Here's a reflection I wrote on August 26, 2008 on the catechesis given by Cardinal Mario Bergoglio (now, Pope Francis) at the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City. Seems incredible that he is now the Pope! To read Cardinal Bergoglio's Catechesis text, visit the Vatican website
This may come out sounding a bit complicated, so you’ll have to bear with me and maybe help me sort it out. I apologise for not sorting it out first before bringing you into it, but it is too big to contain. Think of Cat Steven’s song, “I can’t let it in… I gotta let it out…”
I was disappointed about half way during the Eucharistic Congress, because my goal to write a bit about every day was not made possible. By day three, there was just too much. I managed a blog entry on day four, and promised more, but was not able to do it.
The reason why this upset me is because there was so much to share, so many insights, so many “A-ha” moments. We recently taped a Catholic Focus talking about our Eucharistic Congress experience (to be broadcast in September), and it allowed me to "relive" the Congress and be able to remember many of those wonderful moments.
Not surprisingly, for me, many of them had to do, not with the Eucharist specifically, but with marriage. Which makes sense, because what is true for one Sacrament, is true for all of them.
On June 18th, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires and Primate of Argentina, spoke on the daily theme of “The Eucharist builds up the Church, the Sacrament of Salvation”, his talk titled: “The Eucharist and the Church, Mystery of the Covenant”.
As he began, I was brought back (made memory) to a most awesome week I had in Buenos Aires in January 2001 for that year's Youth Congress of Latin American Bishops. Youth and Youth Ministry representatives, priests, Bishops and a few Cardinals from all 23 Latin American countries and Spain, gathered in a small retreat house for six days, to reflect on the state of youth ministry in the continent. It was one of the first of many World Youth Day blessings for me.
The reason why Cardinal Bergoglio’s talk reminded me of this meeting (other than the fact that he is Argentinian) was because of the approach to the topic. It was very organised. He had the topic divided into “Don” (gift) and “tarea” (work). Each topic had subtopics and even sub-sub-topics. This was how the week in Buenos Aires, seven years ago was structured.
I must say that a lot of it went over my head. While amazing, a lot of it sounded a bit academic and far out of my reach. That is often true of topics that have so much depth to them.
Then he said something that will forever change my attitude towards the Eucharist and marriage: “The institution of the Eucharist anticipates the Sacrifice on the Cross.”
He went on to explain, “So that the disciples, when they realised (each in their own time) what Christ had offered in His passion, [they also realized] that they already had received Him and that He had already made them participants in this redemptive sacrifice.”
This blew me away. He meant that the Sacrifice on the Cross would have had no meaning, had the Eucharist not been first instituted. Without the Eucharist, the sacrifice on the Cross, would have only been a total act of God, but without anyone capable of receiving it. “The wine would have broken the old wine skins,” he said. But instead, “the act of the Cross is received into the new wine skin of the hearts that have already received Him and pre-tasted Him in the Eucharist.” He concluded, “That is why all the Passion could have and can be contemplated as salvific, because those who contemplate on it are "already included," in communion with the salvific love beating in the Lord who suffers it.”
I don’t know if that makes any sense to anyone. Let me explain: Christ had to institute the Eucharist first, in order to prepare the disciples’ hearts, for His passion – so that they could be included in His passion. That makes sense, because the only way that WE are included in His Passion, is through and thanks to, the Eucharist. If it’s true for us, it must have been true for the disciples.
And the washing of the feet, the mundane application of the sacrifice is so key. In many ways, the Eucharist and the sacrifice on the Cross, would also have no meaning without the washing of the feet. It is in the washing of the feet that we can participate in the sacrifice. Most of us are not called to die for someone else, but we are called, and have daily opportunities to serve each other, to wash each other's feet.
Here’s the clincher for me. Cardinal Bergoglio used marriage as an example: Christ had to anticipate his death on the Cross with the institution of the Eucharist so his sacrifice could be received. Just like the marriage couple that “anticipates” their love in the vows, so that when they consummate that same sacramental love, it can be received and not “break the wine skins." So many couples are breaking the wine skins because the love they share is not anticipated in the vows.
It may be a bit complicated, but for me was the insight of the week. In essence it all means that without the Church, and without the Eucharist, the love of God, as expressed to us through the Sacrifice on the Cross (John 3:16), cannot be received.
What does this all mean to me in my daily life? Well, how to I participate in the Sacrifice of the Cross? How do I participate in the Eucharist? How do I live the Eucharistic mission? How do I live my marriage? Am I breaking the old wine skins, or am I letting God renew the wine skins of my heart so that my heart can be an adequate vessel to receive his Love and His presence? Are you?
Credit: CNS photo/Moussa Faddoul, S.J., Catholic Times