Eucharist

The year from Oct. 2004 - Oct. 2005 has been declared the "Year of the Eucharist" by Pope, John-Paul II (cf. Apostolic Letter "Mane nobiscum Domine", 7th of October 2004). We will post articles on this mystery which is at the heart of the life of the Church.

August-September 2005 Address of His Holiness Pope John Paul II
June-July 2005 Presentation on the encyclical Mysterium Fidei
April-May 2005 The best participation at Mass
February-March 2005 Lauda Sion by Saint Thomas Aquinas
December 2004-January 2005

...and Jesus makes himself present

October 2004

Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia

August-September 2005: Address of His Holiness Pope John Paul II (21 September 2001)

Extracts from the address of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the Plenary Meeting of The Congregatiion for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
(21 September 2001)

2. The Sacred Liturgy, described by Sacrosanctum Concilium as the summit of the Church's life, can never be reduced to a mere aesthetic reality. Neither can it be considered simply as a means to pedagogical or ecumenical ends. Before all else, the celebration of the sacred mysteries is an act of praise to the Triune God's sovereign majesty, and is willed by God Himself. Through the Sacred Liturgy man, personally and collectively, presents himself before God to render thanksgiving, fully conscious that his existence cannot be complete without praising God and doing His will as he strives for the Kingdom which is already present but whose definitive advent is only to be found in the Parousia of the Lord Jesus. Were the Liturgy not to have its effects on life, it would become void and displeasing to God.

3. The celebration of the Liturgy is an act of the virtue of religion which, in keeping with its nature, must be characterised by a profound sense of the sacred. Both the individual and the community must be aware that, in a special way, through the Liturgy they come into the presence of Him who is thrice holy and transcendent. Consequently, the disposition required of them is one that can only flow from that reverence and awe deriving from an awareness of being in the presence of the majesty of Almighty God. Did not God Himself wish to express this when he commanded Moses to remove his sandals in the presence of the burning bush? Was it not because of this same realization that Moses and Elijah did not dare gaze on God facie in faciem.

The People of God require a comportment in their priests and deacons that is completely imbued with reverence and dignity since it allows them to penetrate invisible realities without words or explanations. The Roman Missal, promulgated by Saint Pope Pius V, and the various Eastern Liturgies, contain many very beautiful prayers with which the priest expresses a profound sense of reverence and humility before the Sacred Mysteries. These prayers reveal the very substance of every Liturgy.

A liturgical celebration, at which the priest presides, is an assembly of prayer, gathered in faith to hear the Word of God. Its primary object is to offer to God the living, pure and holy Sacrifice made once and for all time by Jesus Christ on Calvary, and which is rendered present at every Holy Mass celebrated by the Church so as to worship God in spirit and in truth.

June-July 2005: Presentation on the encyclical Mysterium Fidei of His Holiness Paul VI

on eucharistic doctrine and adoration
September 3, 1965

This important encyclical of Pope Paul VI was prompted by concern caused by the spread of heterodox theories regarding the mystery of the Holy Eucharist. Hence the Pope refers to “certain opinions which trouble the mind of the faithful” on the subject of “private Masses, the dogma of transubstantiation and eucharistic adoration.”  The aim of the encyclical is to recall the doctrines of the Church on these questions. Many elements of doctrines are evoked, and among these the Pope concentrates on those which are most attacked.

Thus we find, right from the start of the encyclical, a synthesis on the very nature of the mystery,  taken from the Council of Trent, the teaching of which Vatican II made a point of recalling:  “At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of His Death and Resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.” This quotation therefore recalls first of all that the Mass perpetuates and applies the sacrifice of the Cross: this sacrifice is thus “unceasingly made present in our memory and its salutary virtue is applied for the remission of the sins which are committed each day”. This is effected by a non-bloody immolation. Upon this, therefore, depends the salvation of mankind, personal salvation and the salvation of the whole world. This applies to the living, but also to the dead, as the Fathers of the Church already taught.

The sacrament of the Eucharist is bound to the sacrifice of the Mass: “Sacrifice and sacrament are integrated together in the same Mystery so that one cannot be separated from the other”. This sacrament is “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end of all the other sacraments”, as the Pope recalls, quoting St Thomas.

What are its fruits? The sacrament gives a spiritual food to the hearts of the faithful through Communion. It strengthens and delights, vivifies and purifies. It gives grace and anticipates the gift of eternal life. Hence it is necessary to have a pure and holy heart for Communion.

From the ecclesiastical point of view, the sacrament effects the unity of the Mystical body, expressed by Communion, which creates a close bond of charity: according to the expression of the council of Trent, Christ made it “a symbol of this single Body of which He is the Head.” This is attested abundantly by the testimony of Christian antiquity and the Fathers of the Church. The Eucharist is thus the heart and the centre of the Church, the “sign and cause of the unity of the mystical Body, and it constitutes in itself a stirring appeal for unity of Christians.”

The Pope insists again on this bond with the mystery of the Church: "[the Church] in her entirety, taking in union with Christ the part of priest and victim, offers the Sacrifice of the Mass and is offered in it in her entirety.” The Mass is thus the spiritual centre of the Church. From this it follows that any Mass is public and social: “the Mass, even if it is celebrated in particular by a priest, is never, for all that, a private proceeding, but the action of Christ and the Church.” Therefore private Mass should not be undervalued: “ the celebration of Mass in private is not to be censured, but on the contrary to be approved”; moreover “one may not favour the so-called ‘community’ Mass in such a way as to devalue the private Mass”. In any case, it is the whole Church which offers the Sacrifice, “without detriment to the proper difference in nature, not merely in degree, which distinguishes the priesthood of the faithful from the hierarchical priesthood”.

Finally, the Pope develops at length the questions of  transubstantiation and the Real Presence, fearing the spread of erroneous concepts in this regard. Thus he makes a point of firmly recalling that the Church is attached to the term ‘transubstantiation’: it is not a question of mere ‘transignification’ or ‘transfinalisation’.  What takes place is a “conversion of all the substance of the bread to the body of Christ and all the substance of the wine to the blood of Christ; a singular and marvellous conversion, which the Catholic Church names in all accuracy and in the proper use of the term, ‘transubstantiation’”. The Church fixed an immutable rule of language which “must religiously be respected”. The word employed by the Church is particularly adequate, and belongs to these formulas which are “intelligible for men of all times and all places”.

To support his argument, the Pope quotes testimonies of the Fathers of the Church and the Councils, in order to show the constancy and the unanimity of tradition in the assertion of this doctrinal point.

This miraculous conversion involves the Real Presence of the Saviour. This presence is not merely symbolic, but it is at the same time sacramental: “by the effect of the words of consecration He begins to be sacramentally present as spiritual food for the faithful under the species of bread and wine”. It is also real and substantial: “this presence is named ‘real’, not on a purely exclusive basis, as if the other manners of presence were not ‘real’, but par excellence or “antonomasia”, because it is substantial, and Christ, the God-man, thereby makes Himself present entirely”. Consequently Christ is present, “truly, really and substantially, under the appearance of these realities perceptible to the senses”, as Paul VI recalls, quoting the Council of Trent. He also specifies that “Christ whole and entire is present in His physical, even corporeal, reality, although according to a different mode of presence from that in which bodies occupy a place”. Therefore it is not the senses that should be trusted, “but the words of Christ, which have the capacity to change, to transform, to ‘transelementize’ the bread and the wine into to the Body and Blood of the Lord”. Consequently each fragment must be the object of “precautions and an extreme respect”. The Pope also underlines that this presence is not brought about only by the faith of the Church, “but by the fact of objective reality itself”.

This objective reality  means that the Real Presence remains in the sacred species even after the Mass. Worship is therefore always due to them: it is necessary to offer “this worship of adoration to the Sacrament of the Eucharist not only during the Mass but also apart from its celebration”.  The Christian tradition is rich in testimonies concerning this worship. One should not cease to promote it: “Please promote, without sparing words or efforts, Eucharistic worship, towards which all other forms of piety must ultimately converge.” We should therefore be mindful to visit and honour the Blessed Sacrament.

It seems, then, that the Pope insists particularly on the dogma of the Real Presence and transubstantiation, and on the bond of the Eucharist with the mystery of the Church, and especially her unity. This forms part of a detailed reminder of the many points of doctrine related to a correct approach to this sacrament.  None the less, the Pope reaffirms that the Eucharist is, and remains, a mystery of faith, as the title of the encyclical underlines, along with the words of the hymn of Saint Thomas: “Taste, touch and sight in thee are each deceived/The ear alone most safely is believed”. This is why Paul VI affirms that “the Eucharist is a  most sublime mystery and even, properly speaking, as the Liturgy says, the Mystery of faith.”

April-May 2005: The best participation at Mass

In order to benefit from the effects of the Mass, we must seek to correspond to them. We must therefore distinguish the four ends of the sacrifice of the Cross (hence of the Mass): adoration, thanksgiving, reparation and petition. We can then enter into the intentions of Christ.

1.      The sacrifice of the Mass is a sacrifice of LATRIA (adoration): Christ sacrifices Himself for the glory of God. The Mass is theocentric: God is first served. The first of Christ’s sentiments on the Cross, the fundamental disposition of His soul, is one of adoration and filial love towards the infinite majesty of His Father. What, then, is the principal act of adoration, of worship? Sacrifice. Let us therefore offer our sacrifices, whatever causes us pain or suffering, in union with the mind of Christ in His sacrifice. We should remember that if we have communion with Christ, it is with Christ in His sacrifice. Let us then participate in the sacrifice of Christ.
This will have consequences in the liturgical order. In order to express adoration, the liturgy ought to multiply gestures of bowing, kneeling and of purification. 

2.      The sacrifice of the Mass is a EUCHARISTIC sacrifice: a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Adoration is recognition of God’s greatness; thanksgiving celebrates His infinite goodness. God has a right to our gratitude. In the liturgy, our gratitude appropriates the whole universe in order to find a voice and sing of the good that God has done us. This is a fundamental aspect of the Mass, so much so that the Mass is called ‘Eucharist’ or ‘Eucharistic sacrifice’. Let us, too, during Mass, know how to express our gratitude to God for the good things He lavishes on us, those which we know and those which we do not even guess at. “This wonderful sacrifice was instituted so that we might be free from ingratitude towards God” (St Irenaeus).

3.      The Mass is a PROPITIATORY sacrifice: a term rather unfamiliar to modern ears. The Mass saves us, the Mass perfectly fulfils divine justice; because of it, God is propitious towards us. The sacrifice of Christ is expiatory: the Mass brings about the remission of our sins, in accordance with the dispositions of our hearts, in which Our Lord ought to find humility and contrition.

4.      The sacrifice of the Mass is an IMPETRATORY sacrifice: it is the moment to entrust our desires, our petitions, to Christ. Our petitions, united to the Blood of Christ, find their best advocate in Our Lord, the most powerful of intercessors. Each Mass allows us to ask a grace from God, as we confidently abandon ourselves to Him.Our Lord assures us, and His word is truth: “all that you ask of God in My name, He will grant you”. What can the Father refuse His Son, imploring it of Him upon the Cross?

It will be noticed that the first two ends of the Mass are concerned with God, whereas the last two are more directly concerned with us. We must make these ends our own in our prayer at Mass. This is the best form of participation: to unite ourselves with the priest, the instrument of Christ who offers His sacrifice to His Father for these four ends. Hence the following prayer:

My God, I adore You and I love You.
I thank you for all the benefits which You have given me in plenty.
I ask pardon for all the offences which have wounded Your most loving Heart.
I implore You, for the sake of Your glory, to make me the saint that You have merited that I should be.

These, then, are the four ends of the sacrifice, the reasons why the Church invites us to participate at Mass. What are their fruits? The Mass does not directly remit sins, but fosters contrition and conversion. The Mass partially, but immediately, remits the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven. Moreover, our petitions are granted if they are just, and if we form them with a heart that is properly disposed.

All this applies to our assistance at Mass, even if we do not make a sacramental communion. Sacramental communion is not indispensable, although it is highly desirable. It brings our participation to perfection, along with its particular fruits, which consist first of all in our union with Christ, who transforms us interiorly, conforms us to Himself, strengthens and sanctifies us, heals us, gives us joy and unites us to the whole Church.

Let us meditate on these words of Cardinal Journet: “It is such a sweet and awe-inspiring thing to think that Jesus gathers us every day to redeem the world with Him.”

February-March 2005: Lauda Sion by Saint Thomas Aquinas

Láuda Síon Salvatórem,
Láuda dúcem et pastórem,
In hýmnis et cánticis.

Sion, lift thy voice and sing;
Praise thy Saviour and thy King;
Praise with hymns thy Shephered true.

Quantum pótes, tantum áude:
Quia májor ómni láude,
Nec laudáre súfficis.

Strive thy best to praise Him well,
Yet doth He all praise excel;
None can ever reach His due.

Láudis théma speciális,
Pánis vívus et vitális
Hódie propónitur.

See to-day before us laid
The living and life-giving Bread,
Theme for praise and joy profound.

Quem in sácræ ménsa coénæ
Túrbæ frátrum duodénæ
Dátum non ambígitur.

The same which at the sacred board
Was by our incarnate Lord,
Giv'n to His apostles round.

Sit laus pléna, sít sonóra,
Sit jucúnda, sit decóra
Méntis jubilátio.

Let the praise be loud and high;
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt to-day in every breast;

Díes enim solémnis ágitur,
In qua ménsæ príma recólitur
Hújus institútio.

On this festival divine,
Which records the origin
Of the glorious Eucharist.

In hac ménsa nóvi Régis,
Nóvum Páscha nóvæ légis,
Pháse vétus términat.

On this table of the King,
Our new paschal offering
Brings to end the olden rite.

Vetustátem nóvitas,
Umbram fúgat véritas,
Nóctem lux elíminat.

Here, for empty shadows fled,
Is reality instead;
Here, instead of darkness, light.

Quod in coéna Chrístus géssit,
Faciéndum hoc expréssit
In súi memóriam.

His own act, at supper seated,
Christ ordained to be repeated
In His memory divince;

Dócti sácris institútis,
Pánem, vínum, in salútis
Consecrámus hóstiam.

Wherefore now, with adoration,
We the Host of our salvation
Consecrate from bread and wine.

Dógma dátur christiánis,
Quod in cárnem tránsit pánis,
Et vínum in sánguinem.

Hear what holy Church maintaineth,
That the bread its substance changeth
Into flesh, the wine to blood.

Quod non cápis, quod non vídes,
Animósa fírmat fídes,
Praeter rérum órdinem.

Doth it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of sight transcending,
Leaps to things not understood.

Sub divérsis speciébus,
Sígnis tantum, et non rébus,
Látent res exímiæ.

Here, beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things, to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things, are all we see:

Cáro cíbus, sánguis pótus:
Mánet tamen Chrístus tótus,
Sub utráque spécie.

Flesh from bread, and blood from wine,
Yet is Christ in either sign
All entire, confessed to be.

A suménte non concísus,
Non confráctus, non divísus:
Integer accípitur.

They too who of Him partake,
Sever not, nor rend, nor break,
But entire their Lord receive.

Súmit únus, súmunt mille:
Quantum ísti, tantum ílle:
Nec súmptus consúmitur.

Whether one or thousands eat,
All receive the selfsame meat,
Nor the less for others leave.

Súmunt bóni, súmunt máli:
Sórte tamen inæquáli,
Vítæ vel intéritus.

Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial food;
But with ends how opposite!

Mors est mális, víta bónis:
Víde páris sumptiónis
Quam sit díspar éxitus.

Here 't is life, and there 't is death,
The same, yet issuing to each,
In a difference infinite.

Frácto demum sacraménto,
Ne vacílles, sed meménto
Tantum ésse sub fragménto,
Quantum tóto tégitur.

Nor a single doubt retain,
When they break the host in twain,
But that in each part remain,
What was in the whole before.

Núlla réi fit scissúra:
Sígni tantum fit fractúra,
Qua nec státus, nec statúra
Signáti minúitur.

Since the simple sign alone
Suffers change in state or form,
The signified remaining one
And the same for evermore.

ECCE PÁNIS ANGELÓRUM,
Fáctus cíbus viatórum
Vere pánis filiórum,
Non mitténdus cánibus.

Lo! upon the altar lies,
Hidden deep from human eyes,
Bread of angels from the skies,
Made the food of mortal man :

In figúris præsignátur,
Cum Isáac immolátur,
Agnus Páschæ deputátur,
Dátur mánna pátribus.

Children's meat, to dogs denied :
In old types fore-signified :
In the manna heav'n-supplied,
Isaac, and the paschal Lamb.

Bóne pástor, pánis vére,
Jésu, nóstri miserére:
Tu nos pásce, nos tuére,
Tu nos bóna fac vidére
In térra vivéntium.

Jesu! Shephered of the sheep!
Thou Thy flock in safety keep.
Living Bread! Thy life supply;
Strengthen us, or else we die;
Fill us with celestial grace :

Tu qui cúncta scis et váles,
Qui nos páscis hic mortáles:
Túos ibi commensáles,
Coherédes et sodáles
Fac sanctórum cívium.

Thou, who feedest us below!
Source of all we have or know!
Grant that with Thy saints above,
Sitting at the feast of love,
we may see Thee face to face.

Amen.

Amen.

December 2004-January 2005: ...and Jesus makes himself present

Without the Eucharist, Christianity would be an ideology. Now, by means of the Eucharist, Christ remains on earth in person. We do not live in His Church to preserve His thinking or His memory, but so that He may really receive our praises and the honours due to Him, from this moment on. These praises and honours testify to the love which we, mere creatures, have for Him, the King of kings. By means of the Eucharist, the Incarnation is prolonged from the crib at Bethlehem to reach us.

The Church, made up of the baptized, offers Him her homage through her liturgy. And from apostolic times onward, Europe has seen the development of a liturgical practice which we call the traditional rite. For the Latin Catholics of the West, that rite is the most accomplished form of this realism with regard to the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Let us explain.

Because the consecrated Host (after the transsubstantiation) is God, we may no longer say, do or see all that we might: God is there, and nothing may be preferred to Him. So, to take just one example, once the priest has pronounced the words of consecration over the host and over the wine in the chalice, multiple genuflexions and signs of the cross follow. These gestures translate an attitude of realism with regard to the Presence of God.

The traditional Mass encapsulates the truth of being itself, the truth of what the consecrated Host and wine really are.

BELIEVE: the first step to happiness
“Happiness consists above all in the operation which is that of contemplation” wrote St Thomas Aquinas in 1269, in his commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.

But if we are to find happiness in the truth which we contemplate, the truth must first be accessible to our intellect. Now, since the Eucharist presents our reason with a mystery, the truth must be believed before it can be understood. The act of faith opens the door to this mystery.

In the first place, we must believe: believe that God is there, present in all His divine substance, under the appearance of bread. In the order of creation, what condescension! In the order of reason, how impossible fully to grasp!

Faith has the edge over reason, yet reason is not thereby eliminated. On the contrary: without faith, reason alone could never have discovered this truth which, in human terms, defies explanation: that God is there under the appearance of bread, the Host which the priest has consecrated.

UNDERSTAND that the Eucharist is a person
Si quis vult venire post me, abneget semetipsum et tollat crucem suam et sequatur me.
“If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mt 16:24)

Before reason can be made to savour the truth, it must first accept it by the act of faith. Therein lies its cross, which will lead it to Christ if it is willing to let itself be guided. Blessed Pierre-Julien Eymard, founder of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament in the nineteenth century, affirmed that

Faith in the Most Blessed Sacrament is the act of faith which gives most glory to Jesus Christ, obtains the most merit for a Christian and gives the most consolation to his heart.

Now that we believe that the substance of God has the appearance of bread (colour, taste, consistency), we must remain logical and realistic. We are in front of a Person. God presents himself before us. His presence is real, even though our senses are deficient and reason threatens to rebel. Here is the heart of the mystery: the appearance of bread remains, while God is there in person. God is Eucharist.

CONTEMPLATE so that the truth may triumph
Non tu me mutabis in te, sed tu mutaberis in me: “You will not change Me into yourself; rather, you will be changed into Me” (the just expression of St Augustine).

Whether we contemplate or receive Communion, the Eucharist splendidly illuminates our souls, which silently enter into contact with God. Our whole being – body and soul – receives God. We are divinized.

This supreme mystical experience is accessible to anyone who is baptized. Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity describes it clearly in a prayer which she composed after an eight-day retreat at her Carmelite monastery in Dijon, towards the end of the year 1904, a   century ago:

[...] help me to forget myself entirely so as to take up my dwelling in You: still and at peace as if my soul were already in eternity [...] make it into Your heaven [...] I ask You to “clothe me with yourself ” [...] so that my life may be nothing other than a ray of Your life. [...] “Be present in me”: let it be as if the Incarnation of the Word were taking place in my soul, let me be another humanity for Him, in which He renews His whole Mystery.

These moments spent in the intimacy of the Eucharist are so many meetings of our own substance with the substance of God.

CONFORMING OURSELVES to Jesus as Victim (Hostia)
While we are distracted from God, our life sometimes has no sense apart from the anguish which racks us. Now the time has come for us to enter a church, to come before God himself. Better still: by means of the sacrament of Communion, or by our contemplation, God comes to take up residence in our souls, as soon as we open the door of our intelligence to Him by the act of faith. God then rests in us, and we in Him. We “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1).

There is a change in the way we are, and we look at ourselves and at others in a new light. Grace is poured into our souls. God reigns in our being. We act under the influence of grace. We are saints. With a purer and more simple vision, we look at everything in the perspective of eternity. Our life takes on its true worth. Our suffering and our labours can be understood, and borne, only because they show God that nothing will separate us from Him.

CONCLUSION: life is a lesson learned in front of the tabernacle
In contemplating the Eucharist, we are at the source of life. God, who is supreme existence, unites himself with us, His creatures. The Eucharist which we receive or contemplate is the visible support by which God communicates himself to us and remains in us. In His presence we become aware of the purpose of our existence, the reason for our lives: to be with God, and for God to be with us.

The school of mysticism is open to all. The best pupils receive the palm of martyrdom or the haloes of eternal glory. Saints are formed in this school, which is only a few steps away from us: it is the Church. Her Master is present there in the tabernacle. With Him, we learn to love Him and our neighbour, to the point of giving all: our time, our efforts and our life itself.

October-November 2004: Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia

The Eucharist is a sacrifice
13. By virtue of its close relationship to the sacrifice of Golgotha, the Eucharist is a sacrifice in the strict sense, and not only in a general way, as if it were simply a matter of Christ's offering himself to the faithful as their spiritual food. The gift of his love and obedience to the point of giving his life (cf. Jn 10:17-18) is in the first place a gift to his Father. Certainly it is a gift given for our sake, and indeed that of all humanity (cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20; Jn 10:15), yet it is first and foremost a gift to the Father: “asacrifice that the Father accepted, giving, in return for this total self-giving by his Son, who 'became obedient unto death' (Phil 2:8), his own paternal gift, that is to say the grant of new immortal life in the resurrection”.
In giving his sacrifice to the Church, Christ has also made his own the spiritual sacrifice of the Church, which is called to offer herself in union with the sacrifice of Christ. This is the teaching of the Second Vatican Council concerning all the faithful: “Taking part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the source and summit of the whole Christian life, they offer the divine victim to God, and offer themselves along with it”.

The Lord's body and blood are received in communion
16. The saving efficacy of the sacrifice is fully realized when the Lord's body and blood are received in communion. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is intrinsically directed to the inward union of the faithful with Christ through communion; we receive the very One who offered himself for us, we receive his body which he gave up for us on the Cross and his blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). We are reminded of his words: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” (Jn 6:57). Jesus himself reassures us that this union, which he compares to that of the life of the Trinity, is truly realized. The Eucharist is a true banquet, in which Christ offers himself as our nourishment. When for the first time Jesus spoke of this food, his listeners were astonished and bewildered, which forced the Master to emphasize the objective truth of his words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you” (Jn 6:53). This is no metaphorical food: “My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed” (Jn 6:55).

Mary and the Eucharist
56. Mary, throughout her life at Christ's side and not only on Calvary, made her own the sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist. When she brought the child Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem “to present him to the Lord” (Lk 2:22), she heard the aged Simeon announce that the child would be a “sign of contradiction” and that a sword would also pierce her own heart (cf. Lk 2:34-35). The tragedy of her Son's crucifixion was thus foretold, and in some sense Mary's Stabat Mater at the foot of the Cross was foreshadowed. In her daily preparation for Calvary, Mary experienced a kind of “anticipated Eucharist” – one might say a “spiritual communion” – of desire and of oblation, which would culminate in her union with her Son in his passion, and then find expression after Easter by her partaking in the Eucharist which the Apostles celebrated as the memorial of that passion.
What must Mary have felt as she heard from the mouth of Peter, John, James and the other Apostles the words spoken at the Last Supper: “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19)? The body given up for us and made present under sacramental signs was the same body which she had conceived in her womb! For Mary, receiving the Eucharist must have somehow meant welcoming once more into her womb that heart which had beat in unison with hers and reliving what she had experienced at the foot of the Cross.