“The triumph of the Eucharist”, the great fresco by Raphael which can be admired by visitors to the Vatican rooms depicts a “militant” Church below – a little agitated – a on high the Church “triumphant”, with Christ gentle and invoking a blessing, surrounded by Mary, John the Baptist, the apostles and saints. All the lines, movements and spaces of that great fresco, culminate in the monstrance.
With this apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum caritatis” Benedict XVI has created a similar fresco, using words, theology and the bishops propositions from the 2005 synod, which had as its theme “The Eucharist source and summit of the Churches Life and Mission”.
The dictate “source and summit” first appeared in the documents of the second Vatican council. It met with great success among theologians and priests, yet it did not help in the subsequent veritable marginalization of the Eucharist in favour of doctrinal explanations, from group’s experience, from social denunciation to an almost complete abandonment of the sacrament, considered a private and useless devotion
Benedict XVI ‘s successful undertaking lies in having explained, as in a short catechism, that everything, really and truly everything subsists in and is held together thanks to the Eucharist: action and contemplation; mysticism and social obligations; marriage and celibacy; religious and lay faithful; authority and obedience.
Priests choosing celibacy; indissoluble marriage for wed couples; virginity as a free gift that is not imposed by external forces, are explicit elements relay the truth container in the Eucharist, the place where for eternity – that is in every moment even now - we receive God’s life, gifted to us by Christ. By eliminating, reducing, refusing, and rendering banal any of these elements we are suppressing the greatness of this gifted Life.
This Life – which is truth and love – there for our taking, is the most precious treasure the Church has to offer the world. Followers of Buddhism or Hinduism find themselves disillusioned when faced with reality, in Islam or Marxism, followers are tempted to destroy the present so that his god or idealism may triumph; post modern man, who has destroyed all “orientations” finds himself with a freedom that is a “sterile pleasure”. The Pope speaks of the Eucharist as the beginning of a new world, as a taste of beauty and life which we can partake of now, because “in the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus shows us in particular the truth about the love which is the very essence of God. It is this evangelical truth which challenges each of us and our whole being” (n. 2).
From this rediscovery of the Eucharist Benedict XVI awaits a resumption of the Christian mission towards all cultures, religions and societies, he even speaks of it in terms of a “challenge a” (n. 78). To make the Eucharist known and understood throughout the world, there is a need for “recognisable” witnesses, not simple bearers of ideas, or protagonists of exceptional experiences, but priests in love with Christ, lay people in love with live and children, politicians capable of belonging to the Church without “ifs” or “buts”.
The true sign that Christ is present in the Eucharist, that “glimpse of heaven on earth” (n. 35) is manifest in the architectural beauty of Churches, in our care of the rite, in our carrying signs of hope to the abyss in which humanity carries out its debates. The Pope asks that the “strengthened by the mystery” believers denounce poverty, the arms race, the lack of religious freedom, the pollution of creation; that we favour the refugees and the sick. He reminds us that everything succeeds from adoration, not by pushing the Eucharist aside but by placing it at the centre of our lives and the life of the world. Humanity’s “true joy” lies in “recognizing that the Lord is still with us, our faithful companion along the way” (n. 97).