VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2009 (Zenit.org).- It is only in communion with Christ that Christians can offer God true worship, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope explained this today during the first general audience of 2009, in which he resumed his catechesis on St. Paul.
Speaking in a hoarsened voice after days of intense schedules during the holiday season, the Holy Father offered a lengthy explanation of the Pauline concept of “true worship,” as it is explained in three passages of the Letter to the Romans.
Referring first to a reference Paul makes to a rite in the Old Testament, the Pontiff noted how the sacrifice of animals as expiation for human sins could never be sufficient.
“A more real contact between human fault and divine love was necessary,” he said. “This contact has taken place with the cross of Christ. Christ, Son of God, who has become true man, has assumed in himself all our faults. He himself is the place of contact between human misery and divine mercy; in his heart, the sad multitude of evil carried out by humanity is undone, and life is renewed.”
St. Paul speaks of this fundamental change in worship, explaining that “with the cross of Christ — the supreme act of divine love, converted into human love — the ancient worship with the sacrifice of animals in the temple of Jerusalem has ended,” the Pope said. “This symbolic worship, worship of desire, has now been replaced by real worship: the love of God incarnated in Christ and taken to its fullness in the death on the cross.
“Therefore, this is not a spiritualization of the real worship, but on the contrary, this is the real worship, the true divine-human love, that replaces the symbolic and provisional worship.”
Nevertheless, this spiritual worship has a prerequisite, the Bishop of Rome explained, and it is union with Christ.
“Paul,” he said, “always supposes that we have come to be ‘one in Christ Jesus,’ that we have died in baptism and we live now with Christ, through Christ and in Christ. In this union — and only in this way — we can be in him and with him a ‘living sacrifice,’ to offer the ‘true worship.'”
By taking on human nature, Christ is able to do for man what sacrificial animals could not, Benedict XVI affirmed.
“The sacrificed animals should have substituted man, the gift of self of man, and they could not,” he said. “Jesus Christ, in his surrender to the Father and to us, is not a substitution, but rather really entails in himself the human being, our faults and our desires; he truly represents us, he assumes us in himself.
“In communion with Christ, accomplished in the faith and in the sacraments, we transform, despite our deficiencies, into living sacrifice: ‘True worship’ is fulfilled.”