VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Only a Church in love with the Eucharist “generates holy and numerous priestly vocations,” John Paul II says.
The Pope delivered that message in his homily at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper this evening in St. Peter’s Basilica, the first day of the Easter triduum, the most intense days in the Church’s liturgical calendar.
The Holy Father presided at two Holy Thursday Eucharistic celebrations, the Chrism Mass in the morning and the evening Mass to commemorate Jesus’ last supper, when he instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood.
Recalling Jesus’ washing of the feet of the apostles, John Paul II said in his homily: “Christians know, therefore, that they must remember their Teacher in rendering one another the service of charity: to wash one another’s feet.”
“In particular,” the Pope added, “they know that they must remember Jesus by repeating the memorial of the Supper with the bread and wine consecrated by the minister who repeats over them the words then spoken by Christ.”
“The Eucharist, therefore, is a memorial in the full sense,” the Holy Father continued. “The bread and wine, by the action of the Holy Spirit, really become the body and blood of Christ, who gives himself to be man’s nourishment in his journey on earth.”
“The same logic of love precedes the Incarnation of the Word in the womb of Mary and his making himself present in the Eucharist. It is ‘agape,’ charity, love in the most beautiful and pure sense,” the Pope added.
“While we fix our gaze on Christ who institutes the Eucharist, we have a renewed awareness of the importance of the priests in the Church and of their union with the Eucharistic sacrament,” he said.
“In the Letter that I wrote to priests for this holy day, I wished to repeat that the Sacrament of the altar is gift and mystery, and that the priesthood is gift and mystery, both having flowed from the heart of Christ during the Last Supper,” the Holy Father said.
“Only a Church in love with the Eucharist generates, in turn, holy and numerous priestly vocations,” he added. “And she does so through prayer and the testimony of holiness, offered in a special way to the new generations.”
On Good Friday the Pope’s plans include presiding over the Stations of the Cross, at the Colosseum. On Holy Saturday he will preside at the Easter Vigil Mass and on Easter Sunday he will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Square.