Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the topic: 'Eucharist, Communion and Solidarity'
LECTURE BY H.E. CARDINAL RATZINGER AT THE BISHOPS' CONFERENCE OF THE REGION OF CAMPANIA IN BENEVENTO (ITALY) ON THE TOPIC:
"EUCHARIST, COMMUNION AND SOLIDARITY"
Sunday 2 June 2002
Dear friends, after preparing for your Eucharistic Congress with prayer, reflection and charitable activities under the guidance of your Pastor, Archbishop Serafino Sprovieri, the Archdiocese of Benevento decided to undertake a two-fold investigation. It began an in-depth exploration of the relationship between the deepest sacramental mystery of the Church - the Holy Eucharist - and the Church's most practical, down-to-earth commitment: her charitable work of sharing, reconciling and unifying. The diocese proposed this exploration the better to celebrate the sacrament and to live more fruitfully Christ's "new commandment" that we "love one another".
"Agape, Pax', Orthodoxy, Orthopraxis
Often, in the primitive Church, the Eucharist was called simply "agape", that is, "love", or even simply "pax", that is "peace". The Christians of that time thus expressed in a dramatic way the unbreakable link between the mystery of the hidden presence of God and the praxis of serving the cause of peace, of Christians being peace. For the early Christians, there was no difference between what today is often distinguished as orthodoxy and orthopraxis, as right doctrine and right action. Indeed, when this distinction is made, there generally is a suggestion that the word orthodoxy is to be disdained: those who hold fast to right doctrine are seen as people of narrow sympathy, rigid, potentially intolerant. In the final analysis, for those holding this rather critical view of orthodoxy everything depends on "right action", with doctrine regarded as something always open to further discussion. For those holding this view, the chief thing is the fruit doctrine produces, while the way that leads to our just action is a matter of indifference. Such a comparison would have been incomprehensible and unacceptable for those in the ancient Church, for they rightly understood the word "orthodoxy" not to mean "right doctrine" but to mean the authentic adoration and glorification of God.
They were convinced that everything depended on being in the right relationship with God, on knowing what pleases him and what one can do to respond to him in the right way. For this reason, Israel loved the law: from it, they knew God's will, they knew how to live justly and how to honour God in the right way: by acting in accord with his will, bringing order into the world, opening it to the transcendent.
Christ teaches how God is glorified, the world is made just.
This was the new joy Christians discovered: that now, beginning with Christ, they understood how God ought to be glorified and how precisely through this the world would become just. That these two things should go together - how God is glorified and how justice comes - the angels had proclaimed on the holy night: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, goodwill toward men", they had said (Lk 2,14). God's glory and peace on earth are inseparable. Where God is excluded, there is a breakdown of peace in the world; without God, no orthopraxis can save us. In fact, there does not exist an orthopraxis which is simply just, detached from a knowledge of what is good. The will without knowledge is blind and so action, orthopraxis, without knowledge is blind and leads to the abyss. Marxism's great deception was to tell us that we had reflected on the world long enough, that now it was at last time to change it. But if we do not know in what direction to change it, if we do not understand its meaning and its inner purpose, then change alone becomes destruction - as we have seen and continue to see. But the inverse is also true: doctrine alone, which does not become life and action, becomes idle chatter and so is equally empty. The truth is concrete. Knowledge and action are closely united, as are faith and life. This awareness is precisely what your theme seeks to state, "Eucharist, Communion and Solidarity". I should like to dwell on the three key words you have chosen for your Eucharistic Congress to clarify them.
"Eucharist" is today - and it is entirely right that it be so - the most common name for the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, which the Lord instituted on the night before his passion. In the early Church there were other names for this sacrament - agape and pax we have already mentioned. Along with these there were, for example, also synaxis - assembly, reunion of the many. Among Protestants this Sacrament is called "Supper", with the intent - following the lead of Luther for whom Scripture alone was valid - to return totally to the biblical origins. And, in fact, in St Paul, this sacrament is called "the Lord's Supper". But it ...
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