Friday, March 16, 2007

Sacramentum Caritatis: Initial Reflections

I have just (finally) finished reading Pope Benedict XVI's most recent publication, the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, or, On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission. Light reading for the last few days.

My first impression: it's long! Not to be a discouragement, but it took me these three days and nights to finish it. That said, I probably tackled this length of document faster than I've finished any other ecclesiasitcal documents of similar length. It was a good read, worth all the hype.

I first heard reportings of it on the evening news, and was soon after sent an article from Zenit from a firend. By this point I had made it through the introduction and the beginning of the first part. I was struck at how these, and anything else I heard, tended to miss the point. The evening newspeople said "Pope discusses priestly celebacy in recent letter", and the Zenit article was about the Pope urging the use of Latin for international Masses. I realize that "Pope says the Eucharist is awesome" won't play well as a headline, but it was unmistakable that this was the point, just by reading the introduction and conclusion.

My thoughts, on the document as a whole. It was really nice, and wonderfully written. I had never took the time to try to view the whole of Christian life through the lens of the Eucharist, but that's what Pope Benedict did, and it really was an awakening. Nothing new was really said, it was just put into different terms, which made the critical reading difficult. There are a wealth of good reflections in this document, and I would not exhaust them with 100 posts (though I may try).

Interesting things to note about the document:
  • The Pope didn't diverge from Catholic teachings (shockers, I know)
  • The media seems to have missed the point, and got caught up in the details
  • Paragraph 93 promises the writing and publication of a "Eucharistic Compendium"
Each of the three parts had different feels, and I think I would encourage the interested reader to take each one separately. As I read, I wrote down some recurring themes, and they happened to each correspond to a different part. The first theme was trinitaritarian love, understanding that concept and how the eucharist tipifies it. Next, Part II hit me hard with focusing on respecting liturgical norms (like I said, different feel). Finally Part III touched me with the Radical Newness of Christianity.

And so, part one of our series on Sacramentum Caritatis is completed. Stay tuned as I try to exhaust its riches.

Peace and Eternal Life.

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