New Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia
On Holy Thursday, April 17, 2003, Pope John Paul II approved the publication of an Encyclical letter, entitled Ecclesia de Eucharistia. The following summary of the Encyclical was provided by the Vatican Press Office.
The fourteenth Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II is intended to offer a deeper reflection on the mystery of the Eucharist in its relationship with the Church. The document is relatively brief, but significant for its theological, disciplinary and pastoral aspects. It will be signed on Holy Thursday, during the Mass of the Lord's Supper, within the liturgical setting of the beginning of the Paschal Triduum.
The Eucharistic Sacrifice, "the source and summit of the Christian life", contains the Church's entire spiritual wealth: Jesus Christ, who offers himself to the Father for the redemption of the world. In celebrating this "mystery of faith", the Church makes the Paschal Triduum become "contemporaneous" with men and women in every age.
The first chapter, "The Mystery of Faith", explains the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist which, through the ministry of the priest, makes sacramentally present at each Mass the body "given up" and the blood "poured out" by Christ for the world's salvation. The celebration of the Eucharist is not a repetition of Christ's passover, or its multiplication in time and in space; it is the one sacrifice of the Cross, which is re-presented until the end of time. It is, in the words of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, "a medicine of immortality, an antidote to death". As a pledge of the future Kingdom, the Eucharist also reminds believers of their responsibility for the present earth, in which the weak, the most powerless and the poorest await help from those who, by their solidarity, can give them reason for hope.
"The Eucharist Builds the Church" is the title of the second chapter. When the faithful approach the sacred banquet, not only do they receive Christ, but they in turn are received by him. The consecrated Bread and Wine are the force which generates the Church's unity. The Church is united to her Lord who, veiled by the Eucharistic species, dwells within her and builds her up. She worships him not only at Holy Mass itself, but at all other times, cherishing him as her most precious "treasure".
The third chapter is a reflection on "The Apostolicity of the Eucharist and of the Church". Just as the full reality of Church does not exist without apostolic succession, so there is no true Eucharist without the Bishop. The priest who celebrates the Eucharist acts in the person of Christ the Head; he does not possess the Eucharist as its master, but is its servant for the benefit of the community of the saved. It follows that the Christian community does not "possess" the Eucharist, but receives it as a gift.
These reflections are developed in the fourth chapter, "The Eucharist and Ecclesial Communion". The Church, as the minister of Christ's body and blood for the salvation of the world, abides by all that Christ himself established. Faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, united in the discipline of the sacraments, she must also manifest in a visible manner her invisible unity. The Eucharist cannot be "used" as a means of communion; rather it presupposes communion as already existing and strengthens it. In this context emphasis needs to be given to the commitment to ecumenism which must mark all the Lord's followers: the Eucharist creates communion and builds communion, when it is celebrated truthfully. It cannot be subject to the whim of individual or of particular communities.
"The Dignity of the Eucharistic Celebration" is the subject of the fifth chapter. The celebration of the "Mass" is marked by outward signs aimed at emphasizing the joy which assembles the community around the incomparable gift of the Eucharist. Architecture, sculpture, painting, music, literature and, more generally, every form of art demonstrate how the Church, down the centuries, has feared no extravagance in her witness to the love which unites her to her divine Spouse. A recovery of the sense of beauty is also needed in today's celebrations.
The sixth chapter, "At the School of Mary, Woman of the Eucharist'", is a timely and original reflection on the surprising analogy between the Mother of God, who by bearing the body of Jesus in her womb became the first "tabernacle", and the Church who in her heart preserves and offers to the world Christ's body and blood. The Eucharist is given to believers so that their life may become a continuous Magnificat in honour of the Most Holy Trinity.
The Conclusion is demanding: those who wish to pursue the path of holiness need no new "programs". The program already exists: it is Christ himself who calls out to be known, loved, imitated and proclaimed. The implementation of this process passes through the Eucharist. This is seen from the witness of the Saints, who at every moment of their lives slaked their thirst at the inexhaustible source of this mystery and drew from it the spiritual power needed to live fully their baptismal calling.
January Meeting of the Hispanic Liturgy Subcommittee
The Hispanic Liturgy Subcommittee of the BCL met in Phoenix, AZ , January 13-14, 2003. Bishop Carlos Sevilla, Chair, led the group. A draft of the Ritual del Matrimonio (Marriage Rite) has been completed. The Subcommittee will await the English language revision before submitting the text to the full body of bishops for approval. The translation of the Ritual del Bautismo Para Varios Niρos (Baptismal Rite) is moving forward with nearly half of the text translated. The Bendicional, (Book of Blessings) has been examined to assure that the necessary scripture texts from the Mexican leccionario are available for insertion into the text. Work on the translation of the text has begun. The group has begun the preliminary steps toward the publication of the Leccionario (Lectionary) in Spanish.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and the Liturgy
- What is SARS?
- What is the best way to prevent the transmission of SARS?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, "As with other infectious illnesses, one of the most important and appropriate preventive practices is careful and frequent hand hygiene. Cleaning your hands often using either soap and water or waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizers removes potentially infectious materials from your skin and helps prevent disease transmission."
- What has the Church done in localities where the outbreak of SARS is most significant?
In those localities where the outbreak of the disease has been the most significant, Bishops have introduced several liturgical adaptations in regard to the distribution of Holy Communion, the exchange of the sign of peace and the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance in order to limit the spread of contagion.
- What measures should be taken in Roman Catholic liturgies in the United States of America?
The Diocesan Bishop should always be consulted regarding any changes or restriction of options in the celebration of Roman Catholic Liturgy. While in some heavily affected locales, Bishops have introduced extraordinary measures, the need for the introduction of widespread liturgical adaptations for the prevention of the transmission of SARS in the dioceses of the United States of America is not evident at this time. Again, in the words of the CDC:
"In the United States, cases of SARS continue to be reported primarily among people who traveled to affected areas; a small number of other people have gotten sick after being in close contact with (that is, having cared for or lived with) a SARS patient while in the United States. Currently, there is no evidence that SARS is spreading more widely in the community in the United States. To minimize the risk for SARS among U.S. residents, the public health system is taking careful and thorough precautions to stop the spread of SARS. People who are suspected of having SARS are being isolated from others and getting care. People arriving from affected parts of the world (who might have been exposed to SARS) are receiving information about SARS and instructions on what they should do if they become ill. SARS patients and their contacts are being monitored to help prevent spread of the disease."
- What is the Secretariat for the Liturgy doing to address this question?
The Secretariat will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide the best advice possible to Diocesan Bishops and their Offices for Worship. The Secretariat likewise appreciates whatever information Diocesan Offices for Worship are able to provide concerning local conditions and the pastoral responses developed by Diocesan Bishops.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, "SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome] is an infectious illness that appears to spread primarily by close person-to-person contact, such as in situations in which persons have cared for, lived with, or had direct contact with respiratory secretions and/or body fluids of a person known to be a suspect SARS case. Potential ways in which infections can be transmitted by close contact include touching the skin of other persons or objects that become contaminated with infectious droplets and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth."