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On Christ, the Eucharist, and the Road to Emmaus

Reflection by Igor Kowalewski of Moscow

MOSCOW, MARCH 18, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is the address delivered by Father Igor Kowalewski of Moscow during a recent theologians videoconference on "The Year of the Eucharist," organized by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy.

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The Spiritual Development of Christians and of the Church

In Light of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter "Mane Nobiscum Domine"

By Professor Igor Kowalewski

After announcing the Year of the Rosary, the Holy Father John Paul II proposed to the universal Church that it should "interiorize the mystery of the Eucharist."

For this reason he called for the "Year of the Eucharist" which lasts from October 2004 to October 2005.

There is no better route to follow than that of the disciples from Emmaus to understand and interiorize the route that the Lord follows with His Church and to analyze in depth the meaning of the Eucharistic mystery. A path of growth within the faith and within prayer, a path of enlightenment, of communion, solidarity and recognition of the Lord and his mission.

On the subject of the icon of the disciples of Emmaus, the Holy Father says: "Amid our questions and difficulties, and even our bitter disappointments, the divine Wayfarer continues to walk at our side, opening to us the Scriptures and leading us to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of God" (apostolic letter "Mane Nobiscum Domine," No. 2) and communion with him.

All spiritual paths begin in Christ. It is he who calls upon us to be his disciples. He is the Beginning and the End, the Alfa and the Omega of the whole creation. All has been created through him and all achieves fulfillment in him. It was Christ, the Lord, who called those disciples who, disillusioned, were about to return to their home in Emmaus. It was the Lord himself who walked toward them moved in their midst enlightening their minds and bringing them to communion with Him. Christ is not only the center of the Church's history, but also the center of humankind's history. All is summarized in him.

We must also remember the vigor with which the Second Vatican Council, quoting Pope Paul VI, stated that Christ "the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 45). In him, the Word made Flesh, not only is the mystery of God revealed, but also the mystery of humankind (ibid., No. 22). In him humankind finds redemption and fulfillment.

Learning the "art of prayer." In this itinerary of faith, Christ makes himself known; he comes to us, becoming our interlocutor. He invites us to share with him our thoughts burdened with sadness, our lack of hope and the events that cause us to experience these thoughts and feelings.

The disciples from Emmaus, even before they recognized the wayfarer next to them as being Christ, told him about what had taken place ... is this not a way of praying with the Lord! The Lord always listens to us and is always there. It is part of the Lords' pedagogy regards to his disciples to always listen to them, especially when times are hard, when one has fallen, experiences doubt, disillusionment and frustration.

Hence the Lord comes toward us even before he is asked and always listens to us and is always ready to fill us with courage and clarify all that happens to us. He knows how to listen and then he speaks to us, he provides us with a meaning for everything that discourages our hearts. Those who learn this art of prayer achieve the highest sanctity (see "Mane Nobiscum Domine," No. 8).

Sunday is a particular day for prayer, for listening to the Lord. It was the day on which, having risen from the dead, he approached the disciples from Emmaus and walked along the road with them, explaining the Scriptures.

To improve in the art of prayer, the Holy Father wishes "to stress particularly the Sunday Eucharist and Sunday itself, experienced as a special day of faith, the day of the Risen Lord and of the gift of the Spirit, the true weekly Easter" (ibid., No. 8). Then, he invites the faithful to cultivate the Liturgy of the Hours, through which the Church sanctifies the various hours of the day and the passing of time in the articulation of the liturgical year, to also cultivate Marian prayer such as the rosary, so dear to God's People (see ibid.)

The path toward God is a path of progressive enlightenment.

The Christian does not live in the shadows, nor does he stumble without knowing where he is going. Together with him walks he who is the Light of the World. Christ comes to provide the light that lights up his intelligence, opens his eyes, strengthens his will, fills his heart ...

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