Avvenire, Milan -- October 26, 2005
Ordinary work, offered on the altar
The assembly of the Synod of Bishops that has just concluded was convoked by John Paul II and presided over by his successor, Benedict XVI. Thus it represents, in a symbolic way, the “linking” of two pontificates. It is significant that the topic of this synod was precisely the Eucharist, the source of the Church’s unity.
On the opening day, Benedict XVI asked the participants to study how the connection between the Holy Mass and the daily life of Christians can be strengthened, so that these not be seen as two disconnected realities. As a result, the synod’s work included the study of specific recommendations to help Christians better understand that the Eucharist should inform their daily lives.
As an act of worship, the Eucharistic Sacrifice has to be as perfect as possible, since it is offered to God Himself. Any human action lovingly and carefully done in all it details is pleasing to others and shows respect towards them. How much more must this be true of any act offered to God. This is the tenor of many of the proposals introduced in the synod.
Priests and lay people should celebrate or attend Holy Mass with a firm doctrinal piety, with love and attention. In the Eucharist, where time and eternity meet, Christ offers Himself to the Father and gives Himself to us once again. Therefore we need to respond with all the love we can muster. God is not asking us simply for external devotion, but above all for our love. Only thus can our offering be perfect, pleasing to God.
But the presence of the Eucharist in a Christian’s life is not limited to the sublime moment of the Mass. We can bring to the altar our daily actions, while striving throughout the day to direct our ordinary work to God in the Eucharist. Any honorable work can be a means to unite ourselves spiritually to Christ’s sacrifice in the Holy Mass. In this way, the Eucharist becomes the summit and source of our entire existence. This idea was expressed over and over during the synod, with the certainty that Christ wants to unite the Holy Mass to the salvation of all men and women.
These are thoughts that oriented my own reflections during the synod and that point to three areas in which Christians can help to make Eucharistic life flourish throughout the Church.
The first one pertains to priests: that we know how to celebrate the Eucharist with the greatest possible refinement. In other words, that we foster the ars celebrandi, the art of celebrating Holy Mass with the required dignity, which makes manifest the beauty and depth of the liturgy, lived for the glory of God and our edification.
The second is the need to stir all the faithful to an even more attentive participation in Holy Mass, with the awareness that it is the sublime moment to engage in the ars orandi, the art of prayer, which John Paul II stressed when the new millennium began.
And finally, we also need to rediscover every day the strong bonds between Holy Mass and daily life as we grasp ever more fully the ars vivendi, the art of spending each day in spiritual union with Jesus in the Eucharist. Thus we will discover a new horizon in our daily life: the marvelous adventure of meeting God.
The Holy Father will evaluate the proposals the synod fathers have presented and make the decisions he considers opportune. But we are already experiencing the positive effects of the synod. We bishops who took part in it have gone deeper into the infinite treasure of the Eucharist, in which “is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself our Pasch and the living bread which gives life to men” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, no. 5).
It is my ardent hope that we take this truth to heart and spread it in concentric circles, and that its fruits be seen in the way many Catholics practice their Christian faith, especially in their participation in the Holy Mass. Following the work and prayer of these days, I look forward to a new moment of grace for the whole Church.
+ Javier Echevarría
Prelate of Opus Dei