August 17, 2007

Seeking the Face of the Lord

The Eucharist and our baptismal call to holiness

(Fourteenth in a series)

The effect of enjoying the gift of the holy Eucharist extends beyond active participation at Sunday Mass or any other Mass.

An important fact of our Christian faith that is often underappreciated is the baptismal call to holiness.

Every Catholic by virtue of his or her baptism “has a vocation.” How one lives the call to holiness in reality needs our serious reflection.

Not only consecrated religious women and men, not only priests and deacons, “have a vocation.”

Based on the reality of this foundation, Pope Benedict XVI writes in Part III of his exhortation on the Eucharist: “The Eucharist, as a mystery to be ‘lived’, meets each of us as we are, and makes our concrete existence the place where we experience daily the radical newness of the Christian life (n. 79).

“The eucharistic sacrifice nourishes and increases within us all that we have already received at Baptism, with its call to holiness, and this must be clearly evident from the way individual Christians live their lives. Day by day we become ‘a worship pleasing to God’ by living our lives as a vocation. … The Church’s pastors should unfailingly support, guide and encourage the lay faithful to live fully their vocation to holiness within this world which God so loved that he gave his Son to become its salvation (cf. Jn 3:16)” (n 79).

Priestly spirituality is intrinsically eucharistic in a special way. Pope Benedict writes: “The seeds of this spirituality are already found in the words spoken by the Bishop during the ordination liturgy: ‘Receive the oblation of the holy people to be offered to God. Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.’ In order to give an ever greater eucharistic form to his existence, the priest, beginning with his years in the seminary, should make his spiritual life his highest priority. He is called to seek God tirelessly, while remaining attuned to the concerns of his brothers and sisters (n. 80).

“An intense spiritual life will enable him to enter more deeply into communion with the Lord and to let himself be possessed by God’s love, bearing witness to that love at all times, even the darkest and most difficult. To this end, I join the Synod Fathers in recommending ‘the daily celebration of Mass, even when the faithful are not present.’ This recommendation is consistent with the objectively infinite value of every celebration of the Eucharist, and is motivated by the Mass’s unique spiritual fruitfulness. If celebrated in a faith-filled and attentive way, Mass is formative in the deepest sense of the word, since it fosters the priest’s configuration to Christ and strengthens him in his vocation” (n. 80).

“The relationship of the Eucharist to various ecclesial vocations is seen in a particularly vivid way in ‘the prophetic witness of consecrated men and women, who find in the celebration of the Eucharist and in Eucharistic adoration the strength necessary for the radical following of Christ, obedient, poor and chaste.’ … The essential contribution that the Church expects from consecrated persons is much more in the order of being than of doing (n. 81).

“Here I wish to reaffirm the importance of the witness of virginity, precisely in relation to the mystery of the Eucharist. In addition to its connection to priestly celibacy, the eucharistic mystery also has an intrinsic relationship to consecrated virginity, inasmuch as the latter is an expression of the Church’s exclusive devotion to Christ, whom she accepts as her Bridegroom with a radical and fruitful fidelity. In the Eucharist, consecrated virginity finds inspiration and nourishment for its complete dedication to Christ” (n. 81).

After his reflection on the Eucharist and vocation, Pope Benedict reflects briefly on the “moral energy” it provides “for sustaining the authentic freedom of the children of God.” He speaks of the connection between the “Eucharistic form of life and moral transformation.” Pope John Paul II stated that moral life ‘has the value of spiritual worship,’ flowing from and nourished by that inexhaustible source of holiness and glorification of God which is found in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist…’ ” Pope Benedict quotes his first encyclical: “A Eucharist which does not pass over in the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented” (n. 82).

The moral value of spiritual worship should not be understood in a merely moralistic way. “The moral transformation implicit in the new worship instituted by Christ is a heartfelt yearning to respond to the Lord’s love with one’s whole being, while remaining conscious of one’s own weakness. … The moral urgency born of welcoming Jesus into our lives is the fruit of gratitude for having experienced the Lord’s unmerited closeness” (n. 82).

Our desire to respond to the Lord’s love is an ongoing challenge to live our respective calls, vocations, to holiness. †

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