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The Eucharist, memorial of the "mirabilia Dei"

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 4 October 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Prominent among the many aspects of the Eucharist is that of "memorial", which is related to a biblical theme of primary importance. We read, for example, in the Book of Exodus:  "God remembered his covenant with Abraham and Jacob" (Ex 2: 24). In Deuteronomy, however, it says:  "You shall remember what the Lord your God did ..." (7: 18). In the Bible, the remembrance of God and the remembrance of man are interwoven and form a fundamental element in the life of God's People. However, this is not the mere commemoration of a past that is no more, but a zikkarôn, that is, a "memorial". It "is not merely the recollection of past events, but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real" (CCC, n. 1363). The memorial recalls the bond of an unfailing covenant:  "The Lord has been mindful of us; he will bless us" (Ps 115: 12).

Biblical faith thus implies the effective recollection of the works of salvation. They are professed in the "Great Hallel", Psalm 136, which - after proclaiming creation and the salvation offered to Israel in the Exodus - concludes:  "It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures for ever; and rescued us ...; he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures for ever" (Ps 136:  23-25). We find similar words in the Gospel on the lips of Mary and Zechariah:  "He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy ... to remember his holy covenant" (Lk 1: 54, 72).

2. In the Old Testament, the "memorial" par excellence of God's works in history was the Passover liturgy of the Exodus:  every time the people of Israel celebrated the Passover, God effectively offered them the gifts of freedom and salvation. In the Passover rite, therefore, the two remembrances converge:  the divine and the human, that is, saving grace and grateful faith. "This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord.... It shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt" (Ex 12: 14; 13: 9). By virtue of this event, as a Jewish philosopher said, Israel will always be "a community based on remembrance" (M. Buber).

3. The interweaving of God's remembrance with that of man is also at the centre of the Eucharist, which is the "memorial" par excellence of the Christian Passover. For "anamnesis", i.e., the act of remembrance, is the heart of the celebration:  Christ's sacrifice, a unique event done ephapax, that is, "once for all" (Heb 7: 27; 9: 12, 26; 10: 12), extends its saving presence in the time and space of human history. This is expressed in the last command, which Luke and Paul record in the account of the Last Supper:  "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.... This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me" (1 Cor 11: 24-25; cf. Lk 22: 19). The past of the "body given for us" on the Cross is presented alive today and, as Paul declares, opens onto the future of the final redemption:  "As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor 11: 26). The Eucharist is thus the memorial of Christ's death, but it is also the presence of his sacrifice and the anticipation of his glorious coming. It is the sacrament of the risen Lord's continual saving closeness in history. Thus we can understand Paul's exhortation to Timothy:  "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David" (2 Tm 2: 8). In the Eucharist this remembrance is alive and at work in a special way.

4. The Evangelist John explains to us the deep meaning of the "memorial" of Christ's words and events. When Jesus cleanses the temple of the merchants and announces that it will be destroyed and rebuilt in three days, John remarks:  "When he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken" (Jn 2: 22). This memorial which produces and nourishes faith is the work of the Holy Spirit, "whom the Father will send in the name" of Christ:  "He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn 14: 26). Thus there is an effective remembrance:  one that is interior and leads to an understanding of the Word of God, and a sacramental one, which takes place in the Eucharist. These are the two realities of salvation which Luke combined in his splendid account of the disciples of Emmaus, structured around the explanation of the Scriptures and the "breaking of the bread" (cf. Lk 24: 13-55).

5. "To remember" is therefore "to bring back to the heart" in memory and affection, but it is also to celebrate a presence. "Only the Eucharist, the true memorial of Christ's paschal mystery, is capable of keeping alive in us the memory of his love. It is, therefore, the secret of the vigilance of the Church:  it would be too easy for her, otherwise, without the divine efficacy of this continual and very sweet incentive, without the penetrating power of this look of her Bridegroom fixed on her, to fall into forgetfulness, insensitivity and unfaithfulness" (Apostolic Letter Patres Ecclesiae, III:  Ench. Vat., 7, 33). This call to vigilance opens our Eucharistic liturgies to the full coming of the Lord, to the appearance of the heavenly Jerusalem. In the Eucharist Christians nurture the hope of the definitive encounter with their Lord."

The Holy Father appealed for peace in West Africa and for the release of two kidnapped missionaries. He also expressed his sorrow for two other missionaries killed in Uganda and Burundi:

For several weeks there has been disturbing news of deadly attacks on the local population in Guinea and on the refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone. In God's name I ask that an end be put to this violence and that the rights of all be respected, especially those of refugees, who are already living in precarious conditions.

I also make a heartfelt appeal for the release of the two Xaverian priests, Fr Franco Manganello and Fr Victor Mosele, who were kidnapped from the Pamalap Mission in the Forecariah region on 6 September last.

Lastly, I express my sorrow and my prayer for two Gospel workers who have been brutally killed in recent days:  Fr Raffaele Di Bari, a Comboni Missionary in Uganda, and Mr Antonio Bargiggia, a lay missionary of the Brothers of the Poor in Burundi. May the Lord welcome into his peace these faithful servants, who died while fulfilling the "greatest commandment", that of love.

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

I warmly welcome the new students of the Pontifical Beda College, and the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College who will be ordained to the Diaconate tomorrow. I extend a special greeting to the National Jubilee pilgrimage from Scotland, led by Bishops Taylor, Devine and Logan; and to the Diocesan pilgrimages from Hamilton in Bermuda, led by Bishop Kurtz; Seattle, led by Archbishop Brunett; San Francisco, led by Archbishop Levada; Saint Thomas, led by Bishop Murry; Scranton, led by Bishop Dougherty; and Brownsville, led by Bishop Peña. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Bermuda and the United States of America, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

J'accueille avec plaisir les personnes de langue française présentes ce matin. Je salue particulièrement les pèlerins du diocèse de Bayonne, conduits par leur Évêque, Mgr Pierre Molères, les jeunes de Saint-Bonnet de Galaure, ainsi que le pèlerinage des lecteurs du journal La Croix. Que votre venue auprès du tombeau des Apôtres fasse grandir votre foi au Christ dans la fidélité à l'Église qu'il a établie pour annoncer aux hommes son message de salut. À tous je donne de grand cœur la Bénédiction apostolique.

Mit diesen Gedanken grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher, die aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache nach Rom gekommen sind. Besonders grüße ich die Delegation des Bayerischen Staatsministeriums für Wirtschaft, Verkehr und Technologie. Desweiteren heiße ich die Gruppe der Katholischen Frauengemeinschaft aus dem Diözesanverband Paderborn sowie die zahlreichen Musikanten und Sänger willkommen. Euch, Euren lieben Angehörigen daheim und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.    

Saúdo cordialmente quantos me escutam de língua portuguesa, de modo especial os grupos de portugueses de Alcobaça, Ladoeiro, Estarreja, Turquel, Abrantes e Lisboa, e os peregrinos do Brasil de São Paulo e de Penedo. Sede bem-vindos! E que leveis de Roma a mais viva certeza que é apelo: Jesus Cristo - Caminho, Verdade e Vida -, o Redentor dos homens, é nosso único Salvador que, por nós e para nossa salvação, morreu na cruz para merecermos a esperança da feliz ressurreição. Que vos iluminem os testemunhos de S. Pedro e S. Paulo e vos assista a graça de Deus, que imploro para vós e vossas famílias, com a Bênção Apostólica.

Doy mi cordial bienvenida a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los grupos procedentes de España, México, Perú, Argentina y otros países latinoamericanos. Invito a todos, en esta visita jubilar a Roma, a renovar la fe y recibir con gozo la misericordia de Dios. Haced partícipes a vuestras familias y vuestros pueblos de una inolvidable experiencia de encuentro con Cristo, haciéndoles llegar también el afectuoso saludo y la bendición del Papa.

Muchas gracias.

Saluto del Santo Padre in lingua ungherese ai pellegrini ungheresi da Szabolcs-Szatmár e Nádszeg (Eparchia di Hajdúdorog, Ardiciocesi di Bratislava-Trnava):

Szeretettel köszöntöm a magyar híveket, különösen pedig a szabolcs-szatmári pedagógusokat és a nádszegi csoportot.Isten hozott Benneteket! Október hónap a rózsafüzér imádságé. Imádkozzátok buzgón és gyakorta, elmélkedve megváltásunk titkain. Örömmel adom apostoli áldásomat Rátok és családjaitokra.

Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua ungherese:

Saluto cordialmente i fedeli ungheresi, specialmente gli insegnanti di Szabolcs-Szatmár e il gruppo di Nádszeg. Il mese di ottobre è il mese del rosario. Vi invito di pregarlo devotamente e frequentemente, per meditare sui misteri della Salvezza.

Di cuore imparto a tutti voi ed alle vostre famiglie la Benedizione Apostolica.Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto in lingua slovacca:

S láskou vítam pútnikov zo Slovenska: z Bratislavy, Slatvinej, Prešova, Podolínca, Mútncho, ako aj študentov a pedagógov Grécko-katolíckeho gymnázia svätého Jána Krtitea z Trebišova.

Drahí bratia a sestry, Kristus je jediná cesta k Otcovi a vo sviatosti Eucharistie sa nadalej ponúka kadému z nás ako prame boského ivota. Cerpajme vytrvalo z tohto pramea.

S týmto elaním ehnám vás aj vaše rodiny vo vlasti.

Pochválený bud Jeiš Kristus - Sláva Isusu Christu!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua slovacca:

Un affettuoso benvenuto ai pellegrini provenienti dalla Slovacchia: da Bratislava, Slatviná, Prešov, Podolínec, Mútne, come pure agli studenti ed agli insegnanti del Ginnasio greco-cattolico di San Giovanni Battista di Trebišov.

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, Cristo è l'unica via di accesso al Padre e nell'Eucaristia continua ad offrirsi ad ognuno di noi come sorgente di vita divina. Attingiamone con perseveranza.

Con questi voti benedico voi e le vostre famiglie in Patria.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto ai pellegrini croati:

Draga braco i sestre, buducnost, jednako kao i cijela ljudska povijest, svoj potpuni smisao nalazi u otajstvu Isusa Krista. U Njemu je Bog pruio odgovor na najdublje tenje ljudskoga srca. On je ono »svjetlo istinito koje prosvjetljuje svakoga covjeka« (Iv 1, 9).

Pozdravljam sve nazocne hrvatske hodocasnike te svima od srca udjeljujem apostolski blagoslov.

Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Versione italiana del testo croato:

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, il futuro come pure l'intera storia dell'umanità trovano il senso pieno nel Mistero di Gesù Cristo. In Lui Dio ha dato la risposta alle attese più profonde del cuore umano. Egli è la «luce vera che illumina ogni uomo» (Gv 1, 9).

Nel salutare i pellegrini croati qui presenti, imparto loro di cuore la Benedizione Apostolica.

Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

* * *

Saluto con affetto i due pellegrinaggi diocesani, provenienti oggi da Tricarico, con Mons. Salvatore Ligorio, e da Noto, con Mons. Giuseppe Malandrino. Carissimi Fratelli e Sorelle, nel ringraziarvi per la vostra presenza, vi auguro che da questo itinerario giubilare possiate ricavare abbondanti frutti sia per la vita personale che per quella comunitaria.

Rivolgo poi un cordiale saluto a Mons. Rino Fisichella ed ai Sacerdoti che concludono il primo Corso di Esercizi spirituali sulla Divina Misericordia. Il vostro ministero, carissimi, sia testimonianza fedele e generosa dell'amore misericordioso di Cristo Buon Pastore.

Sono lieto di accogliere il nuovo gruppo di Sacerdoti del Collegio San Paolo Apostolo, provenienti da cinquanta Paesi, ed auguro loro un sereno e proficuo impegno di studio.

In occasione della Giornata Mondiale del Diabete, rivolgo un particolare incoraggiamento alle molte persone che affrontano quotidianamente questa malattia.

Saluto, inoltre, il folto gruppo del Decanato di Lecco, Arcidiocesi di Milano; i fedeli delle Parrocchie dedicate a Santa Cristina Martire; la Famiglia Legnanese, che ricorda i 50 anni di attività; la delegazione Ippica internazionale, che, in occasione dell'Anno Santo, ha promosso una speciale manifestazione all'Ippodromo romano di Tor di Valle; il Circolo Femminile d'Amicizia Europea e l'associazione dei pendolari del Lazio.

Mi rivolgo, infine, ai giovani, ai malati ed agli sposi novelli. Carissimi, oggi celebriamo la festa di san Francesco di Assisi. Per voi giovani, egli sia modello di vita evangelica; per voi malati, esempio di amore alla Croce di Cristo; per voi, sposi novelli, invito ad avere sempre fiducia nella divina Provvidenza.


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