Catholic World News

Celebrating Corpus Christi, Pope stresses sacred character of Eucharist

June 07, 2012

The Eucharist is “the sacrament of the charity of Christ,” which “must permeate all of daily life,” Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed as he led the celebrations of Corpus Christi in Rome.

The Holy Father led the traditional Eucharistic procession through the streets of Rome, from the basilica of St. John Lateran to that of St. Mary Major, on June 7. The feast—a holiday in Rome—is celebrated in other dioceses around the world on the following Sunday.

In his homily, before beginning the procession, the Pope said that inaccurate interpretations of Vatican II have damaged the understanding of the Blessed Sacrament, “practically reducing the Eucharist to the moment of its celebration.” The Council, he said, had emphasized the community celebration. But he explained that the results were not in accord with the Council’s intentions:

In fact, as often happens, to highlight one aspect, you end up sacrificing another. In this case, the emphasis placed on the celebration of the Eucharist has been to the detriment of worship, as an act of faith and prayer to the Lord Jesus, truly present in the sacrament of the altar.

This result has been costly, the Pope said, because the faithful have tended to focus their relationship with Jesus exclusively on the celebration of the Mass:

And so you feel less a sense of the constant presence of Jesus among us and with us, a concrete presence, nearby, including our homes, as a "beating heart" of the city, the country, the territory with its various expressions and activities.

A proper understanding of the Eucharist would balance the celebration of the liturgy with the adoration of Jesus present in the Sacrament, the Pope said. “In reality, it is wrong to oppose the celebration and adoration, as if they were in competition with each other. It's just the opposite.”

Next Pope Benedict spoke about the sacred character of the Eucharistic liturgy. He remarked that in the 1960s and 1970s there was a drive to focus the attention of the faithful not on sacred rituals but on the person of Jesus Christ. While the focus on Jesus is healthy, the Pontiff said, one must also realize that Jesus “did not abolish the sacred, but he has brought it to fulfillment.” More than that, he said, “Because of Christ, the sacredness is more real, more intense, and, as with the commandments, even more demanding!”

Finally the Pope spoke about the “educational function” of the Eucharistic liturgy, saying that “its disappearance inevitably impoverishes culture.” The City of Rome would be “flattened,” he said, if the annual Corpus Christi procession were abolished. He added:

Or we may think of a mother and father who, in the name of a desacralized faith, would deprive their children of all religious rituals: in fact they would end up leaving the field open to many surrogates in the consumer society, with other rites and other signs, which more easily could become idols.

Further information:
Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 1 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: koinonia - Jun. 08, 2012 7:02 AM ET USA

    Beautiful and poignant reflections by the Holy Father which emphasize the Church's pastoral love for and understanding of human beings. The persistent effort at redirecting the Church's pastors is an ongoing theme of this pontificate. We human beings need this "sacrament of the charity of Christ" and the awe-inspiring traditional liturgical practices and ceremonies that help elevate our hearts and minds to the transcendant. The Church is unparalled in her understanding of our humanness.