"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Sunday 31 March 2013




            “When the women returned from the tomb, they told all this to the Eleven and to the others, but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe.” “Pure nonsense”, that’s what we are celebrating tonight, “pure nonsense”. And thank God it’s the Gospel that says so. It’s plain to see that, from the beginning, the apostles and the other disciples found the news of the empty tomb and the message of the angels to the women, that the Lord Jesus had risen from the dead, simply impossible to believe, unbelievable, in fact “pure nonsense”.

            So it doesn’t come as a surprise anymore when we read and hear all sorts of disparaging remarks about Jesus, the Resurrection, the Gospel, the Christian faith and, above all, the Catholic Church. We’ve heard it all before, so why get upset? For us Christians, the more we hear foolish things said about Jesus, the more we love him and want to be counted among his disciples. The more we hear his Church, our Church, criticised and insulted, the more we love her and try to be faithful to her teaching and way of life. Persecution, whatever form it takes, certainly separates the men from the boys, and I mean that inclusively.

            But let’s return to tonight’s Gospel and focus our attention on Jesus. We all learn by making mistakes and reflecting on personal experience. The same happened with the apostles. They listened closely to what the angels had told the women. “Why look among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here: he is risen. Remember what he told you; that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day.” But they were not convinced. They had to see and hear for themselves. These men weren’t dumb – they asked intelligent questions and thought things over seriously. Think of Thomas – “Unless I see the holes in his hands and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.”

Then, early in the morning on the first day of the week, something finally twigged in Peter’s mind. Hadn’t he heard Jesus talk about this very moment many times before his Passion? So he went running to the tomb and,  seeing it empty, came back home, amazed at what had happened. His doubts began to evaporate in the first light of dawn. He was beginning to believe. Only gradually, as Jesus appeared first to one, then to another, then finally to all of them, did the disciples come to believe that he had risen from the dead. To see is to believe, yet “blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.”

Tonight we give thanks to God for the gift of faith. It might still be “pure nonsense” for many, but for us Christians, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the source of our joy and the key that opens the door to the meaning of life and the meaning of death, the meaning of suffering and God’s ultimate purpose in creating all that exists.

We leave the final word to St Paul, writing to the Romans. “When we were baptised we went into the tomb with Christ Jesus, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life. When he died, he died to sin once for all, so his life in now life with God. So too you must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.”

On behalf of the monastic Community I wish you all a joyful and holy Easter. Christ is risen; he is risen indeed. Alleluia, alleluia.


Christ is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia !
The meaning of the word “gospel” reaches its fullness today: “Good News” We began our preparation by following Christ through Lent; then, we moved towards the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, followed by these last days in which we experienced the sadness of the loss and suffering of Our Lord, His crucifixion, His agonising death and finally His burial. It was very sad, indeed. However, as you know, crucifixion without resurrection brings just sadness and disappointment, as the two disciples experienced on the road to Emmaus. They did not understand what was going on because they did not understand God’s plan of salvation.  They, like the Apostles before them, experienced the loss of their beloved Master and Messiah.

Today we heard in the Gospel how Mary Magdalene, Peter and John went to the place were Jesus was buried. They in different ways experienced the Risen Lord. Mary of Magdala who went before dawn on first day of the week recognized the Lord who she first thought was the gardener.  Is it because she did not know that the One was talking to her was Jesus himself? I prefer to say that what she was looking for was the dead body of his Lord. It did not occur to her that her Lord was already risen from the dead. If we look at other stories about Christ's crucifixion, we may find that the religious leaders of the Jews were already suspicious of what was going to happen. They were suspicious that somebody else, one of Jesus’ disciples perhaps, may take His body and hide it in order to fulfil Jesus’ promises he made when he was still alive.

Peter, on the other hand, running with John the beloved disciple, went right into the tomb and saw the clothes on the ground and other cloth that was over Jesus’ head. Peter did not understand what Jesus said before. He also was looking for Jesus’ body. The Lord Himself needed to appear to him and to the other Apostles so that they could experience the promise of their Master and Lord.  The Apostle John saw and believed.   He reached the tomb first, before Peter and found the entrance open, just as Mary Magdalene had told him. He need to see first in order to believe. Blessed are those who cannot see and yet believe.[1] Even if he believed that Jesus rose from the dead, it was a surprise for him.

Every event now makes sense in the light of the resurrection. But though we followed the last week of Jesus’ life, it was not the same for us as for the Apostles and other disciples. As we went through the whole story of Jesus’ life, passion and death, we knew how this story would end. The disciples did not know it. We experienced Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, even Palm Sunday, knowing that on the third day Christ would rise again from the dead. They did not wait for his resurrection as we did after the celebration of Good Friday. For them the burial of their Master and Lord was the end of the story. I am sure that like the friends going to Emmaus, the Apostle Thomas, Mary Magdalene and other disciples, thought they would never see Jesus again. They suffered the pain of separation. They also were mortified that they could not ask forgiveness for having left Christ alone after his arrest in Gethsemane: Jesus was not with them any more.

As we know, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead and  angels, but, like most Jews, they were thinking of the resurrection from the dead on the Last Day. We remember the answer given by Martha, talking about Lazarus, her brother: "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day”.[2] They were thinking of a general resurrection in the future when the righteous ones will be gathered together by God in eternity.  For us, it is the Parousia, when the risen Christ will come again in glory. So, what they experienced in Jesus’ time was the lack of any belief that a single person can rise ahead of all the rest.  We have the advantage to know what Judas Iscariot did not.

So what they experienced after the resurrection was surprise, terror, amazement; rather than joy, gladness and rejoicing. They did not do what we are doing now, proclaiming that the Lord is risen. They kept hidden, fragile, without their Master who they always accompanied and with whom they ate. So, the Good News brought first by Mary Magdalen was for them something that could not enter their minds, as Thomas later manifested.

After the resurrection, what we see in the gospels is a combination of belief and unbelief, sadness and joy, recognition and incredulity, insecurity and certainty, reality as they were use to and yet a reality transformed.  Examples of that are all over the place. The disciples on the road of Emmaus were talking to Jesus about the same Jesus. They did not know who He was until the second Eucharist took place, in the breaking of bread; but suddenly he disappeared.  His eucharistic Presence was enough for them. This is a good example of how Christ interacts with us, now and here. First, He listens to the struggle going on in our minds, then He brings us an understanding of Scriptures, of Himself as the Word of God. He reveals Himself to us; then, He offers Himself in the Eucharist, He gives us His real presence, and finally he leaves us alone  in order that we can move forward. He wants us to realise what our minds cannot understand.   Very often, we pay too much attention to our own feelings, and this hinders the growth of our faith, just like Peter whose feelings conquered his faith, and he began to sink  in the sea as his trust in Christ crumbled before the force of the wind and the unfamiliarity of walking on water. So, what Christ did to the first Christians and what he does to us today is to introduce to his followers a new reality through an open door.,  It is an experience that Peter, John and James had on Mount Tabor when He was transfigured before them.  The entrance to the tomb was another door: John saw and believed.

Our experience of the Risen Lord is not like that of the disciples before the first Easter Sunday. Ours is more like the ones who knew how the story ended. Paul, for example, was one of the first who experienced the risen Lord, as he was lying on the ground near his horse. He knew what happened on the first Good Friday, he knew that the converted Jews were following a New Way. He heard about Him whom the people acknowledged as the One risen from the dead. He becomes an example of what it is for us to be Christians here and now. Nevertheless, Paul could only see the Risen Lord after three days of blindness. This blindness means more than a physical impediment. He was blind to what God did through his Son. He could not see what happened after Jesus' life, passion and death. It took time for him to realise that the One who spoke in the light was the One who was with him and who acccompanies everyone throughout the whole human history of Salvation. Who are you, Lord?, Paul said. That is what we ask every time we get stuck, when others or circumstances interrupt our ways, either by a great light of joy or by difficulties, suffering and spiritual blindness. Without that light that left Paul blind for so long and made him realise what had just happened, he probably would not  have been able to listen to God’s plan  for him. Sometimes, we need to be interrupted in our way in order to listen to what God wants to say to us.

The resurrection of Christ happens continually in us. The light that Paul saw is also poured on our faces all the time. God is calling us to ask: "Who are you Lord?" Jesus through his resurrection questions us to open our eyes, to stop being blind, as Paul and the disciples of Emmaus experienced. This joy of knowing that Christ is with us after his passion and death invites us to hope in Him, even if resurrection is still awaiting for us. From death to life, from darkness to light, from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, our lives also move towards the One who opened for us the door to Paradise. It is for us to walk on this open way. What happened on this day is too good to be real, but it is real!

So, today we celebrate the defeat of death in order that we may live a new life. We know for certain that we all will die one day, but it is unknown when and how. However, after our death, what will happen? Is it that we are going to experience an easier life than the one we have now, like being on a sabbatical year or permanent holidays to Spain in a very warm and nice weather, accompamied by a very good wine?  In one occasion I heard someone saying: Oh, thank God in heaven I don’t need to do anything or to deal with difficult situations”

The Gospels don’t tell us what the resurrection is about. What the narration after the burial tells us is that the relationship of Jesus with his followers is renewed. The terrified women received the message that Jesus will go before them to Galilee and there he will meet his disciples. So, eternal life is not a prolonged holidays from our duties. It is a renovation in our relationship with Christ. Christ is the centre of our lives and through him we make sense of our own lives. As we mentioned Martha’s affirmation about resurrection on the last day, we then contemplate Jesus answer to her: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” Those who believe in me even if he die, will live.” This explanation given by Jesus Himself allows us to understand within our limitations what resurrection means for us.

It is that through this relationship that the good thief experienced the resurrection in Christ. It is through the resurrection of Christ that many rose from the dead with Him on that very day, as the Gospel tells us. It is that through the intimate relation of Mary with her Son, she was lifted up to heaven. It is through our relation with Jesus that we begin our journey in this life that we may resurrect with him on the last day. The close relationship was initiated by the same Jesus at the very first Eucharist where His Body and Blood allows us to become one with Him. Thus, even if we die one day and in some place, our relationship with the Risen Lord allows us to defeat death and to enter into a new way of existence.

All of us have experienced death of our relatives and friends. Death remains a painful experience because it takes away people we love and care. Death has in its definition an end, end of physical abilities and of sounds of communication. People who die cannot eat, drink or say anything. But our relationship with friends and family remains. In Christ, this relation becomes unique He is the one who makes this relationship possible. We believe that our friends and family will rise as well, and in Christ we can become united with them again. On this day of Easter Sunday, Christ allows us to see further, to look up and meet others in Him: “I am the resurrection and the Life”

When we see the One who is the Resurrection and the Life, we face death. We become free to love, free to do what is right, free to give our lives away. This is what the Apostles experienced at martyrdom; this is what Christians for centuries understood about death. Now, we are called to do the same thing. Let us allow ourselves to be free to love, to do what is right, to give our lives away. The door has been opened by Jesus, in order that we may receive and hold on to the One who is the Resurrection and the Life.

Happy Easter!

Easter Sunday 2013:

                “Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and he believed.” What did the other disciple see and what did he believe? He saw nothing but an empty tomb with the linen cloths lying on the ground. At the end of the gospel we are told what he believed, “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” and that we have life in his Name. On that first Easter Day, St John has the Beloved Disciple come to faith in the risen Lord on the evidence of an empty tomb alone. 

The Letter of the Hebrews says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The joy and beauty of our Easter celebrations do not alter the fact that the true significance of this day is far harder for us to appreciate than the meaning of Christmas. We believe that God stepped into our world at Bethlehem to become part of human history and this causes a ray of light to fall even on those who do not share our faith. Passion and death are also easy to accept. They reflect the world in which we live and our own experience of suffering. Much as we try to avoid the thought, we know that death awaits us all and that one day we will give in to a force far greater than ourselves. So we celebrate Holy Week, especially Good Friday, without difficulty, grateful that God has shared with us the anguish and pain of suffering and death. But Easter is different. In his resurrection Jesus has not entered into the ordinary life of human beings; rather he has broken through its limitations and entered a new realm beyond our understanding. This is unknown territory for us all. God leads us into a vast, uncharted expanse and encourages us to follow him. Since we are only acquainted with things on this side of the grave, there is nothing in our experience that connects us with the news that Jesus is risen from the dead. Easter centres on something unimaginable and, in human thought and language, inexplicable and indescribable. 

The doubts of the disciples and their confusion cry out to us from every page of the resurrection accounts, culminating in the words of Thomas, “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.” Then, like Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus, there is their inability to recognise Jesus. Only when he was at table with them were their eyes opened when they recognised him in the breaking of bread.

 One of the strangest features of the resurrection narratives is his otherness or unrecognisability. For most of the disciples, an encounter with the risen Christ begins as a meeting with a stranger and Jesus often condemns the inadequacy of their earlier understanding. Mary Magdalene thought he was the gardener and asks where he has put Jesus. Rowan Williams writes, “Jesus is not what they have thought him to be, and thus they must ‘learn’ him afresh, as if from the beginning.

 Once again, John crystallises this most powerfully by presenting the disciples in their fishing boats, as if they had never known Jesus: they must begin again.” 

 Neither the disciples nor the evangelists, nor has the Church ever tried to iron out the differences between the various accounts of the Resurrection. The risen Christ was not a projection of the hopes of the first Christian community. The Resurrection of Jesus remains the greatest of all mysteries and yet it lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” 

The Church has always translated the Easter message into symbols, which point to things that words cannot express. The Paschal fire and the Paschal candle, for wherever light conquers darkness, something of the Resurrection takes place. Water, which can be both life-giving and life-threatening, is blessed for baptism so that we might die to sin and rise to new life in Christ. We bless people and things with holy water in order to establish oases of life and hope in the desert places of our world. 

With the constant singing of Alleluia, we join the song of the angels and saints in heaven, where every tear shall be wiped away and every sorrow and lament be ended. Like the beloved disciple we have seen and have believed, and we live in hope. We do not ask to see more than an empty tomb and we must be content to recognise Jesus in the breaking of bread and to hear his voice as he explains the Scriptures to us. Every day, encouraged by the celebration of the Easter mystery, we learn anew what it means to be a disciple of the Risen Saviour as we walk in faith. 

Faith is the greatest adventure there is, an invitation to go much further than we had anticipated or foreseen. It is a window that opens out into eternal life. Jesus asks us not to be afraid, but to trust in him and to follow him through darkness into light and from death to life. To Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, be glory and praise of ever. Alleluia. Amen.

(thanks to Irenikon & Mary Lanser)
From the Easter Sermon by Saint John Chrysotom:
 Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
  Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness! 
Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see. O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?  Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Saturday 30 March 2013



Holy Saturday

Once again the Church gathers her children by its light for the last confession and preparation.  Sacred reading and praise fill the long hours of the night, now as it always does.  But as the new fire of God's agape, the light of the knowledge that God alone gives us burns more brightly than usual in the assembly.

By the reader's desk the Paschal candle is burning; its light falls upon the pages of the Old Testament.  Christ casts his light into the darkness of the past, and shows everywhere the saving design of his love, which held man from the beginning in its hands, held him fast, and is today fulfilled.  The mind will never be more supple to receive this knowledge than tonight.  The long renunciation and penitence of the past week, the mystical suffering of the days just over have opened up all the senses to healing; the Paschal brilliance and the storm of joy in the Exsultet have raised them to the deepest things of God.  Time and its moments fall away, we are gathered inwardly into the still seeing of the inestimable agape.  Aemiliana Lohr OSB (my source: the year of grace)

Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev on the Gates of Paradise Being Opened for All Humanity
Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk
my source: Salt of the  Earth

As the last stage in the divine descent (katabasis) and self-emptying (kenosis), the descent of Christ into Hades became at the same time the starting point of the ascent of humanity towards deification (theosis). Since this descent, the path to paradise is opened for both the living and the dead, which was followed by those whom Christ delivered from hell.  The destination point for all humanity and every individual is the fullness of deification in which God becomes ‘all in all’. It is for this deification that God first created man and then, when ‘the time had fully come’ (Gal. 4:4), Himself became man, suffered, died, descended to Hades and was raised from the dead.

We do not know if every one followed Christ when He rose from hell. Nor do we know if every one will follow Him to the eschatological Heavenly Kingdom when He will become ‘all in all’. But we do know that since the descent of Christ into Hades the way to resurrection has been opened for ‘all flesh’, salvation has been granted to every human being, and the gates of paradise have been opened for all those who wish to enter through them. This is the faith of the Early Church inherited from the first generation of Christians and cherished by Orthodox Tradition. This is the never-extinguished hope of all those who believe in Christ Who once and for all conquered death, destroyed hell and granted resurrection to the entire human race.
(Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev)

(Jerusalem Monastic Community)

Good Friday: the Via Crucis in Rome



Friday 29 March 2013


What then is the Eucharist? Christ in his self-surrender, the eternal reality of the suffering and death of the Lord immortalized in a form that permits us to draw from it vitality for our spiritual life as concrete as the food and drink from which we draw our physical  strength. . . .Any attempt to “spiritualize” or “purify” it must destroy it. It is presumption and incredulity to try to fix the limits of the possible. God says what he wills, and what he wills, is. He alone “to the end” sets the form and measure of his love.

Then they walked up the valley until they came to a farm called Gethsemane. Jesus has often sat there with his disciples, teaching. . . .Only the three who had recently been with him on the mountain of the Transfiguration, Peter, James. And John,  accompany him. A terrible sadness overcomes the Lord – sadness “unto death” says Holy Scripture. . . .Alone, he advances a few paces, falls on his face and prays. This is no place for psychology. When guided by reverence and warmed by generosity, psychology is an excellent thing, doing much to help one human understand another. . . .

Psychology would explain Gethsemane similarly: the rejection by both the ruling class and the masses, the pilgrimage to Jerusalem with its tremendous experiences, the entry into the city, the terrible waiting of the preceding days, the treachery and the Last Supper – as a result of the prolonged strain now the breakdown. . . .But with Jesus any such explanation is bound to founder. If it is insisted upon, Holy Thursday is robbed of that weight and salutary power which can be sensed only in contrition and adoration. Here we can proceed solely through faith guided by revelation. . . .

What does faith tell us? Before all else who this man is there on his knees – the Son of God in the simplest sense of the word. For that reason he sees existence in its ultimate reality. . . .

No one has ever seen existence as Jesus saw it. . . . In that hour when his human heart lifted the world from its vapors of deception, he beheld it as otherwise only God beholds it – in all its hideous nakedness. What happened was truth realized in charity. And we are given the standpoint from which we too can see through and reject deception. For that is the meaning of salvation: seeing the world as Christ saw it and experiencing his repulsion of sin. 

Fr. Romano Guardini (1885 – 1968), author and academic, was one of the most important figures in Catholic intellectual life in 20th-century. His most famous book is The Lord (Gateway Editions). He was a mentor to such prominent theologians as Hans Urs von Balthasar and Joseph Ratzinger.

We shall build this post during the day.

The Cross of St Benedict at Pachacamac Monastery

It is precisely the veneration of the cross which serves the main ideas of the liturgical reform:  active participation of the believing people in the healing action of the rite.  For it is one thing to see the adoration the cross performed perhaps at a considerable distance by clergy, and another to enter oneself into the sanctuary to give answer in person to the Lord's decisive question:  'My people, what have I done to thee?'

If one is only an onlooker at this reverence, one can well let it go by, without being inwardly touched by it:  a fine ceremony which binds the individual to nothing.  But one who goes up and takes part must pledge himself to the crucified Lord for life and death, must offer his longing to have part in Jesus' suffering, to have a share in the Pasch, both here in ritual and in all the difficulty of daily life.... Understood and performed in such a way, the symbolic act of the veneration of the cross can become a true mysterium, if not in the perfect manner of the eucharist, still communicating a real union with the suffering and dying Christ.
                (Dame Aemiliana Lohr OSB) my source: Cathedral Liturgy (Seattle)

Latin American Good Friday

Talk on Good Friday       Belmont  Abbey,
by Dom Alex Echeandía                                              29th March 2013

Dom Alex Echeandia is a Peruvian monk of our Pachacamac monastery studying Theology at Blackfriars, Oxford, as well as iconography under Aidan Hart.  Br Alex is now a Deacon, and this talk he gave today to people doing a Holy Week retreat at our mother house, Belmont Abbey.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

 Tenebrae from Blackfriars, Oxford

We begin this talk with these words of Jesus taken from Mathew’s Gospel. Why do we call this day “Good Friday”? What is good about it? Is it because on this day Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified? Do we celebrate the fact that the Just One was the victim of a political and religious murder?

As we have been praying the Via Crucis a few minutes ago in the Abbey church, we have vividly imagined the kind of death Our Lord suffered. We realise that He indeed was put to death by the cruelest, most shameful mode of execution you could imagine; and on top of that, forsaken by God: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.  What's good about Good Friday?

Let’s travel together into the scenery of the first Good Friday. Here we see the suffering of Christ punished by the soldiers. Some of you will remember the film “The Passion” by Mel Gibson, in which Christ is presented in a very bloody way. Perhaps, some may think that what this film tells us is an exaggeration of what really happened. We cannot know for certain the physical details of what really happened; but the truth is that Christ really suffered for us, physically, mentally, with all his being, in order to save us all. The Son of God and Son of Mary came to earth to save us in every sense.

Let us look more closely at the cross, because it is the central point of Jesus’ passion and death.  At the beginning of his crucifixion, as Mark[1] tells us, Christ was offered the customary anaesthetizing drink to reduce the unbearable pain. Jesus refused to drink it because he wanted to bear the suffering consciously to the very end. Nevertheless, later on, in the middle of the day, he called out: “I thirst”.[2] He was offered soft wine or vinegar to drink. In this way, he reveals with this act the fullness of his humanity; it is a man who thirsts. This same Jesus also wept for Lazarus, rejoiced with the Apostles, reacted in the Temple, and was hungry in the desert at the beginning of his ministry.  Thus, Christ in the fullness of his humanity accepted freely to suffer and die for us.

When Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross, he drew all people to himself. He invites us to learn from Him who is gentle and humble of heart and to find rest in our souls. Christ from the cross teaches us how to live and how to die. Once more, He teaches his disciples, even if they had forgotten their teacher.

But Jesus was not alone at his crucifixion. As Luke tells us in his Gospel, the thieves were sharing the same suffering. The forgotten teacher found a good disciple at the very cross: the good thief.

In one of his sermons St Augustine[3] talks about it. He contrasts the attitude of hopelessness of the Jesus’ disciples after the crucifixion with the Good Thief's eagerness to learn to hope in the Lord. Augustine says that the disciples had forgotten their Master whereas the Good Thief had found his. I quote him by saying,

That cross was a classroom; that is where the Teacher taught the thief; the cross he was hanging on became the chair he was teaching from.   Here Augustine contrasts the disciples’ loss of hope after the crucifixion with the good thief’s willingness to learn to hope from Jesus, even as Jesus was hanging on the cross.

Jesus tells him “today you will be with me in paradise.” Why did he say that to the thief? It was not because he was sharing the same suffering, but because he acknowledged Jesus even when He was being tortured on the Cross. “You will be with me in paradise”. With me, he says. He doesn't simply say “You will be in paradise,” or “You will be with someone else.” No. He says: “You will be with me!” You will be filled and satisfied by the One you desire. Suddenly it comes to our minds the episode of the Samaritan woman: “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.”[4] In other words, what Jesus promised to the thief was that: “you will be satisfied when you see in majesty the One whom you acknowledge as crushed by humiliation and shame"


To this criminal, robber or murderer perhaps, who was sharing the same suffering as being crucified with him, he said: “Today, I tell you, you will be with me in Paradise,' - in Paradise, from which Adam, the first criminal, was expelled at the beginning of the sorry story of human history. So, how is it that two criminals are going to where the first criminal could not go back? He is making himself one with sinners, taking upon Himself all the sins, all the wickedness and evil perpetrated by the human race from the beginning to the end of time. 

Nowadays and in the past, society tells us that a criminal must suffer punishment for what he did. In this way, Jesus on the cross was making the sufferings of all suffering humanity his own, so that all suffering men, women and children may endow their sufferings, however cruel, repulsive, nasty, pointless they are, with the dignity and honour of being the sufferings of the Son of God.  Christ on the cross embodies all the pains we bear. Only through Christ on the cross can we make sense of the 
difficulties we have to put up with, the senseless pains we have to endure.

Good Friday: certainly it is good because it was necessary in order to see the Lord's rising from the dead. To do that, he had to die first, had to share our death, so that we might share in his resurrection. As the stone from the tomb in which Jesus was laid was opened after his death, and the veil of the Holy of Holies was divided in two from top to bottom; Good Friday is the door through which he, and we with him, pass through death to life everlasting.

This is what we as Christians understand by this holy day, but in the world we live in, people may ask you: What really happened on the first Good Friday? If you ask anybody, probably no one can give you a single answer; nor was a single answer given in Jesus own time either.

As you know I come from South America. There we have a very popular custom to dramatize the Passion of Christ: the Via Crucis.  It takes about two or three hours with so many events. It is actually beautiful to remember what it was like during the first Good Friday.

But in order see the picture in its wholeness and realise more vividly the passion and death of Christ, we need to avoid being stuck in the separate events, and join all of them in one single image as we introduce ourselves into the passion of our Lord, beginning with his arrest until his death on Golgotha.
Moreover, people involved in this sequence of acts understood and reacted differently to what was going on. For example, Mary, the Mother of God, and Jesus’ disciples had their own grief to cope with. Even within the group of Apostles, whose faith was tested, we may observe the difference of attitude between them. Moreover, the soldiers and guards regarded it just another duty they needed to fulfil. The Jewish and Roman authorities made decisions related to their religious and political affairs. Barnabas, on the other hand, had in Jesus’ arrest an opportunity for freedom; the crowds in Jerusalem on that very day saw in it nothing beyond one more public execution. You can probably compare it in today’s life with a traffic accident or with a fight between two men, people come close and watch for different reasons.

If someone who did not know what was happening during Jesus’ passion and death, he would have asked at that time: “What happened?” He would have received different answers. Today, if you ask anybody what Good Friday means for him or her, you probably will receive different answers as well. You would hear the belief that nothing was the same after that Friday; but also you would find in others indifference and ignorance.

So, what that Friday brought for us was “Goodness”, “Love” that are expressed in its fullness through the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary. It is inseparably connected to his life on earth before the crucifixion, and to his Resurrection. The whole creation experienced the fulness of God. It involved all humanity, including Israel, the chosen people. The crucifixion is the sign of God’s love and goodness, but sadly it easily stays short in our memories and our hearts.

This sacrifice on the cross shows the way Jesus Christ died, but this death happened once for all. There will be no repetition because Christ is risen. This is the mystery we celebrate at Easter every year in memory of Christ.

That is why the Eucharist is a sacrifice because it makes present the sacrifice of the cross and also it bears the fruits that come from that very cross. We receive the Body of Jesus, broken for us and our salvation as Holy Communion, and so once again we are mystically united not only with Jesus' suffering and death, but also his promise of resurrection and new life. We receive God's strength to carry on living in hope, as the good thief at the last moment of his life. The goodness of Good Friday is redemptive and transforming.

Without the cross, there is no resurrection. Without resurrection, the Passion is indeed a story of brutality, as the film of Mel Gigson shows, of the way in which fear and hatred seek to erase the humanity of their victims; but above all, it is a story of failure, of pointlessness, of despair.  In contrast, seen through the lens of the Resurrection, it is the story of triumph: the victory of love over hatred, of hope over despair, of life over death. This really makes sense when we name this very day as “Good Friday”.

Finally we reflect on what is going to happen this afternoon. The liturgy today is punctuated by periods of silence. It begins in silence as the ministers enter and prostrate before the altar. They venerate the cross and they depart in silence at the close of the ceremony. In a way we come to the liturgy on Good Friday so that He might address us Himself, that is why there is so much silence. We are silent so that we may not miss 'the word of the Cross'.

The power of the liturgy of Good Friday comes from the silent gaze of him who bore 'the weight of our sins on the tree of the cross. The liturgy of Good Friday allows us to bring all the damaged goods which have marked our lives, those of which we are aware and those we have suppressed or cannot articulate, to lay them at the feet of the crucified Lord. Together with the thief, all of us can make same prayer 'Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom'. On this day when a great silence descends over the church we all identify with the repentant thief and make it an opportunity to come close to the one who died for us.

[1] Mk 15:23

[2] John 19:27

[3] The Cross in the Christian Tradition: From Paul to Bonaventure, edited by Elizabeth Dreyer.

[4] John 4:14


            “Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall have mercy from him and find grace when we are in need of help.” With these words of encouragement and hope, the Letter to the Hebrews invites us today to look upon Christ Crucified with confidence, asking him for every grace and blessing. In the Intercessions that follow we pray for all mankind, then we venerate the Cross and, on it, the image of Jesus our Saviour, the Lamb of God. Throughout the Bible, God comes very close to his people and enters into a personal relationship with each one of them. He becomes their friend. How much more so in Jesus. Think of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Through his Incarnation he has destroyed the barrier between God and Man. In Christ we find both natures in the One Person: he is true God and true Man. “To have seen me is to have seen the Father.”

We see this clearly in St John’s Passion. Pontius Pilate plays a particularly important role in this Gospel. He is a tragic figure, finding Jesus innocent and wishing to release him, yet he is scared of the mob and frightened of losing his job. Instead of listening to his conscience, he acquiesces to the demands of the crowd, “Crucify him. Crucify him.” He knows what is right and does what is wrong. He is a coward and his only excuse is that empty question, “Truth? What is that?” Yet, when all is lost, he still has courage to say, “What I have written, I have written.” With that imperial inscription in three languages, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” he acknowledges the truth about Jesus. In every lie there is an element of truth. Many world leaders today profess being Christian and yet govern and legislate in a totally unchristian way, not wishing to offend the vociferous majority or even minority. Pilate is alive and well in our world.

In St John the women who follow Jesus to Golgotha stay close to him and not at a distance as in the other Gospels.  The two Marys, his aunt and the Magdalene, are mentioned by name, but not his mother or even the beloved disciple. “Woman, this is your son. This is your mother.” Here we have a different aspect of the new Israel, the Church, constituted in the new Exodus of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. At the Last Supper the Twelve were present, but now at Golgotha it is his mother and the beloved disciple. Jesus brings them into a mother-son relationship and thus constitutes a Church, which is a family of disciples and friends. It will be the beloved disciple who discovers the empty tomb and Mary Madgalene, the Apostle of the apostles, who first sees the risen Lord. The Church is not only hierarchic but a community of believers who love one other as of brothers and sisters and so constitute God’s family.

Finally, when Jesus bows his head and gives up the spirit, we meet another group of followers, who make up the Church of Christ. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea embrace the body of the dead Christ and prepare it meticulously for burial, laying it to rest in a new tomb in a garden. We are reminded of that garden where it all began, the Garden of Eden. “Unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies it remains a single grain.” We too share in the new creation of his Kingdom, that new heaven and new earth.

Christ invites us all to come to him with confidence and become his friends. In heaven there is room for all of us, for Peter and the apostles, for his mother and the beloved disciple, for the women who followed him from Galilee, for Simon of Cyrene and Veronica, for Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, for Pilate and his soldiers, for the scribes and Pharisees, even for Judas, such is the loving mercy of God. We must never forget that on Good Friday two mothers mourned the death of their sons. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more,” wrote St Paul. Today we approach with confidence the throne of grace, the Cross of Jesus, to receive mercy from him and find grace in our every need. To Him alone honour, glory and thanksgiving, now and for ever. Amen. 

Scriptural Rosary - Sorrowful Mysteries - EWTN -Part: 1 of 3 from objektivonemusic on GodTube.

Wednesday 27 March 2013


When the Lord gives himself as food to his disciples on the eve of his death, his Pasch, his suffering and death must be completed in that instant; completed, to be sure, not in a bloody manner as on Good Friday, but completed quite as really and actually, even though under the veil of symbolic action.  Words of blessing, of thanks, of transformation are spoken; the bread is broken; the chalice is passed around; the simple man who thinks in symbols rather than general ideas knows what has happened.  Here on the eve of the offering in blood the Lord has given himself for the sins of the world as God's scapegoat; and to men as food, to give them a share in God's life.  Not first in the bloody event of Good Friday, but in the symbolic meal of Thursday did this become real and present. (Aemiliana Lohr O.S.B.) my source: "Year of Grace"

"This is the work of God: that you believe
in him whom he has sent" (Jn 6:29)

The Church's eucharistic faith

6. "The mystery of faith!" With these words, spoken immediately after the words of consecration, the priest proclaims the mystery being celebrated and expresses his wonder before the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understanding. The Eucharist is a "mystery of faith" par excellence: "the sum and summary of our faith." (13) The Church's faith is essentially a eucharistic faith, and it is especially nourished at the table of the Eucharist. Faith and the sacraments are two complementary aspects of ecclesial life. Awakened by the preaching of God's word, faith is nourished and grows in the grace-filled encounter with the Risen Lord which takes place in the sacraments: "faith is expressed in the rite, while the rite reinforces and strengthens faith." (14) For this reason, the Sacrament of the Altar is always at the heart of the Church's life: "thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew!" (15) The more lively the eucharistic faith of the People of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples. The Church's very history bears witness to this. Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord's eucharistic presence among his people.

The Blessed Trinity and the Eucharist

The bread come down from heaven

7. The first element of eucharistic faith is the mystery of God himself, trinitarian love. In Jesus' dialogue with Nicodemus, we find an illuminating expression in this regard: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (Jn 3:16-17). These words show the deepest source of God's gift. In the Eucharist Jesus does not give us a "thing," but himself; he offers his own body and pours out his own blood. He thus gives us the totality of his life and reveals the ultimate origin of this love. He is the eternal Son, given to us by the Father. In the Gospel we hear how Jesus, after feeding the crowds by multiplying the loaves and fishes, says to those who had followed him to the synagogue of Capernaum: "My Father gives you the true bread from heaven; for the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world" (Jn 6:32-33), and even identifies himself, his own flesh and blood, with that bread: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" (Jn 6:51). Jesus thus shows that he is the bread of life which the eternal Father gives to mankind.

A free gift of the Blessed Trinity

8. The Eucharist reveals the loving plan that guides all of salvation history (cf. Eph 1:10; 3:8- 11). There the Deus Trinitas, who is essentially love (cf. 1 Jn 4:7-8), becomes fully a part of our human condition. In the bread and wine under whose appearances Christ gives himself to us in the paschal meal (cf. Lk 22:14-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26), God's whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us. God is a perfect communion of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At creation itself, man was called to have some share in God's breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). But it is in Christ, dead and risen, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, given without measure (cf. Jn 3:34), that we have become sharers of God's inmost life. (16) Jesus Christ, who "through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God" (Heb 9:14), makes us, in the gift of the Eucharist, sharers in God's own life. This is an absolutely free gift, the superabundant fulfilment of God's promises. The Church receives, celebrates and adores this gift in faithful obedience. The "mystery of faith" is thus a mystery of trinitarian love, a mystery in which we are called by grace to participate. We too should therefore exclaim with Saint Augustine: "If you see love, you see the Trinity." (17)

The Eucharist: Jesus the true Sacrificial lamb

The new and eternal covenant in the blood of the Lamb

9. The mission for which Jesus came among us was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery. On the Cross from which he draws all people to himself (cf. Jn 12:32), just before "giving up the Spirit," he utters the words: "it is finished" (Jn 19:30). In the mystery of Christ's obedience unto death, even death on a Cross (cf. Phil 2:8), the new and eternal covenant was brought about. In his crucified flesh, God's freedom and our human freedom met definitively in an inviolable, eternally valid pact. Human sin was also redeemed once for all by God's Son (cf. Heb 7:27; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). As I have said elsewhere, "Christ's death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form." (18) In the Paschal Mystery, our deliverance from evil and death has taken place. In instituting the Eucharist, Jesus had spoken of the "new and eternal covenant" in the shedding of his blood (cf. Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20). This, the ultimate purpose of his mission, was clear from the very beginning of his public life. Indeed, when, on the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, he cried out: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). It is significant that these same words are repeated at every celebration of Holy Mass, when the priest invites us to approach the altar: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper." Jesus is the true paschal lamb who freely gave himself in sacrifice for us, and thus brought about the new and eternal covenant. The Eucharist contains this radical newness, which is offered to us again at every celebration. (19)

The institution of the Eucharist

10. This leads us to reflect on the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. It took place within a ritual meal commemorating the foundational event of the people of Israel: their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. This ritual meal, which called for the sacrifice of lambs (cf. Ex 12:1-28, 43-51), was a remembrance of the past, but at the same time a prophetic remembrance, the proclamation of a deliverance yet to come. The people had come to realize that their earlier liberation was not definitive, for their history continued to be marked by slavery and sin. The remembrance of their ancient liberation thus expanded to the invocation and expectation of a yet more profound, radical, universal and definitive salvation. This is the context in which Jesus introduces the newness of his gift. In the prayer of praise, the Berakah, he does not simply thank the Father for the great events of past history, but also for his own "exaltation." In instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus anticipates and makes present the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of the resurrection. At the same time, he reveals that he himself is the true sacrificial lamb, destined in the Father's plan from the foundation of the world, as we read in The First Letter of Peter (cf. 1:18-20). By placing his gift in this context, Jesus shows the salvific meaning of his death and resurrection, a mystery which renews history and the whole cosmos. The institution of the Eucharist demonstrates how Jesus' death, for all its violence and absurdity, became in him a supreme act of love and mankind's definitive deliverance from evil.

Figura transit in veritatem

11. Jesus thus brings his own radical novum to the ancient Hebrew sacrificial meal. For us Christians, that meal no longer need be repeated. As the Church Fathers rightly say, figura transit in veritatem: the foreshadowing has given way to the truth itself. The ancient rite has been brought to fulfilment and definitively surpassed by the loving gift of the incarnate Son of God. The food of truth, Christ sacrificed for our sake, dat figuris terminum. (20) By his command to "do this in remembrance of me" (Lk 22:19; 1 Cor 11:25), he asks us to respond to his gift and to make it sacramentally present. In these words the Lord expresses, as it were, his expectation that the Church, born of his sacrifice, will receive this gift, developing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the liturgical form of the sacrament. The remembrance of his perfect gift consists not in the mere repetition of the Last Supper, but in the Eucharist itself, that is, in the radical newness of Christian worship. In this way, Jesus left us the task of entering into his "hour." "The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving." (21) Jesus "draws us into himself." (22) The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of "nuclear fission," to use an image familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28).

The Holy Spirit and the Eucharist

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

12. With his word and with the elements of bread and wine, the Lord himself has given us the essentials of this new worship. The Church, his Bride, is called to celebrate the eucharistic banquet daily in his memory. She thus makes the redeeming sacrifice of her Bridegroom a part of human history and makes it sacramentally present in every culture. This great mystery is celebrated in the liturgical forms which the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, develops in time and space. (23) We need a renewed awareness of the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the evolution of the liturgical form and the deepening understanding of the sacred mysteries. The Paraclete, Christ's first gift to those who believe, (24) already at work in Creation (cf. Gen 1:2), is fully present throughout the life of the incarnate Word: Jesus Christ is conceived by the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 1:18; Lk 1:35); at the beginning of his public mission, on the banks of the Jordan, he sees the Spirit descend upon him in the form of a dove (cf. Mt 3:16 and parallels); he acts, speaks and rejoices in the Spirit (cf. Lk 10:21), and he can offer himself in the Spirit (cf. Heb 9:14). In the so-called "farewell discourse" reported by John, Jesus clearly relates the gift of his life in the paschal mystery to the gift of the Spirit to his own (cf. Jn 16:7). Once risen, bearing in his flesh the signs of the passion, he can pour out the Spirit upon them (cf. Jn 20:22), making them sharers in his own mission (cf. Jn 20:21). The Spirit would then teach the disciples all things and bring to their remembrance all that Christ had said (cf. Jn 14:26), since it falls to him, as the Spirit of truth (cf. Jn 15:26), to guide the disciples into all truth (cf. Jn 16:13). In the account in Acts, the Spirit descends on the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary on the day of Pentecost (cf. 2:1-4) and stirs them to undertake the mission of proclaiming the Good News to all peoples. Thus it is through the working of the Spirit that Christ himself continues to be present and active in his Church, starting with her vital centre which is the Eucharist.

The Holy Spirit and the eucharistic celebration

13. Against this backdrop we can understand the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the eucharistic celebration, particularly with regard to transubstantiation. An awareness of this is clearly evident in the Fathers of the Church. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, in his Catecheses, states that we "call upon God in his mercy to send his Holy Spirit upon the offerings before us, to transform the bread into the body of Christ and the wine into the blood of Christ. Whatever the Holy Spirit touches is sanctified and completely transformed" (25). Saint John Chrysostom too notes that the priest invokes the Holy Spirit when he celebrates the sacrifice: (26) like Elijah, the minister calls down the Holy Spirit so that "as grace comes down upon the victim, the souls of all are thereby inflamed" (27). The spiritual life of the faithful can benefit greatly from a better appreciation of the richness of the anaphora: along with the words spoken by Christ at the Last Supper, it contains the epiclesis, the petition to the Father to send down the gift of the Spirit so that the bread and the wine will become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and that "the community as a whole will become ever more the body of Christ" (28). The Spirit invoked by the celebrant upon the gifts of bread and wine placed on the altar is the same Spirit who gathers the faithful "into one body" and makes of them a spiritual offering pleasing to the Father (29).

The Eucharist and the Church

The Eucharist, causal principle of the Church

14. Through the sacrament of the Eucharist Jesus draws the faithful into his "hour;" he shows us the bond that he willed to establish between himself and us, between his own person and the Church. Indeed, in the sacrifice of the Cross, Christ gave birth to the Church as his Bride and his body. The Fathers of the Church often meditated on the relationship between Eve's coming forth from the side of Adam as he slept (cf. Gen 2:21-23) and the coming forth of the new Eve, the Church, from the open side of Christ sleeping in death: from Christ's pierced side, John recounts, there came forth blood and water (cf. Jn 19:34), the symbol of the sacraments (30). A contemplative gaze "upon him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19:37) leads us to reflect on the causal connection between Christ's sacrifice, the Eucharist and the Church. The Church "draws her life from the Eucharist" (31). Since the Eucharist makes present Christ's redeeming sacrifice, we must start by acknowledging that "there is a causal influence of the Eucharist at the Church's very origins" (32). The Eucharist is Christ who gives himself to us and continually builds us up as his body. Hence, in the striking interplay between the Eucharist which builds up the Church, and the Church herself which "makes" the Eucharist (33), the primary causality is expressed in the first formula: the Church is able to celebrate and adore the mystery of Christ present in the Eucharist precisely because Christ first gave himself to her in the sacrifice of the Cross. The Church's ability to "make" the Eucharist is completely rooted in Christ's self-gift to her. Here we can see more clearly the meaning of Saint John's words: "he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). We too, at every celebration of the Eucharist, confess the primacy of Christ's gift. The causal influence of the Eucharist at the Church's origins definitively discloses both the chronological and ontological priority of the fact that it was Christ who loved us "first." For all eternity he remains the one who loves us first.

The Eucharist and ecclesial communion

15. The Eucharist is thus constitutive of the Church's being and activity. This is why Christian antiquity used the same words, Corpus Christi, to designate Christ's body born of the Virgin Mary, his eucharistic body and his ecclesial body.(34) This clear datum of the tradition helps us to appreciate the inseparability of Christ and the Church. The Lord Jesus, by offering himself in sacrifice for us, in his gift effectively pointed to the mystery of the Church. It is significant that the Second Eucharistic Prayer, invoking the Paraclete, formulates its prayer for the unity of the Church as follows: "may all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit." These words help us to see clearly how the res of the sacrament of the Eucharist is the unity of the faithful within ecclesial communion. The Eucharist is thus found at the root of the Church as a mystery of communion (35).

The relationship between Eucharist and communio had already been pointed out by the Servant of God John Paul II in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. He spoke of the memorial of Christ as "the supreme sacramental manifestation of communion in the Church" (36). The unity of ecclesial communion is concretely manifested in the Christian communities and is renewed at the celebration of the Eucharist, which unites them and differentiates them in the particular Churches, "in quibus et ex quibus una et unica Ecclesia catholica exsistit" (37). The fact that the one Eucharist is celebrated in each Diocese around its own Bishop helps us to see how those particular Churches subsist in and ex Ecclesia. Indeed, "the oneness and indivisibility of the eucharistic body of the Lord implies the oneness of his mystical body, which is the one and indivisible Church. From the eucharistic centre arises the necessary openness of every celebrating community, of every particular Church. By allowing itself to be drawn into the open arms of the Lord, it achieves insertion into his one and undivided body." (38) Consequently, in the celebration of the Eucharist, the individual members of the faithful find themselves in their Church, that is, in the Church of Christ. From this eucharistic perspective, adequately understood, ecclesial communion is seen to be catholic by its very nature (39). An emphasis on this eucharistic basis of ecclesial communion can also contribute greatly to the ecumenical dialogue with the Churches and Ecclesial Communities which are not in full communion with the See of Peter. The Eucharist objectively creates a powerful bond of unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, which have preserved the authentic and integral nature of the eucharistic mystery. At the same time, emphasis on the ecclesial character of the Eucharist can become an important element of the dialogue with the Communities of the Reformed tradition (40).

my source: Goodnews archives
Q: What role does the Eucharist play in the life of the Church?
Father McPartlan: The Eucharist is at the very core of the life of the Church and gives the Church its identity. The Church is the Body of Christ, and, as St. Augustine taught, we receive the body of Christ in order to become the body of Christ: "Be what you see and receive what you are." The whole mystery of Christ and of the Church as his body is what we receive in the Eucharist. This sacrament therefore renews our life together in Christ; in other words, it renews the Church.

"The Church draws her life from the Eucharist," as Pope John Paul II said at the start of his encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia." The life that we share in Christ is the life of the Trinity, because Christ is the Son of God incarnate, and that life is one of perfect communion. The phrase we use about receiving the Eucharist is really very significant; we say we are receiving Communion. There is such a lot of meaning concentrated in that phrase. We are receiving Christ himself, but the life he shares with us is the communion life of the Trinity -- the very life that calls us out of our own individualism and draws us together as the Church.

The Eucharist renews the very gift that makes us to be the Church, and it follows that the community dimension of the Eucharist is of the utmost importance. It is really communities, and ultimately the Church as a whole, that receives the Eucharist, not just lots of individuals. We should always be conscious of those with whom we receive; the Eucharist renews our life as brothers and sisters, caring for one another and working together to bear witness to the communion life of the Kingdom of God. Our life in Christ begins, of course, with baptism, and people sometimes think that an emphasis on the Eucharist as making the Church detracts from the importance of baptism in making the Church. We must avoid any such impression. Baptism and Eucharist are both given to us by Christ and therefore there can never be any rivalry between them. Rather we must understand how they fit together. What baptism begins in us, the Eucharist renews, strengthens and sustains. For instance, in every Eucharist we are washed by the blood of the Lamb, as it says in Revelation 7:14; it is a washing that renews the washing in water that we received in baptism. We must never forget that there is forgiveness in the Eucharist, particularly expressed when we receive under both kinds and drink from the cup of the Lord. In a sense, the Eucharist keeps the grace of our baptism fresh in us until the moment when it is consummated at our death. As we pray in the Mass for a deceased person: "In baptism she died with Christ, may she also share his resurrection."

Q: What does it mean that "the Church makes the Eucharist" and "the Eucharist makes the Church"?

Father McPartlan: These two phrases were coined by the great French Jesuit Henri de Lubac [1896-1991], who was a leading pioneer of the renewal of the Church at the Second Vatican Council and became a cardinal toward the end of his long life. Both are true, of course. However, he thought that the first millennium, and especially the era of the Fathers of the early Church, was characterized by the idea that "the Eucharist makes the Church;" whereas the second millennium, the era of scholasticism, held more to the idea that "the Church makes the Eucharist."

It is clear from the title of the Pope's encyclical that we have returned in recent times, particularly after Vatican II, thanks to the work of de Lubac and others, to a more patristic point of view. The two phrases in fact tend to identify two rather different perceptions of the Church. If we say that the Eucharist makes the Church then we will readily understand that the Church is itself a family of Eucharistic communities, a communion of local churches, which was the patristic model.

However, de Lubac showed that the community dimension of the Eucharist suffered greatly as a result of Eucharistic controversy at the start of the second millennium. Much more attention was paid to the fact that bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ than to the fact that the Church then receives these transformed gifts and is itself transformed in Christ. The Eucharist ceased to shape the Church and became one of seven sacraments that the Church celebrates. Hence, the Church makes the Eucharist. Juridical factors then began to shape the Church, and the standard picture of the Church in the scholastic era is that of an institutional pyramid, with the pope at the top. Vatican II grappled with how to integrate these two pictures of the Church and this is still an issue today. Nevertheless, we can certainly say that the Council showed a strong desire to reinstate patristic perspectives. We naturally speak nowadays of the Church as a Eucharistic communion of local churches and this is of immense importance ecumenically.




            “At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.” We have just heard Jesus saying these words to Simon Peter, who had questioned what Jesus was doing to his disciples. “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” The Bible is full of people who ask God why and how. Think of Mary at the Annunciation, “How can this be?” or of Moses before the burning bush, “What shall I say?”

            Throughout the Exodus, the Israelites kept complaining against Aaron and Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to this place, where there is no food and water?” At the time they did not know what God was doing, but later, in the Promised Land, they looked back and understood. They celebrated the Passover to show that they understood God’s plan. Understanding brought with it repentance and thanksgiving.

            At the Last Supper, the disciples did not know what Jesus was doing. What did he mean when he said, “This is my body,” and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” when all they could see and taste was bread and wine? Then this talk about a Paraclete, who would remind them of what Jesus had told them and lead them into all truth. And now at the end of the meal here was Jesus washing their feet and telling them to follow his example. What could this mean?

            Judas, Pilate, Caiaphas, the Jews, the Romans, the Pharisees, the soldiers and the crowd, all those involved in the drama of the Passion and Death of Jesus, what could they possibly have known at the time? Jesus alone knew that his hour had come. Only later did they understand, beginning surprisingly enough with the good thief, who said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Then it was the soldier who first declared, “Truly this was the Son of God”.

            Only after the Resurrection did the disciples begin to understand, and they weren’t easily convinced. At Pentecost their eyes were opened to the meaning of Jesus’ life. Finally they understood that he was Lord and Christ, God-with-us. And this understanding led them to repentance and thanksgiving. This is why we still celebrate Holy Week and Easter, why we celebrate the sacraments and come to church. Christians have come to understand the meaning and purpose of the Incarnation.

            Tonight’s celebration reminds us eloquently that it is not enough simply to understand, to come to Mass and give thanks, wonderful as that is. No, Christ wants us to follow his example. He wants us to show how perfect our love is. He wants us to serve others with humility and charity. He wants us to sacrifice our lives for others and not count the cost. We, of course, understand all this, but have we the courage to do what Jesus asks? Have you ever thought what the world would be like if we Christians were just to follow the example of Jesus? Mind you, if you do take up your cross every day and follow him, don’t be surprised if in the end they crucify you.

            “I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.” Lord, give me faith, hope and love. Give me courage too, to follow your example and with you lay down my life in service for others and for the salvation of the world. Amen

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