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The intrinsic link between the Eucharist and the gift of the Holy Spirit

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
Castel Gondolfo, Wednesday 13 September 1989 - in French, Italian & Spanish  

"1. Jesus' promise "...before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5), indicates the special link between the Holy Spirit and baptism. We saw in the previous reflection that beginning with John's baptism of penance at the Jordan when he announced the coming of Christ, we are brought close to him who will baptize "with the Holy Spirit and with fire." We are also brought close to that unique baptism with which he himself was to be baptized (cf. Mk 10:38): the sacrifice of the cross offered by Christ "through the eternal Spirit" (Heb 9:14). He became "the last Adam who became a life-giving spirit," according to the statement of St. Paul (cf. 1 Cor 15:45). We know that on the day of the resurrection Christ granted to the apostles the Spirit, the giver of life (cf. Jn 20:22), and also later at Pentecost when all were "baptized with the Holy Spirit" (cf. Acts 2:4).

2. There is therefore an objective relationship between Christ's paschal sacrifice and the gift of the Spirit. Since the Eucharist mystically renews Christ's redemptive sacrifice, one can easily see the intrinsic link between this sacrament and the gift of the Spirit. In founding the Church through his coming on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit established it in objective relationship to the Eucharist, and ordered it toward the Eucharist. Jesus had said in one of his parables: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son" (Mt 22:2). The Eucharist is the sacramental anticipation and, in a certain sense, a "foretaste" of that royal feast which the Book of Revelation calls "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (cf. Rev 19:9). The bridegroom who is at the center of that marriage feast and of its Eucharistic foreshadowing and anticipation is the Lamb who "took away the sins of the world," the Redeemer.

3. In the Church born of the baptism of Pentecost, when the apostles and with them the other disciples and followers of Christ, were "baptized with the Spirit," the Eucharist is and remains until the end of time the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.

In it is present "the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God" (Heb 9:14); the blood "poured out for many" (Mk 14:24) "for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26:28); the blood "which purifies your conscience from dead works" (cf. Heb 9:14); the "blood of the covenant" (Mt 26:28). When instituting the Eucharist, Jesus himself said: "This the new covenant in my blood" (Lk 22:20; cf. 1 Cor 11:25), and he told the apostles: "Do this in remembrance of me" (Lk 22:19).

In the Eucharist - on each occasion - there is re-presented the sacrifice of the Body and Blood offered by Christ once for all on the cross to the Father for the redemption of the world. The Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem states: "In the sacrifice of the Son of Man the Holy Spirit is present and active.... The same Christ Jesus in his own humanity opened himself totally to this action...[which] from suffering enables salvific love to spring forth" (n. 40).

4. The Eucharist is the sacrament of this redemptive love, closely connected with the Holy Spirit's presence and action. At this point how can we fail to recall Jesus' words in the synagogue of Capernaum, after the multiplication of the bread (cf. Jn 6:27), when he proclaimed the necessity of being nourished on his body and blood? Many of his hearers thought his discourse "on eating his body and drinking his blood" (cf. Jn 6:53) "a hard saying" (Jn 6:60). Realizing their difficulty, Jesus said to them: "Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending where he was before?" (Jn 6:61-62). That was an explicit allusion to his future ascension into heaven. At that very point he added a reference to the Holy Spirit which would be fully understood only after the ascension. He said: "It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (Jn 6:63).

Jesus' hearers understood that first announcement of the Eucharist in a "material" sense. The Master immediately explained that his words would be clarified and understood only through the "Spirit, the giver of life." In the Eucharist Christ gives us his body and blood as food and drink, under the appearance of bread and wine, just as during the paschal meal at the Last Supper. Only through the Spirit, the giver of life, can the Eucharistic food and drink produce in us "communion," that is to say, the salvific union with Christ crucified and glorified.

5. A significant fact is linked to the Pentecost event: from the earliest times after the descent of the Holy Spirit the apostles and their followers, converted and baptized, "devoted themselves to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). It was as if the Holy Spirit himself had directed them toward the Eucharist.

In the Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem I stated: "Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church from the beginning expressed and confirmed her identity through the Eucharist" (n. 62).

The primitive Church was a community founded on the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42). It was completely animated by the Holy Spirit who enlightened the believers to understand the Word, and gathered them together in charity around the Eucharist. Thus the Church grew into a multitude of believers who "were of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32).

6. In the same encyclical already quoted we read: "Through the Eucharist, individuals and communities, by the action of the Paraclete-Counselor, learn to discover the divine sense of human life" (n. 62). They discover the value of the interior life, realizing in themselves the image of the Triune God. This is always presented to us in the books of the New Testament and especially in St. Paul's letters, as the alpha and omega of our lives. That is to say, it is the principle according to which man is created and modeled, and the last end to which he is directed and led by the will and plan of the Father, reflected in the Son-Word and in the Spirit-Love. It is a beautiful and profound interpretation which patristic tradition has given of the key principle of Christian spirituality and anthropology. It was summarized and formulated in theological terms by St. Thomas (cf. Summa Theol., I, q. 93, a. 8). This is how it is expressed in the Letter to the Ephesians: "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (3:14-19).

7. It is Christ who gives us this divine fullness (cf. Col 2:9 f.) through the action of the Holy Spirit. Thus, filled with divine life, Christians enter and live in the fullness of the whole Christ, which is the Church, and through the Church, in the new universe which is gradually being constructed (cf. Eph 1:23; 4:12-13; Col 2:10). At the center of the Church is the Eucharist, where Christ is present and active in humanity and in the whole world by means of the Holy Spirit.


After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

MIT DESER KURZEN Betrachtung über das Geheimnis der Eucharistie und seiner Verbindung mit dem Heiligen Geist grüße ich Euch, die Pilger und Besucher aus den deutschsprachigen Ländern. Ich bitte Euch, die Eucharistie, in der wir Menschen der Erlöserliebe Gottes begegnen dürfen, stets mit gläubigem und dankbarem Herzen zu feiern. Dann werden uns auch die Früchte des Geistes zuteil, an denen die Welt den echten Christen erkennen kann. Hierfür erteile ich Euch und Euren Lieben in der Heimat sowie den mit uns über Radio Vatikan verbundenen Hörerinnen und Hörern von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!

Ai connazionali polacchi

SERDECZNIE POZDRAWIAM pielgrzymów z Polski, w szczególności z parafii Dobrego Pasterza z Krakowa; z parafii Ofiarowania Matki Boskiej oraz św. Piotra Apostoła z Wadowic; z archidiecezji gnieźnieńskiej; z parafii św. Ludwika z Panewnik - ojcowie franciszkanie; z parafii św. Stanisława Kostki z Lublińca - ojcowie oblaci; z bazyliki katedralnej w Tarnowie; z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezasa z Nowego Sącza; z parafii św. Michała Archanioła z Torunia; duszpasterstwo ludzi pracy “Solidarność” z diecezji rzeszowskiej; pielgrzymkę Towarzystwa Przyjaciół KUL-u z kapłanami; z parafii św. Jacka z Koszalina; pielgrzymkę z parafii Matki Boskiej Częstochowskiej z Legnicy; grupę Towarzystwa Przyjaźni Polsko-Włoskie; z Gdańska; grupę Instytutu Techniki Budowlanej z Warszawy; grupę Towarzystwa Przyjaźni Polsko-Włoskiej z Łodzi; grupę polonijną ze Stanów Zjednoczonych oraz grupy turystyczne: Biura Turystycznego a Pielgrzym”, PKS-u z Warszawy, Orbisu z Warszawy, z Opola, Turysty.

Ai numerosi fedeli francesi

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

JE SALUE CORDIALEMENT les responsables de la Société de Saint-Vincent de Paul en France. Et, à l’occasion de la célébration eucharistique télévisée du 24 septembre sur le lieu de naissance du saint à Pouy, dans les Landes, je suis heureux d’encourager les membres et les bienfaiteurs de la Société à promouvoir sans cesse le service des pauvres. Que Dieu répande ses bénédictions sur votre famille vincentienne et sur tous les organismes de secours aux malheureux!

Je remercie tous les pèlerins de langue française de leur visite, et je les bénis de grand cœur ainsi que ceux qui leur sont chers.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I EXTEND A WARM WELCOME to the new students of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. As you begin your studies in this city, I wish to encourage you young men to devote yourselves to a serious study of theology, so that you may grow in your knowledge and love of Christ and be able to serve his Church ever more effectively. May Our Lady of Humility, Patroness of your College, accompany you with her prayers, that you may share generously with others all that you yourselves have received from Christ.

My cordial greetings also go to the group of pilgrims from Indonesia. I assure you of my prayers for all Indonesians as I prepare for my visit to your country. To the “ Saint Peter Community ” from the Philippines and to all English-speaking pilgrims and visitors I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ai pellegrini provenienti dal Giappone

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

DILETTISSIMI VISITATORI provenienti da ogni parte del Giappone, vi auguro che la vostra visita in Europa e a Roma si compia come un pellegrinaggio spirituale o come un aggiornamento culturale che porti molto frutto per ciascuno di voi e per il vostro paese.

Con questo augurio vi imparto di cuore la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai numerosi fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

DESEO SALUDAR cordialmente a todos los peregrinos de los diversos países de América Latina y de España.

En particular saludo a las Religiosas Esclavas de Cristo Rey que han venido a venerar las tumbas de los Apóstoles al finalizar su Capítulo General. Os aliento a una entrega sin límites a Dios y a la Iglesia en fidelidad a vuestro carisma.

* * *

SALUDO IGUALMENTE al grupo del Movimiento Schönstatt de Chile, a los integrantes de la Obra “Acies Christi”, a los matrimonios de la parroquia de Polop de La Marina (Alicante) y a los componentes de la Banda Juvenil Don Orione de Santiago de Chile.

A todos bendigo de corazón.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

SAÚDO CORDIALMENTE quantos participam nesta Audiência. A todos desejo felicidades, com os favores a graças celestes. Em particular, aos peregrinos e visitantes, vindos de várias cidades do Brasil e aos legionários de Maria; desejo-vos que, da visita a Roma e deste encontro, leveis revigorada a fé no Espírito Santo que dà a vida, presente e actuante na Eucaristia, na Igreja e nos corações em graça de Deus. Com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini provenienti dall’Ungheria

VOGLIO SALUTARE un gruppo di fedeli ungheresi, membri della parrocchia di San Michele Arcangelo, ad Albertfalva, diocesi di Székesfehérvár.

Ai vari gruppi italiani

Rivolgo ora il mio saluto ai numerosi pellegrini di lingua italiana, ed anzitutto ai fedeli della Diocesi di Tursi-Lagonegro, accompagnati dal loro Vescovo, Monsignor Rocco Talucci, e qui convenuti per concludere il loro convegno diocesano sul tema “Nella sete di Dio la speranza e il futuro dell’uomo”. Esprimo il mio compiacimento per il corso di studio che ha impegnato la diocesi sulla considerazione del mistero liturgico e, segnatamente, sul significato salvifico dell’evento pasquale nella luce degli insegnamenti del Concilio Vaticano II. Auspico che dal convegno scaturisca un fervido impegno per le attività pastorali, e benedico tutta la Diocesi.

* * *

Saluto poi il gruppo dei ragazzi della Scuola di Musica del “Suzuki Talent Center d’Italia”. Ad essi ed ai loro insegnanti l’augurio che il loro amore per la musica prosegua felicemente ad elevazione dell’animo (mentre ringrazio vivamente per la singolare esecuzione musicale offerta nel corso di questa Udienza).

* * *

Rivolgo quindi un pensiero alle numerose suore che hanno partecipato al Corso di formazione per assistenti educatrici, organizzato dalla Federazione Italiana delle Religiose nell’Assistenza Sociale. Ad esse esprimo fervidi auguri per il ministero che le attende, con l’invito a svolgere ogni servizio nello spirito della carità cristiana.

* * *

Desidero salutare, infine, i pellegrini della chiesa di S. Spirito e della Confraternita dell’Addolorata di Sora. Saluto il Vescovo Monsignor Lorenzo Chiarinelli ed il Sindaco della città. Sono ben felice di imporre sul capo dell’immagine dell’Addolorata che essi venerano nella loro chiesa la corona d’oro, e affido alla protezione della Vergine tutta la Comunità.

A tutti la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

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