We end the week with a treat: a recent address by the papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. He delivered the Francis John Cardinal Dearden Lecture at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, last Wednesday, April 26. The title of his lecture is, “The Eucharist and Ecclesial Discernment,” and he offers some timely insights that are relevant both to the global synod and the Eucharistic revival.
I found his discussion of our encounter with Christ in the liturgy, and the Eucharist as the source of the life of the Church especially worth pondering:
The Eucharistic liturgy is characterized by a movement proceeding from God. He comes to look for us, he enters the space of our lives even if the doors are closed, as they were in the cenacle. He has the power to win our resistance and descend into the history of each believer. He enlightens it through an encounter made possible by his humanity, through which the divine life is given. This dynamic is sacred and is the safeguard of the gratuitousness of the salvific act, which can never be the outcome of human initiative. The Pope elaborates on this very point in Desiderio desideravi when says,
If there were lacking our astonishment at the fact that the Paschal Mystery is rendered present in the concreteness of sacramental signs, we would truly risk being impermeable to the ocean of grace that floods every celebration. Efforts to favor a greater quality to the celebration, even if praiseworthy, are not enough; nor is the call for a greater interiority. Interiority can run the risk of reducing itself to an empty subjectivity if it has not taken on board the revelation of the Christian mystery. The encounter with God is not the fruit of an individual interior searching for Him, but it is an event given. We can encounter God through the new fact of the Incarnation that reaches in the Last Supper the extreme point of his desiring to be eaten by us. How can the misfortune of distancing ourselves from the allure of the beauty of this gift happen to us? (Pope Francis, Apostolic Letter Desiderio Desideravi, 24).
The fact that the encounter with Christ happens in the context of the liturgy also points to the ecclesial character of the Eucharist. The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. In the Acts of the Apostles this dynamic is skillfully summarized by the brief statements that describe the early Christian community. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42). “The community of the believers had but one mind and heart” (Acts 4:32). It is in the heart of the Christian assembly that it is possible to experience the victory of Christ over death. We are taken up in the dynamic of his Paschal Mystery as a community of believers, not as individuals. Thus, the Church becomes sacrament of salvation, the place where an intimate knowledge of the Savior and of his will is possible. The Eucharist is the place of proximity between Christ and his Church, which in turns engenders a moment of profound ecclesial discernment. We have now all the elements necessary to turn our attention to the last panel of our tryptic.
Another excerpt, in which he discusses how synodality is an “exercise of communion” that expresses the “true way of being Church”:
Many ask how we evangelize the modern world. The answer can only be found by evangelizing, with that openness to other that Pope Francis is asking us to have. There, in the struggle of the everyday encounter with sin, with poverty, with the challenges of indifferentism and atheism, we will find the path. The charism of the evangelizer is that of a path-finder, of one who navigates by sight. The same reasoning lies behind the invitation of the Pope to synodality, which is not an undercover attempt to introduce a parliamentary system. Rather, it is an exercise of communion, which expresses at its core the true way of being Church. Synodality invites us to listen to the other, to break the barrier of isolation in order to know what the suffering of our neighbors are. Here again the Eucharist is the north star. It leads us down the path of the Incarnation not to judge but to love.
The official text is here, but I advise that you watch or listen to his address because he adds some very interesting unscripted remarks throughout.
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.