June-July 2012 —
Amid crises and scandals, Pope Benedict returns to the heart of the faith: the presence of the risen Lord in the Eucharist, both at the moment of consecration, and in Eucharistic adoration
“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.” —Pope Benedict XVI, homily for the Feast of Corpus Christi, Rome, at St. John Lateran, giving reasons for the regular practice of Eucharistic adoration
As problems and challenges continue to buffet the “bark of Peter,” Pope Benedict is emphasizing the essential: Christ. Communicating with Christ. Listening to Him. Being close to Him. Encountering Him, in communion, and in Eucharistic adoration. Loving Him. And, in loving Him, coming to love others more deeply, more truly, more faithfully.
This is, we might say, the “Benedictine way” — the Christ-centered essence pf Benedict’s papacy. It is the way the Church has always followed, and must always follow — especially when challenges and problems abound. It is a way we tend to forget, to lose sight of, and, when that happens, the inevitable problems and challenges can become overwhelming. But when we hold fast to the essential, Benedict is saying, when we hold fast to Christ, who is with us, near us, just next to us, even in us, then all challenges, all problems, can be faced and overcome.
The Pope was particularly forcused on this point on June 7 in Rome, the Feast of Corpus Christi — the Feast which celebrates the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and in the Church, his mystical body.
In his homly for the Feast, the Pope was at pains to defend and recommend the pious practice of eucharistic adoration as a way of growing close to Christ, and staying close to Him.
A misunderstanding of the Second Vatican Council has led some to think that eucharistic adoration and eucharistic processions are pietistic practices far less important than the sacred celebration of the Mass, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“A unilateral interpretation of the Second Vatican Council has penalized this dimension” of Catholic faith, which is to recognize Jesus truly present in the Eucharist and worthy of adoration, the Pope said in his homily.
The evening Mass outside Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran preceded a time of silent adoration, then the Pope’s traditional Corpus Christi procession with the Eucharist through the streets of Rome to St. Mary Major.
In his homily, the Pope told the thousands gathered on the basilica lawn that it is important to recognize the centrality of the celebration of Mass, the moment in which the Lord gathers his people, nourishes them, and unites them to himself in offering his sacrifice.
But if Christ is seen as present in the Eucharist only during Mass, “this imbalance has repercussions on the spiritual life of the faithful,” who need to be aware of “the constant presence of Jesus among us and with us,” the Pope said. “The sacrament of the charity of Christ must permeate all one’s daily life,” he said.
Celebration and adoration are not in competition, the Pope said. “Worshipping the Blessed Sacrament constitutes something like the spiritual environment in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth.”
Pope Benedict said Mass is most meaningful when the faithful recognize that in the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord is present, “awaits us, invites us to his table and then, after the assembly disperses, remains with us with his discrete and silent presence.” Spending time in silence before the Eucharist “is one of the most authentic experiences of our being Church.” If we truly enter into communion with someone, he said, we “exchange glances” and there are “intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration.”
Benedict said another misunderstanding — one influenced “by a certain secular mentality” of the 1960s and ’70s — was the idea that the Bible teaches that with the coming of Christ, rituals and sacrifices no longer should have meaning; basically, he said, some people believe “the sacred no longer exists.” It is true that Christ inaugurated a new form of worship, one tied less to a place and a ritual and more to his person, but people still need “signs and rites,” the Pope said. In fact, without its annual Corpus Christi procession, “the spiritual profile of Rome” would change.
Preceded by children who recently made their first Communions, priests, bishops and cardinals walking to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Pope Benedict rode on the back of a truck facing the Blessed Sacrament, which was held in a gem-studded gold monstrance. Thousands carrying candles walked behind. People watching from the sidewalks behind metal barriers tossed flower petals in front of the truck and joined in singing eucharistic hymns and reciting litanies.
Darkness fell as the procession made its way to St. Mary Major, and the evening ended with the Pope blessing the crowd with the Blessed Sacrament.