The Church from the Eucharist
Intro By Jeff Armbruster (based on Pope Saint John Paul II’s Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia)
The introduction to Pope Saint John Paul II’s April 2003 Encyclical, Ecclesai de Eucharistia (The Church from the Eucharist) states eloquently: “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist…This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways she joyfully experiences the constant fulfillment of the promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20), but in the Holy Eucharist, through the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity. Ever since Pentecost, when the Church, the People of the New Covenant, began her pilgrim journey towards her heavenly homeland, the Divine Sacrament has continued to mark the passing of her days, filling them with confident hope.”
The Pope goes on to add (from the Second Vatican Council document, Lumen Gentium), “For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our Passover and living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy spirit, he offers life to men.” “…Consequently, the gaze of the Church is constantly turned to the Lord, present in the Sacrament of the Altar, in which she discovers the full manifestations of his boundless love.” The Holy Father could not be more clear in explaining the foundational connection between the Church and the Eucharist. Nor could he be any clearer about the Church’s timeless teaching about transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
In this Encyclical, the 14th and final of his 26-year papacy, John Paul II poured out his heart and soul, in beautiful, near lyrical language, his love of and devotion to the Eucharist. Although the letter is a bit long, 33 pages long, if you are able to make the time to read the entire document, you will be greatly rewarded. For those who might want to get the essence of the message of the encyclical without reading the entire document, a copy of it is attached, with key elements highlighted in yellow. Please note, highlighting was not done by a member of the clergy, rather by this layman, and reflects those parts of the document that spoke most profoundly to him. You may find other portions equally meaningful.
For those who may not already have a deep devotion to the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II provides beautiful explanations of why the Church has been steadfast in her teachings about the Eucharist (from the beginning) and why we should embrace those truths. Sharing in the Eucharistic sacrifice is, after all, the essence of our relationship with our merciful God and Father. “The Eucharist, as Christ’s saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history. This explains the lively concern which she has always shown for the Eucharistic mystery, a concern which finds authoritative expression in the work of the Councils and the Popes.” Hopefully, reading the entire document, or even the highlighted portions of it will touch your heart with a reason to become a firm believer.
For those who already take, as Gospel, belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the beauty and theological elegance of the Pope’s message will inspire and enlighten. “The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work. Nor does it remain confined to the past, since “all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times.”
Read Pope Saint John Paul II’s Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, HERE