Home Love Pope Benedict XVI’s Eucharistic imaginative and prescient: A key to understanding his life and theology

Pope Benedict XVI’s Eucharistic imaginative and prescient: A key to understanding his life and theology

Pope Benedict XVI’s Eucharistic imaginative and prescient: A key to understanding his life and theology

Editor’s word: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died on Saturday morning, Dec. 31, the Vatican introduced. Pope Francis introduced the pope emeritus’s well being had been worsening on Wednesday.

Riven between comfort and desolation, the younger Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., “fled with a fling of the center to the center of the Host” (“The Wreck of the Deutschland”). In much less poetic however no much less intense phrases, Joseph Ratzinger, a cardinal on the time, understood the Eucharist to be “the paranormal coronary heart of Christianity, during which God mysteriously comes forth, again and again, from inside himself and attracts us into his embrace.” “The Eucharist,” he wrote in Pilgrim Fellowship of Religion(first revealed in German in 2002), is “the success of the promise” made by Jesus: “I, when I’m lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself” (Jn 12:32).

All through his lengthy ecclesial and educational ministry, there was by no means, for Joseph Ratzinger, a divorce between theology and spirituality, between Christian thought and devotion. On this he was manifestly a eager and grateful scholar of St. Augustine: pastor, physician, religious information. Pope Benedict’s homilies, like Augustine’s, are theologically wealthy and his theological works spiritually nourishing. Whether or not homilies, catechesis or treatises, all of them testify to a profound religious and theological sensibility. They’ll proceed to be learn and appropriated for generations.

Whether or not homilies, catechesis or treatises, all of them testify to a profound religious and theological sensibility. They’ll proceed to be learn generations.

Within the citation from Hopkins above, the Jesuit poet little doubt had first in thoughts the consecrated host current within the tabernacle. However one additionally senses intimations of the host who’s Jesus himself: “the center of the Host.” Coronary heart speaks to coronary heart, because the mentor of Hopkins, John Henry Newman, exclaimed. Newman additionally deeply influenced Pope Benedict, who had the enjoyment of beatifying him throughout his apostolic go to to England in 2010. Like Newman, Benedict positioned the actual presence of Jesus Christ within the Eucharist on the very middle of Catholic religion and devotion.

Maybe nowhere is Pope Benedict’s eucharistic mysticism set forth so absolutely as in his apostolic exhortation “The Sacrament of Charity” (2007). It was written to sum up and disseminate extra extensively the fruit of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. The very first sentence reads: “The sacrament of charity, the Holy Eucharist is the reward that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for each man and lady.” In fact, it’s the Gospels’ narrative of the life, dying and new lifetime of Jesus that vividly shows the peak and breadth and size and depth of the love of Jesus. Meditation upon the Gospels’ story preceded for Ratzinger, because it did for St. Ignatius Loyola, the contemplation on God’s love that’s the climax of the Non secular Workouts. The meditative Liturgy of the Phrase prepares the desk for the extra contemplative Liturgy of the Eucharist. Scripture and sacrament, story and supper, mutually illumine one another.

Like Newman, Benedict positioned the actual presence of Jesus Christ within the Eucharist on the very middle of Catholic religion and devotion.

Entry to the Coronary heart

Right here one confronts, in our up to date context, a problem unknown to St. Ignatius Loyola and the numerous guides to the Christian lifetime of earlier centuries. Some present-day biblical research appear to dam slightly than foster entry to the Jesus of Christian religion. Pope Benedict expresses his concern within the foreword to the primary quantity of his trilogy, Jesus of Nazareth.Reliance on historical-critical approaches alone has led to the unfold of unwarranted skepticism regarding our information of Jesus. The sad result’s that the determine of Jesus turns into “more and more obscured and blurred.” Right here Benedict voices a heartfelt lament: “Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which every little thing relies upon, is in peril of clutching at skinny air.”

What accounts for the truth that Benedict devoted such dedication and labor to deliver his volumes on Jesus to time period, save for his conviction that friendship with Jesus, and thru Jesus with the Father, stands in danger? Benedict’s proposed Christological studying of Scripture doesn’t entail rejection of the authentic train of historical-critical evaluation. He sought, slightly, to broaden and deepen it by way of a faith-filled apprehension that didn’t depart Jesus as an odd determine from the previous, however as one with whom private relationship is feasible immediately.

Pope Benedict XVI leaves after celebrating Mass in Revolution Square in Havana on March 28, 2012 (CNS photo/Paul Haring).
Pope Benedict XVI leaves after celebrating Mass in Revolution Sq. in Havana on March 28, 2012 (CNS picture/Paul Haring).

It might be suggestive, then, to contemplate Benedict’s Jesus volumes as up to date religious workout routines designed to render accessible as soon as once more the Jesus of the Gospels who, as Benedict insisted, is the actual Jesus. The crucified and risen Jesus is as up to date to us as he was to the primary disciples. The train of important purpose must be complemented by the insights of the explanations of the center. For, as Joseph Ratzinger wrote: “Love seeks understanding. It needs to know even higher the one whom it loves. It ‘seeks his face,’ as Augustine by no means tires of repeating.”

Behold the Pierced One

In each his homilies and his different writings, Benedict confirmed nice sensitivity to the religious significance of pictures. Maybe no picture from the Gospels so captivated him as that of the pierced facet of Jesus, described within the Gospel of John (19:31-37). He titled one among his books Behold the Pierced One,and the picture recurs 5 instances in his encyclical “God Is Charity” (2005). In consonance with many fathers of the church, Benedict noticed the blood and water pouring from the pierced coronary heart of Jesus as symbols of sacramental life within the church: baptism and Eucharist. He taught within the encyclical that “one should continually drink anew from the unique supply, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced coronary heart flows the love of God.” And he ceaselessly affirmed the enduring presence of Christ’s love within the eucharistic thriller.

However the eucharistic mysticism Benedict propounded just isn’t merely a contemplative gazing upon the Lord, crucified and risen. It’s getting into, in communion with Christ, into his paschal thriller: his dying, resurrection and ascension. There may be an actualism to his understanding of the Eucharist, a participatio actuosa  in Christ’s eucharistic motion. Benedict writes in “God Is Charity”: “The Eucharist attracts us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation…we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving.”

So intimate is the communion the Eucharist results between Christ and the Christian that Joseph Ratzinger didn’t hesitate to talk of our changing into Eucharist in Christ. In a wealthy essay, “Eucharist and Mission,” he feedback upon the primary eucharistic prayer:

We ask that Christ’s sacrifice may grow to be current not simply in an exterior sense, standing over in opposition to us and showing, so to talk, like a cloth sacrifice, that we’d gaze upon (as individuals as soon as gazed upon the bodily sacrifices of previous). We might not in that case have entered into the New Covenant in any respect. We’re asking slightly that we ourselves may grow to be a Eucharist with Christ, and thus grow to be acceptable and pleasing to God.

Christus Totus

The intimacy of the relation of the person to Jesus may result in the suspicion that Benedict’s eucharistic mysticism, although intense, is solely individualistic. That will be an entire misreading of Benedict’s theological-spiritual imaginative and prescient. Although the Christian’s relation to Jesus, savior and Lord, is supremely private, it’s by no means personal. The reception of the eucharistic physique of Christ incorporates the recipient into the risen Lord’s ecclesial physique. Benedict constructed upon (certainly, he in all probability performed a serious position in composing) John Paul II’s final encyclical, “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” (2003). The church arises from the Eucharist, as blood streams forth from the pierced coronary heart of Christ, sanctifying the disciples standing on the foot of the cross.

Pope Benedict XVI visits the main synagogue in Rome in this Jan. 17, 2010 photo (CNS photo/Paul Haring).
Pope Benedict XVI visits the primary synagogue in Rome on this Jan. 17, 2010 picture (CNS picture/Paul Haring).

Augustine supplied Joseph Ratzinger with a core perception that the theologian-pope explored all through his ministry: that of the Christus totus.Within the part of “The Sacrament of Charity” the place he develops the idea, he teaches that the eucharistic celebration is the work of the entire Christ, head and members. Christ, after all, is the prime agent. He’s the bridegroom who continues to offer himself to nourish his beloved. Benedict usually repeated Augustine’s insistence that in contrast to peculiar meals, the Eucharist transforms those that feast upon it into Christ. They don’t rework Christ into themselves; they’re included into the physique whose sole head is Jesus Christ. But Christ’s grace is such that he at all times associates his church along with his eucharistic sacrifice supplied “for you and for a lot of.”

Thus it might be a severe error to know Benedict’s eucharistic mysticism as countenancing any gnostic elimination of the earthly and the bodily. Moderately, in studying him, one is repeatedly struck by how corporeal and company this “mysticism” is. It will probably function a salutary antidote to a widespread New Age gnosticism. Thus he writes in Behold the Pierced One:

Essentially the most intimate thriller of communion between God and man is accessible within the sacrament of the Physique of the Risen Lord; conversely, then, the thriller lays declare to our our bodies and is realized in a Physique. The Church, which is constructed upon the sacrament of the Physique of Christ, should herself be a physique. And she or he have to be a single physique, equivalent to Jesus Christ’s uniqueness…

It will be a severe error to know Benedict’s eucharistic mysticism as countenancing any gnostic elimination of the earthly and the bodily.

Central to Benedict’s educating in regards to the tri-form physique of Christ—the risen physique of the Lord, his eucharistic physique and his ecclesial physique—is its constitutive relationality. Via his risen physique Christ is completely communicable. His eucharistic physique is the sacramental realization and sharing of his new life. His ecclesial physique is the incorporation of the numerous into loving communication with their redeemer. There’s a mutual indwelling (what Charles Williams and Bishop Robert Barron, studying from Dante, have referred to as “co-inherence”) among the many individuals—an enhancement, not a diminishment of personhood. For the end result of eucharistic relationality just isn’t fusion however communion within the Spirit.

Newness and Transformation

The supple construction that undergirds Pope Benedict’s reflections could be referred to as the grammar of newness and transformation. The novum, the novelty, is Christ himself, absolutely revealed in his paschal thriller. The New Testomony, Benedict insisted, doesn’t give witness to new concepts however to the brand new individual, the brand new [eschatos] Adam. By his dying and resurrection Jesus has completed the true Exodus, reworking dying itself into newness of life. He has inaugurated the brand new creation.

The Eucharist, celebrated on the Lord’s Day of resurrection, the eighth day of the brand new creation, immerses all who have fun it into this thriller of religion. It gives a love past our capability, one which we will solely gratefully obtain. Actually to obtain it doesn’t entail a passive present process, however an lively reworking, a radical shift in our middle of gravity.

In a now well-known graduation deal with at Kenyon Faculty in 2005, the late David Foster Wallace spoke of “the default setting” into which we appear naturally “hard-wired”: specifically, our self as “absolutely the middle of the universe.” Although Wallace didn’t use the phrase, the situation he described appears strikingly just like what the custom phrases “authentic sin.”

The supple construction that undergirds Pope Benedict’s reflections could be referred to as the grammar of newness and transformation.

If baptism orients us away from this primordial self-referential situation towards the renewal of creation in Christ, the Eucharist plunges us ever extra deeply, if we permit it, into paradise regained. In his most systematic work, Eschatology: Demise and Everlasting Life, Ratzinger speaks of the basic assent of religion made at baptism. However he goes on to say of our assent: “solely with issue can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we’re powerless to tug down with our personal palms.” We’re, certainly, the recipients of God’s mercy, Ratzinger writes, but this doesn’t relieve us of the should be reworked. The privileged encounter with the Lord within the Eucharist fosters this ongoing transformation.

In quite a few locations Benedict sketched the contours of this eucharistic transformation of the recipients. In one among his most putting passages he writes:

The Eucharist is rarely an occasion involving simply two, a dialogue between Christ and me. Eucharistic Communion is geared toward an entire reshaping of my very own life. It breaks up man’s total self and creates a brand new “we.” Communion with Christ is essentially additionally communication with all who belong to him: therein I personally grow to be part of the brand new bread he’s creating by the transubstantiation of the entire of earthly actuality.

“The Sacrament of Charity” unfolds in three main sections: the Eucharist is a thriller to be believed, celebrated and lived. The third part, “a thriller to be lived,” speaks of the eucharistic type of the Christian life. Benedict writes: “A Eucharist which doesn’t move over into the concrete follow of affection is intrinsically fragmented.” It’s not the breaking of the host to be shared amongst many, however the breaking of the unity of the physique of Christ. Therefore eucharistic mysticism is intrinsically social and calls forth a brand new method of being, pondering and performing. For “the union with Christ led to by the Eucharist additionally brings a newness to our social relations: this sacramental mysticism is social in character.”

Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI in a 2015 photo. (CNS photo/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)
Pope Francis greets retired Pope Benedict XVI in a 2015 picture. (CNS picture/Maurizio Brambatti, EPA)

Every pope brings to the Petrine ministry a definite set of items, a selected model distinctive to himself. Many have commented upon the distinctive kinds of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. What is commonly missed within the (typically invidious) comparisons is the similarity of their theological imaginative and prescient. These phrases of “The Sacrament of Charity” may effectively have been penned by both of those successors of St. Peter: “The thriller of the Eucharist evokes and impels us to work courageously in our world to result in that renewal of relationships which has its inexhaustible supply in God’s reward…. In a selected method, the Christian laity, shaped on the faculty of the Eucharist, are referred to as to imagine their particular social and political obligations.” The Eucharist is the sacrament of the dominion, inspiring and impelling the devoted towards its eschatological consummation.

Reorientation and Recapitulation

When one thinks of Joseph Ratzinger in reference to the church’s liturgical follow, the primary affiliation for a lot of is his advocacy of celebrating the Eucharist advert orientem, “dealing with east.” Clearly, he expressed his desire for this and gave theological and pastoral causes for this selection. However he by no means made it the one legitimate place. Certainly, all through his preach he celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica versus populum, dealing with towards the individuals. In fact, due to St. Peter’s geographical structure, the celebrant each faces east and faces the congregation.

As at all times for Benedict, the basic challenge and precept was Christological. Going through east is dealing with towards the rising solar, the cosmic image of the Christ who comes. He writes in The Spirit of the Liturgy: “The truth that we discover Christ within the image of the rising solar is the indication of a Christology outlined eschatologically.”

Many have lamented the lack of an acute sense of the eschatological in up to date Catholicism. Benedict’s eucharistic mysticism provides kind to the conviction that Jesus Christ, the brand new [eschatos] Adam, by his dying and resurrection has inaugurated the “final days.” However he’s equally clear that the ultimate consummation of all issues in Christ has not but been absolutely realized; thus his reorientation of Christian religion, hope and love towards the Christ who’s current and but is to return. On the very starting of his ebook Eschatology, he writes: “The Eucharist is directly the joyful proclamation of the Lord’s presence and a supplication to the already current Lord that he might come, since, paradoxically, even because the One who’s current, he stays the One who’s to return.”

It’s on this mild that Benedict’s advert orientem proposal takes its right bearing. Removed from being a “turning of the priest’s again to the individuals,” as it’s too facilely criticized, it’s the symbolic embodiment of each priest and other people on pilgrimage towards their coming Lord. From this angle the geographic east is much less vital than the religious east—the reorientation of our our bodies and our being towards Christ that he might “easter in us” (as Hopkins prays). Certainly, “each Eucharist is Parousia, the Lord’s coming,” Benedict writes, “and but the Eucharist is much more actually the tensed craving that he would reveal his hidden Glory.” The common name to holiness issued anew by the Second Vatican Council could be enabled and sustained solely by the risen Lord, who alone is the Holy One, the true revelation of God’s glory.

When, then, Jesus Christ comes once more “to evaluate the dwelling and the lifeless,” his coming will recapitulate all in himself, put beneath his headship, each human historical past and the entire of creation. Considerably, the ultimate part of The Spirit of the Liturgy is dedicated to “matter.” In contrast to a lot of historic thought influenced by Plato, the genuine Christian custom doesn’t counsel flight from the physique and matter however their transformation. It comes as no shock that Benedict, each as theologian and pope, voiced appreciation for the imaginative and prescient of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. Like Teilhard’s, Benedict’s eucharistic mysticism descends to the depths of matter in order that rising it might converge on Jesus Christ who’s alpha and omega, Lord of historical past and cosmos. To him the entire eucharistic meeting raises the cry: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rv 22:20).

I recommend that Benedict XVI’s lasting problem and legacy to the church he beloved and served so wholeheartedly could also be these phrases from “Sacramentum Caritatis:”

The Sacrament of the Altar is at all times on the coronary heart of the Church’s life: because of the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew! The extra vigorous the Eucharistic religion of the individuals of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast dedication to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples….Each nice reform has not directly been linked to the rediscovery of perception within the Lord’s Eucharistic presence amongst his individuals.


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