The Eucharist: "God-With-Us," Says Pontifical Household Preacher

Father Cantalamessa’s Homily During the Liturgy of the Passion

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 26, 2005 ( The Eucharist is the way invented by the Almighty to remain «forever ‘Emmanuel’ — God-with-us,» the Pontifical Household preacher said in his Good Friday homily.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa focused on the Year of the Eucharist in his sermon at the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Cardinal James Stafford, major penitentiary of the Church, presided over the Good Friday ceremony on behalf of John Paul II. The Pope, who is convalescing, watched the event from his quarters via a video linkup.

The Ave Verum, a 13th-century Eucharistic hymn, was the Capuchin’s choice for his meditation.

It reads: «Hail, true Body, truly born of the Virgin Mary mild / Truly offered, wracked and torn, on the Cross for all defiled, / from whose love-pierced, sacred side flowed thy true Blood’s saving tide: / be a foretaste sweet to me in my death’s great agony. / Of my loving, Gentle One, Sweetest Jesus, Mary’s Son.»

An emphasis on «identifying totally the Eucharistic body and the historical body of Christ» is a key to the verses.

«The very Jesus born of Mary,» said the preacher, «went about doing good to all, who died on the cross and rose again on the third day, is really present in the world today, not merely in a vague and spiritual way, or, as some would say, in the ‘cause’ he stood for.»

«The Eucharist is the way Jesus invented to remain forever Emmanuel, God-with-us,» he stressed. «This presence is a guarantee, not only for the Church, but for the entire world.»

In fact, the papal preacher said that the expression «God-with-us,» leaves no ground for exclusiveness as, with the coming of Christ, everything has become universal.

«God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them. The whole world, not just a part of it; humankind as a whole, not just one people,» said the Capuchin.

Hence, «God is on our side, that is, on the side of humankind, our friend and ally against the powers of evil,» he said.

Further, «God did not reconcile the world to himself only to abandon it to nothingness,» Father Cantalamessa said. «He did not promise to remain with us to the end of the world only to go, alone, back to his heaven when that end comes.»

«The Letter to the Hebrews says that Christ died to win ‘an eternal redemption’ for us,» he said. «There is someone who comes back from beyond death every day to give us that certainty and to renew his promises, if we but know how to listen to him.»

The Eucharist, moreover, prolongs the presence in history of Jesus, «sweet and gentle,» the Capuchin said. It «is the sacrament of nonviolence!» Yet, «Christ’s meekness is no justification for the violence that is done today to his person.»

«It has been said that Christ, by his sacrifice, has put an end to the perverse recourse to the scapegoat, having taken upon himself all of its consequences. Sad to say, Christ is once again subjected to that same destiny,» Father Cantalamessa said. «In an unending stream of novels films and plays, writers manipulate the figure of Christ under cover of imaginary and nonexistent new documents and discoveries.

«Perhaps we ought simply to imitate our Master and say, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’ Forgive them and forgive us, for certainly our own sins, past and present, are also to blame when the name of Christ is held in contempt among the nations.

«We could perhaps appeal to these people of our time, not only for our own sake but for theirs as well, saying what Tertullian said to gnostics of his time who denied the humanity of Christ: ‘Parce unicae spei totius orbis’: Do not destroy the only hope of the world.»

Thanking the Holy Father for the «gift of the Eucharistic Year» and wishing him a speedy recovery, Father Cantalamessa added: «Come back soon, Holy Father; Easter is much less ‘Easter’ without you.»

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