The Eucharist: An Invitation – Emeritus Archbishop Denis J Hart
Pope John Paul has invited the whole Church to share in a special Year of the Eucharist from 10th October 2004, the beginning of the International Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, until the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, “The Eucharist, source and summit of the life and mission of the Church”, on 29th October 2005.
I join him in his invitation to you: priests, religious communities and people of the Archdiocese to draw life and strength from Jesus Christ, really, truly and substantially present among us in the sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist.
The Eucharistic Mystery
In the Eucharistic Celebration, we are in the presence of a person, who is God, whose word we have heard, and who is among us in a way which is pre-eminent when, by his words “This is my Body”; This is my Blood”, given for us, our gifts of bread and wine are changed into his Body and Blood.
Christ’s presence is personal and real and remains as long as the Eucharistic species remain. The same Lord, who offered himself on the Cross to save us from sin, continues his twofold action of perfect praise to the Father, and saving his people every time the Mass is offered. We become brothers and sisters because we are offered salvation in Christ, and are invited by our faith in him.
Contemplation with Christ
“Because the Eucharistic Mystery was instituted out of love, it is worthy of thanksgiving and worship, and must fill our Churches outside the timetable of Masses, and this worship must be prominent in all our encounters with the Blessed Sacrament, both when we visit our Churches and when the sacred species are taken to the sick and administered to them.” (John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae 1980 n.3).
The Pope has reminded us on many occasions, Adoration of Christ in this sacrament of love must find expression in various forms of Eucharistic devotion: personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, hours of adoration – short, prolonged, and annual (forty hours) Eucharistic Benediction, processions and congresses. All this corresponds to the general principles and particular norms already in existence and newly established by the Second Vatican Council and taught by Pope Paul VI in the Encyclical Letter Mysterium Fidei (1965), Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass (1973), and Pope John Paul II, in Dominicae Cenae (1980).
“The encouragement and deepening of the Eucharistic Worship are proofs of that authentic renewal which the Council set itself……. The Church and the world have great need of Eucharistic Worship. Jesus waits for us in the sacrament of love. Let us be generous with him in going to meet him in adoration and in contemplation that is full of faith and ready to make a reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world.” (John Paul II: Dominicae Cenae 3).
In recent times it is clear that Eucharistic Adoration has been a powerful help in the vocation of our seminarians and other young people pondering marriage or their vocation in life.
The year of the Eucharist is a timely opportunity to invite our people to adoration, and by praying with them to derive the spiritual refreshment which only the Lord can give.
Eucharist and Mission
The encouragement for the year of the Eucharist is to foster an interior attitude of deep oneness with Christ. It is the “starting afresh with Christ” in Novo Millennio Ineunte 29, so that all will begin, by prayer and contemplation with the Lord, to train themselves “in the art of prayer” (32) and undertake that “high standard of Christian living” (31), which is an indispensable condition to develop effectively the new evangelisation.
Indeed, it is Christ who will give the courage, the words and the warmth to draw others to him through our many contacts in family, society and community.
- Seek to have prayerful celebrations of the Mass allowing silence after Communion to foster an atmosphere of personal union with Christ.
- Emphasise the Church or Chapel as a place of silence and prayer, as distinct from a fraternal gathering place at the entrance of the Church.
- Have the place of reservation of the Blessed Sacrament appropriately lit and decorated and suitable for prayer. The tabernacle is to be located in a place that is truly prominent in the sanctuary. Seek to have Eucharistic vessels and vestments appropriately beautiful.
- Encourage regular Eucharistic Adoration in your parish or community. There is also Holy Hour each Thursday in St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 6.30 p.m. (Enter by side door nearer of car park).
- Encourage silence and reverence by those who take Holy Communion to the sick.
If we continue to draw our people to celebrate, contemplate and ponder the Eucharist, this year will be a time of renewed awareness of the love which Jesus has for his people. We will be prepared and energised for the ongoing task of evangelisation to bring his knowledge and love to others.
Thank you for all that you do to bring Jesus to your brothers and sisters.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
+ Denis J. Hart,
Emeritus Archbishop of Melbourne.