"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 2 June 2013


by Abbot Paul of Belmont

“Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.” We are often told, “You are what you eat.” I doubt that those who say this realise the theological implications when speaking to a Catholic. “You are what you eat.” It was St Basil who wrote, “Through the Holy Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations – we become God.” In the Creed we proclaim, “Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine et homo factus est.” Through the Holy Spirit God becomes man and through the Holy Spirit we become God. St Paul really says the same thing when he writes to the Corinthians: “The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ. The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in this one loaf.” Through our communion with the Body and Blood of Christ we become one with him and, together, in him we become one. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him,” are the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel. Through the power of the Holy Spirit God became incarnate and through the power of the Holy Spirit bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats me draws life from me. Whoever eats this bread will live for ever.” Today we thank God for his infinite love and mercy and we give thanks for the particular way in which he chose to save us and share his life with us. God’s way is that of total self-giving, the way of the Incarnation, the way of the Cross. Jesus invites us to enter into communion with his death and resurrection by dying to ourselves and to all that separates us from God and our neighbour. We are not merely passive recipients of the sacraments but are called by God to cooperate actively, fully in Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. This is our Christian vocation. We too give our lives for the salvation of the world. “This is my body. This is my blood.” Total configuration to Christ, this is the meaning of the Mass, of Holy Communion and of Eucharistic Adoration. It is a two-way process: we are what we eat. May our adoration and praise today lead us to a total commitment to live our lives in Christ, so that Christ can live his life in us. His words, “Do this in memory of me,” take us beyond the Eucharistic celebration to a life lived as Eucharist, a life of sacrifice and self-giving, a life of praise and thanksgiving, a life centred on Christ, a life in Christ, until God’s glory, love and mercy are fully manifested in each one of us and God is all in all. In his wonderful book “The Shape of the Liturgy”, Dom Gregory Dix wrote, “Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacles of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and groom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead loved one; - one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, priests have done just this to make holy the people of God.” Today we give thanks to God for the Sacrament that makes us holy. In particular, we thank him for the immense privilege of allowing us to celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass for our salvation and for all those whose hearts we touch in prayer. Amen


The feast began with 1st Vespers at 5.30pm on the day before, yesterday, after which I gave a talk to the community about the eucharistic ministry of an ordained acolyte.  In some days, the abbot will visit us and will confer this minor order on three of the brethren.

I began by asking who celebrates Mass and who distributes communion.  Of course, I received the correct answer: Christ both celebrates the Eucharist and distributes communion.   I then quoted St John Chrysosotom who says that the priest lends his voice and his hands to Christ.  St THomas Aquinas says that the priest is the "instrumental cause" of the consecration.   This is the equivalent of a pen or the typewriter in the writingof a letter.   The pen or typewriter writes the letter, but the letter isn't from the instrument, but only from the person who uses the instrument.   So it is that Christ consecrates, and Christ distributes.
   Indeed, no one ever gave communion to himself in the primitive Church, even the bishop when he celebrated.: communion was always given by someone else who represented Christ for him who received.   The fullness of the sign was missing when someone took communion from the altar himself, even the pope.   He, like anyone else, needed to receive communion from Christ or from someone who represented Christ at that moment.   Communion is "given", "distributed" by someone who represents Christ.

Our problem is that we have put so much emphasis on the "real presence" of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine, that we forget the other ways that Christ is present in the Mass.   Sacrosanctum Concilium tries to redress the balance by reminding us that Christ is present in and through him who celebrates, when the Scriptures are read in the liturgy, and when the church prays or sings; but all this remains in the head, in the realm of theory, and not a living part of our devotional life, because it is without clear liturgical expression.
In the Byzantine rite there are three entrances: at the very beginning, when the priest enters, and a group of Christian become, by his presence as representative of Christ, the manifestation of the whole Catholic Church of all times and places, in heaven and on earth in one place; the Little Entrance, just before the readings, where Christ the Teacher is acknowledged as present and is represented by the Gospel Book; and the Great Entrance, where the presence of Christ the Priest is acknowledged and represented by the bread and wine.   Thus, Eastern Christians are conscious of the real presence of Christ the presider, as Christ the Proclaimer and Teacher of the Word, and of Christ as the priestly celebrant, as, as offerer, well as  as the offering and as food and drink in the Blessed Sacrament.   But this reminder of other forms of presence is not vivid in the Western Rite.

All this is leading up to my main point, that any eucharistic minister who is appointed by the Church to distribute Communion does so as representative of Christ, as it is Christ who personally gives his own body and blood as a gift to the person who receives.  The sacramental experience is partly obscured when the recipient is unaware that he or she is being offered communion by Christ himself.

How can we so offer to the communicant Christ's body and blood that he or she is aware that it is Christ who is offering?   This question is still a real one, even when communion is being given by a priest who officially and sacramentally is Christ's representative; but it is even more important when the person giving communion is not a priest.   How can I make the recipient's experience of communion with Christ richer by my role as giver of the sacrament?

The truth is that, by being called to give communion, we are also being called to sanctity.   Now I will let you into a little secret and a very big paradox.   You will not let people see Christ in you, whatever your vocation, by insisting that you are Christ's representative.  Even popes have obscured their true vocation by being too insistent on their role as Vicar of Christ.   People begin to see Christ in you only when you see Christ in them: only when you are aware of entering into Christ's presence  in your fellow human being will you allow people to see that your gift of Christ to them is being given, not only by you, but by Christ himself.   People saw Christ in the Cure d'Ars and Mother Teresa because the Cure d'Ars and Mother Teresa saw Christ in those who flocked to them.   A saying which is attributed to St John Chrysostom says it all.   Speaking of the priest's role in the Mass, he said that, for Christ to appear, the priest has to disappear.   If that had been remembered by a whole string of popes, there may have been no schism, and the Christian East would have recognised his position.   If I had remembered this truth myself, perhaps more people would have been brought to Christ.   For those who are to be made acolytes in a week's time, a rubric that is as ancient as it is useful must be borne in mind, the words of St John the Baptist, "He (Christ) must increase, and I must decrease."  Bear in mind that, unworthy as you are, you are being ordained to represent Christ as he gives himself to others.   Do so in the presence of him who is in you as giver and in the other as receiver, and never get in Christ's way.

At 9.o'clock today in the morning, we celebrated Mass of the solemnity of Corpus Christi with a number of people from different parts of Lima, mostly friends, a group of women who make a monthly retreat and were here for the first time, and a few neighbours.   

Afterwards, we processed to a room under the refectory which had been decked out in candles and flowers, with a throne for the monstrance.   There we had an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in solidarity with the Pope who asked Catholics throughout the world to all pray for an hour at the same time.

Of course, we sang Vespers in a church decked with flowers.   We had a wonderful day, and the people were delighted.

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