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On the Eucharist

"It Nourishes That Profound Joy in Believers"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 19, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I have just returned from the Juvenile Detention Center in the Casal di Marmo in Rome. I went there to visit on this Fourth Sunday of Lent, which we call in Latin "Laetare" (rejoice) from the first word of the entrance antiphon of the liturgy of today's Mass.

Today the liturgy invites us to rejoice because Easter is drawing near, the day of Christ's victory over sin and death. But where do we find the source of Christian joy if not in the Eucharist, which Christ has left us as spiritual food while we are pilgrims on earth? In every age the Eucharist nourishes that profound joy in believers that makes us all one with love and with peace. This joy has its origin in our communion with God and with our brothers.

Last Tuesday the postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" was presented. This document has as its theme the Eucharist as source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. I elaborated this theme, gathering the fruits of the 11th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that took place in the Vatican in October 2005.

I plan to return to such an important text but at the moment I would like to underline that it is an expression of the faith of the universal Church in the eucharistic mystery, and that it places itself in continuity with the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of my venerated predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II.

In this document I wanted, among other things, to highlight its connection with the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est": That is why I chose "Sacramentum Caritatis" as the title, retrieving St. Thomas Aquinas' beautiful definition of the Eucharist (cf. Summa Theologiae III, q. 73, a. 3, ad 3), "sacrament of charity."

Yes, in the Eucharist, Christ wanted to give to us his love, which led him to offer his life for us on the cross.

During the Last Supper, washing the disciples' feet, Jesus left us the commandment of love: "Love one another as I have loved you," (John 13:34). But because this is possible only so long as we remain united with him, as branches of the vine (John 15:1-8), he chose to stay with us in the Eucharist, and this is what makes it possible for us to remain in him.

Therefore, when we nourish ourselves in faith with his body and his blood, his love passes into us and renders us able in turn to give our lives for the brethren (cf. 1 John 3:16). From here flows Christian joy, the joy of love.

The "eucharistic woman" par excellence is Mary, the masterpiece of divine grace: God's love made her immaculate and "in his presence in charity" (Ephesians 1:4). God placed St. Joseph -- whose liturgical solemnity we will celebrate tomorrow -- by her side, to guide the Redeemer.

I particularly invoke this great saint so that believing, celebrating, and living with faith the Eucharistic mystery, the people of God will be pervaded by the love of Christ and will spread the fruits of joy and peace through all humanity.


[After praying the Angelus, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English he said:]

I extend warm greetings to all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered for today's Angelus. Continuing our journey towards the Paschal feast, we are reminded in this Sunday's Gospel of the heavenly Father's boundless love. May the riches of his infinite mercy fill you with peace and joy this Lenten season. Upon you and your families I invoke God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Eucharist, Pope, Benedict, Angelus, Address, Jesus

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