VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The “true and living memory of Christmas is not the crib” but the Eucharist, the sacrament where one can adore the Incarnate Word, says the preacher of the Pontifical Household.
The Year of the Eucharist, in fact, “helps us to appreciate the most profound aspect of Christmas,” said Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, during his third and last Advent sermon of the season, which he delivered today in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the presence of John Paul II and his aides of the Roman Curia.
Quoting from the encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” the Pontifical Household preacher said that the Eucharist not only refers to the Lord’s passion and resurrection, but is, “at the same time, in continuity with the Incarnation.”
“Mary truly conceived her divine Son, including the physical reality of his body and blood, anticipating in herself that which in some measure, is realized sacramentally in every believer who receives, in the species of bread and wine, the Body and Blood of the Lord,” the Capuchin said.
And the “‘Word became flesh, writes St. Augustine, ‘to be able to die for us,'” Father Cantalamessa said, commenting on the third stanza of the Eucharistic hymn “Adoro Te Devote.”
“On the cross the divinity was hidden; here, however, even the humanity is hidden,” he said. “The one praying does not hesitate an instant; he rises to the height of the good thief’s faith and proclaims that he believes in both the divinity and humanity of Christ.”
The central theological truth of that third stanza is that “in the Eucharist Christ is really present with his divinity and humanity, ‘in body, blood, soul and divinity,’ according to the traditional formula,” explained the preacher.
The hymn is an invitation to “a renewed act of faith in the full humanity and divinity of Christ,” he said. “It is about knowing who it is who makes himself present on the altar; the object of faith is the person of Christ.
“The presence of the divinity, whether in the body or the blood of Christ, is assured by the indissoluble union — “hypostatic,” in theological language — realized between the Word and humanity in the incarnation. Therefore, the Eucharist cannot be explained other than in the light of the Incarnation. It is, so to speak, its sacramental prolongation.”
However, “it is not enough to believe in the depth of one’s heart; it is also necessary to profess one’s faith publicly,” the preacher said. “It is not enough to profess, we must also believe!”
Father Cantalamessa warned that the “most frequent sin of the laity is to believe without professing, hiding their faith out of human respect.”
“The most frequent sin in us, men of the Church, might be that of professing without believing,” he said. “Little by little, faith becomes a ‘creed’ that is repeated with the lips, as a declaration of belonging, a flag, without ever asking oneself if one really believes what one says, writes and preaches.”
The Pontifical Household preacher stressed the need “to distinguish lack of faith from the darkness of faith and temptations against it”; it is a test “that is renewed in every age.”
“There have been great souls who lived only by faith and who, in a phase of their life, often even the last, fell into the most painful darkness, tormented by the doubt of having failed everything and lived in deceit,” he said.
“There is faith in these cases, stronger than ever, but hidden in a remote corner of the soul, which only God is able to read,” the Capuchin said.
Faith is like “the wedding ring that unites God and man in an alliance,” he continued. But, like gold, “faith must be purified in the crucible and the crucible of faith is suffering, above all suffering caused by doubt and by what St. John of the Cross calls the dark night of the soul.”
“It is necessary to draw from one’s heart the strength that makes faith triumph over doubt and skepticism,” he suggested.
Because “it is in the heart that the Holy Spirit makes the believer know that Jesus is alive and real, in a way that cannot be expressed by reasoning,” he said.
“At times one word of Scripture suffices to rekindle this faith and renew the certainty. For me this was settled by Balaam’s oracle proclaimed in last Monday’s first reading: ‘I see him, but not now; I behold him, nut not nigh: a star shall call forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.’
“We know this star, we know to whom that scepter belongs. Not be abstract deduction, but because for 2,000 years the realization of the prophecy has been before our eyes.”