Pope Francis has dropped another document on the Church. Vultum Dei Quaerere, an apostolic constitution on women’s contemplative life. You might wonder about a long-ish post about it here, but I noticed a single section on the Eucharist, number 22. I’d like to tease out a few ideas that might have a more broad relevance to the larger Church.
Before we get to these, it should be noted this document is addressed to cloistered women’s communities. Not all women religious. If you’re not sure of the distinctions, check VDQ 31 for the four types of cloisters.
After citing the importance of the cel;ebration of the Eucharist, I found this statement to love:
The Eucharist is the heart of the life of every baptized person and of consecrated life itself; hence it is at the very core of the contemplative life. Indeed, the offering of your lives gives you a particular share in the paschal mystery of death and resurrection present in the Eucharist. Our common breaking of bread repeats and makes present Jesus’ own offering of himself: the Lord “broke himself, breaks himself, for our sake” and asks us “to give ourselves, to break ourselves for the sake of others”.*
This offering of our lives is obviously not just for women who live in the cloister. What Pope Francis is preaching here is no less than the aspiration to imitate Christ. We shouldn’t be fooled that people enclosed in a strict monastic life find this easy, any more than it is easy with us lay people in our families and worksplaces and schools in the world.
So that this profound mystery can take place and shine forth in all its richness, each celebration of the Eucharist should be prepared with care, dignity and sobriety, and all should take part in it fully, faithfully and consciously.
Full, faithful, and conscious participation: I like this.
The Holy Father offers an extended quote from St John Paul II’s 2003 encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia for reflection:
(T)o contemplate Christ involves being able to recognize him wherever he manifests himself, in his many forms of presence, but above all in the living sacrament of his body and his blood. The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist; she is fed by him and by him she is enlightened. The Eucharist is both a mystery of faith and a ‘mystery of light’. Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the faithful can in some way relive the experience of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus: ‘Their eyes were opened and they recognized him’ (Lk 24:31).
Liam, didn’t you recently mention the importance of Emmaus as a model? Any thoughts or observations here?
*Homily, Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (26 May 2016): L’Osservatore Romano, May 27-28, 2016, p. 8; cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 663/2.