Mass: daily focal point
Furthermore, the celebration of Holy Mass must not be merely one of the many activities of the day but, on the contrary, its central moment, the most important act of
the priestly ministry.
There is no more exalted, meaningful, involving, salvific, transforming or vivifying event in the world, none more merciful in regards to human misery, than the
celebration of the Eucharist, which makes present in history, renewing each time, the one Paschal Sacrifice of Jesus Christ offered to the Father for our salvation.
If Holy Mass is the most important daily act in human history, it must be celebrated with the greatest possible dignity and care. Benedict XVI writes: “The liturgy is a radiant expression of the Paschal Mystery, in which Christ draws us to himself and calls us to communion..., the truth of God’s love in Christ encounters us, attracts us
and delights us, enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love” (n. 35).
All this is God’s action. Now, “[s]ince the Eucharistic liturgy is essentially an actio Dei which draws us into Christ through the
Holy Spirit, its basic structure is not something within our power to change, nor can it be held hostage by the latest trends” (n. 37).
Having considered this, one understands the importance of “faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness;
indeed. for 2,000 years this way of celebrating has sustained the faith life of all believers” as stressed by the Pope (n. 38), and he adds: “Attentiveness and fidelity
to the specific structure of the rite express both a recognition of the nature of Eucharist as a gift and, on the part of the minister, a docile openness to receiving this ineffable gift” (n. 40).
As well as by a dignified celebration of the Eucharist, Eucharistic spirituality, which must constitute the backbone of presbyteral spirituality, is strengthened by
Visits to and adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle during the course of the day are among its most traditional expressions, as the example of so
many saints has confirmed. Truly, the hours spent before the Most Blessed Sacrament are among the most precious in a priest’s life.
We all learn this from the time we attended the seminary. These hours are priceless opportunities to experience a long moment of prayer and personal encounter with the
We know that in recent decades, with the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council, it has not always been easy to understand the relationship between the
celebration of Holy Mass and Eucharistic Adoration.
The Pope mentions this incomprehension and corrects it, affirming: “During the early phases of the reform, the inherent
relationship between Mass and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not always perceived with sufficient clarity. For example, an objection that was widespread at the time argued that the Eucharistic Bread
was given to us not to be looked at, but to be eaten.
“In the light of the Church’s experience of prayer, however; this was seen to be a false dichotomy... Eucharistic Adoration is
simply the natural consequence of the Eucharistic Celebration, which is itself the Church’s supreme act of adoration” (n. 66).
The Trinitarian aspect
To manifest all the richness of the Eucharistic mystery in the context of priestly spirituality, it is right to give further emphasis to the following aspects.
First of all, the Trinitarian character of the Eucharistic faith.
The Church encounters in the Eucharist the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity and is inserted into its communion of life and love through the memorial of the Paschal
Mystery of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, celebrated and made sacramentally present.
Pope Benedict XVI says: “The Eucharist reveals the loving plan that guides all of salvation history. (cf. Eph 1:10; 3:8-11). There
the Deus Trinitas, who is essentially love (cf. I Jn 4:7-8), becomes fully a part of our human condition. In the bread and wine under whose appearances Christ gives himself to us in the paschal meal (cf. Lk
22:14-20; I Cor 11:23-26). God’s whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us. God is a perfect communion of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit... But it is in Christ, dead and risen, and in
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, given without measure (cf. Jn 3:34), that we have become sharers of God’s inmost life” (n. 8).
All this began when the Father sent forth his Son, made man in the Virgin Mary’s womb by the action of the Holy Spirit. In this context, the Pope cites the illuminating
Gospel passage: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not
to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:16-17) (n. 17).
The other Eucharistic element is the gift without reserve which Christ makes of himself for the life of the world. “This is my
body which is given for you… This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk 22:19-20).
Thus, Jesus in the Eucharist of the Last Supper anticipated the gift of his life on the Cross. He gave himself totally: “Greater
love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).
Every time the priest celebrates the Eucharist, he learns from Christ to give his own life without reserve for humanity’s salvation. This complete gift of himself, made
possible by a growing configuration with Jesus Christ, dead and risen, also sustains and nourishes the priest in the charism of celibacy.
In the Eucharist, Christ distributes the Bread of Life, which is himself, dead and risen. This is the true Bread for which every human being profoundly hungers.
We have all been created for communion with the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity. It is a life of love, because God is love, a life of loving and of feeling love.
The Eucharistic Bread is the testimony and gift of this divine love.
Solidarity with the poor
Yet at the same time, it reminds us that in this world material bread, indispensable for our survival, has not been distributed in a just or fraternal way. Indeed, many
go hungry. They die of hunger. Practical and effective solidarity with the poor is a form of coherency necessary for anyone who partakes of the Eucharist.
The Pope says: “Our communities, when they celebrate the Eucharist, must become ever more conscious that the sacrifice of Christ
is for all, and that the Eucharist thus compels all who believe in him to become ‘bread that is broken’ for others, and to work for the building of a more just and fraternal world.
“Keeping in mind the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, we need to realize that Christ still continues today to exhort his
disciples to become personally engaged: ‘You yourselves, give them something to eat” (Mt 14:16) (n. 88).
In this broad vision of the Eucharist perceived as “bread broken for the life of the world”. Benedict XVI urges us, ever and again, to let ourselves be involved in building a world of true peace founded on “justice, reconciliation and forgiveness” (n. 89), but a world that “liberate[s] the immense masses of the poor from destitution” (n. 90).
Lastly, it is necessary to consider that “an authentically Eucharistic Church is a missionary Church” (n. 84). The Eucharist compels the priest to be a missionary.
Some priests go in mission ad gentes. All, however, are called to be missionaries among the people of their own parish and diocese. Missionary in the strict sense of
the word means people who decide to set out and meet the people, especially Catholics who have fallen away.
The field of missionary action is vast. The harvest is ripe and truly risks being wasted. Today, the Church has a new awareness that only a genuine missionary spirit
can renew her.
The Pope writes: “The love that we celebrate in the Sacrament is not something we can keep to ourselves. By its very nature it
demands to be shared with all. What the world needs is God’s love; it needs to encounter Christ and to believe in him.
“The Eucharist is thus the source and summit not only of the Church’s life, but also of her mission... We cannot approach the
Eucharistic table without being drawn into the mission which, beginning in the very heart of God, is meant to reach all people. Missionary outreach is thus an essential part of the Eucharistic form of the Christian
life” (n. 84).
These are a few of the points contained in Sacramentum Caritatis that form part of an authentic presbyteral spirituality. In this way, Benedict XVI shows once again his
love for and closeness to priests