Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sacramentum Caritatis and the "Eucharistic Life"

Part III of Sacramentum Caritatis deals with the Eucharistic Life, and how to live your life while recognising the Eucharistic character of every aspect of the world around us. The premise is that of the entire exhortation, namely that the Eucharist is the pre-eminent sacrament and is the "source and summit of the Church's life" (paragraph 70).
71. Christianity's new worship includes and transfigures every aspect of life: "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31). Christians, in all their actions, are called to offer true worship to God. Here the intrinsically eucharistic nature of Christian life begins to take shape. The Eucharist, since it embraces the concrete, everyday existence of the believer, makes possible, day by day, the progressive transfiguration of all those called by grace to reflect the image of the Son of God (cf. Rom 8:29ff.). 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. Here we can see the full human import of the radical newness brought by Christ in the Eucharist: the worship of God in our lives cannot be relegated to something private and individual, but tends by its nature to permeate every aspect of our existence. Worship pleasing to God thus becomes a new way of living our whole life, each particular moment of which is lifted up, since it is lived as part of a relationship with Christ and as an offering to God. The glory of God is the living man (cf. 1 Cor 10:31). And the life of man is the vision of God. (203)
This really tells it all, and summarizes essentially the entire exhortation. The Eucharistic Life extends to all of human existence, and there is nothing we do that cannot be traced back to the Eucharist. This extends especially to our public life; the Eucharistic faith is not limited to the private, personal times in our lives.
83. Here it is important to consider what the Synod Fathers described as eucharistic consistency, a quality which our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one's children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms (230). These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature (231). There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29). Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them (232).
Normally I would have picked a couple good sentences from this statement and then summarized the rest. I must point out how important this is, as related to what was said before. We cannot simply be believers without being doers. And some of us, due to the blessings God has bestowed upon us, are in the position to affect public policy. Those who are in such a position have the obligation to act out their faith much more than anyone else. After all, to those whom much has been given, much is expected.

This leads into one of the major themes of Sacramentum Caritatis: the Radical Newness of Christianity. Under Judaism, there wasn't a universal communal sense of life (a Eucharistic sense). There was the concept of the Chosen People, but it was more a following of God's commandments, offering the necessary sacrifices, etc. that the faithful had an obligation to. The idea of the "mystical body" hadn't been developed.

So, how does the Pope suggest we live the Eucharistic Life? The first aspects that are mentioned are the participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
72. From the beginning Christians were clearly conscious of this radical newness which the Eucharist brings to human life. The faithful immediately perceived the profound influence of the eucharistic celebration on their manner of life. (...) Saint Ignatius' phrase – "living in accordance with the Lord's Day" – also emphasizes that this holy day becomes paradigmatic for every other day of the week. Indeed, it is defined by something more than the simple suspension of one's ordinary activities, a sort of parenthesis in one's usual daily rhythm. (...)

73. Conscious of this new vital principle which the Eucharist imparts to the Christian, the Synod Fathers reaffirmed the importance of the Sunday obligation for all the faithful, viewing it as a wellspring of authentic freedom enabling them to live each day in accordance with what they celebrated on "the Lord's Day." The life of faith is endangered when we lose the desire to share in the celebration of the Eucharist and its commemoration of the paschal victory. (...)
These statements reaffirm something that has been lost in recent years, the respect for Sunday and Sunday worship. My observation is that many people have lost the sense that Sunday mass is important. People will miss mass and think nothing of it. Very few people who miss mass even would consider the fact that they should go to confession before returning to the Eucharist. It is a quite important thing that needs to be restored.
74. (...) Christians, not without reference to the meaning of the Sabbath in the Jewish tradition, have seen in the Lord's Day a day of rest from their daily exertions. This is highly significant, for it relativizes work and directs it to the person: work is for man and not man for work.
This is quite an interesting statement, because it goes somewhat against what I have learned previously. I have been exposed to the teachings of Opus Dei, and one of the common statements is that man is made for work. Reading one version of the creation story in Genesis will support that idea; Adam was made to work the land. This doesn't oppose The Work, but it did make me think.
82. (...) by sharing in the sacrifice of the Cross, the Christian partakes of Christ's self-giving love and is equipped and committed to live this same charity in all his thoughts and deeds" (228). In a word, "'worship' itself, eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented"
This relates to the idea presented above, namely that the Eucharist is incomplete without a moral transformation. The Eucharist leads us to give Christian witness with our lives.
89. The union with Christ brought about by the Eucharist also brings a newness to our social relations: "this sacramental ‘mysticism' is social in character." Indeed, "union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own."(241) The relationship between the eucharistic mystery and social commitment must be made explicit. (...) In discussing the social responsibility of all Christians, the Synod Fathers noted that the sacrifice of Christ is a mystery of liberation that constantly and insistently challenges us. I therefore urge all the faithful to be true promoters of peace and justice: "All who partake of the Eucharist must commit themselves to peacemaking in our world scarred by violence and war, and today in particular, by terrorism, economic corruption and sexual exploitation."
And this is where I have been challenged in reading this document. The Eucharist points us toward social justice. I've always, for some reason, had an aversion to the social justice aspect of Christianity. I think it is because there are people who focus only on that, and I am much more an internal conversion/prayer life sort of Catholic. Those people who seem to focus on social justice, to the detriment even of true faith, really don't help the faith, just like the fundamentalist Christians don't help the cause any by insisting on a strictly evolution free 6 day creationist idea of "science".
93. At the conclusion of these reflections, in which I have taken up a number of themes raised at the Synod, I also wish to accept the proposal which the Synod Fathers advanced as a means of helping the Christian people to believe, celebrate and live ever more fully the mystery of the Eucharist. The competent offices of the Roman Curia will publish a Compendium which will assemble texts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prayers, explanations of the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Missal and other useful aids for a correct understanding, celebration and adoration of the Sacrament of the Altar (251). It is my hope that this book will help make the memorial of the Passover of the Lord increasingly the source and summit of the Church's life and mission. This will encourage each member of the faithful to make his or her life a true act of spiritual worship.
All I can say to this: "Awesome." I hope to be the first one on the block to have one, and hopefully will be able to get one before the first set is sold out at the store (like the first Compendium) .
97. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may the Holy Spirit kindle within us the same ardour experienced by the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35) and renew our "eucharistic wonder" through the splendour and beauty radiating from the liturgical rite, the efficacious sign of the infinite beauty of the holy mystery of God. (...)
There's nothing like a happy ending.

May the Eucharistic life spring forth within us and bring this world the peace it desperately needs.

No comments: