Pope Francis continues his catechesis on liturgical matters…
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
And today is the first day of spring: happy Spring! But, what happens in spring? Plants flower; trees flower. I’m going to ask you some questions. Does a tree or a plant flower well if it’s sick? No! Can a tree, a plant, which is not watered by rain or artificially, flower well? No. And can a tree and a plant whose roots are removed or that doesn’t have roots flower? No. But, can they flower without roots? No! And this is a message: Christian life must be a life that must flower in works of charity, in doing good. But, if you don’t have roots, you won’t be able to flower and, what is the root? Jesus! If you’re not with Jesus, rooted there, you wont’ flower. If you don’t water your life with prayer and the Sacraments, will you have Christian flowers? No! — because prayer and the Sacraments water the roots and our life flowers. I hope that this Spring will be for you a flowering Spring, as Easter will be flowering. Flowering with good works, virtues, doing good to others. Remember this; this is a very beautiful verse of my Homeland: ”What is flowering in the tree, comes from what is buried.” Never cut the roots with Jesus.
And now we continue with the catechesis on the Holy Mass. The celebration of Mass, which we are going over in various moments, is ordered to Communion, namely, to unite us to Jesus. Sacramental Communion, not spiritual Communion, which you can do at home, saying: “Jesus, I would like to receive you spiritually.” No, Sacramental Communion, with the Body and Blood of Christ. We celebrate the Eucharist to be nourished by Christ, who gives us Himself, be it in the Word, be it in the Sacrament of the altar, to conform us to Himself. The Lord Himself says it: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:56). In fact, Jesus’ gesture, who gave His disciples His Body and Blood in the Last Supper, continues still today through the ministry of the priest and of the deacon, ordinary ministers of the distribution of the Bread of life and of the Chalice of salvation. In the Mass, after breaking the consecrated Bread, namely, Jesus’ Body, the priest shows it to the faithful, inviting them to take part in the Eucharistic feast. We know the words that resound from the holy altar: “Blessed are those invited to the supper of the Lord: behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” Inspired in a passage of Revelation – “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9): It says “marriage” because Jesus is the spouse of the Church – this invitation calls us to experience intimate union with Christ, source of joy and sanctity. It’s an invitation that cheers us and, at the same time, drives us to an examination of conscience illumined by faith. If on one hand, in fact, we see the distance that separates us from Christ’s holiness, on the other we believe that His Blood is “shed for the remission of sins.” We were all forgiven in Baptism, and all of us are forgiven or will be forgiven every time that we approach the Sacrament of Penance. And, don’t forget: Jesus always forgives. Jesus doesn’t tire of forgiving. It’s we who tire of asking for forgiveness. In fact, thinking of the salvific value of this Blood, Saint Ambrose exclaimed: “I who always sin, must always make use of the medicine: (De Sacramentis 4, 28: PL 16, 446A). In this faith, we also turn our gaze to the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, and we invoke Him: “O Lord, I am not worthy to take part at your table, but only say a word and I will be saved.” We say this in every Mass.
If we are the ones that move in procession to receive Communion — we go to the altar in procession to receive Communion –, in reality it’s Christ who comes to meet us to assimilate us to Himself. It’s an encounter with Jesus! To be nourished by the Eucharist means to let ourselves be changed into what we receive. Saint Augustine helps us to understand it, when he talks about the light he received in hearing Christ say: “I am the food of grownups. Grow and you will eat Me. And it won’t be you that transforms me into yourself, as the food of your flesh, but you will be transformed into Me” (Confessions VII, 10, 16: PL 32, 742). Every time we go to Communion, we are more like Jesus, we are transformed more into Jesus. As the bread and the wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of the Lord, so all those that receive them with faith are transformed into a living Eucharist. To the priest who, distributing the Eucharist, says to you: “The Body of Christ,” you answer: “Amen,” namely, you recognize the grace and commitment entailed in becoming Body of Christ, because, when you receive the Eucharist you become Body of Christ. This is beautiful; it’s very beautiful. While uniting us to Christ, tearing us away from our egoisms, Communion opens us and unites us to all those that are one with Him. Behold the prodigy of Communion: we become what we receive!
The Church earnestly desires that the faithful also receive the Lord’s Body with the hosts consecrated in the same Mass; and the sign of the Eucharistic Banquet is expressed with greater fullness if Holy Communion is made under the two species, though knowing that Catholic doctrine teaches that the whole of Christ is received under one species (Cf. Ordinamento Generale del Messale Romano (OGMR), 85:281-281). According to ecclesial practice, the faithful normally approach the Eucharist in a processional way, as we said, and one receives Communion standing with devotion, or kneeling, as established by the Episcopal Conference, receiving the Sacrament in the mouth or, where it’s permitted, in the hand, as one prefers (Cf. OGMR, 160-161). After Communion, silence, silent prayer, helps to guard in the heart the gift received. Prolonging somewhat the moment of silence, talking with Jesus from our heart, helps us so much, as well as singing a Psalm or a hymn of praise (Cf. OGMR, 88), which help us to be with the Lord.
The Eucharistic Liturgy concludes with the prayer after Communion. In it the priest turns to God, on behalf of all, to thank Him for having made us His guests and to ask that what we received may transform our life. The Eucharist gives us strength to bear fruits of good works to live as Christians. Today’s prayer is significant, in which we ask the Lord that “the participation in His Sacrament be for us medicine of salvation, which will keep us from evil and confirm us in His friendship” (Messale Romano, Wednesday of the 5th Week of Lent). Let us approach the Eucharist: receive Jesus who transforms us into Himself and makes us stronger. The Lord is so good and so great!
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
Translation from the Italian by Virginia M. Forrester, © ZENIT, http://www.zenit.org