The reform of the Liturgy mandated by Vatican Council II was implemented to assist men and women to a deeper participation in the Liturgy, and especially the Liturgy of the Mass. As Pope John Paul has recently noted, the reform has born great fruit. (Vicesimus Quintus Annus 12, Ecclesia de Eucharistia 10, Spiritus et Sponsa 2, 16)
At the same time there is need for still greater renewal. To assist this renewal Pope John Paul has proclaimed a Year of the Eucharist to run from October 2004 to October 2005. It concludes with a Synod of Bishops to reflect on the topic of The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.
Those responsible for the Synod have explained that it has been called to address a certain Eucharistic need, namely to promote a Eucharistic practice which calls for a renewed attitude of love that is expressed in acts of faith in the One who is present for those containing to search for him in our world: Master, where do you live?(Lineamenta for Synod of Bishops XI Ordinary General Assembly, Preface)
Pope John Paul recently reminded the Church that she lives from the Eucharist, that the Sacrament is nourishment for her life and mission: a renewed impetus in Christian living passes through the Eucharist.(Ecclesia de Eucharistia 60)
Preaching on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ in 2004 the Holy Father quoted words from Pauls first letter to the Corinthians:
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26).
He continued: With these words St. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth that the "Lord's supper" is not only a convivial gathering, but also and above all the memorial of the redeeming sacrifice of Christ. Whoever takes part the Apostle explains unites himself to the mystery of the death of the Lord, in fact, becomes his "herald."
There is, therefore, a very close relation between celebrating the Eucharist and proclaiming Christ. To enter into communion with him in the Pasch memorial means, at the same time, to become missionaries of the event that the ritual realizes. In a certain sense, it means to render it contemporary at all times, until the Lord returns.(John Paul II, homily for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, 10th June 2004)
The Eucharist is Mystery of Christ, but it also reveals the Mystery of the Church and of the lives of her members. There is much for us to contemplate in this Mystery. We are invited to engage with this Mystery each time we celebrate the Mass.
Early in 2005 the English translation of the revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal, and other resources, will be published. These will assist parishes to look once more to how they can most faithfully and fruitfully celebrate the Mass itself.
In the meantime the Liturgy Office has produced a series of resources to promote times of prayer and reflection before the Blessed Sacrament. These focus on different dimensions of the Eucharistic Mystery, connecting them with different intentions of the Cycle of Prayer for England and Wales. They are accompanied by simple guidance notes for the celebration of the Rite of Exposition, and the Rite of Exposition and Benediction.
Rt Revd Mark Jabalé
Bishop of Menevia
Chairman of Department for Christian Life and Worship