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Summary: the Church is able to celebrate and worship the mystery of Christ in the Eucharist “precisely because Christ first gave himself to her in the sacrifice of the Cross.

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January 12, 2008

Sacramentum Caritatis

Through His Divine Son, the Father created the world. Through the same Son, He also recreated the world, once Jesus had been made–in the words of the letter to the Hebrews–perfect (complete) through suffering. “The Fathers of the Church often meditated on the relationship between Eve’s coming forth from the side of Adam as he slept (cf. Gen 2:21-23) and the coming forth of the new Eve, the Church, from the open side of Christ sleeping in death: from Christ’s pierced side, John recounts, there came forth blood and water (cf. Jn 19:34), the symbol of the sacraments.” Blood, of course, is the Holy Eucharist, and water is Baptism. These two sacraments make Church. They make love real in the world because they make Jesus Christ present to the world. “ A contemplative gaze ‘upon him whom they have pierced’ (Jn 19:37) leads us to reflect on the causal connection between Christ’s sacrifice, the Eucharist and the Church.” In fact, I think the best first book of the Holy Father’s for you to read is Behold the Pierced One, a fairly short meditation on the Sacred Heart.

The Holy Eucharist, of course, builds up the Church. We don’t come here every day or week because we are wonderful. We come here because we are sinful, needful, hungry and weak. The Eucharistic presence builds us up from the inside out. But it is the Church, filled with the Holy Spirit as Mary was at the Annunciation, which “makes” the Eucharist. And the Church is able to celebrate and worship the mystery of Christ in the Eucharist “precisely because Christ first gave himself to her in the sacrifice of the Cross. The Church’s ability to ‘make’ the Eucharist is completely rooted in Christ’s gift of self to her.” Remember that Christ loved us first, when we were steeped in sin and unable to love.

“The Eucharist is thus constitutive of the Church’s being and activity.” From the earliest times, the Church spoke of Christ’s human body born of Mary, his Eucharistic body and his Body, the Church, with the same term, Corpus Christi. Christ and the Church are inseparable because the sacrifice we celebrate and re-present here is the one sacrifice of Calvary. And the challenge and grace of the sacrament is, as Eucharistic Prayer II tells us, that we are made one by the Holy Spirit. When we take communion outside Mass, we should always pray that we have priests to symbolize and celebrate Christ’s self-giving, to make real this precious sacrifice, and make us one.


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