Rorate Caeli

Cross, Blood, Martyrs, and the Church in agony

The visitor to this Cathedral cannot fail to be struck by the great crucifix dominating the nave, which portrays Christ’s body, crushed by suffering, overwhelmed by sorrow, the innocent victim whose death has reconciled us with the Father and given us a share in the very life of God. The Lord’s outstretched arms seem to embrace this entire church, lifting up to the Father all the ranks of the faithful who gather around the altar of the Eucharistic sacrifice and share in its fruits. The crucified Lord stands above and before us as the source of our life and salvation, "the high priest of the good things to come", as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews calls him in today’s first reading (Heb 9:11).

It is in the shadow, so to speak, of this striking image, that I would like to consider the word of God which has been proclaimed in our midst and reflect on the mystery of the Precious Blood. For that mystery leads us to see the unity between Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the Eucharistic sacrifice which he has given to his Church, and his eternal priesthood, whereby, seated at the right hand of the Father, he makes unceasing intercession for us, the members of his mystical body.

Let us begin with the sacrifice of the Cross. The outpouring of Christ’s blood is the source of the Church’s life. Saint John, as we know, sees in the water and blood which flowed from our Lord’s body the wellspring of that divine life which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit and communicated to us in the sacraments (Jn 19:34; cf. 1 Jn 1:7; 5:6-7). The Letter to the Hebrews draws out, we might say, the liturgical implications of this mystery. Jesus, by his suffering and death, his self-oblation in the eternal Spirit, has become our high priest and "the mediator of a new covenant" (Heb 9:15). These words echo our Lord’s own words at the Last Supper, when he instituted the Eucharist as the sacrament of his body, given up for us, and his blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant shed for the forgiveness of sins (cf. Mk 14:24; Mt 26:28; Lk 22:20).

Faithful to Christ’s command to "do this in memory of me" (Lk 22:19), the Church in every time and place celebrates the Eucharist until the Lord returns in glory, rejoicing in his sacramental presence and drawing upon the power of his saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world. The reality of the Eucharistic sacrifice has always been at the heart of Catholic faith; called into question in the sixteenth century, it was solemnly reaffirmed at the Council of Trent against the backdrop of our justification in Christ. Here in England, as we know, there were many who staunchly defended the Mass, often at great cost, giving rise to that devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist which has been a hallmark of Catholicism in these lands.

The Eucharistic sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ embraces in turn the mystery of our Lord’s continuing passion in the members of his Mystical Body, the Church in every age. Here the great crucifix which towers above us serves as a reminder that Christ, our eternal high priest, daily unites our own sacrifices, our own sufferings, our own needs, hopes and aspirations, to the infinite merits of his sacrifice. Through him, with him, and in him, we lift up our own bodies as a sacrifice holy and acceptable to God (cf. Rom 12:1). In this sense we are caught up in his eternal oblation, completing, as Saint Paul says, in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the Church (cf. Col 1:24). In the life of the Church, in her trials and tribulations, Christ continues, in the stark phrase of Pascal, to be in agony until the end of the world (Pensées, 553, éd. Brunschvicg).

We see this aspect of the mystery of Christ’s precious blood represented, most eloquently, by the martyrs of every age, who drank from the cup which Christ himself drank, and whose own blood, shed in union with his sacrifice, gives new life to the Church. It is also reflected in our brothers and sisters throughout the world who even now are suffering discrimination and persecution for their Christian faith. Yet it is also present, often hidden in the suffering of all those individual Christians who daily unite their sacrifices to those of the Lord for the sanctification of the Church and the redemption of the world. My thoughts go in a special way to all those who are spiritually united with this Eucharistic celebration, and in particular the sick, the elderly, the handicapped and those who suffer mentally and spiritually.

Here too I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ’s grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives. I also acknowledge, with you, the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; and I invite you to offer it to the Lord with trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of the victims, the purification of the Church and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people. I express my gratitude for the efforts being made to address this problem responsibly, and I ask all of you to show your concern for the victims and solidarity with your priests.

Dear friends, let us return to the contemplation of the great crucifix which rises above us. Our Lord’s hands, extended on the Cross, also invite us to contemplate our participation in his eternal priesthood and thus our responsibility, as members of his body, to bring the reconciling power of his sacrifice to the world in which we live. The Second Vatican Council spoke eloquently of the indispensable role of the laity in carrying forward the Church’s mission through their efforts to serve as a leaven of the Gospel in society and to work for the advancement of God’s Kingdom in the world (cf. Lumen Gentium, 31; Apostolicam Actuositatem, 7). The Council’s appeal to the lay faithful to take up their baptismal sharing in Christ’s mission echoed the insights and teachings of John Henry Newman. May the profound ideas of this great Englishman continue to inspire all Christ’s followers in this land to conform their every thought, word and action to Christ, and to work strenuously to defend those unchanging moral truths which, taken up, illuminated and confirmed by the Gospel, stand at the foundation of a truly humane, just and free society.

How much contemporary society needs this witness! How much we need, in the Church and in society, witnesses of the beauty of holiness, witnesses of the splendour of truth, witnesses of the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ! One of the greatest challenges facing us today is how to speak convincingly of the wisdom and liberating power of God’s word to a world which all too often sees the Gospel as a constriction of human freedom, instead of the truth which liberates our minds and enlightens our efforts to live wisely and well, both as individuals and as members of society.

Let us pray, then, that the Catholics of this land will become ever more conscious of their dignity as a priestly people, called to consecrate the world to God through lives of faith and holiness. And may this increase of apostolic zeal be accompanied by an outpouring of prayer for vocations to the ordained priesthood. For the more the lay apostolate grows, the more urgently the need for priests is felt; and the more the laity’s own sense of vocation is deepened, the more what is proper to the priest stands out. May many young men in this land find the strength to answer the Master’s call to the ministerial priesthood, devoting their lives, their energy and their talents to God, thus building up his people in unity and fidelity to the Gospel, especially through the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Benedict XVI
September 18, 2010


Jordanes said...

Ugh!! More generic religion and Freemasonry from the heretic pope of Newchurch!

Anonymous said...

I hope you're joking


Anonymous said...

To jordanes:
I interpret your post in a sarcastic way, because it is not warranted by the contests of the Pope's message.
His message is very coincident with the Church's doctrine with the sacrificial character of the Mass.
I agree totally with the message as sound Catholic teaching; however (and there always will be something missing in a Pope's message), I find his mention of the scandals of the clergy lacking, in what regards to the responsibility of the clergy and the hierarchy at the highest levels, including past Popes, to address these issues, that have been occurring recurrently in the Church since quite sometime.
In my view it is not enough to ask the faithful to forgive and go to confession (to confess their auto- inflicted sins?), and not demand repentance and expiation from the perpetrators and responsible parties.

wheat4paradise said...

This is a great homily, to be sure. The Holy Father's words of faith to Catholic audiences never fail to provide encouragement. On the other hand, I continue to be dumbfounded by the Pope's avoidance of the Holy Name of Jesus Christ whenever he speaks to secular and non-Christian audiences. Jordanes, what do you make of this?


Anonymous said...

Beautiful mass accompanied by Byrd's polyphony but what a slap in the face of the Holy Father for having placed 2 " altar girls" holding chandeliers at his sides while he was giving Communion...

pclaudel said...

Jordanes: Adding an eighth of a teaspoon of the baking powder of wit to your mockery muffin recipe will work wonders in lightening what comes out of your oven.

Anonymous said...

re abuse victims' healing:

Could someone enlighten me as to which "punishment" is the Pope referring to which "will contribute to the healing of the victims", as he said?

'Pope follower'

Pascendi said...

Beautiful Mass. Again, the Homily was a demonstration of the splendor of the truth of Christ. The Holy Father truly is reaching out: heart to heart.

Superb English choral tradition.

God bless Pope Benedict!

Jordanes said...

It's not my recipe, pclaudel.

Anonymous said...

How wonderful that he gave a slap to the Protestants in this speech, mentioning and quoting from the Council of Trent.

The Council of Trent have been anathema to these Vatican bishops, Cardinals, and Popes, so it is refreshing and impressive to see Benedict XVI praise this magnificent Council, and actually mention parts of it.

Of course, he mentioned Vatican II as well....but the Second Vatican Council hardly compares to the monumental and magnificent Council of Trent. It would be like comparing a flawless diamond (The Council of Trent and all that came from in, especially the a dry and dead lump of mud (Vatican II and the Novus Ordo Mass.)

Long-Skirts said...

Anonymous said...

... but what a slap in the face of the Holy Father for having placed 2 " altar girls" holding chandeliers at his sides while he was giving Communion...


The crowd was large
As the Pope said the Mass
In Westminister Cathedral
A little Latin for class

A little English too
Outside liberals made noise
Then my son asked of me
"Why are there Alter girl boys?"

(out of the mouth of babes)

Adamz said...

Altar girls can hardly be considered slap in the face considering that they are tolerated in the diocese of Rome. Indeed, there were altar girls present at a papal mass, as mitre and crosier bearers, during the pastoral visit to San Giovanni della Croce Parish in Rome March 7, 2010.

What was more disconcerting was the archbishop of Westminster's lack of fluency in Latin, just listen to the mess he made of the eucharistic prayer. It was deeply embarrassing.