The opening of the Year of the Eucharist

Source: FSSPX News


1. The apostolic letter Mane nobiscum Domine

The 44th apostolic letter of Pope John-Paul II was presented to the public on October 8. Entitled Mane Nobiscum Domine, this document of 32 pages sets the tone of the Year of the Eucharist, which opened with the international Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico from October 10 to 17, 2004, and concludes with the ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops from October 2 to 29, 2005, at the Vatican. Here the Holy Father limits himself “to indicating some perspectives that can help all the faithful to have, during the Year of the Eucharist, attitudes that are unified, enlightened and fruitful”…“I don’t ask you to do extraordinary things, but that all the initiatives spring from a profound interior life”.

“The idea of such a eucharistic initiative has occupied my mind for some time now”, confided the Sovereign Pontiff. “In fact it is the natural development of the pastoral orientation I have desired to give to the Church, especially starting with the preparatory years leading up to the Jubilee”, he added. “I was definitely convinced – and still am now more than ever! – to work for the long term good of humanity”.

Insisting on the fact that the “culture of the Eucharist promotes a culture of dialog”, the pope emphasized that “it is a mistake to think that a public reference to the Faith could threaten the just autonomy of the state and civil institutions, or even that this could encourage intolerant attitudes”. For the pope, “the image of our broken world that began the new millennium with the specter of terrorism and the tragedy of war more than ever calls Christians to live the Eucharist as a great school of peace, where men and women are formed who, with different levels of responsibility in social, cultural and political life, become artisans of dialog and communion”. “Each Mass, even those celebrated in a hidden manner in some forgotten corner of the world, always bears the mark of universality”, he declared.

“The Eucharist is the vital center around which the young gather to nourish their faith and enthusiasm”, recalled John-Paul II, in the context of the upcoming World Youth Day to take place in Cologne in 2005. “Why then not make this Year of the Eucharist a time during which the diocesan and parish communities struggle in a special manner against some form or other of the numerous poverties of our world?” the sovereign pontiff asked, thinking in particular about “the drama of hunger which torments hundreds of millions of human beings”, about the sick, the elderly, the unemployed and immigrants.

Also, John-Paul II expressed the desire that this year be the occasion “to rediscover and fully live Sunday as the day of the Church”. He thus invites faithful Catholics to “incarnate the eucharistic perspective in their daily lives”. “It is especially urgent that this be realized in our secularized culture, which is impregnated with the neglect of God and which positively leads to the vain suffering of man”.

“The Mass must be placed at the center of Christian life, so that in each community people do everything possible to ensure that it is celebrated in a worthy manner, respecting the established norms, with the participation of the people and with a serious attention to the sacred character of chant and sacred music”, the sovereign pontiff said.

Since Vatican II, which authorized the mass to be celebrated in the vernacular, the pope affirmed that it is not enough “to proclaim the biblical passages in an understandable language if the proclamation is not done with care, necessary preparation, recollection on the part of the hearers and meditative silence.” “Attention must be given to the moments of silence in the celebration as is done in Eucharistic adoration”.

John-Paul II recalled the “sense of conviviality” which exists in the context of the Eucharistic meal, without however forgetting its “profound and above all sacrificial sense”. “But this special intimacy, which is realized in Eucharistic communion, cannot be understood in an appropriate way or fully lived outside of ecclesial communion”. Insisting on the “real” presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which distinguishes Catholics from Protestants, the pope said “that’s why the Church lays down conditions for fully taking part in the Eucharistic celebration”. First of all, this concerns hierarchical communion, founded on the understanding of the different roles and ministries, and also continually reaffirmed in the Eucharistic prayer by the mention of the pope and the diocesan bishop.

2. The press conference of Cardinal Arinze

Year of the Eucharist, suggestions and proposals, such is the title of the “humble” document, “offered to the particular churches” to help them at the beginning of this special year and published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on October 15, 2004. Msgr. Domenico Sorrentino, the secretary of this congregation, made this announcement to the press gathered in Rome on October 8. Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship emphasized that “the pope is not asking for extraordinary things but rather that all the initiatives be marked by a great spiritual depth. The priority must be given to Sunday Mass and Eucharistic adoration outside Mass”.

“The Year of the Eucharist must lead diocesan and parish communities to involve themselves particularly in the question of the different forms of poverty in the world, such as hunger and disease, especially in the developing countries, the loneliness of the elderly, unemployment and the suffering of immigrants”, said Cardinal Arinze. “This criteria of charity will be the sign of the authenticity of our eucharistic celebrations.

“The eucharistic mystery is the root, the foundation and the secret … of each initiative of the local church”, recalled the Nigerian cardinal commenting on the pope’s words. “The Eucharist is Christ really and substantially present. This mystery must be celebrated with great faith, according to established liturgical norms”, underscored the author of Dignitatis Sacramentum, the recent instruction on Eucharistic norms. He also evoked the respectful attitude one must adopt in churches. “Our ways of celebrating Mass must manifest our awareness of the real presence of Christ. The moments of silence must not be forgotten”, the prelate insisted, as well as “long periods of adoration of Jesus present in the tabernacle”, “adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament outside mass”, biblical meditation centered on Christ and the procession of the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, to which parishes and religious communities must give particular importance this year.

“The upcoming Year of the Eucharist is a propitious time to attentively study the general arrangement of the (new) Roman Missal in its third version and nourish the faithful with a rich catechesis”, the prelate suggested. “Much can be done” with regard to this sacrament, he insisted: “congregations and monasteries can decide to add an hour more of adoration per week, universities can have professors speak on the theme of the eucharistic mystery”, he said by way of example. “The Mass sends us out to evangelize the family, politics, the market, schools, hospitals, those who work in hotels or with airlines” … “it’s very dynamic”, he said.

For his part, Msgr. Sorrentino declared: “there are three great foundational preoccupations which emerge from the initiatives of the pope over the last few years, and on the basis of which he works out his strategy and his ideas”. The first is that of “beginning again with Christ”. The temptation of our time being that of undervaluing the figure of Christ, he thus wants to underline “the importance for the Church of becoming the bearer of the mystery of Christ”. The second is that of the primacy of contemplation”, for Christ “makes Himself known and is encountered” when He is contemplated in an authentic way. The third is that of “the urgency of the lived experience or of witness” in which the pope calls for the translation of what the Church lives into a testimony.

At the end of the press conference, Msgr. Mauro Parmeggiani, Secretary of the Vicariate of Rome, indicated the initiatives taken by the pope’s diocese, on the occasion of the Year of the Eucharist. Thus he cited the hour of adoration of the youth with the Holy Father to take place on March 17, 2005 in St. Peter’s Square and the opening in the historic center of Rome of churches proposing perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as in the major basilicas where eucharistic adoration will be possible in a side chapel in the company of a religious congregation and the support of a school of evangelization for youth. He also explained that particular attention will be given to the poor and to the “newly poor”, such as broken or exiled families, and that the accent will be placed on the Sacrament of the Eucharist in catechesis aimed at children, as well as adolescents and adults.