Eucharist: a Foretaste of Eternal Life

4th Lenten Sermon by Father Cantalamessa

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 18, 2005 ( The Eucharist allows us to taste the first fruits of eternal life and is the source where the Christian’s «hope and joy» are constantly renewed, says the Pontifical Household preacher.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa made that point today in the fourth of a series of weekly Lenten meditations, which he has delivered in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace.

The meditations are attended by members of the Roman Curia and other cardinals, bishops and religious close to the Vatican.

Father Cantalamessa summarized his sermon for ZENIT, which is on the topic of the Eucharistic hymn «Adoro Te Devote.» He began a series of commentaries on the hymn in Advent, and has continued the theme this Lent.

The last stanza — «Jesus! Whom for the present veiled I see, / what I so thirst for, O vouchsafe to me: / that I may see Thy countenance unfolding, / and may be blest Thy glory in beholding. Amen.» — gave the preacher the opportunity to address the eschatological dimension of the Eucharist.

«It is the very manner of Jesus’ presence in the sacrament which awakens in the heart the hope and desire for something more,» but «the Eucharist is not limited to awakening the desire of future glory, but is the pledge of it,» explained the preacher.

It is «the sacrament that reveals to us, pilgrims on earth, the Christian meaning of life» and, «like the manna, … nourishes those who are journeying toward the Promised Land.» It «reminds the Christian constantly that he is a ‘pilgrim and a stranger’ in this world; that his life is an exodus.» The Eucharistic bread «sustains us during the whole of our journey in this life.»

Starting from the New Testament, explained Father Cantalamessa, Christian eschatology has taken two «different and complementary» directions: the «consequent» eschatology of the synoptics and St. Paul, «which situates the fulfillment in the future, in the second coming of Christ, and emphasizes strongly the dimension of expectation and hope,» and the «realized» eschatology of St. John, who «situates the essential fulfillment in the past, in the coming of Christ of the incarnation and he sees already initiated, in faith and in the sacraments, the experience of eternal life.»

«The Eucharist reflects both perspectives,» says the Capuchin priest. There is «the ‘consequent’ eschatology, inasmuch as it makes us live ‘in expectation of his coming,’ and impels us to look constantly ahead and to feel as ‘wayfarers’ in this world.»

But there is also the «‘realized’ eschatology,» said the preacher, as it «allows us to taste, already now, the first fruits of eternal life. It is as an open window through which the future world erupts into the present, eternity enters into time, and creatures begin their ‘return to God.'»

The Pontifical Household preacher said that the Eucharist reminds us of «where we are going, the final destiny of glory that awaits us, and having us ‘foretaste’ something of that future glory.»

«The Eucharist is, for that very reason, the source where the Christian’s hope and glory is renewed every day,» he said.

«The joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the men of our time, (…) are at the same time the joys and hopes, sorrows and anxieties of Christ’s disciples. There is nothing truly human that does not find an echo in his heart,» he said, quoting the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution, «Gaudium et Spes.»

Father Cantalamessa continued: «Nothing exists — we might add — that does not find an echo in the Eucharist,» as in it «is gathered and offered to God, at the same time, all the sorrows but also all the joys of humanity.»

«We find it very natural to turn to God in sorrow,» however, we «prefer to enjoy our joys on our own, hidden, almost with our backs turned to God,» he said. «How wonderful it would be if we also learned to live our joys of life eucharistically, namely, in thanksgiving to God.»

«God’s presence and gaze do not obfuscate our honest joys; on the contrary, they amplify them,» the preacher added. «With him, little joys become an incentive to aspire to everlasting joy when, as our stanza sings, ‘we see his countenance unfolding, and are blest his glory in beholding.'»

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