June 18, 2022 Column Father De Celles

Father De Celles was enjoying a much-needed vacation at the time of publication. Please
read this beautiful excerpt from a homily by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Corpus

Christi in 2012.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This evening I would like to meditate with you on two interconnected aspects of the Eucharistic
Mystery: worship of the Eucharist and its sacred nature. […] First of all, a reflection on the
importance of Eucharistic worship and, in particular, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We
shall experience it this evening, after Mass, before the procession, during it and at its
conclusion. A unilateral interpretation of the Second Vatican Council penalized this dimension,
in practice restricting the Eucharist to the moment of its celebration. […]
Of course, this evaluation of the liturgical assembly in which the Lord works his mystery of
communion and brings it about still applies; but it must be put back into the proper balance. In
fact — as often happens — in order to emphasize one aspect one ends by sacrificing another.
In this case the correct accentuation of the celebration of the Eucharist has been to the detriment
of adoration as an act of faith and prayer addressed to the Lord Jesus, really present in the
Sacrament of the Altar.
This imbalance has also had repercussions on the spiritual life of the faithful. In fact, by
concentrating the entire relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus in the sole moment of Holy
Mass, one risks emptying the rest of existential time and space of his presence. This makes
ever less perceptible the meaning of Jesus’ constant presence in our midst and with us, a
presence that is tangible, close, in our homes, as the “beating Heart” of the city, of the country,
and of the area, with its various expressions and activities. The sacrament of Christ’s Charity
must permeate the whole of daily life.
Actually it is wrong to set celebration and adoration against each other, as if they were
competing. Exactly the opposite is true: worship of the Blessed Sacrament is, as it were, the
spiritual “context” in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth. Only if
it is preceded, accompanied and followed by this inner attitude of faith and adoration can the
liturgical action express its full meaning and value. The encounter with Jesus in Holy Mass is
truly and fully brought about when the community can recognize that in the Sacrament he
dwells in his house, waits for us, invites us to his table, then, after the assembly is dismissed,
stays with us, with his discreet and silent presence, and accompanies us with his intercession,
continuing to gather our spiritual sacrifices and offer them to the Father.
[…] At the moment of Adoration, we are all equal, kneeling before the Sacrament of Love. The
common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood are brought together in Eucharistic worship.
[…] It is clear to all that these moments of Eucharistic Vigil prepare for the celebration of the
Holy Mass, they prepare hearts for the encounter so that it will be more fruitful.
To be all together in prolonged silence before the Lord present in his Sacrament is one of the
most genuine experiences of our being [as a] Church, which is accompanied complementarily by
the celebration of the Eucharist, by listening to the word of God, by singing and by approaching
the table of the Bread of Life together. Communion and contemplation cannot be separated,
they go hand in hand. If I am truly to communicate with another person I must know him, I
must be able to be in silence close to him, to listen to him and look at him lovingly. True love
and true friendship are always nourished by the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent
silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter may be lived profoundly and

personally rather than superficially. And, unfortunately, if this dimension is lacking,
sacramental communion itself may become a superficial gesture on our part.
Instead, in true communion, prepared for by the conversation of prayer and of life, we can
address words of confidence to the Lord, such as those which rang out just now in the
Responsorial Psalm: “O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid. /
You have loosed my bonds./ I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving /and call on the name
of the Lord” (Ps 116[115]:16-17).
I would now like to move on briefly to the second aspect: the sacred nature of the Eucharist. […]
It is true, and this is still the case, that the center of worship is now no longer in the ancient rites
and sacrifices, but in Christ himself, in his person, in his life, in his Paschal Mystery. However it
must not be concluded from this fundamental innovation that the sacred no longer exists, but
rather that it has found fulfilment in Jesus Christ, divine Love incarnate.
The Letter to the Hebrews, […] speaks to us precisely of the newness of the priesthood of Christ,
“high priest of the good things that have come” (Heb 9:11), but does not say that the priesthood
is finished. Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb 9:15), established in his blood
which purifies our “conscience from dead works” (Heb 9:14). He did not abolish the sacred but
brought it to fulfillment, inaugurating a new form of worship, which is indeed fully spiritual
but which, however, as long as we are journeying in time, still makes use of signs and rites,
which will exist no longer only at the end, in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will no longer
be any temple (cf. Rev 21:22). Thanks to Christ, the sacred is truer, more intense and, as
happens with the Commandments, also more demanding! Ritual observance does not suffice but
purification of the heart and the involvement of life is required.
I would also like to stress that the sacred has an educational function and its disappearance
inevitably impoverishes culture and especially the formation of the new generations. If, for
example, in the name of a faith that is secularized and no longer in need of sacred signs,
these Corpus Christi processions through the city were to be abolished, the spiritual profile of
Rome would be “flattened out”, and our personal and community awareness would be
Or let us think of a mother or father who in the name of a desacralized faith, deprived their
children of all religious rituals: in reality they would end by giving a free hand to the many
substitutes that exist in the consumer society, to other rites and other signs that could more
easily become idols.
God, our Father, did not do this with humanity: he sent his Son into the world not to abolish,
but to give fulfilment also to the sacred. At the height of this mission, at the Last Supper, Jesus
instituted the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood, the Memorial of his Paschal Sacrifice. By
so doing he replaced the ancient sacrifices with himself, but he did so in a rite which he
commanded the Apostles to perpetuate, as a supreme sign of the true Sacred One who is he
himself. With this faith, dear brothers and sisters, let us celebrate the Eucharistic Mystery today
and every day and adore it as the center of our life and the heart of the world. Amen.
Basilica of Saint John Lateran
June 7, 2012