Thursday, 29 March 2007

Sacramentum caritatis

A couple of weeks ago, Benedict XVI released the apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis” (Sacrament of Love), which he described as a complement to his first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est” (God Is Love). In case you haven’t seen this yet, it’s a fascinating and impressive exhortation that deserves a close reading (all 97 paragraphs!) – you can see the full English text here.

Although both Protestants and progressive Catholics will have many reservations with the document, it is nevertheless a beautiful theological and pastoral meditation on the eucharistic mystery. As anticipated, the Holy Father reinforces some of the most problematic aspects of Catholic teaching, such as the necessity of priestly celibacy (§24), the refusal of the eucharist to divorced and remarried persons (§29), and the eucharistic obligation of Catholic politicians to “support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature” (§83). He also advocates the reintroduction of the Latin Mass (§62) with Gregorian chants (§42), as well as a series of more modest (and very sensible) reforms in relation to the offertory (§49), the exchange of peace (§47), and the homily (§45).

The exhortation concludes on a joyful note that reiterates the relation between eucharist and mission: “The Eucharist makes us discover that Christ, risen from the dead, is our contemporary in the mystery of the Church, his body. Of this mystery of love we have become witnesses. Let us encourage one another to walk joyfully, our hearts filled with wonder, towards our encounter with the Holy Eucharist, so that we may experience and proclaim to others the truth of the words with which Jesus took leave of his disciples: ‘Lo, I am with you always, until the end of the world’” (§97).

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