Summary of Sacramentum Caritatis by Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation 
Sacramentum Caritatis: "On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit 
of the Church's Life and Mission."

Introduction: “The Sacrament of Charity”

The Holy Eucharist, according to St. Thomas Aquinas is “the sacrament of charity.” Jesus, by making a total gift of Himself to us in the Eucharist, reveals “God’s infinite love for every man and woman” (1).

Part 1: The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Believed

The Eucharist is a “mystery of faith” par excellence: the sum and summary of our faith (6).

The Eucharist is a mystery of trinitarian love: “God’s whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us” (8).

The Eucharist is a mystery of Jesus’ transformative self-gift: “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” (DCE 13).

  • “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)” (11).

The Eucharist is a mystery at the heart of the Church’s origins: “There is a causal influence of the Eucharist at the Church’s very origins” (12) because the Eucharist makes present Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, which is the definitive event of Christ’s total gift of self to the Church. This explains why the term “Corpus Christi” is used to designate Christ’s eucharistic body and His ecclesial body (15).

  • “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church’s life and mission” (3).

The Eucharist is a mystery at the heart of the celibate priesthood: Since the ministerial priesthood calls for a complete configuration to Christ, celibacy is a clear sign of conformity to Christ’s own way of life in His exclusive offering of Himself as Bridegroom for His Bride, the Church. 

  • “As a result, priests should be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in first place, but Jesus Christ. Any attempt to make themselves the centre of the liturgical action contradicts their very identity as priests. The priest is above all a servant of others, and he must continually work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord’s hands. This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart, and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality. I encourage the clergy always to see their eucharistic ministry as a humble service offered to Christ and his Church. The priesthood, as Saint Augustine said, is amoris officium, (74) it is the office of the good shepherd, who offers his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:14-15)” (23).
  • “Celibacy is really a special way of conforming oneself to Christ’s own way of life. This choice has first and foremost a nuptial meaning; it is a profound identification with the heart of Christ the Bridegroom who gives his life for his Bride” (24).

The Eucharist is a mystery of the eschaton: By His self-gift, Christ “objectively inaugurated the eschatological age” (31).

  • In every Eucharistic celebration, we experience a real and necessary “foretaste of the eschatological fulfillment for which every human being and all creation are destined (cf. Rom 8:19ff.)” (30), a sacramental accomplishment of “the eschatological gathering of the People of God” (31), and “a pledge of the future glory in which our bodies too will be glorified (32).

The Eucharist and the Virgin Mary“Mary of Nazareth, icon of the nascent Church, is the model for each of us, called to receive the gift that Jesus makes of himself in the Eucharist” (33).

  • Mary’s entire life was lived in complete harmony with God’s will, receiving the Word with unconditional docility, and “associating herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart” (33). Thus, Mary shows us the perfect fulfillment of “the “sacramental” way that God comes down to meet his creatures and involves them in his saving work” (33).
  • “Mary’s Assumption body and soul into heaven is for us a sign of sure hope, for it shows us, on our pilgrimage through time, the eschatological goal of which the sacrament of the Eucharist enables us even now to have a foretaste” (33).

Part 2: The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Celebrated

Beauty and the Liturgy: Liturgy is inherently linked to beauty because liturgy is (1) the radiant expression of Christ, who is the source and summit of all beauty; and (2) the sacramental re-presentation of the most beautiful event, that of Christ’s gift of self in His Paschal Mystery, thereby transforming the dark mystery of death into the radiant light of the resurrection by His love:

  • “Here the splendour of God’s glory surpasses all worldly beauty. The truest beauty is the love of God, who definitively revealed himself to us in the paschal mystery” (35).

As a result, the liturgical action must reflect its innate splendour: “Everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty” (41). This is no mere aestheticism or decoration but rather

  • “the concrete way in which the truth of God’s love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us, enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love” (35).

Active Participation & Ars Celebrandi: “The primary way to foster the participation of the People of God in the sacred rite is the proper celebration of the rite itself. The ars celebrandi [the art of proper celebration] is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio” (38).

  • “Equally important for a correct ars celebrandi is an attentiveness to the various kinds of language that the liturgy employs: words and music, gestures and silence, movement, the liturgical colours of the vestments. By its very nature the liturgy operates on different levels of communication which enable it to engage the whole human person” (40).
  • “The active participation called for by the Council must be understood in more substantial terms, on the basis of a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life” (52).

  • To ensure active participation, “one must be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated… to live personally what they celebrate” (64).
  • “The best catechesis on the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself, celebrated well” (64).

Adoration & Eucharistic Devotion: Since receiving the Eucharist is an act of adoration toward Him whom we receive, eucharistic adoration outside of Mass should be seen as a natural consequence of the eucharistic celebration itself, an act that “prolongs and intensifies all that takes places during the liturgical celebration itself” (66).

  • “No one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it” (St. Augustine).
  • “Only in adoration can a profound and genuine reception mature” (66).

Part 3: The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Believed

The “eucharistic form” of the Christian life: Since the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church’s life and mission, Eucharistic spirituality should embrace our entire lives. This is why Christ instituted the Eucharist – to make our entire lives “eucharistic” – that is, to transform all that we do into spiritual worship pleasing to God (cf. Rm 12:1, 1 Cor. 10:31). In doing so, our lives take on a “eucharistic consistency” (83). 

  • Stressing the mysterious nature of this food, Augustine imagines the Lord saying to him: “I am the food of grown men; grow, and you shall feed upon me; nor shall you change me, like the food of your flesh, into yourself, but you shall be changed into me” (70).
  • “There is nothing authentically human – our thoughts and affections, our words and deeds – that does not find in the sacrament of the Eucharist the form it needs to be lived to the full” (71).

The Sunday Eucharist: Sunday, as “the primordial holy day,” calls us all to “become heralds and guardians of the true meaning of time” (73).

  • “To lose a sense of Sunday as the Lord’s Day, a day to be sanctified, is symptomatic of the loss of an authentic sense of Christian freedom, the freedom of the children of God” (73).

The day of the Lord is also a day of rest from work: “This is highly significant, for it relativizes work and directs it to the person: work is for man and not man for work” (74).

  • Although “work is of fundamental importance to the fulfilment of the human being and to the development of society”, we cannot be enslaved by work or idolize it, claiming to find in it the ultimate and definitive meaning of life” (74).

 

 

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