Summary of Heart of the Christian Life: Thoughts on Holy Mass by Pope Benedict XVI

Heart of the Christian Life: Thoughts on Holy Mass by Pope Benedict XVI, Ignatius Press, 2008. 

The Bread of Life

Whereas on Holy Thursday we process with Jesus to the Mount of Olives to accompany Him in solitude during His betrayal towards the via crucis, on Corpus Christi we process with Jesus in the joy of the Resurrection towards Galilee (cf. Mt 28:7, Acts 1:6), as a sign that we are to take the Gospel to the world.

“On the feast of Corpus Christi, the Church relives the mystery of Holy Thursday in the light of the Resurrection” (7).

“We bring Christ, present under the sign of bread, onto the streets of our city. We entrust these streets, these homes, our daily life, to his goodness. May our streets be streets of Jesus! May our homes be homes for him and with him! May our life of every day be penetrated by his presence” (9).

Without Sunday We Cannot Live

“Sine dominico non possumus.” This was the response a bishop gave to the Proconsul Anulinus in Abitene, a small village in present-day Tunisia, before this bishop and 49 Christians were martyred for not complying with Emperor Diocletian’s forbidden of celebrating the Eucharist in 304.

“For these Christians, the Sunday Eucharist was not a commandment, but an inner necessity” (99).

In the Hour of Jesus

“By making the bread into his Body and the wine into his Blood, he anticipates his death, he accepts it in his heart, and he transforms it into an action of love. What on the outside is simply brutal violence – the Crucifixion – from within becomes an act of total self-giving love. This is the substantial transformation which was accomplished at the Last Supper and was destined to set in motion a series of transformations leading ultimately to the transformation of the world when God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28)… The process of transformation must now gather momentum. The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn. We are to become the Body of Christ, his own Flesh and Blood” (21-3).

“Jesus’ hour seeks to become our own hour and will indeed become so if we allow ourselves, through the celebration of the Eucharist, to be drawn into that process of transformation that the Lord intends to bring about” (24).

Jesus Christ: Incarnate Love of God

“The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving” (Deus Caritas Est, 13).

“A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented” (Ibid, 14).

Friends of Jesus

“The mystery of the priesthood of the Church lies in the fact that we, miserable human beings, by virtue of the Sacrament, can speak with his “I”: in persona Christi. He wishes to exercise His priesthood through us” (43).

“I no longer call you servants but friends” (John 15:15). In these words, one could actually perceive the institution of the priesthood. The Lord makes us his friends; he entrusts everything to us; he entrusts himself to us, so that we can speak with he himself – in persona Christi capitas” (46).

“Activism by itself can even be heroic, but in the end external action is fruitless and loses its effectiveness unless it is born from deep inner communion with Christ. The time we spend on this is truly a time of pastoral activity, authentic pastoral activity. The priest must above all be a man of prayer” (47-8).

The core of the priesthood is beings friends with Jesus Christ… being a friend of Jesus, being a priest, means being a man of prayer” (48).

The Hope of the Grain of Wheat

Made only of a little flour and water, the bread appears as the food of the poor, those to whom the Lord made himself closest in the first place. The bread, as we hear in the liturgy of the Mass, is both the work of humans (something made by us) and the fruit of the earth (a gift from God) – a synergy of the forces of earth and the gifts from above (sun and rain).

“And so, looking closely at this little piece of white Host, this bread of the poor, appears to us as a synthesis of creation. Heaven and earth, too, like the activity and spirit of man, cooperate. The synergy of the forces that make the mystery of life and the existence of man possible on our poor planet come to meet up in all of their majestic grandeur” (52).

“In some way, we detect in the piece of bread, creation is projected toward divinization, toward the holy wedding feast, toward unification with the Creator himself” (53).

Furthermore, the mystery of the Passion is hidden in the bread made of ground grain. Flour, the ground wheat, presuppose the death and resurrection of the grain (see John 12:24).

The bread made of many grains also contains an event of union: the ground grain becoming bread is a process of unification (see Didache, IX).

Sacrament of the Life of God

“The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his Body and Blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of “nuclear fission,” to use an image familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28)” (Sacramentum Caritatis 11).

“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 8:29)” (Ibid 71).

The Gift of the Self-Dedication of Christ

“Then, as now, the Eucharist remains a “sign of contradiction” and can only be so because a God who makes himself flesh and sacrifices himself for the life of the world throws human wisdom into crisis” (94-5).

The Soul of Sunday

“Sunday has been transformed in our Western societies into the weekend, into leisure time. Leisure time is something good and necessary, especially amid the mad rush of the modern world; each of us knows this. Yet if leisure time lacks an inner focus, an overall sense of direction, then ultimately it becomes wasted time that neither strengthens nor builds us up. Leisure time requires a focus – the encounter with him who is our origin and goal: “Give the soul its Sunday, give Sunday its soul” (Cardinal Faulhaber)” (102-3).

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