Friday, June 8, 2012

Corpus Christi and the Restoration of the Sacred

It is wonderful to see the resurgence of processions of the Blessed Sacrament on Corpus Christi. God-willing there will be one here in Gwinn this coming Sunday and it appears that it is the first in living memory.

Pope Benedict led the traditional procession in Rome Thursday, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi according to the Universal Calendar.

His homily during the Mass made some powerful observations about the times we now live in. The Holy Father chose to dwell on two interconnected aspects of the eucharistic Mystery: the cult (or worship) of the Eucharist and its sacrality. He said how it is important to consider these two aspects in order to protect oneself from an incomplete vision of this Mystery, as has been the case in recent times.

A unilateral interpretation of Vatican Council II had penalized the dimension of adoration, in practice restricting the Eucharist to the moment of its celebration (i.e. the Mass). Of course, it is very important to recognize the centrality of the Eucharistic celebration (Mass) in which the Lord calls his people, unites it around the dual table of the Word and of the Bread of life, nourishes it and unites it to Himself in the offering of the Sacrifice. But an appropriate equilibrium is required. It has often happened that underlining one aspect results in sacrificing the other. What has happened is that the just emphasis on the celebration of the Eucharist has been made to the detriment of Eucharistic adoration as an act of faith and of prayer directed to the Lord Jesus, really present in the Sacrament of the Altar. Confining one's relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus solely to the Mass risks removing any sense of his presence from the rest of time and space. And so one perceives less the sense of Jesus' constant presence among us and with us, a concrete presence, one which is near, among our homes, as the "pulsating Heart" of the city, the country, the territory with its varied expressions and actvities.

It's a mistake to counterpose the celebration of the Mass and adoration of the Eucharist. On the contrary, the cult of the Most Holy Sacrament constitutes the spiritual "environment" in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth.

So the Holy Father is putting adoration and Mass together. Each is necessary for a fuller appreciation of the other. Surely a symptom of the mistaken contra-positioning of adoration and celebration is the removal of the Tabernacle from its central location in our parish churches. Thankfully we are seeing a return of the Tabernacle to its rightful place at the heart of our churches.

The Holy Father also speaks about his experience of adoration as uniting the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood as both find themselves called as one in the eucharistic cult. He refers to his experiences of the youth vigils in Cologne, Hyde Park (London), Madrid and elsewhere, when all - priest and faithful - were united, and how these times of adoration prepared the hearts of all for a more fruitful encounter with the Lord in the Holy Mass.
For everyone to be in prolonged silence before the Lord present in his Sacrament, is one of the most authentic experiences of our being Church, which accompanies itself in a complementary manner with that of celebrating the Eucharist, listening to the Word of God, singing, drawing close together to the table of the Bread of life. Communion and contemplation cannot be separated, they go together.
Pope Benedict also considered the aspect of sacrality. He refers to a secularistic mentality of the sixties and seventies of last century which as influenced the cult of the Eucharist. It is important that the sacred nature of the Eucharist be manifest by appropriate signs.
If, for example, in the name of a secularized faith which has no longer any need of sacred signs, this city procession of Corpus Domini were to be abolished, the spiritual profile of Rome would be rendered flattened, and our personal and communitarian conscience would become weakened. Or let us consider a mother and a father who, in the name of a desacralized faith, would deprive their children of all religious ritual: in reality they would end up by leaving an open field to so many surrogates present in our consumer society, to other rites and other signs, which could more easily become idols. God, our Father, has not made humanity in this way: he sent his Son into the world not to abolish but to bring to fulfilment the sacred.
There are many, many people who no longer participate in the Mass and I have no doubt that this is due in large part to the desacralisation that has occurred over recent decades. It is my prayer and hope that a re-sacralization will result in recapturing the field of people's spiritual lives which have been overcome by consumerism or, lacking any real purpose in life, by despair, bitterness...

Our Blessed Sacrament procession on Sunday will be a public manifestation of our faith in the abiding presence of the Eucharistic Jesus who lives in the town, who wants to be close to the people of this town, who wants to walk by and bless the homes and businesses of this town and all who dwell or work in them.

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