3. In order to make the
indissoluble bond that exists between faith and devotion
perfectly clear, the Fathers of the Council decided, in the
course of reaffirming the doctrine that the Church has always
held and taught and that was solemnly defined by the Council of
Trent, to offer the following compendium of truths as an
introduction to their treatment of the Most Holy Mystery of the
4. "At the Last Supper, on
the night when He was betrayed, our Savior instituted the
Eucharistic Sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in
order to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the
centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His
beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of His Death and
Resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of
charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is
filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to
Both Sacrifice and
5. These words highlight
both the sacrifice, which pertains to the essence of the Mass
that is celebrated daily, and the sacrament in which those who
participate in it through holy Communion eat the flesh of Christ
and drink the blood of Christ, and thus receive grace, which is
the beginning of eternal life, and the "medicine of immortality"
according to Our Lord's words: "The man who eats my flesh and
drinks my blood enjoys eternal life, and I will raise him up on
the last day." (2)
Liturgy Linked to Eucharistic Devotion
6. And so We earnestly
hope that the restoration of the sacred liturgy will produce
abundant fruits in the form of Eucharistic devotion, so that the
Holy Church may, with this salvific sign of piety raised on
high, make daily progress toward the full achievement of unity,
(3) inviting all Christians to a unity of faith and love and
drawing them to it gently, through the action of divine grace.
7. We seem to have a
preview of these fruits and a first taste of them in the
outpouring of joy and eagerness that has marked the reception
the sons of the Catholic Church have accorded to the
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and to the restoration of the
liturgy; and we find these fruits too in the large number of
carefully-edited publications that make it their purpose to go
into the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist more profoundly and to
come to a more fruitful understanding of it, especially in terms
of its relationship to the mystery of the Church.
8. All of this brings Us
deep consolation and joy. And it gives Us great pleasure to
inform you of this, Venerable Brothers, so that you may join
with Us in giving thanks to God, the bestower of all gifts, who
rules the Church and makes her grow in virtue through His
REASONS FOR PASTORAL
CONCERN AND ANXIETY
9. There are, however,
Venerable Brothers, a number of reasons for serious pastoral
concern and anxiety in this very matter that we are now
discussing, and because of Our consciousness of Our Apostolic
office, We cannot remain silent about them.
False and Disturbing
10. For We can see that
some of those who are dealing with this Most Holy Mystery in
speech and writing are disseminating opinions on Masses
celebrated in private or on the dogma of transubstantiation that
are disturbing the minds of the faithful and causing them no
small measure of confusion about matters of faith, just as if it
were all right for someone to take doctrine that has already
been defined by the Church and consign it to oblivion or else
interpret it in such a way as to weaken the genuine meaning of
the words or the recognized force of the concepts involved.
11. To give an example of
what We are talking about, it is not permissible to extol the
so-called "community" Mass in such a way as to detract from
Masses that are celebrated privately; or to concentrate on the
notion of sacramental sign as if the symbolism—which no one will
deny is certainly present in the Most Blessed Eucharist—fully
expressed and exhausted the manner of Christ's presence in this
Sacrament; or to discuss the mystery of transubstantiation
without mentioning what the Council of Trent had to say about
the marvelous conversion of the whole substance of the bread
into the Body and the whole substance of the wine into the Blood
of Christ, as if they involve nothing more than "transignification,"
or "transfinalization" as they call it; or, finally, to propose
and act upon the opinion that Christ Our Lord is no longer
present in the consecrated Hosts that remain after the
celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass has been completed.
12. Everyone can see that
the spread of these and similar opinions does great harm to
belief in and devotion to the Eucharist.
Purpose of the
13. And so, with the aim
of seeing to it that the hope to which the Council has given
rise—that a new wave of Eucharistic devotion will sweep over the
Church—not be reduced to nil through the sowing of the seeds of
false opinions, We have decided to use Our apostolic authority
and speak Our mind to you on this subject, Venerable Brothers.
14. We certainly do not
deny that those who are spreading these strange opinions are
making a praiseworthy effort to investigate this lofty Mystery
and to set forth its inexhaustible riches and to make it more
understandable to the men of today; rather, We acknowledge this
and We approve of it. But We cannot approve the opinions that
they set forth, and We have an obligation to warn you about the
grave danger that these opinions involve for true faith.
HOLY EUCHARIST A
MYSTERY OF FAITH
15. First of all, We want
to recall something that you know very well but that is
absolutely necessary if the virus of every kind of rationalism
is to be repelled; it is something that many illustrious martyrs
have witnessed to with their blood, something that celebrated
fathers and Doctors of the Church have constantly professed and
taught. We mean the fact that the Eucharist is a very great
mystery—in fact, properly speaking and in the words of the
Sacred Liturgy, the mystery of faith. "It contains within it,"
as Leo XIII, Our predecessor of happy memory, very wisely
remarked, "all supernatural realities in a remarkable richness
and variety of miracles." (4)
Revelation, Not Reason
16. And so we must
approach this mystery in particular with humility and reverence,
not relying on human reasoning, which ought to hold its peace,
but rather adhering firmly to divine Revelation.
17. St. John Chrysostom
who, as you know, dealt with the Mystery of the Eucharist in
such eloquent language and with such insight born of devotion,
had these most fitting words to offer on one occasion when he
was instructing his faithful about this mystery: "Let us submit
to God in all things and not contradict Him, even if what He
says seems to contradict our reason and intellect; let His word
prevail over our reason and intellect. Let us act in this way
with regard to the Eucharistic mysteries, and not limit our
attention just to what can be perceived by the senses, but
instead hold fast to His words. For His word cannot deceive."
18. The scholastic Doctors
made similar statements on more than one occasion. As St. Thomas
says, the fact that the true body and the true blood of Christ
are present in this Sacrament "cannot be apprehended by the
senses but only by faith, which rests upon divine authority.
This is why Cyril comments upon the words, This is my body
which is delivered up for you, in Luke 22, 19, in
this way: Do not doubt that this is true; instead accept the
words of the Savior in faith; for since He is truth, He cannot
tell a lie." (6)
19. Hence the Christian
people often follow the lead of St. Thomas and sing the words:
"Sight, touch and taste in Thee are each deceived; The ear alone
most safely is believed. I believe all the Son of God has
spoken; Than truth's own word, there is no truer token."
20. And St. Bonaventure
declares: "There is no difficulty over Christ's being present in
the sacrament as in a sign; the great difficulty is in the fact
that He is really in the sacrament, as He is in heaven. And so
believing this is especially meritorious. " (7)
Example of the
21. Moreover, the Holy
Gospel alludes to this when it tells of the many disciples of
Christ who turned away and left Our Lord, after hearing Him
speak of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. "This is
strange talk," they said. "Who can be expected to listen to it"
Peter, on the contrary, replied to Jesus' question as to whether
the twelve wanted to go away too by promptly and firmly
expressing his own faith and that of the other Apostles in these
marvelous words: "Lord, to whom should we go? Thy words are the
words of eternal life." (8)
22. It is only logical,
then, for us to follow the magisterium of the Church as a
guiding star in carrying on our investigations into this
mystery, for the Divine Redeemer has entrusted the safeguarding
and the explanation of the written or transmitted word of God to
her. And we are convinced that "whatever has been preached and
believed throughout the whole Church with true Catholic faith
since the days of antiquity is true, even if it not be subject
to rational investigation, and even if it not be explained in
Proper Wording of
23. But this is not
enough. Once the integrity of the faith has been safeguarded,
then it is time to guard the proper way of expressing it, lest
our careless use of words give rise, God forbid, to false
opinions regarding faith in the most sublime things. St.
Augustine gives a stern warning about this when he takes up the
matter of the different ways of speaking that are employed by
the philosophers on the one hand and that ought to be used by
Christians on the other. "The philosophers," he says, "use words
freely, and they have no fear of offending religious listeners
in dealing with subjects that are difficult to understand. But
we have to speak in accordance with a fixed rule, so that a lack
of restraint in speech on our part may not give rise to some
irreverent opinion about the things represented by the words.''
24. And so the rule of
language which the Church has established through the long labor
of centuries, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and which she
has confirmed with the authority of the Councils, and which has
more than once been the watchword and banner of orthodox faith,
is to be religiously preserved, and no one may presume to change
it at his own pleasure or under the pretext of new knowledge.
Who would ever tolerate that the dogmatic formulas used by the
ecumenical councils for the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and
the Incarnation be judged as no longer appropriate for men of
our times, and let others be rashly substituted for them? In the
same way, it cannot be tolerated that any individual should on
his own authority take something away from the formulas which
were used by the Council of Trent to propose the Eucharistic
Mystery for our belief. These formulas—like the others that the
Church used to propose the dogmas of faith—express concepts that
are not tied to a certain specific form of human culture, or to
a certain level of scientific progress, or to one or another
theological school. Instead they set forth what the human mind
grasps of reality through necessary and universal experience and
what it expresses in apt and exact words, whether it be in
ordinary or more refined language. For this reason, these
formulas are adapted to all men of all times and all places.
Greater Clarity of
Expression Always Possible
25. They can, it is true,
be made clearer and more obvious; and doing this is of great
benefit. But it must always be done in such a way that they
retain the meaning in which they have been used, so that with
the advance of an understanding of the faith, the truth of faith
will remain unchanged. For it is the teaching of the First
Vatican Council that "the meaning that Holy Mother the Church
has once declared, is to be retained forever, and no pretext of
deeper understanding ever justifies any deviation from that
EUCHARISTIC MYSTERY IN
SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
26. For the joy and
edification of everyone, We would like to review with you,
Venerable Brothers, the doctrine on the Mystery of the Eucharist
that has been handed down, and that the Catholic Church holds
and teaches with unanimity.
Heart of Doctrine
27. It is a good idea to
recall at the very outset what may be termed the heart and core
of the doctrine, namely that, by means of the Mystery of the
Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Cross which was once carried out
on Calvary is re-enacted in wonderful fashion and is constantly
recalled, and its salvific power is applied to the forgiving of
the sins we commit each day." (12)
28. just as Moses made the
Old Testament sacred with the blood of calves, (13) so too
Christ the Lord took the New Testament, of which He is the
Mediator, and made it sacred through His own blood, in
instituting the mystery of the Eucharist. For, as the
Evangelists narrate, at the Last Supper "he took bread, and
blessed and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, This is my
body, given for you; do this for a commemoration of me. And so
with the cup, when supper was ended, This cup, he said, is the
new testament, in my Blood which is to be shed for you." (l4)
And by bidding the Apostles to do this in memory of Him, He made
clear that He wanted it to be forever repeated. This intention
of Christ was faithfully carried out by the primitive Church
through her adherence to the teaching of the Apostles and
through her gatherings to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
As St. Luke is careful to point out, "They occupied themselves
continually with the Apostles' teaching, their fellowship in the
breaking of bread, and the fixed times of prayer." (l5) The
faithful used to derive such spiritual fervor from this practice
that it was said of them that "there was one heart and soul in
all the company of the believers." (16)
New Offering of the
29. Moreover, the Apostle
Paul, who faithfully transmitted to us what he had received from
the Lord, (17) is clearly speaking of the Eucharistic Sacrifice
when he points out that Christians ought not take part in pagan
sacrifices, precisely because they have been made partakers of
the table of the Lord. "Is not this cup we bless," he says, "a
participation in Christ's Blood? Is not the Bread we break a
participation in Christ's Body? . . . To drink the Lord's cup,
and yet to drink the cup of evil spirits, to share the Lord's
feast, and to share the feast of evil spirits, is impossible for
you." (18) Foreshadowed by Malachias, (19) this new oblation of
the New Testament has always been offered by the Church, in
accordance with the teaching of Our Lord and the Apostles, "not
only to atone for the sins and punishments and satisfactions of
the living faithful and to appeal for their other needs, but
also to help those who have died in Christ but have not yet been
completely purified." (20)
Offered Also for the
30. We will pass over the
other citations and rest content with recalling the testimony
offered by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who wrote the following
memorable words for the neophytes whom he was instructing in the
Christian faith: "After the spiritual sacrifice, the un-bloody
act of worship, has been completed, we bend over this
propitiatory offering and beg God to grant peace to all the
Churches, to give harmony to the whole world, to bless our
rulers, our soldiers and our companions, to aid the sick and
afflicted, and in general to assist all those who stand in need;
we all pray for all these intentions and we offer this victim
for them . . . and last of all for our deceased holy forefathers
and bishops and for all those who have lived among us. For we
have a deep conviction that great help will be afforded those
souls for whom prayers are offered while this holy and awesome
victim is present." In support of this, this holy Doctor offers
the example of a crown made for an emperor in order to win a
pardon for some exiles, and he concludes his talk with these
words: "In the same fashion, when we offer our prayers to God
for the dead, even those who are sinners, we are not just making
a crown but instead are offering Christ who was slaughtered for
our sins, and thus begging the merciful God to take pity both on
them and on ourselves.'' (21) St. Augustine attests that this
custom of offering the "sacrifice which ransomed us" also for
the dead was observed in the Church at Rome, (22) and he
mentions at the same time that the universal Church observed
this custom as something handed down from the Fathers. (23)
31. But there is something
else that We would like to add that is very helpful in shedding
light on the mystery of the Church; We mean the fact that the
whole Church plays the role of priest and victim along with
Christ, offering the Sacrifice of the Mass and itself completely
offered in it. The Fathers of the Church taught this wondrous
doctrine. (24) A few years ago Our predecessor of happy memory,
Pius XII, explained it. (25) And only recently the Second
Vatican Council reiterated it in its Constitution on the Church,
in dealing with the people of God. (26) To be sure, the
distinction between the universal priesthood and the
hierarchical priesthood is something essential and not just a
matter of degree, and it has to be maintained in a proper way.
(27) Yet We cannot help being filled with an earnest desire to
see this teaching explained over and over until it takes deep
root in the hearts of the faithful. For it is a most effective
means of fostering devotion to the Eucharist, of extolling the
dignity of all the faithful, and of spurring them on to reach
the heights of sanctity, which means the total and generous
offering of oneself to the service of the Divine Majesty.
No Mass is "Private"
32. It is also only
fitting for us to recall the conclusion that can be drawn from
this about "the public and social nature of each and every
Mass." (28) For each and every Mass is not something private,
even if a priest celebrates it privately; instead, it is an act
of Christ and of the Church. In offering this sacrifice, the
Church learns to offer herself as a sacrifice for all and she
applies the unique and infinite redemptive power of the
sacrifice of the Cross to the salvation of the whole world. For
every Mass that is celebrated is being offered not just for the
salvation of certain people, but also for the salvation of the
whole world. The conclusion from this is that even though active
participation by many faithful is of its very nature
particularly fitting when Mass is celebrated, still there is no
reason to criticize but rather only to approve a Mass that a
priest celebrates privately for a good reason in accordance with
the regulations and legitimate traditions of the Church, even
when only a server to make the responses is present. For such a
Mass brings a rich and abundant treasure of special graces to
help the priest himself, the faithful, the whole Church and the
whole world toward salvation—and this same abundance of graces
is not gained through mere reception of Holy Communion.
33. And so, We recommend
from a paternal and solicitous heart that priests, who
constitute Our greatest joy and Our crown in the Lord, be
mindful of the power they have received from the bishop who
ordained them—the power of offering sacrifice to God and of
celebrating Mass for the living and for the dead in the name of
the Lord. (79) We recommend that they celebrate Mass daily in a
worthy and devout fashion, so that they themselves and the rest
of the faithful may enjoy the benefits that flow in such
abundance from the Sacrifice of the Cross. In doing so, they
will also be making a great contribution toward the salvation of
PRESENT IN THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
34. The few things that We
have touched upon concerning the Sacrifice of the Mass encourage
Us to say something about the Sacrament of the Eucharist, since
both Sacrifice and Sacrament pertain to the same mystery and
cannot be separated from each other. The Lord is immolated in an
unbloody way in the Sacrifice of the Mass and He re-presents the
sacrifice of the Cross and applies its salvific power at the
moment when he becomes sacramentally present— through the words
of consecration—as the spiritual food of the faithful, under the
appearances of bread and wine.
Various Ways in
Which Christ is Present
35. All of us realize that
there is more than one way in which Christ is present in His
Church. We want to go into this very joyful subject, which the
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy presented briefly, (30) at
somewhat greater length. Christ is present in His Church when
she prays, since He is the one who "prays for us and prays in us
and to whom we pray: He prays for us as our priest, He prays in
us as our head, He is prayed to by us as our God" (31); and He
is the one who has promised, "Where two or three are gathered
together in my name, I am there in the midst of them." (32) He
is present in the Church as she performs her works of mercy, not
just because whatever good we do to one of His least brethren we
do to Christ Himself, (33)but also because Christ is the one who
performs these works through the Church and who continually
helps men with His divine love. He is present in the Church as
she moves along on her pilgrimage with a longing to reach the
portals of eternal life, for He is the one who dwells in our
hearts through faith, (34) and who instills charity in them
through the Holy Spirit whom He gives to us. (35)
36. In still another very
genuine way, He is present in the Church as she preaches, since
the Gospel which she proclaims is the word of God, and it is
only in the name of Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, and by
His authority and with His help that it is preached, so that
there might be "one flock resting secure in one shepherd." (36)
37. He is present in His
Church as she rules and governs the People of God, since her
sacred power comes from Christ and since Christ, the "Shepherd
of Shepherds," (37) is present in the bishops who exercise that
power, in keeping with the promise He made to the Apostles.
38. Moreover, Christ is
present in His Church in a still more sublime manner as she
offers the Sacrifice of the Mass in His name; He is present in
her as she administers the sacraments. On the matter of Christ's
presence in the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass, We would
like very much to call what St. John Chrysostom, overcome with
awe, had to say in such accurate and eloquent words: "I wish to
add something that is clearly awe-inspiring, but do not be
surprised or upset. What is this? It is the same offering, no
matter who offers it, be it Peter or Paul. It is the same one
that Christ gave to His disciples and the same one that priests
now perform: the latter is in no way inferior to the former, for
it is not men who sanctify the latter, but He who sanctified the
former. For just as the words which God spoke are the same as
those that the priest now pronounces, so too the offering is the
same." (38) No one is unaware that the sacraments are the
actions of Christ who administers them through men. And so the
sacraments are holy in themselves and they pour grace into the
soul by the power of Christ, when they touch the body. The
Highest Kind of Presence.
These various ways in
which Christ is present fill the mind with astonishment and
offer the Church a mystery for her contemplation. But there is
another way in which Christ is present in His Church, a way that
surpasses all the others. It is His presence in the Sacrament of
the Eucharist, which is, for this reason, "a more consoling
source of devotion, a lovelier object of contemplation and
holier in what it contains" (39) than all the other sacraments;
for it contains Christ Himself and it is "a kind of consummation
of the spiritual life, and in a sense the goal of all the
39. This presence is
called "real" not to exclude the idea that the others are "real"
too, but rather to indicate presence par excellence, because it
is substantial and through it Christ becomes present whole and
entire, God and man. (41) And so it would be wrong for anyone to
try to explain this manner of presence by dreaming up a
so-called "pneumatic" nature of the glorious body of Christ that
would be present everywhere; or for anyone to limit it to
symbolism, as if this most sacred Sacrament were to consist in
nothing more than an efficacious sign "of the spiritual presence
of Christ and of His intimate union with the faithful, the
members of His Mystical Body." (42)
The Proper Use of
40. It is true that the
Fathers and Scholastics had a great deal to say about symbolism
in the Eucharist, especially with regard to the unity of the
Church. The Council of Trent, in re-stating their doctrine,
taught that our Saviour bequeathed the Eucharist to His Church
"as a symbol . . . of the unity and charity with which He wished
all Christians to be joined among themselves," "and hence as a
symbol of that one Body of which He is the Head." (43)
41. When Christian
literature was still in its infancy, the unknown author of the
work called the "Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" had
this to write on the subject: "As far as the Eucharist is
concerned, give thanks in this manner: . . . just as this bread
had been broken and scattered over the hills and was made one
when it was gathered together, so too may your church be
gathered into your kingdom from the ends of the earth." (44)
42. St. Cyprian too, in
the course of laying stress on the Church's unity in opposition
to schism, said this: "Finally the Lord's sacrifices proclaim
the unity of Christians who are bound together by a firm and
unshakeable charity. For when the Lord calls the bread that has
been made from many grains of wheat His Body, He is describing
our people whose unity He has sustained; and when He refers to
wine pressed from many grapes and berries as His Blood, once
again He is speaking of our flock which has been formed by
fusing many into one." (45)
43. But before all of
these, St. Paul had written to the Corinthians: "The one bread
makes us one body, though we are many in number; the same bread
is shared by all." (46)
to Express Real Presence
44. While Eucharistic
symbolism is well suited to helping us understand the effect
that is proper to this Sacrament—the unity of the Mystical
Body—still it does not indicate or explain what it is that makes
this Sacrament different from all the others. For the constant
teaching that the Catholic Church has passed on to her
catechumens, the understanding of the Christian people, the
doctrine defined by the Council of Trent, the very words that
Christ used when He instituted the Most Holy Eucharist, all
require us to profess that "the Eucharist is the flesh of Our
Savior Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins and which the
Father in His loving kindness raised again." (47) To these words
of St. Ignatius, we may well add those which Theodore of
Mopsuestia, who is a faithful witness to the faith of the Church
on this point, addressed to the people: "The Lord did not say:
This is symbol of my body, and this is a symbol of my blood, but
rather: This is my body and my blood. He teaches us not to look
to the nature of what lies before us and is perceived by the
senses, because the giving of thanks and the words spoken over
it have changed it into flesh and blood." (45)
45. The Council of Trent,
basing itself on this faith of the Church, "openly and sincerely
professes that after the consecration of the bread and wine, Our
Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is really, truly and
substantially contained in the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy
Eucharist under the outward appearances of sensible things." And
so Our Savior is present in His humanity not only in His natural
manner of existence at the right hand of the Father, but also at
the same time in the sacrament of the Eucharist "in a manner of
existing that we can hardly express in words but that our minds,
illumined by faith, can come to see as possible to God and that
we must most firmly believe." (49)
CHRIST PRESENT IN THE
EUCHARIST THROUGH TRANSUBSTANTIATION
46. To avoid any
misunderstanding of this type of presence, which goes beyond the
laws of nature and constitutes the greatest miracle of its kind,
(50) we have to listen with docility to the voice of the
teaching and praying Church. Her voice, which constantly echoes
the voice of Christ, assures us that the way in which Christ
becomes present in this Sacrament is through the conversion of
the whole substance of the bread into His body and of the whole
substance of the wine into His blood, a unique and truly
wonderful conversion that the Catholic Church fittingly and
properly calls transubstantiation. (51) As a result of
transubstantiation, the species of bread and wine undoubtedly
take on a new signification and a new finality, for they are no
longer ordinary bread and wine but instead a sign of something
sacred and a sign of spiritual food; but they take on this new
signification, this new finality, precisely because they contain
a new "reality" which we can rightly call ontological. For what
now lies beneath the aforementioned species is not what was
there before, but something completely different; and not just
in the estimation of Church belief but in reality, since once
the substance or nature of the bread and wine has been changed
into the body and blood of Christ, nothing remains of the bread
and the wine except for the species—beneath which Christ is
present whole and entire in His physical "reality," corporeally
present, although not in the manner in which bodies are in a
Writings of the
47. This is why the
Fathers felt they had a solemn duty to warn the faithful that,
in reflecting upon this most sacred Sacrament, they should not
pay attention to the senses, which report only the properties of
bread and wine, but rather to the words of Christ, which have
power great enough to change, transform, "transelementize" the
bread and wine into His body and blood. As a matter of fact, as
the same Fathers point out on more than one occasion, the power
that does this is the same power of Almighty God that created
the whole universe out of nothing at the beginning of time.
48. "Instructed as you are
in these matters," says St. Cyril of Jerusalem, at the end of a
sermon on the mysteries of the faith, "and filled with an
unshakeable faith that what seems to be bread is not
bread—though it tastes like it—but rather the Body of Christ;
and that what seems to be wine is not wine—even though it too
tastes like it—but rather the Blood of Christ . . . draw
strength from receiving this bread as spiritual food and your
soul will rejoice." (52)
49. St. John Chrysostom
insists upon the same point with these words: "It is not man who
makes what is put before him the Body and Blood of Christ, but
Christ Himself who was crucified for us. The priest standing
there in the place of Christ says these words, but their power
and grace are from God. This is my Body, he says, and these
words transform what lies before him." (53)
50. Cyril, the Bishop of
Alexandria, is in wonderful harmony with John, the Bishop of
Constantinople, when he writes in his commentary on the Gospel
of St. Matthew: "He said This is my body and this is my blood in
a demonstrative fashion, so that you might not judge that what
you see is a mere figure; instead the offerings are truly
changed by the hidden power of God Almighty into Christ's body
and blood, which bring us the life-giving and sanctifying power
of Christ when we share in them." (54)
51. Ambrose, the Bishop of
Milan, in a clear statement on the Eucharistic conversion, has
this to say: "Let us be assured that this is not what nature
formed but what the blessing has consecrated; and there is
greater power in the blessing and in nature, since nature itself
is changed through the blessing." To confirm the truth of this
mystery, he recounts many of the miracles described in the
Sacred Scriptures, including Christ's birth of the Virgin Mary,
and then he turns his mind to the work of creation, concluding
this way: "Surely the word of Christ, who could make something
that did not exist out of nothing, can change things that do
exist into something they were not before. For it is no less
extraordinary to give new natures to things than it is to change
Constant Teaching of
the Popes and the Councils
52. But this is no time
for assembling a long list of evidence. Instead, We would rather
recall the firmness of faith and complete unanimity that the
Church displayed in opposing Berengarius who gave in to certain
difficulties raised by human reasoning and first dared to deny
the Eucharistic conversion. More than once she threatened to
condemn him unless he retracted. Thus it was that Our
predecessor, St. Gregory VII, commanded him to swear to the
following oath: "I believe in my heart and openly profess that
the bread and wine that are placed on the altar are, through the
mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of the Redeemer,
substantially changed into the true and proper and lifegiving
flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after the
consecration they are the true body of Christ—which was born of
the Virgin and which hung on the Cross as an offering for the
salvation of the world—and the true blood of Christ—which flowed
from His side—and not just as a sign and by reason of the power
of the sacrament, but in the very truth and reality of their
substance and in what is proper to their nature." (56)
53. We have a wonderful
example of the stability of the Catholic faith in the way in
which these words meet with such complete agreement in the
constant teaching of the Ecumenical Councils of the Lateran,
Constance, Florence and Trent on the mystery of the Eucharistic
conversion, whether it be contained in their explanations of the
teaching of the Church or in their condemnations of error.
54. After the Council of
Trent, Our predecessor, Pius VI, issued a serious warning, on
the occasion of the errors of the Synod of Pistoia, that parish
priests not neglect to speak of transubstantiation, which is
listed among the articles of the faith, in the course of
carrying out their office of teaching. (57) Similarly, Our
Predecessor of happy memory, Pius XII, recalled the bounds
beyond which those who were carrying on subtle discussion of the
mystery of transubstantiation might not pass; (58) and We
Ourself, at the National Eucharistic Congress that was recently
celebrated at Pisa, bore open and solemn witness to the faith of
the Church, in fulfillment of Our apostolic duty. (59)
55. Moreover, the Catholic
Church has held firm to this belief in the presence of Christ's
Body and Blood in the Eucharist not only in her teaching but in
her life as well, since she has at all times paid this great
Sacrament the worship known as "latria," which may be given to
God alone. As St. Augustine says: "It was in His flesh that
Christ walked among us and it is His flesh that He has given us
to eat for our salvation; but no one eats of this flesh without
having first adored it . . . and not only do we not sin in thus
adoring it, but we would be sinning if we did not do so." (60)
ON THE WORSHIP OF
56. The Catholic Church
has always displayed and still displays this latria that ought
to be paid to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, both during Mass
and outside of it, by taking the greatest possible care of
consecrated Hosts, by exposing them to the solemn veneration of
the faithful, and by carrying them about in processions to the
joy of great numbers of the people.
57. The ancient documents
of the Church offer many evidences of this veneration. The
bishops of the Church always urged the faithful to take the
greatest possible care of the Eucharist that they had in their
homes. "The Body of Christ is meant to be eaten by the faithful,
not to be treated with irreverence," is the serious warning of
St. Hippolytus. (61)
58. In fact, the faithful
regarded themselves as guilty, and rightly so as Origen recalls,
if, after they had received the body of the Lord and kept it
with all reverence and caution, some part of it were to fall to
the ground through negligence. (62)
59. These same bishops
were severe in reproving any lack of due reverence that might
occur. We have evidence of this from the words of Novatian,
whose testimony is trustworthy in this matter; He felt that
anybody deserved to be condemned who "came out after Sunday
service bringing the Eucharist with him, as was the custom, . .
. and carried the holy body of the Lord around with him," going
off to places of amusement instead of going home. (63)
60. In fact, St. Cyril of
Alexandria denounced as mad the opinion that the Eucharist was
of no use to sanctification if some of it were left over for
another day. "For Christ is not altered," he says, "and His holy
body is not changed; instead the power and force and life-giving
grace of the blessing remain in it forever." (64)
61. Nor should we forget
that in ancient times the faithful—whether being harassed by
violent persecutions or living in solitude out of love for
monastic life—nourished themselves even daily on the Eucharist,
by receiving Holy Communion from their own hands when there was
no priest or deacon present. (65)
62. We are not saying this
with any thought of effecting a change in the manner of keeping
the Eucharist and of receiving Holy Communion that has been laid
down by subsequent ecclesiastical laws still in force; Our
intention is that we may rejoice over the faith of the Church
which is always one and the same.
Another Instance of Latria
63. This faith also gave
rise to the feast of Corpus Christi, which was first celebrated
in the diocese of Liege—especially through the efforts of the
servant of God, Blessed Juliana of Mount Cornelius—and Our
predecessor, Urban IV, established for the universal Church. It
has also given rise to many forms of Eucharistic devotion that
have, through the inspiration of God's grace, grown with each
passing day. Through them the Catholic Church is eagerly
striving to pay honor to Christ and to thank Him for such a
great gift and to beg His mercy.
FOSTERING EUCHARISTIC DEVOTION
64. And so We beseech you,
Venerable Brothers, to take this faith, which means nothing less
than maintaining complete fidelity to the words of Christ and
the Apostles, and preserve it in its purity and integrity among
the people entrusted to your care and vigilance, with all false
and pernicious opinions being completely rejected; and We
beseech you to foster devotion to the Eucharist, which should be
the focal point and goal of all other forms of devotion.
65. May the faithful,
thanks to your constant efforts, come to realize and experience
more and more that: "he who wants to live can find here a place
to live in and the means to live on. Let him approach, let him
believe, let him be incorporated so that he may receive life.
Let him not shy away from union with the members, let him not be
a rotten member that deserves to be cut away, nor a distorted
member to be ashamed of: let him be beautiful, let him be
fitting, let him be healthy. Let him adhere to the body; let him
live for God on God: let him labor now upon earth, so that he
may afterwards reign in heaven." (66)
Daily Mass and Holy
66. It is desirable to
have the faithful in large numbers take an active part in the
sacrifice of the Mass each and every day and receive the
nourishment of Holy Communion with a pure and holy mind and
offer fitting thanks to Christ the Lord for such a great gift.
They should remember these words: "The desire of Jesus Christ
and of the Church to see all the faithful approach the sacred
banquet each and every day is based on a wish to have them all
united to God through the Sacrament and to have them draw from
it the strength to master their passions, to wash away the
lesser sins that are committed every day and to prevent the
serious sins to which human frailty is subject." (67) And they
should not forget about paying a visit during the day to the
Most Blessed Sacrament in the very special place of honor where
it is reserved in churches in keeping with the liturgical laws,
since this is a proof of gratitude and a pledge of love and a
display of the adoration that is owed to Christ the Lord who is
Dignity Bestowed by
67. No one can fail to see
that the divine Eucharist bestows an incomparable dignity upon
the Christian people. For it is not just while the Sacrifice is
being offered and the Sacrament is being confected, but also
after the Sacrifice has been offered and the Sacrament
confected—while the Eucharist is reserved in churches or
oratories—that Christ is truly Emmanuel, which means "God with
us." For He is in the midst of us day and night; He dwells in us
with the fullness of grace and of truth. (68) He raises the
level of morals, fosters virtue, comforts the sorrowful,
strengthens the weak and stirs up all those who draw near to Him
to imitate Him, so that they may learn from his example to be
meek and humble of heart, and to seek not their own interests
but those of God. Anyone who has a special devotion to the
sacred Eucharist and who tries to repay Christ's infinite love
for us with an eager and unselfish love of his own, will
experience and fully understand—and this will bring great
delight and benefit to his soul—just how precious is a life
hidden with Christ in God (69) and just how worthwhile it is to
carry on a conversation with Christ, for there is nothing more
consoling here on earth, nothing more efficacious for progress
along the paths of holiness.
68. You also realize,
Venerable Brothers, that the Eucharist is reserved in churches
or oratories to serve as the spiritual center of a religious
community or a parish community, indeed of the whole Church and
the whole of mankind, since it contains, beneath the veil of the
species, Christ the invisible Head of the Church, the Redeemer
of the world, the center of all hearts, "by whom all things are
and by whom we exist." (70)
69. Hence it is that
devotion to the divine Eucharist exerts a great influence upon
the soul in the direction of fostering a "social" love, (71) in
which we put the common good ahead of private good, take up the
cause of the community, the parish, the universal Church, and
extend our charity to the whole world because we know that there
are members of Christ everywhere.
A Sign and Cause of
70. Because, Venerable
Brothers, the Sacrament of the Eucharist is a sign and cause of
the unity of Christ's Mystical Body, and because it stirs up an
active "ecclesial" spirit in those who are more fervent in their
Eucharistic devotion, never stop urging your faithful, as they
approach the Mystery of the Eucharist, to learn to embrace the
Church's cause as their own, to pray to God without slackening,
to offer themselves to God as an acceptable sacrifice for the
peace and unity of the Church; so that all the sons of the
Church may be united and feel united and there may be no
divisions among them but rather unity of mind and intention, as
the Apostle commands. (72) May all those who are not yet in
perfect communion with the Catholic Church and who glory in the
name of Christian despite their separation from her, come as
soon as possible to share with us, through the help of God's
grace, in that unity of faith and communion that Christ wanted
to be the distinctive mark of His disciples.
A Special Task for
71. This zeal at prayer
and at devoting oneself to God for the sake of the unity of the
Church is something that religious, both men and women, should
regard as very specially their own since they are bound in a
special way to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and they
have, by virtue of the vows they have pronounced, become a kind
of crown set around it here on earth.
72. The Church in the past
has felt and still feels that nothing is more ancient and more
pleasing than the desire for the unity of all Christians, and We
want to express this in the very same words that the Council of
Trent used to conclude its decree on the Most Holy Eucharist:
"In conclusion, the Council with paternal love admonishes,
exhorts, begs and implores 'through the merciful kindness of our
God (73) that each and every Christian may come at last to full
agreement in this sign of unity, in this bond of charity, in
this symbol of harmony; that they may be mindful of the great
dignity and the profound love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave
up His precious life as the price of our salvation and who gave
us His flesh to eat (74); and that they may believe and adore
these sacred mysteries of His body and blood with such firm and
unwavering faith, with such devotion and piety and veneration
that they will be able to receive that supersubstantial (75)
bread often and it will truly be the life of their souls and the
unfailing strength of their minds, so that 'fortified by its
vigor,' (76) they may be able to move on from this wretched
earthly pilgrimage to their heavenly home where, without any
veil, they will eat the 'bread of angels' (77) that they now eat
beneath the sacred veils." (78)
73. May the all-merciful
Redeemer, who shortly before His death prayed to the Father that
all who were to believe in Him might be one, just as He and the
Father are one, (79) deign to hear this most ardent prayer of
Ours and of the whole Church as quickly as possible, so that we
may all celebrate the Eucharistic Mystery with one voice and one
faith, and through sharing in the Body of Christ become one
body, (80) joined together by the same bonds that Christ wanted
it to have.
A Word to the
74. We also want to
address with fraternal affection those who belong to the
venerable Churches of the East, which have had so many glorious
Fathers whose testimony to belief in the Eucharist We have been
so glad to cite in this present letter of Ours. Our soul is
filled with great joy as We contemplate your belief in the
Eucharist, which is ours as well, as we listen to the liturgical
prayers you use to celebrate this great mystery, as we behold
your Eucharistic devotion, as we read your theological works
explaining or defending the doctrine of this most sacred
A Final Prayer
75. May the most blessed
Virgin Mary, from whom Christ the Lord took the flesh that "is
contained, offered, received" (81) in this Sacrament under the
appearances of bread and wine, and may all the saints of God and
especially those who were more inflamed with ardent devotion
toward the divine Eucharist, intercede with the Father of
mercies so that this common belief in the Eucharist and devotion
to it may give rise among all Christians to a perfect unity of
communion that will continue to flourish. Lingering in Our mind
are the words of the holy martyr Ignatius warning the
Philadelphians against the evil of divisions and schisms, the
remedy for which is to be found in the Eucharist. "Strive then,"
he says, "to make use of one single thanksgiving. For there is
only one flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and only one chalice
unto the union of His blood, only one altar, only one bishop . .
76. Fortified by the most
consoling hope of blessings that will accrue to the whole Church
and to the whole world from an increase in devotion to the
Eucharist, as a pledge of heavenly blessings We lovingly impart
Our apostolic blessings to you, Venerable Brothers, and to the
priests, religious and all who are helping you, as well as to
all the faithful entrusted to your care.
Given at St. Peter's,
Rome, on the third day of September, the feast of Pope St. Pius
X, in the year 1965, the third of Our Pontificate.
LATIN TEXT: Acta
Apostolicae Sedis, 57 (1965), 753-74.
The Pope Speaks, 10 (Fall, 1965), 309-28.
(1) Constitution on the
Sacred Liturgy, c. 2, n. 47; AAS LVI (1964), 113 [Cf. TPS
(2) Jn. 6.55.
(3) Cf. Jn 17.23.
(4) Encyclical letter
Mirae caritatis: Acta Leonis XIII, XXII (1902-1903)
(5) Homily on Matthew,
82.4; PG 58.743.
(6) Summa Theol.
III,(a) q. 75, a. 1, c.
(7) In IV Sent., dist.
X, P. I, art. un., qu. I; Opera omnia, tome IV, Ad Claras
Aquas (1889), 217.
(8) Jn. 6.61-69.
(9) St. Augustine,
Against Julian, VI, 5.11; PL 44.829.
(10) City of God,
X, 23; PL 41.300.
Constitution on the Catholic Faith, c. 4.
(12) Cf. Council of Trent,
Teaching on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, c. I.
(13) Cf. Ex 24.8.
(14) Lk 22.19-20;
cf. Mt 26.26-28; Mk 14.22-24.
(15) Acts 2.42.
(16) Acts 4.32.
(17) 1 Cor 11.23 ff.
(18) 1 Cor 10.16.
(19) Cf. Mal 1.11.
(20) Council of Trent,
Doctrine on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, c. 2.
(21) Catecheses, 23
[myst. 5]. 8-18; PG 33.1115-1118.
(22) Cf. Confessions
IX, 12.32; PL 32.777; cf. ibid. IX 11, 27; PL 32.775.
(23) Cf. Serm
172.2.; PL 38.936; cf. On the care to be taken of the dead,
13, PL 40.593.
(24) Cf. St. Augustine,
City ot God, X, 6; PL 42.284.
(25) Cf. Encyclical letter
Mediator Dei; AAS XXXIX (1947), 552.
(26) Cf. Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church, c. 2, 11; AAS LVII (1965), 15
[Cf. TPS v. 10, p. 366.].
(27) Cf. ibid., c.
2, n. 10; AAS LVII (1965), 14 [Cf. TPS v. 10, p. 365-366.].
(28) Constitution on
the Sacred Liturgy, c. 1, n. 27; AAS LVI (1964), 107 [Cf.
TPS IX, 322.].
(29) Cf. Roman Pontifical.
(30) Cf. c. 1, n. 7; AAS
LVI (1964), 100-101.
(31) St. Augustine, On
Psalm 85.1: PL 37.1081.
(32) Mt 18.20.
(33) Cf. Mt 25.40.
(34) Cf. Eph 3.17.
(35) Cf. Rom 5.5.
(36) St. Augustine,
Against the Letter ot Petiliani, III, 10.11; PL 43.353.
(37) St. Augustine, On
Psalm 86.3; PL 37.1102.
(38) Homily on the
Second Epistle to Timothy 2.4; PG 62.612.
(39) Aegidius Romanus,
Theorems on the Body of Christ, theor. 50 (Venice, 1521), p.
(40) St. Thomas, Summa
Theol., IIIa, p. 73, a. 3, c.
(41) Cf. Council of Trent,
Decree on the Holy Eucharist, c. 3.
(42) Pius XII, Encyclical
letter Humani generis; AAS XLII (1950), 578.
(43) Decree on the Holy
Eucharist, Introduction and c. 2.
(44) Didachè, 9.1; F.X.
Funk, Patres Apostolici, 1.20.
(45) Epistle to Magnus,
6; PL 3.1139.
(46) 1 Cor 10.17.
(47) St. Ignatius,
Epistle to the Smyrnians, 7.1; PG 5.714.
(48) Commentary on
Matthew, c. 26; PG 66.714.
(49) Decree on the Most
Holy Eucharist, c. 1.
(50) Cf. Encyclical letter
Mirae caritatis; Acta Leonis XIII, XXII
(51) Cf. Council of Trent,
Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, c. 4 and canon 2.
22.9 [myst. 4] PG 33.1103.
(53) Homily on Judas'
betrayal, 1.6; PG 49.380; cf. Homily on Matthew 82.5; PG
(54) On Matthew
26.27; PG 72.451.
(55) On Mysteries
9.50-52; PL 16.422-424.
(56) Mansi, Collectio
amplissima Conciliorum, XX, 524D.
(57) Const. Auctorem
fidei, August 28, 1794.
(58) Allocution of
September 22, 1956, AAS XLVIII (1956), 720 [Cf. TPS III,
(59) AAS LVII (1965),
(60) On Psalm 98.9;
Tradition; ed. Botte, La Tradition Apostolique de St.
Hippolyte, Muenster (1963), p. 84.
(62) Fragment on Exodus;
(63) On Shows; CSEL
(64) Epistle to
Calosyrius; PG 76.1075.
(65) Cf. Basil, Epistle
93; PG 32.483-486.
(66) St. Augustine,
Treatise on John 26.13; PL 35.1613.
(67) Decree of the Sacred
Congregation of the Council, December 20, 1905, approved by St.
Pius X; AAS XXXVIII (1905), 401.
(68) Cf. Jn 1.14.
(69) Cf. Col 3.3.
(70) 1 Cor 8.6.
(71) Cf. St. Augustine,
On the literal interpretation of Genesis XI, 15.20; PL
(72) Cf. 1 Cor 1.10.
(73) Lk 1.78.
(74) .Jn 6.48 ff.
(75) Mt 6.11.
(76) 3 Kgs 19.8.
(77) Ps 77.25.
(78) Decree on the Most
Holy Eucharist, c. 8.
(80) Cf. 1 Cor 10.17.
(81) C.I.C., canon 801.
(82) Epistle to the
Philadelphians 4; PG 5.700.
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