Sacramentum Caritatis 15: The Eucharist and Ecclesial Communion

15. The Eucharist is thus constitutive of the Church’s being and activity. This is why Christian antiquity used the same words, Corpus Christi, to designate Christ’s body born of the Virgin Mary, his eucharistic body and his ecclesial body. (Cf. Propositio 5) This clear datum of the tradition helps us to appreciate the inseparability of Christ and the Church.

It helps to see this as less a point of confusion, or as a personal preference, one body over the others. The notion (or meme) attributed to Saint Augustine is that believers receiving the Eucharist become what they eat. This is an honor of grace. Also pointing to the unity of Christ.

The Lord Jesus, by offering himself in sacrifice for us, in his gift effectively pointed to the mystery of the Church. It is significant that the Second Eucharistic Prayer, invoking the Paraclete, formulates its prayer for the unity of the Church as follows: “may all of us who share in the body and blood of Christ be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit. “These words help us to see clearly how the res of the sacrament of the Eucharist is the unity of the faithful within ecclesial communion. The Eucharist is thus found at the root of the Church as a mystery of communion (Cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 80, a. 4).

There is a desired unity, a principle confused often enough with uniformity. Even if everyone had to look alike, by human rule, the Holy Spirit would manage a unity of res that would render human plans moot.

Of John Paul II …

The relationship between Eucharist and communio had already been pointed out by the Servant of God John Paul II in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. He spoke of the memorial of Christ as “the supreme sacramental manifestation of communion in the Church” (number 38). The unity of ecclesial communion is concretely manifested in the Christian communities and is renewed at the celebration of the Eucharist, which unites them and differentiates them in the particular Churches, “in quibus et ex quibus una et unica Ecclesia catholica exsistit” (Lumen Gentium 23).

And some more from the curia:

The fact that the one Eucharist is celebrated in each Diocese around its own Bishop helps us to see how those particular Churches subsist in and ex Ecclesia. Indeed, “the oneness and indivisibility of the eucharistic body of the Lord implies the oneness of his mystical body, which is the one and indivisible Church. From the eucharistic center arises the necessary openness of every celebrating community, of every particular Church. By allowing itself to be drawn into the open arms of the Lord, it achieves insertion into his one and undivided body.” (CDF, Letter on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 11)

This is the willing cooperation of believers with God’s invitation to grace.

Consequently, in the celebration of the Eucharist, the individual members of the faithful find themselves in their Church, that is, in the Church of Christ. From this eucharistic perspective, adequately understood, ecclesial communion is seen to be catholic by its very nature (Propositio 5: “The term ‘catholic’ expresses the universality deriving from the unity that the Eucharist, celebrated in each Church, fosters and builds up. The particular Churches in the universal Church thus have, in the Eucharist, the duty to make visible their own unity and diversity. This bond of fraternal love allows the trinitarian communion to become apparent. The Councils and Synods express in history this fraternal aspect of the Church.”).

An important ecumenical note:

An emphasis on this eucharistic basis of ecclesial communion can also contribute greatly to the ecumenical dialogue with the Churches and Ecclesial Communities which are not in full communion with the See of Peter. The Eucharist objectively creates a powerful bond of unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, which have preserved the authentic and integral nature of the eucharistic mystery. At the same time, emphasis on the ecclesial character of the Eucharist can become an important element of the dialogue with the Communities of the Reformed tradition (Cf. ibid.).

This document is copyright © 2007 Dicastero per la Comunicazione – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in post-conciliar catechetical documents, Sacramentum Caritatis. Bookmark the permalink.

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