Benedict XVI’s Sermon for Corpus Christi: Jesus in our midst is the “beating Heart” of the home, city, country, territory

When I was in seminary, the faculty spoke with contempt of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and treated seminarians with such a devotion with suspicion and fear.  One of the things we heard was “Jesus said ‘Take and eat’ not ‘sit and look’”.  Benighted writers such as Richard McBrien have openly ridiculed Eucharistic Adoration as backward and harmful.

Benedict XVI, however, who with his Marshall Plan to revitalize our Catholic identity as we move closer to the Year of Faith, has a different idea.

Here is Benedict XVI’s sermon for the Solemnity of “Corpus Domini” as it is called in Italy.  Translation from Zenit.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This evening I would like to meditate with you on two interconnected aspects of the Eucharistic Mystery: the worship of the Eucharist and its sacredness. It is important to take it up again to preserve it from incomplete visions of the Mystery itself, such as those which were proposed in the recent past.  [Recognizing that there are problems out there, the Holy Father is making correctives and calling those who hold errors to task.  I like especially his use of "Mystery" from the onset.]

First of all, a reflection on the value of Eucharistic worship, in particular adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. [Not just during Mass, but also outside of Mass.] It is the experience that we will also live after the Mass, before the procession, during its development and at its end. A unilateral interpretation of Vatican Council II has penalized this dimension, restricting the Eucharist in practice to the celebratory moment. ["celebratory moment" = Mass.  In my writing and talking - as a matter of fact in a talk I must give today at the LMS Conference, I stress that when we speak of the Eucharist, we speak both of the Sacrament and also its celebration.  We can't just reduce the term to "Mass" or even worse vague "liturgy".] In fact, it was very important to recognize the centrality of the celebration, in which the Lord convokes his people, gathers them around the twofold table of the Word and the Bread of life, nourishes them and unites them to Himself in the offering of the Sacrifice. [He touches on "table" and stresses "Sacrifice".] This assessment of the liturgical assembly, in which the Lord works and realizes his mystery of communion, [Christ is the true Actor.] remains of course valid, but it must be placed in the right balance. In fact – as often happens – the stressing of one aspect ends up by sacrificing another. In this case, the accentuation placed on the celebration of the Eucharist has been to the detriment of adoration, as act of faith and prayer addressed to the Lord Jesus, really present in the Sacrament of the altar. This imbalance has also had repercussions on the spiritual life of the faithful. [Truer words were never spoken.] In fact, concentrating the whole relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus only at the moment of Holy Mass risks removing his presence from the rest of time and the existential space. And thus, perceived less is the sense of the constant presence of Jesus in our midst and with us, a concrete, close presence among our homes, as “beating Heart” of the city, of the country, of the territory with its various expressions and activities. The Sacrament of the Charity of Christ must permeate the whole of daily life.  [There's a phrase to jot down on a card and keep in your hand missal.]

In reality, it is a mistake to oppose celebration and adoration, as if they were in competition with one another. It is precisely the contrary: the worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament is as the spiritual “environment” in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth. Only if it is preceded, accompanied and followed by this interior attitude of faith and adoration, can the liturgical action express its full meaning and value. The encounter with Jesus in the Holy Mass is truly and fully acted when the community is able to recognize that, in the Sacrament, He dwells in his house, waits for us, invites us to his table, then, after the assembly is dismissed, stays with us, with his discreet and silent presence, and accompanies us with his intercession, continuing to gather our spiritual sacrifices and offering them to the Father.  [Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament fosters in us a greater receptivity.]

In this connection, I am pleased to stress the experience we will also live together this evening. At the moment of adoration, we are all on the same plane, kneeling before the Sacrament of Love. The common and ministerial priesthoods are united in Eucharistic worship. It is a very beautiful and significant experience, which we have experienced several times in Saint Peter’s Basilica, and also in the unforgettable vigils with young people – I recall, for example, those of Cologne, London, Zagreb, Madrid. [Who can forget Hyde Park in London, when silence dominated the TV broadcast as the monstrance was shown.] It is evident to all that these moments of Eucharistic vigil prepare the celebration of the Holy Mass, prepare hearts for the encounter, so that it is more fruitful. To be all together in prolonged silence before the Lord present in his Sacrament, is one of the most genuine experiences of our being Church, which is accompanied in a complementary way with the celebration of the Eucharist, listening to the Word of God, singing, approaching together the table of the Bread of life. Communion and contemplation cannot be separated, they go together. To really communicate with another person I must know him, I must be able to be in silence close to him, to hear him and to look at him with love. True love and true friendship always live of the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter is lived profoundly, in a personal not a superficial way. And, unfortunately, if this dimension is lacking, even sacramental communion itself can become, on our part, a superficial gesture. Instead, in true communion, prepared by the colloquy of prayer and of life, we can say to the Lord words of confidence as those that resounded a short while ago in the Responsorial Psalm: “O Lord, I am thy servant; I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid. / Thou hast loosed my bonds./ I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving /and call on the name of the Lord” (Psalm 115:16-17).

Now I would like to pass briefly to the second aspect: the sacredness of the Eucharist. Also here we heard in the recent past of a certain misunderstanding of the authentic message of Sacred Scripture. The Christian novelty [Don't be put off by that word. He is talking about something strikingly new rather than something odd.] in regard to worship was influenced by a certain secularist mentality of the 60s and 70s of the past century. [It is refreshing to hear from the Vicar of Christ a reference to that time frame as the source of trouble.] It is true, and it remains always valid, that the center of worship is now no longer in the rites and ancient sacrifices, but in Christ himself, in his person, in his life, in his paschal mystery. And yet, from this fundamental novelty it must not be concluded that the sacred no longer exists,  but that it has found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, incarnate divine Love. The Letter to the Hebrews, which we heard this evening in the Second Reading, speaks to us precisely of the novelty of the priesthood of Christ, “high priest of the good things that have come” (Hebrews 9:11), but it does not say that the priesthood is finished. Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15), established in his blood, which purifies our “conscience from dead works” (Hebrews 9:14). He did not abolish the sacred, but brought it to fulfillment, inaugurating a new worship, which is, yes, fully spiritual but which however, so long as we are journeying in time, makes use again of signs and rites, of which there will be no need only at the end, in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will no longer be a temple (cf. Revelation 21:22). Thanks to Christ, the sacred is more true, more intense and, as happens with the Commandments, also more exacting! Ritual observance is not enough, but what is required is the purification of the heart and the involvement of life.

I am also pleased to stress that the sacred has an educational function, and its disappearance inevitably impoverishes the culture, in particular, the formation of the new generations. [Thus, there is in our veneration of the Eucharist and its celebration also a "knock-on-effect" for culture.  This is the secondary effect of that phrase I use here "Save The Liturgy Save The World".] If, for example, in the name of a secularized faith, no longer in need of sacred signs, this citizens’ processions of the Corpus Domini were abolished, the spiritual profile of Rome would be “leveled,” and our personal and community conscience would be weakened. Or let us think of a mother or a father that, in the name of a de-sacralized faith, deprived their children of all religious rituals: in reality they would end up by leaving a free field to so many surrogates present in the consumer society, to other rites and other signs, which could more easily become idols. [Isn't that what is happening?] God, our Father, has not acted thus with humanity: he has sent his Son into the world not to abolish, but to give fulfillment also to the sacred. At the height of this mission, in the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood, the Memorial of his Paschal Sacrifice. By so doing, he put himself in the place of the ancient sacrifices, but he did so within a rite, [YES!  And He gave Holy Church His authority to govern those rites.] which he commanded the Apostles to perpetuate, as the supreme sign of the true sacred, which is Himself. With this faith, dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate today and every day the Eucharistic Mystery and we adore it as the center of our life and heart of the world. Amen.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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14 Responses to Benedict XVI’s Sermon for Corpus Christi: Jesus in our midst is the “beating Heart” of the home, city, country, territory

  1. Pastor Bonus says:

    I think this is a very significant homily from the Holy Father. Once again identifying the problem (ie. the ‘spirit of Vatican 2 rathern that its actual content) and emphasising the hermenuetic of continuity.

  2. irishgirl says:

    @ Pastor Bonus: Yes, I do, too!
    Kudos to the Holy Father!

  3. Theodore says:

    Fr Z. Thanks for posting this. It ties in nicely with the discussion relating to Rep Pelosi (infra) about her Catholicism being something that she puts on when she enters a church, and takes off when she leaves it.

  4. It appears that what the Holy Father always endeavors to emphasize is that “all things are good together, if you believe through love.” The Old Testament, the New Testament, the pre-conciliar Church and Her emphases on the Faith, the post-conciliar Church and *some* of her emphases, all of the Councils prior to Vatican II, and the Second Vatican Council itself. He emphasizes repeatedly that all things ought to be taken together in the Faith, but that emphasis should be placed on that which is more important in the hierarchy of ideas. For instance, Holy Mass is a wedding banquet and a Table, but it is MORE so a Sacrifice on an Altar. Both are great aspects of the Mystery, but the Sacrifice must be emphasized over the banquet. Similarly, the celebration of the Eucharist and the adoration of the Eucharist must be taken together, and all else, in orthodoxy and in proper order of importance. I love our Holy Father and his stability. May the Holy Ghost guide him and vivify him, so that strengthened he may shepherd the Holy Catholic Church as long as Leo XIII did.

  5. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Of course this is far from the first time that he’s said similar things, but as the Pope he’s kinda held back from repeating the obvious about the “spirit of Vatican II.” What’s interesting is his return to pointing out that part of why that “spirit” was so destructive, was that the idea was going around that all devotional activities should be stamped out. (And it’s true; in my parish, some devotions survived and were taught to us in school and by parents; and hence, our parish was a little less crazy than many and didn’t lose everything.)

    I just ran across this in the anthology Mary: The Church at the Source, in an article by Cardinal Ratzinger called “Thoughts on the Place of Marian Doctrine and Piety in Faith and Theology as a Whole.” There’s a whole bunch of stuff (in theologian technical language, of course) about how we can’t just see the Church as structures and people and theories; we have to love the Church with all our hearts, and Mary, and Jesus, and God. If you really love Mary, you won’t go chasing after crazy heresy stuff about Jesus. Your heart can help inform your head; and doing devotional stuff helps our hearts learn to love.

  6. Indulgentiam says:

    “To really communicate with another person I must know him, I must be able to be in silence close to him, to hear him and to look at him with love. True love and true friendship always live of the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter is lived profoundly, in a personal not a superficial way.” Poetry! Sheer, Absolute, Beautiful POETRY! I wonder if Father would allow me to place copies of this homily in all the pews? Tape it to every door of the Church? put it under every windshield wiper in the parking lot?!?

  7. ContraMundum says:

    I don’t know — this sounds like it might take more than one hour a week. Didn’t somebody say we weren’t supposed to “do church” any other time?

  8. mysticalrose says:

    This is absolutely beautiful. I particularly liked: “He did not abolish the sacred, but brought it to fulfillment, inaugurating a new worship, which is, yes, fully spiritual but which however, so long as we are journeying in time, makes use again of signs and rites, of which there will be no need only at the end, in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will no longer be a temple (cf. Revelation 21:22).” This is a very Thomistic sentiment — as human beings we are hylomorphic — so we can’t just spontaneously understand sacred mysteries in the same manner as non-corporeal beings (angels). We need rites and signs — concrete things — to encounter God. This runs contrary to the whole post-Hegel, post-Schleermacher “spiritualization” deal that is still reigning in liberal camps today.

  9. mysticalrose says:

    That should be “Schleiermacher.”

  10. pm125 says:

    ” With this faith, dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate today and every day the Eucharistic Mystery and we adore it as the center of our life and heart of the world. Amen. ”

    ” In fact, concentrating the whole relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus only at the moment of Holy Mass risks removing his presence from the rest of time and the existential space. And thus, perceived less is the sense of the constant presence of Jesus in our midst and with us, a concrete, close presence among our homes, as “beating Heart” of the city, of the country, of the territory with its various expressions and activities. The Sacrament of the Charity of Christ must permeate the whole of daily life. ”
    Thank you for printing this Sermon of Pope Benedict XVI. It’s clarity and eloquence.

    Oh – for the secular media, politicians, some ‘catholics’, and others who tag the Catholic Church to, at least, use this quote when describing ‘those people’ or Catholic ‘consciences’ in the interest of furthering an understanding for those who may wonder.

  11. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    If you don’t object, Fr. Z, let me post a link to NCR which has a horrific article promoting the LCWR. It begins: “The Eucharist will live only if we find a way for it to live outside the Mass. I heard this from a Catholic sister last year, who was quoting a lay parish worker…”

    http://ncronline.org/news/women-religious/essay-power-dying-hierarchy-illusion

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Massachusetts Catholic — Sigh. That’s sad. A lot of objectification of Christ and other people, a lot of bad information (how can “the waters be sick” now, when we’ve got them so much cleaner now than in living memory?), and yet there’s some reasonable stuff mixed in there with all the confusion. The Eucharist does live outside Mass; we often don’t try to live in Him.

    But it’s embarrassing for a Catholic magazine to publish some guy who admits proudly that he can’t even drag his butt to Mass once a week, unless it’s an article about “Why Some Catholics Don’t Drag Their Butts to Mass.” But then, he says that the wave of the future is having religion that’s different from ordinary life! Because somehow, Sunday Mass is ordinary, but the LCWR knows how to make you sing with the angels in Heaven?!

    Argh argh argh. Everything the heart longs for, we’ve already got. If you’ll drag your butt there, you can find it. If you write articles for this magazine, apparently you can’t even recognize irony, much less heart’s desire. Argh argh argh.

  13. Dennis D says:

    Every time I read BXVI’s weekly sermons it seems that to me every priest in the US, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America should be preaching the same sermon. We’re what–eight hour or so later–he should be required reading by the priests and bishops. Not only is the Pope a wonderful preacher, his love for us overwhelms me. This lion of orthodoxy is a lamb who pours out his love. We are blessed!

  14. FXR2 says:

    This Sunday I was traveling and away from Mater Ecclesiae. I and my family of six children attended the local Novus Ordo mass in north eastern Pennsylvania. I was astounded by the homily for Christ the King ‘Sunday’ which went something like this : ” We are what we eat. If we eat too many Crispy Creme donuts we start to look like a Crispy Creme donut. A long time ago there used to be processions around the churches and sometimes even through the neighborhoods. These processions are no longer needed because if we receive The Holy Eucharist worthily we become ‘little jesuses’ and we are our own procession to the rest of the world”
    I won’t repeat what my older children said on their way back to the cabin we were staying at. I am checking into a local Byzantine Catholic Church about 45 minutes away for the next time we are in the area.

    Please pray for our bishops and priests,

    fxr2