Preacher Warns of Growing Accustomed to Eucharist

Pope and Curial Officials Hear 2nd Advent Sermon

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 10, 2004 ( The greatest risk is to grow accustomed to the Eucharist, where Christ’s body and blood are truly present, said a Capuchin in an Advent sermon heard by the Pope.

And what most saddens Christ is the “coldness” of his own followers, added Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, in his sermon delivered today in the presence of John Paul II and officials of the Roman Curia.

Father Cantalamessa was continuing his Advent meditations in the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the Apostolic Palace, in preparation for Christmas, by calling attention to the real presence of the Son of God in the sacrament of the altar. The context of his sermons is the Year of the Eucharist.

The papal preacher proposed a reflection on the second stanza of the Eucharistic hymn “Adoro Te Devote,” which says: “Sight, touch and taste in Thee are each deceived; the ear alone most safely is believed: I believe all the Son of God has spoken, than Truth’s own word there is no truer token.”

It is about “hearing a precise word pronounced by him [Jesus] who is Truth itself,” the Capuchin said, “the word of the institution that the priest repeats in the Mass: ‘This is my body’; ‘This is the cup of my blood.'”

“The Church has based herself on this word of Christ in explaining the Eucharist; it is the rock of our faith in the real presence,” said Father Cantalamessa.

The preacher quoted St. Thomas Aquinas, who explained: “That the real body and blood of Christ is present in this sacrament, is something that cannot be perceived either with the senses or with the intellect, but only with faith, which is supported by the authority of God. Because of this, when commenting on the passage in St. Luke 22:19: ‘This is my body which is given for you,’ St. Cyril says: Do not cast doubt on the truth of this, but, rather, accept with faith the words of the Savior: because he, being the Truth, does not lie.”

“Faith is necessary if the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is to be not only ‘real’ but also ‘personal,’ namely, from person to person,” because “it is one thing ‘to be’ and another ‘to be present,'” he specified.

“Without faith, Christ is in the Eucharist but he is not so for me. Presence implies one who is present and one to whom one is present; it implies reciprocal communion, the exchange between two free subjects, who notice one another. It is much more, therefore, than simply being in a certain place,” the Capuchin explained.

This is the reason St. Augustine said: “Do not open wide the mouth but the heart. We are not nourished by what we see, but by what we believe.”

And, despite all of the above, “the most serious danger risked is to grow accustomed to the Eucharist, to take it for granted and, therefore, to trivialize it,” warned Father Cantalamessa.

“We are rightly horrified at the news of violated tabernacles, ciboria stolen for abominable ends,” he said. “Perhaps, of them, Jesus repeats what he said of his executioners: ‘They know not what they do,’ but that which most saddens him, perhaps, is the coldness of his own.”

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