Pastoral Letter: truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist

On this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), the Bishops of Scotland proclaim the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist and encourage us to centre our lives on its celebration at Mass. Read it below or here.

Pastoral letter of the Bishops of Scotland on the Holy Eucharist

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communion with the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ? As there is one bread, so we, though many, are one body for we all share in the one bread.”

St Paul is speaking here of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, and of the unity it both symbolises and brings about.

His words are timely in the wake of the pandemic - a pandemic which affected all of us and some cruelly so, which even separated us from the celebration of the Mass and so from one another. We need to come together again and recover our “communion in the body of Christ”.

On the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), the Bishops of Scotland want to proclaim the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist and encourage all the faithful to centre their lives once again on its celebration at Mass.

At the unforgettable liturgy in Bellahouston Park on 1 June 1982, Pope St John Paul II gave this simple advice: “Be faithful to your daily prayers, to the Holy Mass and the Sacrament of Penance, meeting regularly with Jesus as a loving and merciful Saviour.

Forty years on, the Bishops of Scotland want to echo that appeal. The Eucharist is a mystery to be believed, to be celebrated and to be lived.

A mystery to be believed

Anticipated in the Old Testament and several Gospel episodes, the Eucharist was instituted by the Lord at the Last Supper and given to the apostles to celebrate in his memory. It is many things. It is thanksgiving and praise to the Father.

It is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice, enabling the Church to be united to his saving self-gift through the centuries. It is the presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Holy Spirit.

It is the paschal banquet, in which we eat his flesh and drink his blood, become his body and heirs of the resurrection.

The Eucharist is the summit and source, the heart and centre of our Christian life.

Somewhat as the rhythmic beating of our hearts draws in our lifeblood to send it out purified and re-oxygenated, so a pattern of eucharistic worship draws our own lives into God’s heart and fills them with the Holy Spirit.

A mystery to be celebrated

We experience this especially at Sunday Mass.

St Ignatius of Antioch, the early Christian martyr, understood Christianity as “living according to the Lord’s Day”.

He meant that Christians draw their strength from encountering the risen Christ in the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. Let us recall here what it is we enter into at Mass. We come to church, each with our differences.

We come of our own free will, but also, beyond that, moved by the Holy Spirit. In the opening moments of the Mass, the Spirit rekindles our common faith, draws us together and brings us, forgiven sinners, before the Lord.

We are no longer just our separate selves. We are now a worshipping community, the Church gathered in this place and turning to its Lord. When the Mass is full of music and song, we feel this all the more

In the Liturgy of the Word, the God’s living word addresses us. It is proclaimed in the Scriptures and linked to our lives by the homily.

In the Profession of Faith and Prayers of the Faithful, we respond in faith and prayer. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we are drawn further still into the reality of Christ.

In the bread and wine presented to the Lord at the Offertory, we bring to the Father the gifts of nature, our human work and the joys and hardships of our lives.

In the Eucharistic Prayer, this bread and wine are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ given for us and his Blood poured out for us.

As the self-offering of Christ is commemorated and made present among us, the whole Church and each and all of us offer our Amen and become a sacrifice pleasing to God.

Through him, with him and in him, we give thanks to the Father in union with the angels and the saints, while our prayer reaches out to the living and the dead, the Church and the world.

In the Rite of Communion, we pray for forgiveness and peace and find ourselves at the Table of the Lord, called to his Supper.

The risen Lord himself, the true Passover Lamb, comes to feed us with himself. Even if we cannot receive him sacramentally, we are never deprived of his blessing.

Finally in the blessing and dismissal we are sent out to live what we have shared.

A mystery to be lived

The Eucharist does not end with the Mass.

It is prolonged, for example, in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, something to be greatly encouraged. It is destined, too, to extend still further into the whole of our life as members of the Church. Through the Eucharist we become what we receive, namely the Body of Christ.

There is no corner of our humanity and our Christian life which the Eucharist cannot enter, purify and raise to a new level. Any commitment to prayer, to community life, to our own family and friends or to our work can be inspired and nourished by it.

Any form of caring, the task of teaching and educating, any form of social service or pastoral care can become part of “living by the Lord’s Day” and be an overflow of Christ’s self-gift.

Any passion for the unity of Christians or for deeper relationships with those of other faiths, for social justice or outreach to the poor and marginalised, can be fuelled by the power of the Eucharist. It “is also a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation.”

Thanks to the Eucharist, these various efforts become more than personal causes; they are taken up into the charity of Christ; they become part of the life of the Church, Christ’s Body and Bride, in the world. Christ’s presence is extended into the whole of life.

The synodal process to which Pope Francis is urging us can also find its pattern in active participation in the Liturgy. Even the bother and tedium of daily life take on deeper meaning in the sacrifice of Christ. And there is no suffering which his Heart has not embraced.

Thanks to the joy of the Eucharist, the “medicine of immortality”, even death loses its power, as we experience at a Funeral Mass.

This is why we, as your Bishops, desire that Christ’s great Eucharistic gift be continually acknowledged in faith, celebrated in prayer and lived out in love. We encourage all, especially our families and young people, to live by the Lord’s Day.

We ask your prayers for vocations to the priesthood. We pray that the Eucharist may amaze us more and more, “as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

Yours devotedly in Christ,

+ Hugh Gilbert Bishop of Aberdeen, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland

+ Leo Cushley Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh

+ William Nolan Archbishop of Glasgow

+ Joseph Toal Bishop of Motherwell

+ Stephen Robson Bishop of Dunkeld

+ John Keenan Bishop of Paisley

+ Brian McGee Bishop of Argyll and the Isles

Rev. William McFadden Diocesan Administrator, Diocese of Galloway

 

EVENT GUIDE: Corpus Christi Procession

Archbishop Cushley invites all Catholics in the Archdiocese to take part in a Corpus Christi procession today (Sunday 19 June) in Falkirk. Event guide here.

Watch his message below or on YouTube.

Where/When to meet
Gather at the bandstand in Falkirk High Street from 2:30pm. We begin at 3pm. Google Map here.

Route
We will walk down the High Street before turning right onto Hope Street where St Francis Xavier's Church is based. This is expected to take around 20 minutes.

What happens en route?
Eucharistic hymns will be sung and a booklet of hymns will be provided. Archbishop Leo Cushley will carry the Blessed Sacrament under a canopy. You will be guided where to stand.

Will bystanders know what's happening?
Probably not, so event volunteers will be equipped with a simple leaflet to hand out which explains what we're doing and why we're doing it.

What happens at the Church?
Once we arrive at St Francis Xavier's there will be a period of adoration and a simple Benediction service. This will take around 15-20 mins.

Refreshments?
Yes, in the church hall after Benediction.

Where can I park?
Parking is free in Falkirk town centre on Sundays and there are plenty of public parking options. Parking spaces at the church are limited. There is an Asda across the road from the church with free parking (a 10 min walk to the Bandstand where the procession begins).

Notes for parents
If your child is an altar server please encourage them to wear their cassock.
If your child recently made their First Holy Communion please dress them in what they wore on that day.

 

WATCH: Eucharistic Adoration in South Queensferry

The 40 Hours' Devotion began today (Sunday 5 June) at St Margaret's Church in South Queensferry and continues until Tuesday. Spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

 

Want to find out more about Eucharistic Adoration? Watch our prep videos at bit.ly/40HoursPlaylist

EVENT: Join us for a Family Afternoon on 25 June

Families are invited to join us at the Gillis Centre in Edinburgh for a special event focusing on The Eucharist: Source of Family Love.

The day takes place on Saturday 25 June, 2-5pm and you can register on our Eventbrite page here (free event).

The day includes:

  • Separate sessions for adults and children.
  • Family prayer time in St Margaret's Chapel onsite.
  • Games/workshops led by the Servidora Sisters from Fife.

The garden of the Gillis Centre, at 100 Strathearn Road, is large and perfect for children to play in, so we hope the sun will shine!

Families with children of all ages are welcome to attend and there is free parking onsite. This event coincides with the 10th World Meeting of Families taking place in Rome.

Family Afternoon, Saturday 25 June, 2-5pm, Gillis Centre, 100 Strathearn Road, Edinburgh. Details and registration at bit.ly/archfamilyday. Event organised by the Marriage & Families Commission.

Adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament this year

Here are the January dates for the 40 Hours' Devotion which is taking place throughout this year.

Prepare yourself to experience Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with our series of videos on our YouTube channel. Click here.

Rome grants Indulgence for 40 Hours’ Devotion

Rome has granted an indulgence to those who pray before the Blessed Sacrament as part of the Archdiocese's 40 Hours' Devotion.

Archbishop Cushley petitioned the Vatican to make the request and was pleased to hear that it was recently granted. It means that those who spend an hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament as part of the 40 Hours' Devotion receive the indulgence under the usual conditions.

Archbishop Cushley said: "I am grateful to the Holy Father for this spiritual gift to the people of the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh.

"During this time of grace for us, I invite everyone to hear again the Lord's question to the disciples on the night that He instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice: ‘Could you not watch one hour with me?’. I am praying that many will respond with an emphatic ‘yes, Lord’ over the coming year.”

Launch

The 40 Hours' Devotion launches at St Mary's Cathedral at 1pm on Sunday (28 November). It will then take place in all parishes throughout this new liturgical year (see the schedule here.)

There will be Eucharistic Adoration throughout the day with guided Holy Hours from Fr Scott Deeley (Sunday), Mgr Andrew McFadden (Monday) and Archbishop Cushley (Tuesday).

An indulgence is described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as:

"... a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints."(CCC 1471) .

Prepare for the Eucharist Adoration in your parish by watching our video series 'Jesus in the Eucharist and You' on our YouTube channel here.

WATCH: Parishioners' testimonials on the Eucharist

Clergy and laity in the Archdiocese have collaborated on a new video series highlighting the beauty and importance of the Eucharist.

Jesus in the Eucharist and You is three sessions to help Catholics prepare for the forthcoming 40 Hours' Devotion, taking place in parishes throughout the coming liturgical year.

Archbishop Cushley is to relaunch the "simple and beautiful tradition" of 40 hours' Devotion this Advent.

It will see each parish in the Archdiocese have 40 hours of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament so people can come together to pray in silence before the Lord.

FAQs

What is it?
A series of three videos, titled Jesus in the Eucharist and YOU.

When can I watch it?
On our YouTube channel, Monday 8th, 15th, 22nd November at 7:30pm.

Why is the Archdiocese doing this?
To help prepare you for the forthcoming 40 Hours' Devotion. It is a time of Eucharistic Adoration that will take part in each parish over the forthcoming year.

When does the 40 Hours' Devotion happen in my parish?
You can see the schedule here or below.

What has Archbishop Cushley said about it?
Archbishop Cushley is launching the 40 Hours' Devotion "in order to foster a rediscovery of the great gift of Christ’s abiding presence in the Eucharist", particularly following the negative impact of the Covid pandemic. Read his pastoral letter about it here.

 

 

WATCH: Jesus in the Eucharist and YOU

Clergy and laity in the Archdiocese have collaborated on a new video series highlighting the beauty and importance of the Eucharist.

Jesus in the Eucharist and You is three sessions to help Catholics prepare for the forthcoming 40 Hours' Devotion, taking place in parishes throughout the coming liturgical year.

We invite you to watch the first one, titled Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, from 7:30pm on Monday (8 November) on our YouTube channel.

Archbishop Cushley is to relaunch the "simple and beautiful tradition" of 40 hours' Devotion this Advent.

It will see each parish in the Archdiocese have 40 hours of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament so people can come together to pray in silence before the Lord.

FAQs

What is it?
A series of three videos, titled Jesus in the Eucharist and YOU.

When can I watch it?
On our YouTube channel, Monday 8th, 15th, 22nd November at 7:30pm.

Why is the Archdiocese doing this?
To help prepare you for the forthcoming 40 Hours' Devotion. It is a time of Eucharistic Adoration that will take part in each parish over the forthcoming year.

When does the 40 Hours' Devotion happen in my parish?
You can see the schedule here or below.

What has Archbishop Cushley said about it?
Archbishop Cushley is launching the 40 Hours' Devotion "in order to foster a rediscovery of the great gift of Christ’s abiding presence in the Eucharist", particularly following the negative impact of the Covid pandemic. Read his pastoral letter about it here.

 

 

WATCH: Archbishop announces launch of 40 Hours' Devotion

Archbishop Cushley is to relaunch the "simple and beautiful tradition" of 40 hours' Devotion this Advent.

It will see each parish in the Archdiocese have 40 hours of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament so people can come together to pray in silence before the Lord.

In a pastoral letter to be read out in all churches today (Sunday 6 June), he said the launch was "to foster a rediscovery of the great gift of Christ’s abiding presence in the Eucharist," particularly after a time when churches were closed due to the pandemic.

Watch the video below. FAQs, bottom.

 

FAQs

What is the Forty Hours’ Devotion?
It’s a beautiful and simple Catholic devotion, sometimes known as Quarantore. We spend time in silent prayer before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament which is exposed on the altar for forty hours.

Why is it being held in our Archdiocese?
Jesus is made present at the Mass where He offers Himself to the Father for us and feeds us with Himself. After a time when our churches were closed, the Archbishop wants us to rediscover the Sacrifice of the Mass as the ‘source and summit’ of our lives and our churches as the most sacred places in our communities where Jesus truly dwells. The Forty Hours’ is an excellent way to do this.

How does it work?
Each parish will be allocated a time for the Forty Hours’ Devotion. Some parishes may wish to do this through the night others will have a break overnight and begin again each morning. Your parish priest is best placed to decide what will work in his parish. Be generous in helping the priests by things like offering to keep hours of watch and giving of your resources and time to make the church beautiful.

When does it begin?
It's planned for the First Sunday of Advent this year.

 

EVENT REVIEW: Drawing closer to our Eucharistic Lord

People crammed into the Gillis Centre in Edinburgh yesterday for our Day for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. The event reinforced the centre and summit of our faith: The Eucharist. Here, in an abridged version of his talk, Father Jeremy Milne sets out Catholic teaching to give us a "renewed sense of wonder at the mystery of the Eucharist".

Good morning. Some of you know me already but for those who don’t I’m Fr Jeremy Milne and I’m the Parish Priest of St John the Baptist & St Kentigern in Edinburgh West.

I’m delighted to be here with you this morning as we seek to be drawn closer to our Eucharistic Lord.

 

I’m sure we can all remember turning on the news on 15th April last year and watching in horror as the great Cathedral of Notre Dame was engulfed in flames (see video, above).

In the aftermath of it all, the story of Fr Jean-Marc Fournier, Chaplain of the firefighters of Paris, emerged. In an interview he explained:

“As I was on duty, I was called on the scene, and right away two things must absolutely be done: save this unfathomable treasure that is the crown of thorns, and of course our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament. When I entered into the cathedral, the spire had already collapsed. At any moment, the nave could cave in...a rain of fire was falling without pause from the roof. We found the keys. I retrieved Jesus. And with the Blessed Sacrament, I blessed the Cathedral. It was an act of faith. I asked Jesus – Who I believe is truly present in the hosts – to fight the flames and to preserve the building dedicated to His Mother. The benediction coincided with the beginning of the fire in the north tower – and also with its extinction! This was surely Providence … The two bell towers were saved.”

What extraordinary courage! What a great witness to the power of faith!

Another example: Just minutes before the 180-year-old church collapsed from the earthquake’s aftershock, responders, including pastor Fr. Melvin Díaz and Peñuelas resident Fr. Orlando Rivera, rescued the Eucharist and tabernacle.

To the faithless mind it makes no sense at all. To risk or give your life for the sake of bread?

It sounds crazy.But the truth is something different. The actions of these people and countless others through history bear witness to the tremendous Catholic faith that, housed in the Tabernacle of every church great and small, from the wonder of Notre Dame to the humble places of somewhere like Puerto Rico, is not bread but the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ really and truly present. This is the sacred mystery of the Real Presence, the Eucharistic Lord.

Fr Jean-Marc from Notre Dame put it like this:

“Everybody understands that the Crown of Thorns is an absolutely unique and extraordinary relic, but the Blessed Sacrament is our Lord, really present in his body, soul, divinity and humanity and you understand that it is hard to see someone you love perish in the blaze. As firefighters we often see casualties from fire and we know its effects, this is why I sought to preserve above all the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In a recent survey carried out in the USA, nearly 70% of the Catholics asked said they believed that the bread and wine during the Mass are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus.

Now, the answers that people give in these kinds of surveys depend a lot on how the questions are framed and also the degree of participation in the life of the Church of the respondents. Nevertheless, such a finding is cause for concern because the Eucharistic Lord ‘truly, really and substantially’ (Council of Trent) present is the essential heart of our faith and it really matters that we believe this.

Many decades before that Pew Survey, Flannery O’Connor, the celebrated American Catholic author was invited to a literary gathering.

 

She writes:

Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defence I was capable of but I realise now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the centre of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable."

The Centre of Existence

In that phrase, “[the Eucharist] is the centre of existence for me”, Flannery O’Connor captured the profound mystery of the Sacrament of Sacraments, the source and summit of the Catholic faith.

When we celebrate Mass and the priest consecrates the bread and wine, only the appearances of bread and wine remain. What they are is changed. They become the Eucharistic Lord: the crucified, risen and ascended Lord Jesus really and truly present to us here and now.

In this way the risen Lord remains truly with us always as he promised, feeds us with himself as he promised and gathers us into participation in the life of heaven as he promised.

The Eucharistic Lord present on the altar is the centre of all existence because He is the meeting point of heaven and earth, reality invisible and reality visible joined as one. In the Eucharist, heaven is present on earth and earth is gathered into heaven with only the thinnest veil of the appearance of bread and wine between them.

The Real Presence

So now the Lord, the Lamb of God, united to our human nature, having entered the Holy of Holies, stands before God, interceding on our behalf with the blood of his sacrifice. But he said before he ascended there, “I will be with you, always, even to the end of time”. He promised not to leave us orphans. But how?

Matthew 26: 26-29
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."

At the Last Supper Jesus unites this meal of bread and wine with his sacrificial death and in commanding the apostles to “do this in memory of me” institutes the Sacrament of the Eucharist whereby he gathers us to take part in the eternal offering of himself to God and communicates his divine life to us by giving his body and blood in sacramental form to us.

At the altar, through his words spoken by the priest, ‘this is my body, this is my blood’, his body and blood replace the entire substance of the bread and wine while the appearances remain. The bread and wine really and truly become his body and blood; the sacrificial body and blood who stands before God interceding for us

How can we imagine what is happening here? Well words are not enough of course. We cannot fully capture this mystery in words. The mystery is too great.

Thomas Aquinas

On the feast of St. Nicholas [in 1273, Aquinas] was celebrating Mass when he received a revelation that so affected him that he wrote and dictated no more, leaving his great work the Summa Theologiae unfinished.

To Brother Reginald’s (his secretary and friend) expostulations he replied, “The end of my labours has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.” When later asked by Reginald to return to writing, Aquinas said, “I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.”

What we believe

How can we imagine our Eucharistic Lord, present to us under the appearance of bread and wine? Does Jesus come down and sort of get inside the bread and wine? No, because then bread and wine would remain coexisting with the Lord and that’s not what we believe.

We believe that after the consecration the bread and wine cease to exist. And anyway if we imagine the risen Lord coming down into each consecrated host and chalice there’s a danger of us imagining either that the Lord is somehow divided up and we only receive part of him or that he is multiplied with copies of him present here and there.

Perhaps a better way to imagine it is that through the words of consecration given us by Our Lord, This is my Body, This is my Blood, the elements of bread and wine are gathered into the reality of the crucified, risen and glorified Lord who stands now before the throne of God and are transformed to become the Body and Blood of that crucified, risen, glorified Lord while continuing to appear as bread and wine (Fr James T. O’Connor, The Hidden Manna, p291).

At the Consecration of the liturgy, the heavenly King touches these elements directly by and through the power of his Spirit. He touches them so mightily that – if we may put it this way – he extracts from them their very reality, dominating it and attracting it (forcefully pulling it even) toward himself, so subjecting it to himself that its own true being is lost to it as it becomes the very Lord who has mastered it
This reminds us that the Eucharistic Lord, the Lamb that was slain, is eternally before God as the one pure sacrifice by which all of creation is being drawn into union with God.

Unworthy?

The mystical nature of what we have said may lead us to a heightened sense of our unworthiness before so deep a mystery.
Are we unworthy? Yes, of course we are, we all are. But our Lord would not want us to be paralysed by our sense of unworthiness. He calls us in spite of our unworthiness.

Remember St Peter’s reaction when Jesus told him to “put out into the deep and let your nets down for a catch”. On seeing the miraculous haul of fish, Peter fell down on his knees at Jesus’ feet and cried “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus’ reply was “Do not be afraid. Follow me.”

Again, in the Gospel of John, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Peter says, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus replies, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.”

From the depth of his humility our Lord and Master invites us in love to be ministers of his presence. The Lord in his intimacy invites us to touch, feel, hold and consume him that his holiness might ‘rub off on us’ as it were. The Eucharistic Lord invites us to abide with him that he, and only he, may make us worthy of his promises to us.

In handling the Lord we might think that we have taken him into our unworthy hands. Instead we should think that he has placed himself into our unworthy hands. In reality, by handling him and consuming him, actually we are placing ourselves into his hands in the most complete way possible.

So, in handling and consuming the Lord, we are never casual, always reverent. But neither, I suggest, should we feign gesture of exaggerated piety such that we would throw our body over a spilled drop of the Precious Blood or something. Above all, our relationship to our Eucharistic Lord should be loving.

It is in love that due reverence and the natural, calm intimacy of familiarity find their proper balance.

Conclusion

I hope you now have a renewed sense of wonder at the mystery of the Eucharist:

This is an abridged version of Fr Milne's talk at the Gillis Centre, Saturday 08 January, 2020. Read the full version here