Comments on "Sacramentum Caritatis"

The Key to "Sacramentum Caritatis"
Interview With Author Father Nicola Bux

ROME, APRIL 4, 2007 ( Charity is the key to reading the postsynodal exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" and also to understanding Benedict XVI's thought, says the author of a book on the Eucharist.

Father Nicola Bux, author of "Il Signore dei Misteri: Eucaristia e Relativismo" [The Lord of the Mysteries: Eucharist and Relativism], spoke with ZENIT about liturgical reform and the Pope's exhortation to "Eucharistic consistency."

Q: For the second time the Pope has authored a significant text with the word charity, love. First "Deus Caritas Est" and now "Sacramentum Caritatis." Do we have a key for reading this papacy?

Father Bux: Charity is the key to reading Catholic Christianity and therefore the postsynodal exhortation, because Pope Benedict's thought is fully Catholic in the sense that it is the bearer of what is believed always, everywhere, and by all -- as St. Vincent of Lerins says -- and at the same time it is a thought that is mobile, attentive to the questions of contemporary man.

Q: Benedict XVI's exhortation reasserts his influence on the liturgical reform. Is this one of the more important points of the document?

Father Bux: It's in the theme itself of the exhortation: the Eucharist source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. We know that the Council wanted the Eucharist and the liturgy to be at the center of the Church, insofar as it is from Eucharist, and not from us, that the Church is continually built up, as St. Thomas says.

The liturgical reform, insofar as it had this as a presupposition, bore fruit; when it instead encouraged the enterprise of the clergy and ministers, it became a show and was sterile.

Q: The Holy Father also speaks of "Eucharistic consistency." What does he mean by this?

Father Bux: Every Catholic knows that he should not receive Eucharistic Communion if his moral life does not conform to what is meant by the word "communion." What I have in mind is the egoism that brings one to think and act on his own, with a freedom detached from truth, instead of being united in heart and soul, as the Acts of the Apostles says.

If one gets divorced, that is, if married people split, how can you receive the sacrament of unity? If I encourage quarrels and war for dealing with controversies, how can I receive the sacrament of peace?

If I collaborate in making laws that violate nature as God created it, how can I enter into communion with the Creator? This, in sum, is what is meant by Eucharistic consistency. To be more precise, it is the correspondence between believing and acting.

Q: How should we understand the suggestion to celebrate some of the parts of the Mass in Latin in international Masses?

Father Bux: In the sense that one should use the Roman Missal in the Latin "editio typica," which has existed from the beginning of the liturgical reform, rather than have multilingual Masses that resemble Babel more than Pentecost.

It is necessary, however, that in every community, whether it be a parish community or not, one is not afraid to sing and pray some parts in Latin and Gregorian -- there were collections published already after the Council.

Why must we use English now in almost every ambit of relations in the world and not Latin, which expresses the common faith of Catholics throughout the world?

Q: What is for you the most important point of this exhortation?

Father Bux: The admonition to live the Eucharist as a sacrament of love, which is organic communion, or more exactly, reciprocal obedience between Pope and bishops, bishop and priests, priests and laity.

Just as we do not make the Church but it is rather Jesus who gathers together and continually renews the Church with the action of the Holy Spirit, so also the Eucharist, greatest manifestation of the Church, must be observed in obedient humility in such a way that I "diminish" and the Lord "increases" more and more in every Christian.


On the Eucharist
"It Nourishes That Profound Joy in Believers"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 18, 2007 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today 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.


"Sacramentum Caritatis" and Liturgical Beauty
Interview With Father Edward McNamara

ROME, MARCH 19, 2007 ( The true beauty of the liturgy comes about when the priest and the congregation participate in it actively and piously, says Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara.

Father McNamara, a professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university in Rome, writes the weekly liturgy column for ZENIT.

ZENIT interviewed him about Benedict XVI's postsynodal apostolic exhortation, which gathers the conclusions of the October 2005 Synod of Bishops. Father McNamara served as a "peritus," or expert, in that synod.

Here, he expounds on some of the specific observations and invitations that the Pope made in "Sacramentum Caritatis."

Q: In No. 35 the Pope writes: "Like the rest of Christian Revelation, the liturgy is inherently linked to beauty: it is 'veritatis splendor.'" Is it too much to say that beautiful liturgy is a sine qua non of a vibrant Catholic community?

Father McNamara: As the Holy Father says, beauty is inherent to liturgy, it is intimately bound up with authentic liturgy.

Beauty however does not only mean splendid sacred buildings and sublime music. The primary beauty in liturgy is that of a community united heart and soul in prayerful celebration of Christ's sacrifice. It is the beauty of priest and people engaged in full, active and pious participation in the mystery.

This beauty is achieved, in spite of a possible lack of external splendor, whenever the sacred ministers and each member of the faithful strive to live the liturgy to the full.

Other forms of beauty: music, art, poetry, and a sober solemnity in the ritual derive naturally from this inner beauty because the deeper a community lives and comprehends the beauty of the liturgical mystery the more it strives to express it in wonderful outer forms. It is the natural understanding that only the very best we can offer is truly worthy of the Lord.

Thus there is strong historical evidence that even before the end of the era of persecutions; Christians sought to celebrate the Eucharist with the finest materials available. This explains why the construction boom in imposing basilicas, as soon as the persecutions were over, along with the more solemn ritual forms required by these new buildings, was perceived as a natural development and not a rupture with earlier practice.

It is this same understanding which led generations of poor immigrants to the United States to sacrifice so much in order to endow their parishes with majestic churches replete with fine arts and crafts.

Ugliness, blandness, banality and bad taste on the other hand diminish the liturgy and betray a lack of appreciation of the mystery and sometimes, alas, a certain lack of faith.

Q: In No. 37 the Holy Father writes: "Since the eucharistic liturgy is essentially an 'actio Dei' which draws us into Christ through the Holy Spirit, its basic structure is not something within our power to change, nor can it be held hostage by the latest trends." Is this statement aimed at the clergy?

Father McNamara: It is certainly aimed at the clergy but not only. First of all it addresses the fundamental structure of the liturgy, and not just the rubrics, saying that the liturgy is primarily God's action counters all those who attempt to reduce it to a mere sociological expression that can be freely adapted as societies change.

The danger of holding the liturgy hostage to the latest trends not only concerns the clergy but to all those engaged in liturgical preparation. There are certainly priests who arbitrarily change the liturgy at their own whim but there are also readers who spontaneously adjust readings for ideological purposes and music directors who subject the liturgy to the demands of music and not vice versa, or who introduce inappropriate musical forms in the name of relevance.

I think the point the Holy Father is trying to make is that we relearn to receive the liturgy as a precious heirloom to be treasured and less as a toy to play around with.

Q: Benedict XVI says bluntly in No. 47 that "Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved." What is the best way priests can improve in this area?

Father McNamara: There are many excellent resources available in books and on the Internet but I think there is no substitution for the three P's in improving the qualities of homilies: prayer, preparation and practice. First and foremost the homily must be the fruit of prayer, of a genuine conversation with God regarding the text.

It may sound harsh but a priest or deacon whose homily is not the fruit of meditation really has nothing worth saying because he can only give himself. An 8- to 10-minute homily requires a lot of preparation in order to put what God wants said into the best human form possible.

Preparation also means that a priest or deacon continually nurtures his soul and mind with ongoing formation. A good preacher also tries to practices before delivering his homily, practicing his diction, inflections and also timing himself. This last recommendation is especially necessary for younger priests and deacons whose enthusiasm combined with lack of experience often leads them to try to say too much at once.

Q: In No. 6 of the exhortation the Pope writes: "Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord's eucharistic presence among his people." Would this emphasis on the Eucharist have to precede other priorities such as ecumenism, restoring family life, and reaching out to Islam?

Father McNamara: I believe that it is more a question of the quality of these endeavors that a chronological priority. Unless we Catholics are deeply rooted in the central tenets of our faith and practice then engaging in these other priorities such as ecumenism or reaching out to Islam will be shallow and hollow affairs based on false irenics and empty rhetoric.

For example, a fervent evangelical Christian steeped in biblical culture, would probably be more at home with a Catholic of deep Eucharistic piety than with a one lacking in devotion. Perhaps they would agree on little from a theological standpoint, but would have a much better grasp of each other as people for who the question of God's presence is a lived reality. Something similar could perhaps also be said for pious Muslims.

Q: The exhortation encourages a wider use of Latin when celebrating the Eucharist. What are some of the advantages of that could come from a more frequent use of Latin and how can this be done in a world that has largely lost familiarity with Latin?

Father McNamara: The advantages are manifold. Think what a difference it could make to next years World Youth Day in Sydney if 500,000 young voices were able to sing "Sanctus, Sanctus" or the Lord's Prayer in unison, and not just listen to the choir. The sense of belonging to one Church could be greatly enhanced.

From other perspectives the occasional or even frequent celebration of Mass in Latin as well as the use of Latin Gregorian chant in vernacular Masses would help recover the sense of the sacred in the liturgy as many of these chants do a far better job of transforming text into musical prayer than most vernacular adaptations.

It is true that there is far less familiarity with Latin than before, but counterintuitively, the fact that the vernacular translations are already impressed on the memory could actually facilitate the occasional use of Latin. Most people would know by heart the meaning of the text in their native language and are able to appreciate the beauty of the Latin texts, especially the chants.

Some say that it is a quixotic adventure to attempt such a restoration, and yet, there are many examples of parishes around the world which have achieved a balance of vernacular and Latin in both texts and music from which all have spiritually benefited.

Q: A section of the document deals with the social implications of the Eucharist. How is our Eucharistic life related to a greater concern for justice and charity?

Father McNamara: As No. 37 quoted above says, the Eucharistic liturgy draws us into Christ through the Holy Spirit. The more a soul is drawn into Christ the more it becomes identified with him and seeks to imitate him.

Being drawn into Christ leads us to recognize him in others, especially in the hungry, thirsty, naked, ignorant, sick and imprisoned. Being drawn into Christ, means being drawn into his supreme act of self-offering on Calvary, a self-offering that culminate his teaching of the beatitudes. In this way there can be no genuine Eucharistic piety that does not bear fruit in concern for justice and charity.

For some, this concern will mean engaging in specific activities promoting justice and charity as a fruit of Eucharistic participation, for others, their genuine concern will be expressed through prayer and sacrifice for those in need. For all, it means practicing justice and charity in their daily lives and dealings with others.


A Look at "Sacramentum Caritatis": Interview With Cardinal Angelo Scola

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2007 ( Benedict XVI's new apostolic exhortation is an important ecumenical document, says Cardinal Angelo Scola.

"Sacramentum Caritatis" (Sacrament of Charity) reflects the conclusions of the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held in Rome from Oct. 2 to 23, 2005. It was released Tuesday.

ZENIT spoke to Cardinal Scola, relator general of the synodal assembly, who highlighted certain elements of the document.

Q: Your Eminence, do you feel that there is a slight imbalance in the exhortation: on the one hand, encouraging a deeper look at the liturgy, aiming for a more active and fruitful participation of the faithful; and on the other hand, advising the use of Latin for international celebrations and encouraging Gregorian chant, leaving aside religious expressions perhaps closer to the people -- for example, African dancing and singing?

Cardinal Scola: We need to understand the logic underlying the entire exhortation. The Holy Father aims to outline all of the concrete characteristics so that the Eucharist will be the one Eucharist-act of God in Jesus Christ that involves all the faithful, whether in Sydney, or Milan or in Buenos Aires or in Kampala. But then, it also gives indications for those that are in these places to concretely put into practice the one rite.

Now, the fact that there is a very important paragraph on inculturation and that it says the episcopal conferences should continue to work with the dicasteries involved precisely answers this need.

Clearly, the job of a postsynodal exhortation is to center on everything that unites; it would be presumptuous for the Pope to say how inculturation in Africa should be or in India. The Holy Father recommends that the bishops who are there, in conjunction with the dicasteries, do this. So, in my opinion, the imbalance to which you refer does not exist.

Q: As to the topic of freedom of worship, the impression one gets is that concrete information is not furnished on how to favor the Eucharistic celebrations within those communities "where Christians are a minority or where they are denied religious freedom" -- No. 87. What are your thoughts?

Cardinal Scola: There also, one must distinguish what a postsynodal exhortation can do, in other words, a document that goes out to all the Churches in the world. It can only demand the fulfillment of principles and give suggestions. There is a reason that the Church always lives in two dimensions, the universal and the particular.

Therefore, it falls on those who are in a particular place -- embracing this principle of freedom of worship as an expression of freedom of religion which has been energetically highlighted -- to find the best ways of acting.

And we must not forget that the normal activities of the Holy Father and the Holy See also assist in these situations. If not, documents would have to go into such detail that we would need 2,000 pages to cover everything.

Q: How can the Eucharistic ecclesiology underlined in "Sacramentum Caritatis" guide the efforts made toward achieving the full and visible unity of all Christians?

Cardinal Scola: I believe that the exhortation has an incredible ecumenical value, because it understands the intrinsic link between the Eucharistic mystery, liturgical action and the new spiritual worship -- [for instance] No. 5. So on this topic, it coincides greatly with Orthodox sensitivity, but also goes toward our Protestant brothers and sisters.


The Exhortations of "Sacramentum Caritatis": Interview With Archbishop Nicola Eterovic

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2007 ( Benedict XVI's postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" appeals to all Christians and people of good will to end the scandal of hunger, says Archbishop Nikola Eterovic.

After Tuesday's press conference presenting the exhortation, Archbishop Eterovic, the secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, spoke with ZENIT about the third part of the document, "The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Lived."

Q: Is there any aspect of the teachings in the "Sacramentum Caritatis" that you would like to underline more than any others?

Archbishop Eterovic: Yes, the Holy Father shows us how the Eucharist is the source of life and of the mission of the Church, as is a life in holiness.

In two passages of the exhortation, in fact, the Holy Father mentions some saints as models of the Eucharistic existence.

These are the five blessed that were canonized at the end of the Synod of Bishops on October 23, 2005 -- these were his first canonizations -- because they "particularly distinguished for their Eucharistic piety": the Polish Bishop Jozef Bilczewski; the priests Fathers Gaetano Catanoso, Zygmunt Gorazdowski and Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga; and the Capuchin brother Fra Felice da Nicosia -- No. 4.

At the end of the exhortation, the Pope again mentions many saints, starting from the first centuries -- No. 94 -- who can be defined saints of the Eucharist.

Q: After having shown how, in the first two parts of the exhortation, each baptized person is called to "internalize" their Eucharistic life, through the deepening of faith, personal prayer, but also the proper celebration of the mystery of Trinitarian love in the liturgy, in the third part Benedict XVI uses strong and concrete words. Here the document indicates how to express the Christian Eucharistic existence in daily life, within a vast "cosmic" vision, calling to a "public witness to our faith" in values that "are not negotiable" -- No. 83, referring to places with limited freedom of worship -- No. 87, and in a particular way invites us to denounce "inhumane situations in which people starve to death because of injustice and exploitation" -- No. 90.

Archbishop Eterovic: This is correct, all this also comes from the Eucharist: The gifts as we offer them are the fruits of nature, which are a gift from the good Lord. Creation is a good thing, but we can continuously see how these gifts are damaged by abuse and exploitation.

Also, this will be the fruit of "Eucharistic existence," which will do everything possible to offer the following generations the possibility to bring the bread and wine in offering to the Lord's altar, so that through the grace of the Holy Spirit and the words of the priests, they may be changed into the body and blood of Christ.

Q: In this sense, Christian ecology is not a type of "ideological" ecology but a true "Eucharistic" ecology?

Archbishop Eterovic: Yes, as with all aspects of Christian life the Eucharist must represent the spirituality that lights the life of each man and each woman, in all spheres of their activities. As well as in the relation with creation and with ecology.

Q: Benedict XVI faces the theme of globalization … of solidarity.

Archbishop Eterovic: Yes, like the negative sides of globalization, especially deploring the fact that, alas, the rich are always less, while the poor are always more, and often they do not get their "daily bread," invoked every day in the Our Father.

This is a scandal -- No. 91. The Holy Father mentions as an example that less than half of the amount destined to arms would suffice to feed the poor in the world -- No. 90.

This constitutes a great responsibility for Christians. The Holy Father calls Christians, but also men of good will, to put an end to the scandal of hunger in the world.