VATICAN CITY, APR. 12, 2001 (ZENIT.org).- John Paul II made an urgent Holy Thursday appeal to Christians to contemplate with wonder the great mystery of the Eucharist.
“The Eucharist is not simply the memorial of a past rite but the living representation of the Savior´s supreme gesture,” the Pope said. “From this experience, the Christian community cannot but be moved to become the prophetic voice of the new creation inaugurated at Easter.”
John Paul II celebrated the Mass of the Lord´s Supper this Holy Thursday in his cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which was overcrowded. The atmosphere was solemn. The second reading and the Gospel were sung in ancient Greek, and later in Latin, recreating the atmosphere in which the first Roman Christians heard the Scriptures.
The faithful witnessed once again the “scandal” of the Eucharist: the bread and wine become “truly, really and substantially, the body and blood of Christ. The mind feels lost before such a sublime mystery,” the Holy Father said.
John Paul II repeated Jesus´ gesture, washing the feet of 12 priests.
“By this action, Jesus reminds his disciples in every age that they must bear witness to the Eucharist in loving service to others,” the Pontiff explained.
“The washing of the feet is intended to be an exemplary act, which has its interpretative key and fullest explanation in Christ´s death on the Cross and in his Resurrection,” he continued. “In this act of humble service the Church´s faith sees the natural consequence of every Eucharistic celebration. Genuine participation in the Mass cannot but produce fraternal love in the individual believer and in the whole ecclesial community.”
To underline this dimension, while the Pope was washing the priests´ feet, the faithful were asked to be generous in alms giving for the victims of the earthquakes that devastated El Salvador in January and February, causing more than 1,200 deaths.
The funds collected were later given to the Holy Father during the offering of the gifts, before the consecration. The donations will be contributed to the Church´s work for El Salvador´s reconstruction.