OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF JOHN PAUL II
TO ALL THE BISHOPS OF THE CHURCH
ON THE MYSTERY AND WORSHIP OF THE EUCHARIST
My venerable and dear brothers,
1. Again this year, for Holy Thursday, I am writing a letter to all of you. This
letter has an immediate connection with the one which you received last year on
the same occasion, together with the letter to the priests. I wish in the first
place to thank you cordially for having accepted my previous letters with that
spirit of unity which the Lord established between us, and also for having
transmitted to your priests the thoughts that I desired to express at the
beginning of my pontificate.
During the Eucharistic Liturgy of Holy Thursday, you renewed, together with your
priests, the promises and commitments undertaken at the moment of ordination.
Many of you, venerable and dear brothers, told me about it later, also adding
words of personal thanks, and indeed often sending those expressed by your
priests. Furthermore, many priests expressed their joy, both because of the
profound and solemn character of Holy Thursday as the annual "feast of priests"
and also because of the importance of the subjects dealt with in the letter
addressed to them.
Those replies form a rich collection which once more indicates how dear to the
vast majority of priests of the Catholic Church is the path of the priestly
life, the path along which this Church has been journeying for centuries: how
much they love and esteem it, and how much they desire to follow it for the
At this point I must add that only a certain number of matters were dealt with
in the letter to priests, as was in fact emphasized at the beginning of the
document.(1) Furthermore, the main stress was laid upon the pastoral character
of the priestly ministry; but this certainly does not mean that those groups of
priests who are not engaged in direct pastoral activity were not also taken into
consideration. In this regard I would refer once more to the teaching of the
Second Vatican Council, and also to the declarations of the 1971 Synod of
The pastoral character of the priestly ministry does not cease to mark the life
of every priest, even if the daily tasks that he carries out are not explicitly
directed to the pastoral administration of the sacraments. In this sense, the
letter written to the priests on Holy Thursday was addressed to them all,
without any exception, even though, as I said above, it did not deal with all
the aspects of the life and activity of priests. I think this clarification is
useful and opportune at the beginning of the present letter:
THE EUCHARISTIC MYSTERY IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH AND OF THE PRIEST
Eucharist and Priesthood
2. The present letter that I am addressing to you, my venerable and dear
brothers in the episcopate-and which is, as I have said, in a certain way a
continuation of the previous one-is also closely linked with the mystery of Holy
Thursday, and is related to the priesthood. In fact I intend to devote it to the
Eucharist, and in particular to certain aspects of the Eucharistic Mystery and
its impact on the lives of those who are the ministers of It: and so those to
whom this letter is directly addressed are you, the bishops of the Church;
together with you, all the priests; and, in their own rank, the deacons too.
In reality, the ministerial and hierarchical priesthood, the priesthood of the
bishops and the priests, and, at their side, the ministry of the
deacons-ministries which normally begin with the proclamation of the Gospel-are
in the closest relationship with the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the principal
and central raison d'etre of the sacrament of the priesthood, which effectively
came into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist, and together
with it.(2) Not without reason the words "Do this in memory of me" are said
immediately after the words of eucharistic consecration, and we repeat them
every time we celebrate the holy Sacrifice.(3)
Through our ordination-the celebration of which is linked to the holy Mass from
the very first liturgical evidence(4)-we are united in a singular and
exceptional way to the Eucharist. In a certain way we derive from it and exist
for it. We are also, and in a special way, responsible for it-each priest in his
own community and each bishop by virtue of the care of all the communities
entrusted to him, on the basis of the sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum that St.
Paul speaks of.(5) Thus we bishops and priests are entrusted with the great
"mystery of Faith," and while it is also given to the whole People of God, to
all believers in Christ, yet to us has been entrusted the Eucharist also "for"
others, who expect from us a particular witness of veneration and love towards
this sacrament, so that they too may be able to be built up and vivified "to
offer spiritual sacrifices."(6)
In this way our eucharistic worship, both in the celebration of Mass and in our
devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, is like a life-giving current that links our
ministerial or hierarchical priesthood to the common priesthood of the faithful,
and presents it in its vertical dimension and with its central value. The priest
fulfills his principal mission and is manifested in all his fullness when he
celebrates the Eucharist,(7) and this manifestation is more complete when he
himself allows the depth of that mystery to become visible, so that it alone
shines forth in people's hearts and minds, through his ministry. This is the
supreme exercise of the "kingly priesthood," "the source and summit of all
Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery
3. This worship is directed towards God the Father through Jesus Christ in the
Holy Spirit. In the first place towards the Father, who, as St. John's Gospel
says, "loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who
believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life."(9)
It is also directed, in the Holy Spirit, to the incarnate Son, in the economy of
salvation, especially at that moment of supreme dedication and total abandonment
of Himself to which the words uttered in the Upper Room refer: "This is my body
given up for you.... This is the cup of my blood shed for you...."(10) The
liturgical acclamation: "We proclaim your death, Lord Jesus" takes us back
precisely to that moment; and with the proclamation of His resurrection we
embrace in the same act of veneration Christ risen and glorified "at the right
hand of the Father," as also the expectation of His "coming in glory." Yet it is
the voluntary emptying of Himself, accepted by the Father and glorified with the
resurrection, which, sacramentally celebrated together with the resurrection
brings us to adore the Redeemer who "became obedient unto death, even death on a
And this adoration of ours contains yet another special characteristic. It is
compenetrated by the greatness of that human death, in which the world, that is
to say each one of us, has been loved "to the end."(12) Thus it is also a
response that tries to repay that love immolated even to the death on the cross:
it is our "Eucharist," that is to say our giving Him thanks, our praise of Him
for having redeemed us by His death and made us sharers in immortal life through
This worship, given therefore to the Trinity of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, above all accompanies and permeates the celebration of the
Eucharistic Liturgy. But it must fill our churches also outside the timetable of
Masses. Indeed, since the Eucharistic Mystery was instituted out of love, and
makes Christ sacramentally present, it is worthy of thanksgiving and worship.
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.
Adoration of Christ in this sacrament of love must also find expression in
various forms of eucharistic devotion: personal prayer before the Blessed
Sacrament, Hours of Adoration, periods of exposition-short, prolonged and annual
(Forty Hours)-eucharistic benediction, eucharistic processions, eucharistic
congresses.(13) A particular mention should be made at this point of the
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ as an act of public worship rendered
to Christ present in the Eucharist, a feast instituted by my predecessor Urban
IV in memory of the institution of this great Mystery.(14) All this therefore
corresponds to the general principles and particular norms already long in
existence but newly formulated during or after the Second Vatican Council.(15)
The encouragement and the deepening of eucharistic worship are proofs of that
authentic renewal which the council set itself as an aim and of which they are
the central point. And the venerable and dear brothers, deserves separate
reflection. The Church and the world have a great need of eucharistic worship.
Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time
in going to meet Him in adoration and in contemplation that is full of faith and
ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world by our
adoration never cease.
Eucharist and Church
4. Thanks to the Council we have realized with renewed force the following truth:
Just as the Church "makes the Eucharist" so "the Eucharist builds up" the Church(16);
and this truth is closely bound up with the mystery of Holy Thursday. The Church
was founded, as the new community of the People of God, in the apostolic
community of those Twelve who, at the Last Supper, became partakers of the body
and blood of the Lord under the species of bread and wine. Christ had said to
them: "Take and eat.... Take and drink." And carrying out this command of His,
they entered for the first time into sacramental communion with the Son of God,
a communion that is a pledge of eternal life. From that moment until the end of
time, the Church is being built up through that same communion with the Son of
God, a communion which is a pledge of the eternal Passover.
Dear and venerable brothers in the episcopate, as teachers and custodians of the
salvific truth of the Eucharist, we must always and everywhere preserve this
meaning and this dimension of the sacramental encounter and intimacy with Christ.
It is precisely these elements which constitute the very substance of
eucharistic worship. The meaning of the truth expounded above in no way
diminishes-in fact, it facilitates-the eucharistic character of spiritual
drawing together and union between the people who share in the sacrifice, which
then in Communion becomes for them the banquet. This drawing together and this
union, the prototype of which is the union of the Apostles about Christ at the
Last Supper, express the Church and bring her into being.
But the Church is not through into being only through the union of people,
through the experience of brotherhood to which the Eucharistic Banquet gives
rise. The Church is brought into being when, in that fraternal union and
communion, we celebrate the sacrifice of the cross of Christ, when we proclaim
"the Lord's death until he comes,"(17) and later, when, being deeply
compenetrated with the mystery of our salvation, we approach as a community the
table of the Lord, in order to be nourished there, in a sacramental manner, by
the fruits oś the holy Sacrifice of propitiation. Therefore in eucharistic
Communion we receive Christ, Christ Himself; and our union with Him, which is a
gift and grace for each individual, brings it about that in Him we are also
associated in the unity of His body which is the Church.
Only in this way, through that faith and that disposition of mind, is there
brought about that building up of the Church, which in the Eucharist truly finds
its "source and summit," according to the well known expression of the Second
Vatican Council.(18) This truth, which as a result of the same Council has
received a new and vigorous emphasis,(19) must be a frequent theme of our
reflection and teaching. Let all pastoral activity be nourished by it, and may
it also be food for ourselves and for all the priests who collaborate with us,
and likewise for the whole of the communities entrusted to us. In this practice
there should thus be revealed, almost at every step, that close relationship
between the Church's spiritual and apostolic vitality and the Eucharist,
understood in its profound significance and from all points of view.(20)
Eucharist and Charity
5. Before proceeding to more detailed observations on the subject of the
celebration of the holy Sacrifice, I wish briefly to reaffirm the fact that
eucharistic worship constitutes the soul of all Christian life. In fact,
Christian life is expressed in the fulfilling of the greatest commandment, that
is to say, in the love of God and neighbor, and this love finds its source in
the blessed Sacrament, which is commonly called the sacrament of love.
The Eucharist signifies this charity, and therefore recalls it, makes it present
and at the same time brings it about. Every time that we consciously share in it,
there opens in our souls a real dimension of that unfathomable love that
includes everything that God has done and continues to do for us human beings,
as Christ says: "My Father goes on working, and so do I."(21) Together with this
unfathomable and free gift, which is charity revealed in its fullest degree in
the saving sacrifice of the Son of God, the sacrifice of which the Eucharist is
the indelible sign, there also springs up within us a lively response of love.
We not only know love; we ourselves begin to love. We enter, so to speak, upon
the path of love and along this path make progress. Thanks to the Eucharist, the
love that springs up within us from the Eucharist develops in us, becomes deeper
and grows stronger.
Eucharistic worship is therefore precisely the expression of that love which is
the authentic and deepest characteristic of the Christian vocation. This worship
springs from the love and serves the love to which we are all called in Jesus
Christ.(22) A living fruit of this worship is the perfecting of the image of God
that we bear within us, an image that corresponds to the one that Christ has
revealed in us. As we thus become adorers of the Father "in spirit and truth,"(23)
we mature in an ever fuller union with Christ, we are ever more united to Him,
and-if one may use the expression-we are ever more in harmony with Him.
The doctrine of the Eucharist, sign of unity and bond of charity, taught by St.
Paul,(24) has been in subsequent times deepened by the writings of very many
saints who are living examples for us of Eucharistic worship. We must always
have this reality before our eyes, and at the same time we must continually try
to bring it about that our own generation too may add new examples to those
marvelous examples of the past, new examples no less living and eloquent, that
will reflect the age to which we belong.
Eucharist and Neighbor
6. The authentic sense of the Eucharist becomes of itself the school of active
love for neighbor. We know that this is the true and full order of love that the
Lord has taught us: "By this love you have for one another, everyone will know
that you are my disciples."(25) The Eucharist educates us to this love in a
deeper way; it shows us, in fact, what value each person, our brother or sister,
has in God's eyes, if Christ offers Himself equally to each one, under the
species of bread and wine. If our Eucharistic worship is authentic, it must make
us grow in awareness of the dignity of each person. The awareness of that
dignity becomes the deepest motive of our relationship with our neighbor.
We must also become particularly sensitive to all human suffering and misery, to
all injustice and wrong, and seek the way to redress them effectively. Let us
learn to discover with respect the truth about the inner self that becomes the
dwelling place of God present in the Eucharist. Christ comes into the hearts of
our brothers and sisters and visits their consciences. How the image of each and
every one changes, when we become aware of this reality, when we make it the
subject of our reflections! The sense of the Eucharistic Mystery leads us to a
love for our neighbor, to a love for every human being.(26)
Eucharist and Life
7. Since therefore the Eucharist is the source of charity, it has always been at
the center of the life of Christ's disciples. It has the appearance of bread and
wine, that is to say of food and drink; it is therefore as familiar to people,
as closely linked to their life, as food and drink. The veneration of God, who
is love, springs, in eucharistic worship, from that kind of intimacy in which He
Himself, by analogy with food and drink, fills our spiritual being, ensuring its
life, as food and drink do. This "eucharistic" veneration of God therefore
strictly corresponds to His saving plan. He Himself, the Father, wants the "true
worshipers"(27) to worship Him precisely in this way, and it is Christ who
expresses this desire, both with His words and likewise with this sacrament in
which He makes possible worship of the Father in the way most in conformity with
the Father's will.
From this concept of eucharistic worship there then stems the whole sacramental
style of the Christian's life. In fact, leading a life based on the sacraments
and animated by the common priesthood means in the first place that Christians
desire God to act in them in order to enable them to attain, in the Spirit, "the
fullness of Christ himself."(28) God, on His part, does not touch them only
through events and by this inner grace; He also acts in them with greater
certainty and power through the sacraments. The sacraments give the lives of
Christians sacramental style.
Now, of all the sacraments it is the Holy Eucharist that brings to fullness
their initiation as Christians and confers upon the exercise of the common
priesthood that sacramental and ecclesial form that links it-as we mentioned
before(29)-to the exercise of the ministerial priesthood. In this way
eucharistic worship is the center and goal of all sacramental life.(30) In the
depths of eucharistic worship we find a continual echo of the sacraments a
Christian initiation: baptism and confirmation. Where better is there expressed
the truth that we are not only "called God's children" but "that is what we
are"(31) by virtue of the sacrament of Baptism, if not precisely in the fact
that in the Eucharist we become partakers of the body and blood of God's only
Son? And what predisposes us more to be "true witnesses of Christ"(32) before
the world-as we are enabled to be by the sacrament of Confirmation-than
Eucharistic Communion, in which Christ bears witness to us, and we to Him?
It is impossible to analyze here in greater detail the links between the
Eucharist and the other sacraments, in particular with the sacrament of family
life and the sacrament of the sick. In the encyclical Redemptor hominis(33) I
have already drawn attention to the close link between the sacrament of Penance
and the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is not only that Penance leads to the
Eucharist, but that the Eucharist also leads to Penance. For when we realize who
it is that we receive in Eucharistic Communion, there springs up in us almost
spontaneously a sense of unworthiness, together with sorrow for our sins and an
interior need for purification.
But we must always take care that this great meeting with Christ in the
Eucharist does not become a mere habit, and that we do not receive Him
unworthily, that is to say, in a state of mortal sin. The practice of the virtue
of penance and the sacrament of Penance are essential for sustaining in us and
continually deepening that spirit of veneration which man owes to God Himself
and to His love so marvelously revealed. The purpose of these words is to put
forward some general reflections on worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, and they
could be developed at greater length and more fully. In particular, it would be
possible to link what has been said about the effects of the Eucharist on love
for others with what we have just noted about commitments undertaken towards
humanity and the Church in Eucharistic Communion, and then outline the picture
of that "new earth"(34) that springs from the Eucharist through every "new
self."(35) In this sacrament of bread and wine, of food and drink, everything
that is human really undergoes a singular transformation and elevation.
Eucharistic worship is not so much worship of the inaccessible transcendence as
worship of the divine condescension, and it is also the merciful and redeeming
transformation of the world in the human heart.
Recalling all this only very briefly, I wish, notwithstanding this brevity, to
create a wider context for the questions that I shall subsequently have to deal
with: These questions are closely linked with the celebration of the holy
Sacrifice. In fact, in that celebration there is expressed in a more direct way
the worship of the Eucharist. This worship comes from the heart, as a most
precious homage inspired by the faith, hope and charity which were infused into
us at baptism. And it is precisely about this that I wish to write to you in
this letter, venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate, and with you to the
priests and deacons. It will be followed by detailed indications from the Sacred
Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship.
THE SACRED CHARACTER OF THE EUCHARIST AND SACRIFICE
8. Beginning with the Upper Room and Holy Thursday, the celebration of the
Eucharist has a long history, a history as long as that of the Church. In the
course of this history the secondary elements have undergone certain changes,
but there has been no change in the essence of the "Mysterium" instituted by the
Redeemer of the world at the Last Supper. The Second Vatican Council too brought
alterations, as a result of which the present liturgy of the Mass is different
in some ways from the one known before the Council. We do not intend to speak of
these differences: It is better that we should now concentrate on what is
essential and immutable in the Eucharistic Liturgy.
There is a close link between this element of the Eucharist and its sacredness,
that is to say, its being a holy and sacred action. Holy and sacred, because in
it are the continual presence and action of Christ, "the Holy One" of God,(36) "anointed
with the Holy Spirit,"(37) "consecrated by the Father"(38) to lay down His life
of His own accord and to take it up again,(39) and the High Priest of the New
Covenant.(40) For it is He who, represented by the celebrant, makes His entrance
into the sanctuary and proclaims His Gospel. It is He who is "the offerer and
the offered, the consecrator and the consecrated."(41) The Eucharist is a holy
and sacred action, because it constitutes the sacred species, the Sancta sanctis,
that is to say, the "holy things (Christ, the Holy One) given to the Holy," as
all the Eastern liturgies sing at the moment when the eucharistic Bread is
raised in order to invite the faithful to the Lord's Supper.
The sacredness of the Mass, therefore, is not a "sacralization," that is to say,
something that man adds to Christ's action in the Upper Room, for the Holy
Thursday supper was a sacred rite, a primary and constitutive liturgy, through
which Christ, by pledging to give His life for us, Himself celebrated
sacramentally the mystery of His passion and resurrection, the heart of every
Mass. Our Masses, being derived from this liturgy, possess of themselves a
complete liturgical form, which, in spite of its variations in line with the
families of rites, remains substantially the same. The sacred character of the
Mass is a sacredness instituted by Christ. The words and actions of every priest,
answered by the conscious active participation of the whole eucharistic assembly,
echo the words and actions of Holy Thursday.
The priest offers the holy Sacrifice in persona Christi; this means more than
offering "in the name of' or "in place of' Christ. In persona means in specific
sacramental identification with "the eternal High Priest"(42) who is the author
and principal subject of this sacrifice of His, a sacrifice in which, in truth,
nobody can take His place. Only He-only Christ-was able and is always able to be
the true and effective "expiation for our sins and...for the sins of the whole
world."(43) Only His sacrifice-and no one else's-was able and is able to have a
"propitiatory power" be fore God, the Trinity, and the transcendent holiness.
Awareness of this reality throws a certain light on the character and
significance of the priest celebrant who, by confecting the holy Sacrifice and
acting "in persona Christi," is sacramentally (and ineffably) brought into that
most profound sacredness, and made part of it, spiritually linking with it in
turn all those participating in the eucharistic assembly.
This sacred rite, which is actuated in different liturgical forms, may lack some
secondary elements, but it can in no way lack its essential sacred character and
sacramentality, since these are willed by Christ and transmitted and regulated
by the Church. Neither can this sacred rite be utilized for other ends. If
separated from its distinctive sacrificial and sacramental nature, the
Eucharistic Mystery simply ceases to be. It admits of no "profane" imitation, an
imitation that would very easily (indeed regularly) become a profanation. This
must always be remembered, perhaps above all in our time, when we see a tendency
to do away with the distinction between the "sacred" and "profane," given the
widespread tendency, at least in some places, to desacralize everything.
In view of this fact, the Church has a special duty to safeguard and strengthen
the sacredness of the Eucharist. In our pluralistic and often deliberately
secularized society, the living faith of the Christian community-a faith always
aware of its rights vis-a-vis those who do not share that faith-ensures respect
for this sacredness. The duty to respect each person's faith is the complement
of the natural and civil right to freedom of conscience and of religion.
The sacred character of the Eucharist has found and continues to find expression
in the terminology of theology and the liturgy.(44) This sense of the objective
sacred character of the Eucharistic Mystery is so much part of the faith of the
People of God that their faith is enriched and strengthened by it.(45) Therefore
the ministers of the Eucharist must, especially today, be illumined by the
fullness of this living faith, and in its light they must understand and perform
all that is part, by Christ's will and the will of His Church, of their priestly
9. The Eucharist is above all else a sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of the
Redemption and also the sacrifice of the New Covenant,(46) as we believe and as
the Eastern Churches clearly profess: "Today s sacrifice, the Greek Church
stated centuries ago, "is like that offered once by the Only-begotten Incarnate
Word; it is offered by Him (now as then), since it is one and the same sacrifice."(47)
Accordingly, precisely by making this single sacrifice of our salvation present,
men and the world are restored to God through the paschal newness of Redemption.
This restoration cannot cease to be: it is the foundation of the"new and eternal
covenant" of God with man and of man with God. If it were missing, one would
have to question both the excellence of the sacrifice of the Redemption, which
in fact was perfect and definitive, and also the sacrificial value of the Mass.
In fact, the Eucharist, being a true sacrifice, brings about this restoration to
Consequently, the celebrant, as minister of this sacrifice, is the authentic
priest, performing-in virtue of the specific power of-sacred ordination-a true
sacrificial act that brings creation back to God. Although all those who
participate in the Eucharist do not confect the sacrifice as He does, they offer
with Him, by virtue of the common priesthood, their own spiritual sacrifices
represented by the bread and wine from the moment of their presentation at the
altar. For this liturgical action, which take a solemn form in almost all
liturgies, has a "spiritual value and meaning."(48) The bread and wine become in
a sense a symbol of all that the eucharistic assembly brings, on its own part,
as an offering to God and offers spiritually.
It is important that this first moment of the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the
strict sense should find expression in the attitude of the participants. There
is a link between this and the offertory "procession" provided for in the recent
liturgical reform(49) and accompanied, in keeping with ancient tradition, by a
psalm or song. A certain length of time must be allowed, so that all can become
aware of this act, which is given expression at the same time by the words of
Awareness of the act of presenting the offerings should be maintained throughout
the Mass. Indeed, it should be brought to fullness at the moment of the
consecration and of the anamnesis offering, as is demanded by the fundamental
value of the moment of the sacrifice. This is shown by the words of the
Eucharistic Prayer said aloud by the priest. It seems worthwhile repeating here
some expressions in the third Eucharistic Prayer that show in particular the
sacrificial character of the Eucharist and link the offering of our persons with
Christ's offering: "Look with favor on your Church's offering, and see the
Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself. Grant that we, who are
nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become
one body, one spirit in Christ. May he make us an everlasting gift to you.
This sacrificial value is expressed earlier in every celebration by the words
with which the priest concludes the presentation of the gifts, asking the
faithful to pray "that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the
almighty Father." These words are binding, since they express the character of
the entire Eucharistic Liturgy and the fullness of its divine and ecclesial
All who participate with faith in the Eucharist become aware that it is a "sacrifice,"
that is to say, a "consecrated Offering." For the bread and wine presented at
the altar and accompanied by the devotion and the spiritual sacrifices of the
participants are finally consecrated, so as to become truly, really and
substantially Christ's own body that is given up and His blood that is shed.
Thus, by virtue of the consecration, the species of bread and wine re-present
(50) in a sacramental, unbloody manner the bloody propitiatory sacrifice offered
by Him on the cross to His Father for the salvation of the world. Indeed, He
alone, giving Himself as a propitiatory Victim in an act of supreme surrender
and immolation, has reconciled humanity with the Father, solely through His
sacrifice, "having cancelled the bond which stood against us."(51)
To this sacrifice, which is renewed in a sacramental form on the altar, the
offerings of bread and wine, united with the devotion of the faithful,
nevertheless bring their unique contribution, since by means of the consecration
by the priest they become sacred species. This is made clear by the way in which
the priest acts during the Eucharistic Prayer, especially at the consecration,
and when the celebration of the holy Sacrifice and participation in it are
accompanied by awareness that "the Teacher is here and is calling for you."(52)
This call of the Lord to us through His Sacrifice opens our hearts, so that,
purified in the mystery of our Redemption, they may be united to Him in
Eucharistic Communion, which confers upon participation at Mass a value that is
mature, complete and binding on human life: "The Church's intention is that the
faithful not only offer the spotless victim but also learn to offer themselves
and daily to be drawn into ever more perfect union, through Christ the Mediator,
with the Father and with each other, so that at last God may be all in all."(53)
It is therefore very opportune and necessary to continue to actuate a new and
intense education, in order to discover all the richness contained in the new
liturgy. Indeed, the liturgical renewal that has taken place since the Second
Vatican Council has given, so to speak, greater visibility to the Eucharistic
Sacrifice. One factor contributing to this is that the words of the Eucharistic
Prayer are said aloud by the celebrant, particularly the words of consecration,
with the acclamation by the assembly immediately after the elevation.
All this should fill us with joy, but we should also remember that these changes
demand new spiritual awareness and maturity, both on the part of the
celebrant-especially now that he celebrates "facing the people"-and by the
faithful. Eucharistic worship matures and grows when the words oś the
Eucharistic Prayer, especially the words of consecration, are spoken with great
humility and simplicity, in a worthy and fitting way, which is understandable
and in keeping with their holiness; when this essential act of the Eucharistic
Liturgy is performed unhurriedly; and when it brings about in us such
recollection and devotion that the participants become aware of the greatness of
the mystery being accomplished and show it by their attitude.
THE TWO TABLES OF THE LORD AND THE COMMON POSSESSION OF THE CHURCH
The Table of the Word of God
10. We are well aware that from the earliest times the celebration of the
Eucharist has been linked not only with prayer but also with the reading of
Sacred Scripture and with singing by the whole assembly. As a result, it has
long been possible to apply to the Mass the comparison, made by the Fathers,
with the two tables, at which the Church prepares for her children the word of
God and the Eucharist, that is, the bread of the Lord. We must therefore go back
to the first part of the sacred mystery, the part that at present is most often
called the Liturgy of the Word, and devote some attention to it.
The reading of the passages of Sacred Scripture chosen for each day has been
subjected by the Council to new criteria and requirements.(54) As a result of
these norms of the Council a new collection of readings has been made, in which
there has been applied to some extent the principle of continuity of texts and
the principle of making all the sacred books accessible. The insertion of the
Psalms with responses into the liturgy makes the participants familiar with the
great wealth of Old Testament prayer and poetry. The fact that these texts are
read and sung in the vernacular enables everyone to participate with fuller
Nevertheless, there are also those people who, having been educated on the basis
of the old liturgy in Latin, experience the lack of this "one language," which
in all the world was an expression of the unity of the Church and through its
dignified character elicited a profound sense of the Eucharistic Mystery. It is
therefore necessary to show not only understanding but also full respect towards
these sentiments and desires. As far as possible these sentiments and desires
are to be accommodated, as is moreover provided for in the new dispositions.(55)
The Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin, the splendid language of
ancient Rome, and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself.
The possibilities that the post-conciliar renewal has introduced in this respect
are indeed often utilized so as to make us witnesses of and sharers in the
authentic celebration of the Word of God. There is also an increase in the
number of people taking an active part in this celebration. Groups of readers
and cantors, and still more often choirs of men or women, are being set up and
are devoting themselves with great enthusiasm to this aspect. The Word of God,
Sacred Scripture, is beginning to take on new life in many Christian communities.
The faithful gathered for the liturgy prepare with song for listening to the
Gospel, which is proclaimed with the devotion and love due to it.
All this is noted with great esteem and gratitude, but it must not be forgotten
that complete renewal makes yet other demands. These demands consist in a new
sense of responsibility towards the Word of God transmitted through the liturgy
in various languages, something that is certainly in keeping with the
universality of the Gospel and its purposes. The same sense of responsibility
also involves the performance of the corresponding liturgical actions (reading
or singing), which must accord with the principles of art. To preserve these
actions from all artificiality, they should express such capacity, simplicity
and dignity as to highlight the special character of the sacred text, even by
the very manner of reading or singing.
Accordingly, these demands, which spring from a new responsibility for the Word
of God in the liturgy,(56) go yet deeper and concern the inner attitude with
which the ministers of the Word perform their function in the liturgical
assembly.(57) This responsibility also concerns the choice of texts. The choice
has already been made by the competent ecclesiastical authority, which has also
made provision for the cases in which readings more suited to a particular
situation may be chosen.(58) Furthermore, it must always be remembered that only
the Word of God can be used for Mass readings. The reading of Scripture cannot
be replaced by the reading of other texts, however much they may be endowed with
undoubted religious and moral values. On the other hand such texts can be used
very profitably in the homily. Indeed the homily is supremely suitable for the
use of such texts, provided that their content corresponds to the required
conditions, since it is one of the tasks that belong to the nature of the homily
to show the points of convergence between revealed divine wisdom and noble human
thought seeking the truth by various paths.
The Table of the Bread of the Lord
11. The other table of the Eucharistic Mystery, that of the Bread of the Lord,
also requires reflection from the viewpoint of the present- ay liturgical
renewal. This is a question of the greatest importance, since it concerns a
special act of living faith, and indeed, as has been attested since the earliest
centuries,(59) it is a manifestation of worship of Christ, who in Eucharistic
Communion entrusts Himself to each one of us, to our hearts, our consciences,
our lips and our mouths, in the form of food. Therefore there is special need,
with regard to this question, for the watchfulness spoken of by the Gospel, on
the part of the pastors who have charge of eucharistic worship and on the part
of the People of God, whose "sense of the faith"(60) must be very alert and
acute particularly in this area.
I therefore wish to entrust this question to the heart of each one of you,
venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate. You must above all make it part
of your care for all the churches entrusted to you. I ask this of you in the
name of the unity that we have received from the Apostles as our heritage unity.
This unity came to birth, in a sense, at the table of the Bread of the Lord on
Holy Thursday. With the help of your brothers in the priesthood, do all you can
to safeguard the sacred dignity of the eucharistic ministry and that deep spirit
of Eucharistic Communion which belongs in a special way to the Church as the
People of God, and which is also a particular heritage transmitted to us from
the Apostles, by various liturgical traditions, and by unnumbered generations of
the faithful, who were often heroic witnesses to Christ, educated in "the school
of the cross" (Redemption) and of the Eucharist.
It must be remembered that the Eucharist as the table of the Bread of the Lord
is a continuous invitation. This is shown in the liturgy when the celebrant says:
"This is the Lamb of God. Happy are those who are called to his supper"(61); it
is also shown by the familiar Gospel parable about the guests invited to the
marriage banquet.(62) Let us remember that in this parable there are many who
excuse themselves from accepting the invitation for various reasons.
Moreover our Catholic communities certainly do not lack people who could
participate in Eucharistic Communion and do not, even though they have no
serious sin on their conscience as an obstacle. To tell the truth, this attitude,
which in some people is linked with an exaggerated severity, has changed in the
present century, though it is still to be found here and there. In fact what one
finds most often is not so much a feeling of unworthiness as a certain lack of
interior willingness, if one may use this expression, a lack of Eucharistic "hunger"
and "thirst," which is also a sign of lack of adequate sensitivity towards the
great sacrament of love and a lack of understanding of its nature.
However, we also find in recent years another phenomenon. Sometimes, indeed
quite frequently, everybody participating in the eucharistic assembly goes to
Communion; and on some such occasions, as experienced pastors confirm, there has
not been due care to approach the sacrament of Penance so as to purify one's
conscience. This can of course mean that those approaching the Lord's table find
nothing on their conscience, according to the objective law of God, to keep them
from this sublime and joyful act of being sacramentally united with Christ. But
there can also be, at least at times, another idea behind this: the the life of
our communities to lose the good quality of sensitiveness of Christian
conscience, guided solely by respect for Christ, who, when He is received in the
Eucharist, should find in the heart of each of us a worthy abode. This question
is closely linked not only with the practice of the sacrament of Penance but
also with a correct sense of responsibility for the whole deposit of moral
teaching and for the precise distinction between good and evil, a distinction
which then becomes for each person sharing in the Eucharist the basis for a
correct judgment of self to be made in the depths of the personal conscience. St.
Paul's words, "Let a man examine himself,"(64) are well known; this judgment is
an indispensable condition for a personal decision whether to approach
Eucharistic Communion or to abstain.
Celebration of the Eucharist places before us many other requirements regarding
the ministry of the eucharistic table. Some of these requirements concern only
priests and deacons, others concern all who participate in the Eucharistic
Liturgy. Priests and deacons must remember that the service of the table of the
Bread of the Lord imposes on them special obligations which refer in the first
place to Christ Himself present in the Eucharist and secondly to all who
actually participate in the Eucharist or who might do so. With regard to the
first, perhaps it will not be superfluous to recall the words of the Pontifical
which on the day of ordination the bishop addresses to the new priest as he
hands to him on the paten and in the chalice the bread and wine offered by the
faithful and prepared by the deacon: "Accipe oblationem plebis sanctae Deo
offerendam. Agnosce quod agis, imitare quod tractabis, et vitam tuam mysterio
dominicae crucis conforma."(65) This last admonition made to him by the bishop
should remain as one of the most precious norms of his eucharistic ministry.
It is from this admonition that the priest's attitude in handling the bread and
wine which have become the body and blood of the Redeemer should draw its
inspiration. Thus it is necessary for all of us who are ministers of the
Eucharist to examine carefully our actions at the altar, in particular the way
in which we handle that food and drink which are the body and blood of the Lord
our God in our hands: the way in which we distribute Holy Communion; the way in
which we perform the purification.
All these actions have a meaning of their own. Naturally, scrupulosity must be
avoided, but God preserve us from behaving in a way that lacks respect, from
undue hurry, from an impatience that causes scandal. Over and above our
commitment to the evangelical mission, our greatest commitment consists in
exercising this mysterious power over the body of the Redeemer, and all that is
within us should be decisively ordered to this. We should also always remember
that to this ministerial power we have been sacramentally consecrated, that we
have been chosen from among men "for the good of men."(66) We especially, the
priests of the Latin Church, whose ordination rite added in the curse of the
centuries the custom of anointing the priest's hands, should think about this.
In some countries the practice of receiving Communion in the hand has been
introduced. This practice has been requested by individual episcopal conferences
and has received approval from the Apostolic See. However, cases of a deplorable
lack of respect towards the eucharistic species have been reported, cases which
are imputable not only to the individuals guilty of such behavior but also to
the pastors of the church who have not been vigilant enough regarding the
attitude of the faithful towards the Eucharist. It also happens, on occasion,
that the free choice of those who prefer to continue the practice of receiving
the Eucharist on the tongue is not taken into account in those places where the
distribution of Communion in the hand has been authorized. It is therefore
difficult in the context of this present letter not to mention the sad phenomena
previously referred to. This is in no way meant to refer to those who, receiving
the Lord Jesus in the hand, do so with profound reverence and devotion, in those
countries where this practice has been authorized.
But one must not forget the primary office of priests, who have been consecrated
by their ordination to represent Christ the Priest: for this reason their hands,
like their words and their will, have become the direct instruments of Christ.
Through this fact, that is, as ministers of the Holy Eucharist, they have a
primary responsibility for the sacred species, because it is a total
responsibility: they offer the bread and wine, they consecrate it, and then
distribute the sacred species to the participants in the assembly who wish to
receive them. Deacons can only bring to the altar the offerings of the faithful
and, once they have been consecrated by the priest, distribute them. How
eloquent therefore, even if not of ancient custom, is the rite of the anointing
of the hands in our Latin ordination, as though precisely for these hands a
special grace and power of the Holy Spirit is necessary!
To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a
privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the
ministry of the Eucharist. It is obvious that the Church can grant this faculty
to those who are neither priests nor deacons, as is the case with acolytes in
the exercise of their ministry, especially if they are destined for future
ordination, or with other lay people who are chosen for this to meet a just need,
but always after an adequate preparation.
A Common Possession of the Church
12. We cannot, even for a moment, forget that the Eucharist is a special
possession belonging to the whole Church. It is the greatest gift in the order
of grace and of sacrament that the divine Spouse has offered and unceasingly
offers to His spouse. And precisely because it is such a gift, all of us should
in a spirit of profound faith let ourselves be guided by a sense of truly
Christian responsibility. A gift obliges us ever more profoundly because it
speaks to us not so much with the force of a strict right as with the force of
personal confidence, and thus-without legal obligations-it calls for trust and
gratitude. The Eucharist is just such a gift and such a possession. We should
remain faithful in every detail to what it expresses in itself and to what it
ask of us, namely, thanksgiving.
The Eucharist is a common possession of the whole Church as the sacrament of her
unity. And thus the Church has the strict duty to specify everything which
concerns participation in it and its celebration. We should therefore act
according to the principles laid down by the last Council, which, in the
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, defined the authorizations and obligations
of individual bishops in their dioceses and of the episcopal conferences, given
the fact that both act in collegial unity with the Apostolic See.
Furthermore we should follow the directives issued by the various departments of
the Holy See in this field: be it in liturgical matters, in the rules
established by the liturgical books in what concerns the Eucharistic
Mystery,(67) and in the Instructions devoted to this mystery, be it with regard
to communication in sacris, in the norms of the Directorium de re oecumenica(68)
and in the Instructio de peculiaribus casibus admittendi alios christianos ad
communionem eucharisticam in Ecclesia catholica.(69) And although at this stage
of renewal the possibility of a certain "creative" freedom has been permitted,
nevertheless this freedom must strictly respect the requirements of substantial
unity. We can follow the path of this pluralism (which arises in part from the
introduction itself of the various languages into the liturgy) only as long as
the essential characteristics of the celebration of the Eucharist are preserved,
and the norms prescribed by the recent liturgical reform are respected.
Indispensable effort is required everywhere to ensure that within the pluralism
of eucharistic worship envisioned by the Second Vatican Council the unity of
which the Eucharist is the sign and cause is clearly manifested.
This task, over which in the nature of things the Apostolic See must keep
careful watch, should be assumed not only by each episcopal conference but by
every minister of the Eucharist, without exception. Each one should also
remember that he is responsible for the common good of the whole Church. The
priest as minister, as celebrant, as the one who presides over the eucharistic
assembly of the faithful, should have a special sense of the common good of the
Church, which he represents through his ministry, but to which he must also be
subordinate, according to a correct discipline of faith. He cannot consider
himself a "proprietor" who can make free use of the liturgical text and of the
sacred rite as if it were his own property, in such a way as to stamp it with
his own arbitrary personal style. At times this latter might seem more effective,
and it may better correspond to subjective piety; nevertheless, objectively it
is always a betrayal of that union which should find its proper expression in
the sacrament of unity.
Every priest who offers the holy Sacrifice should recall that during this
Sacrifice it is not only he with his community that is praying but the whole
Church, which is thus expressing in this sacrament her spiritual unity, among
other ways by the use of the approved liturgical text. To call this position
"mere insistence on uniformity" would only show ignorance of the objective
requirements of authentic unity, and would be a symptom of harmful individualism.
This subordination of the minister, of the celebrant, to the mysterium which has
been entrusted to him by the Church for the good of the whole People of God,
should also find expression in the observance of the liturgical requirements
concerning the celebration of the holy Sacrifice. These refer, for example, to
dress, in particular to the vestments worn by the celebrant. Circumstances have
of course existed and continue to exist in which the prescriptions do not oblige.
We have been greatly moved when reading books written by priests who had been
prisoners in extermination camps, with descriptions of Eucharistic Celebrations
without the above- mentioned rules, that is to say, without an altar and without
vestments. But although in those conditions this was a proof of heroism and
deserved profound admiration, nevertheless in normal conditions to ignore the
liturgical directives can be interpreted as a lack of respect towards the
Eucharist, dictated perhaps by individualism or by an absence of a critical
sense concerning current opinions, or by a certain lack of a spirit of faith.
Upon all of us who, through the grace of God, are ministers of the Eucharist,
there weighs a particular responsibility for the ideas and attitudes of our
brothers and sisters who have been entrusted to our pastoral care. It is our
vocation to nurture, above all by personal example, every healthy manifestation
of worship towards Christ present and operative in that sacrament of love. May
God preserve us from acting otherwise and weakening that worship by "becoming
unaccustomed" to various manifestations and forms of eucharistic worship which
express a perhaps "traditional" but healthy piety, and which express above all
that "sense of the faith" possessed by the whole People of God, as the Second
Vatican Council recalled.(70)
As I bring these considerations to an end, I would like to ask forgiveness-in my
own name and in the name of all of you, venerable and dear brothers in the
episcopate-for everything which, for whatever reason, through whatever human
weakness, impatience or negligence, and also through the at times partial,
one-sided and erroneous application of the directives of the Second Vatican
Council, may have caused scandal and disturbance concerning the interpretation
of the doctrine and the veneration due to this great sacrament. And I pray the
Lord Jesus that in the future we may avoid in our manner of dealing with this
sacred mystery anything which could weaken or disorient in any way the sense of
reverence and love that exists in our faithful people.
May Christ Himself help us to follow the path of true renewal towards that
fullness of life and of eucharistic worship whereby the Church is built up in
that unity that she already possesses, and which she desires to bring to ever
greater perfection for the glory of the living God and for the salvation of all
13. Permit me, venerable and dear brothers, to end these reflections of mine,
which have been restricted to a detailed examination of only a few questions. In
undertaking these reflections, I have had before my eyes all the work carried
out by the Second Vatican Council, and have kept in mind Paul VI's Encyclical
Mysterium Fidei, promulgated during that Council, and all the documents issued
after the same Council for the purpose of implementing the post-conciliar
liturgical renewal. A very close and organic bond exists between the renewal of
the liturgy and the renewal of the whole life of the Church.
The Church not only acts but also expresses herself in the liturgy, lives by the
liturgy and draws from the liturgy the strength for her life. For this reason
liturgical renewal carried out correctly in the spirit of the Second Vatican
Council is, in a certain sense, the measure and the condition for putting into
effect the teaching of that Council which we wish to accept with profound faith,
convinced as we are that by means of this Council the Holy Spirit "has spoken to
the Church" the truths and given the indications for carrying out her mission
among the people of today and tomorrow.
We shall continue in the future to take special care to promote and follow the
renewal of the Church according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council,
in the spirit of an ever living Tradition. In fact, to the substance of
Tradition properly understood belongs also a correct re-reading of the "signs of
the times, which require us to draw from the rich treasure of Revelation "things
both new and old."(71) Acting in this spirit, in accordance with this counsel of
the Gospel, the Second Vatican Council carried out a providential effort to
renew the face of the Church in the sacred liturgy, most often having recourse
to what is "ancient," what comes from the heritage of the Fathers and is the
expression of the faith and doctrine of a Church which has remained united for
so many centuries.
In order to be able to continue in the future to put into practice the
directives of the Council in the field of liturgy, and in particular in the
field of eucharistic worship, close collaboration is necessary between the
competent department of the Holy See and each episcopal conference, a
collaboration which must be at the same time vigilant and creative. We must keep
our sights fixed on the greatness of the most holy Mystery and at the same time
on spiritual movements and social changes, which are so significant for our
times, since they not only sometimes create difficulties but also prepare us for
a new way of participating in that great Mystery of Faith.
Above all I wish to emphasize that the problems of the liturgy, and in
particular of the Eucharistic Liturgy, must not be an occasion of dividing
Catholics and for threatening the unity of the Church. This is demanded by an
elementary understanding of that sacrament which Christ has left us as the
source of spiritual unity. And how could the Eucharist, which in the Church is
the sacramentum pietatis, signum unitatis, vinculum caritatis,(72) form between
us at this time a point or division and a source of distortion of thought and of
behavior, instead of being the focal point and constitutive center, which it
truly is in its essence, of the unity of the Church herself?
We are all equally indebted to our Redeemer. We should all listen together to
that spirit of truth and of love whom He has promised to the Church and who is
operative in her. In the name of this truth and of this love, in the name of the
crucified Christ and of His Mother, I ask you, and beg you: Let us abandon all
opposition and division, and let us all unite in this great mission of salvation
which is the price and at the same time the fruit of our redemption. The
Apostolic See will continue to do all that is possible to provide the means of
ensuring that unity of which we speak. Let everyone avoid anything in his own
way of acting which could "grieve the Holy Spirit."(73)
In order that this unity and the constant and systematic collaboration which
leads to it may be perseveringly continued, I beg on my knees that, through the
intercession of Mary, holy spouse of the Holy Spirit and Mother of the Church,
we may all receive the light of the Holy Spirit. And blessing everyone, with all
my heart I once more address myself to you, my venerable and dear brothers in
the episcopate, with a fraternal greeting and with full trust. In this collegial
unity in which we share, let us do all we can to ensure that the Eucharist may
become an ever greater source of life and light for the consciences of all our
brothers and sisters of all the communities in the universal unity of Christ's
Church on earth.
In a spirit of fraternal charity, to you and to all our confreres in the
priesthood I cordially impart the apostolic blessing.
From the Vatican, February 24, First Sunday of Lent, in the year 1980, the
second of the Pontificate.
1. Cf. Chapter 2: AAS 71 (1979), pp. 395f.
2. Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXII, Can. 2: Conciliorum
Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. 3, Bologna 1973, p. 735.
3. Because of this precept of the Lord, an Ethiopian Eucharistic Liturgy recalls
that the Apostles "established for us patriarchs, archbishops, priests and
deacons to celebrate the ritual of your holy Church": Anaphora Sancti Athanasii:
Prex Eucharistica, Haenggi-Pahl, Fribourg (Switzerland) 1968, p. 183.
4. Cf. La Tradition apostolique de saint Hippolyte, nos. 2-4, ed. Botte,
Munster-Westfalen 1963, pp. 5-17.
5. 2 Cor. 11:28.
6. 1 Pt. 2:5.
7. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium,
28; AAS 57 (1965), pp. 33f.; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests
Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2, 5: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 993, 998; Decree on the
Missionary Activity of the Church Ad gentes, 39: AAS 58 (1966), p. 986.
8. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
gentium, 11: AAS 57 (1965), p. 15.
9. Jn. 3:16. It is interesting to note how these words are taken up by the
liturgy of St. John Chrysostom immediately before the words of consecration and
introduce the latter: cf. La divina Liturgia del nostro Padre Giovanni
Crisostomo, Roma-Grottaferrata 1967, pp. 104f.
10. Cf. Mt. 26:26-28; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-5; cf. also the
11. Phil. 2:8.
12. Jn. 13:1.
13. Cf. John Paul II, Homily in Phoenix Park, Dublin, 7: AAS 71 (1979), pp.
1074ff.; Sacred Congregation of Rites, instruction Eucharisticum mysterium: AAS
59 (1967), pp. 539-573; Rituale Romanum, De sacra communione et de cultu
Mysterii eucharistici extra Missam, ed. typica, 1973. It should be noted that
the value of the worship and the sanctifying power of these forms of devotion to
the Eucharist depend not so much upon the forms themselves as upon interior
14. Cf. Bull Trasiturus de hoc mundo (Aug. 11, 1264): Aemilii Friedberg, Corpus
lulris Canonici, Pars II. Decretalium Collectiones, Leipzig 1881, pp. 1174-1177;
Studi eucharistici, VII Centenario della Bolla 'Transiturus,' 1264-1964, Orvieto
1966, pp. 302-317.
15. Cf. Paul VI, encyclical letter Mysterium Fidei: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 753-774;
Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium: AAS 59
(1967), pp. 539-573; Rituale Romanum, De sacra communione et de cultu Mysterii
eucharistici extra Mts am, ed. typica, 1973.
16. John Paul II, encyclical letter Redemptor Hominis, 20: AAS 71 (1979), p.
311; cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,
Lumen gentium, 11: AAS 57 (1965), pp.15f; also, note 57 to Schema II of the same
dogmatic constitution, in Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici
Vaticani 11, vol. II, periodus 2a, pars I, public session II, pp. 251f.; Paul
VI, address at the general audience of September 15, 1965: Insegnamenti di Paolo
Vl, III (1965), p. 103; H. de Lubac, Meditation sur l'Eglise, 2 ed., Paris 1963,
17. 1 Cor. 11:26.
18. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen gentium, 11: AAS 57 (1965) pp.15f; Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10: AAS 56 (1964), p. 102; Decree on the Ministry and
Life of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordints, 5: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 997f.; Decree on
the Bishops' Pastoral Offlce in the Church Christus Dominus, 30: AAS 58 (1966),
pp. 688f.; Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity, Ad gentes, 9: AAS 58
(1966), pp. 957f.
19. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen gentium, 26: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 31f.; Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis
Redintegratio, 15: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 101f.
20. This is what the Opening Prayer of Holy Thursday asks for: "We pray that in
this Eucharist we may find the fullness of love and life": Missale Romanum, ed.
typica altera 1975, p. 244; also the communion epiclesis of the Roman Missal: "May
all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity
by the Holy Spirit. Lord, remember your Church throughout the world; make us
grow in love": Eucharistic Prayer II: ibid., pp. 458f.; Eucharistic Prayer III,
21. Jn. 5:17.
22. Cf. Prayer after communion of the Mass for the Twenty-second Sunday in
Ordinary Time: "Lord, you renew us at your table with the bread of life. May
this food strengthen us in love and help us to serve you in each other": Missale
Romanum, ed. cit., p. 361.
23. Jn. 4:23.
24. Cf. 1 Cor. 10:17; commented upon by St. Augustine: In Evangelium Ioannis
tract. 31, 13; PL 35, 1613; also commented upon by the Ecumenical Council of
Trent, Session XIII, can. 8; Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. 3, Bologna
1973, p. 697, 7; cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church, Lumen gentium, 7: AAS 57 (1965), p. 9.
25. Jn. 13:35.
26. This is expressed by many prayers of the Roman Missal: the Prayer over the
Gifts from the Common, "For those who work for the underprivileged"; "May we who
celebrate the love of your Son also follow the example of your saints and grow
in love for you and for one another": Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 721; also
the Prayer after Communion of the Mass "For Teachers": "May this holy meal help
us to follow the example of your saints by showing in our lives the light of
truth and love for our brothers": ibid., p. 723; cf. also the Prayer after
Communion of the Mass for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, quoted in
27. Jn. 4:23.
28. Eph. 4:13.
29. Cf. above, no. 2.
30. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Missionary Activity of
the Church Ad gentes, 9, 12: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 958-961f.; Decree on the
Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5: AAS 58 (1966), p. 997.
31. 1 Jn. 3:1.
32. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
gentium, 11: AAS 57 (1965), p. 15.
33. Cf. no. 20: AAS 71 (1979), pp. 313f.
34. 2 Pt. 3:13.
35. Col. 3:10.
36. Lk. 1:34; Jn. 6:69; Acts 3:14; Rev. 3:7.
37. Acts 10:38; Lk. 4:18.
38. Jn. 10:36.
39. Cf. Jn. 10:17.
40. Heb. 3:1; 4:15, etc.
41. As was stated in the ninth-century Byzantine liturgy, according to the most
ancient codex, known formerly as Barberino di San Marco (Florence), and, now
that it is kept in the Vatican Apostolic Library, as Barberini Greco 366 f. 8
verso, lines 17-20. This part has been published by F.E. Brightman, Liturgies
Eastern and Western, I. Eastern Liturgies, Oxford 1896, p. 318, 34-35.
42. Opening Prayer of the Second Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist: Missale
Romanum, ed. cit., p. 858.
43. 1 Jn. 2:2; cf. ibid., 4:10.
44. We speak of the divinum Mysterium, the Sanctissimum, the Sacrosanctum,
meaning what is sacred and holy par excellence. For their part, the Eastern
churches call the Mass raza or mysterion, hagiasmos, quddasa, qedasse, that is
to say "consecration" par excellence. Furthermore there are the liturgical rites,
which, in order to inspire a sense of the sacred, prescribe silence, and
standing or kneeling, and likewise professions of faith, and the incensation of
the Gospel book, the altar, the celebrant and the sacred species. They even
recall the assistance of the angelic beings created to serve the Holy God, i.e.,
with the Sanctus of our Latin churches and the Trisagion and Sancta Sanctis of
the Eastern liturgies.
45. For instance, in the invitation to receive communion, this faith has been so
formed as to reveal complementary aspects of the presence of Christ the Holy
One: the epiphanic aspect noted by the Byzantines ("Blessed is he who comes in
the name of the Lord: The Lord is God and has appeared to us". La divina
Liturgia del santo nostro Padre Giovanni Crisostomo, Roma Grotta ferrata 1967,
pp.136f.); the aspect of relation and union sung of by the Armenians [Liturgy of
St. Ignatius of Antioch: "Unus Pater sanctus nobiscum, unus Filius sanctus
nobiscum, unus Spiritus sanctus nobiscum" Die Anaphora des heiligen Ignatius von
Antiochien, libersetzt von A. Rucker, Oriens Christianus, 3 ser., 5 , p.
76); and the hidden heavenly aspect celebrated by the Chaldeans and Malabars (cf.
the antiphonal hymn sung by the priest and the assembly after Communion: F.E.
Brightman, op. cit., p. 299.
46. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 2, 47: AAS 56 (1964), pp. 83f.; 113; Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, 3 and 28: AAS 57 (1965). pp. 6. 33f.:
Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio 2: AAS 57 (1965), p. 91; Decree on
the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 13: AAS 58 (1966), pp.1011f.,
Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XXII, chap. I and II: Conciliorum
Oecumenorum Decreta, ed. 3, Bologna 1973, pp. 732f. especially: una eademque est
hostia, idem nunc offerens sacerdotum ministerio, qui se ipsum tunc in cruce
obtulit, sola offerendi ratione diversa (ibid., p. 733).
47. Synodus Constantinopolita adversus Sotericum (January 1156 and May 1157):
Angelo Mai, Spicilegium romanum, t. X, Rome 1844, p. 77; PG 140, 190; cf. Martin
Jugie, Dict. Theol. Cath., t. X, 1338; Theologia dogmatica christianorum
orientalium, Paris, 1930, pp. 317-320.
48. Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani, 49c: Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 39;
cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Ministry and Life of
Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5: AAS 58 (1966), pp. 997f.
49. Ordo Missae cum populo, 18: Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 390.
50. Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session 22, chap I, Conciliorum
Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. 3, Bologna 1973, pp.732f.
51. Col. 2:14.
52. Jn. 11:28.
53. Instituto Generalis Mlssalis Romani, 55f.: Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p. 40.
54. Cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium 35, 51: AAS 56
(1964), pp. 109, 114.
55. Cf. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction In edicendis normis VI, 17-18;
VII, 19-20: AAS 57 (1965), pp. 1012f.; Instruction Musicam Sacram, IV, 48: AAS
59 (1967), p. 314; Decree De Titulo Basilicae Minoris II, 8: AAS 60 (1968), p.
538; Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship Notif. De Missali Romano, Liturgia
Horarum et Calendario, I, 4: AAS 63 (1971), p. 714.
56. Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum: "We are fully confident
that both priests and faithful will prepare their minds and hearts more devoutly
for the Lord's Supper, meditating on the scriptures nourished day by day with
the words of the Lord": AAS 61 (1969), pp. 220f.; Missale Romanum, ed. cit., p.
57. Cf. Pontificale Romanum. De Institutione Lectorum et Acolythorum, 4, ed.
typica, 1972, pp. 19f.
58. Cf. Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani, 319-320: Missale Romanum, ed. cit.,
59. Cf. Fr. J. Dolger, Das Segnen der Sinne mit der Eucharistie. Eine
altchristliche Kommunionsitte: Antike und Christentum, t. 3 (1932), pp. 231-244;
Das Kultvergehen der Donatistin Lucilla von Karthago. Reliquienkuss vor dem Kuss
der Eucharistie, ibid., pp. 245-252.
60. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen gentium, 12, 35; AAS 57 (1965), pp. 16, 40.
61. Cf. Jn. 1:29; Rv. 19:9.
62. Cf. Lk. 14:16ff.
63. Cf. Instituto Generalis Missalis Romani, 7-8: Missale Romanum ed. cit., p.
64. 1 Cor. 11:28.
65. Pontificale Romanum. De Ordinatione Diaconi, Presbyteri et Episcopi, ed.
typica, l9ff8, p. 93.
66. Heb. 5:1.
67. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium: AAS 59
(1967), pp. 539-573; Rituale Romanum. De sacra communione et de cultu Mysterii
eucharistici extra Missam, ed. typica, 1973; Sacred Congregation for Divine
Worship, Litterae circulares ad Conferentiarum Episcopalium Praesides de
precibus eucharisticis: AAS 65 (1973), pp. 340-347.
68. Nos. 38-63: AAS 59 (1967), pp. 586-592.
69. AAS 64 (1972), pp. 518-525. cf. also the Communication published the
following year for the correct application of the above-mentioned Instruction:
AAS 65 (1973), pp. 616-619.
70. Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen gentium, 12: AAS 57 (1965), pp.16f.
71. Mt. 13:52.
72. Cf. St. Augustine, In Evangelium Ioannis tract. 26, 13: PL 35 1612f.
73. Eph. 4:30.