The Sacrament of Charity: Christ, man, and nature

It’s fitting that as we approach the Great Week of Holy Week, I rediscovered a document that expresses the warm, exciting unity of Catholicism’s Eucharistic faith. I bought the book on impulse a year or so ago, read it quickly for the content needed at the time, but never had the time to embrace it.

That changed this evening.

A few hours ago, I pulled it from its pile for utilitarian purposes—for a paper on the Holy Father—and found myself in a world of Eucharistic wonder.

From the Paschal mysteries and the Holy Triduum, to the sacramental nature of the church, to the celebration of our liturgies, to the place of the Eucharist in our lives, to our place in the cosmos, and much more, this text by Pope Benedict XVI is gem like few others.

Indeed, it should be the genesis of diocesan Eucharistic Congresses across the globe during the upcoming Year of Faith.

While this text has a very long, complicated name, it comes with a short title, too: The Sacrament of Charity. It's a summary of a year-long series of gatherings on the Eucharist. And what a year it was: October 2004 through October 2005, those months when the Church grieved the last days and the death of Blessed John Paul II and celebrated the election of Pope Benedict XVI and the start of a new pontificate.

Given its gestation during such times, this text has much to ponder and share. It’s easily accessible for free on the Vatican website, or for a small price in book form. However you read it, The Sacrament of Charity offers fresh (and wonderfully ancient) dimensions of faith and practice in a world that is hungry for lasting peace—the kind that only God’s grace can offer.

Of course, I rummaged through it for words on the environment. I was not disappointed.

The title of Section 92 is “The sanctification of the world and the protection of creation.” Here it is in its entirety, some of which I’ve emphasized to note phrases of interest:
Finally, to develop a profound eucharistic spirituality that is also capable of significantly affecting the fabric of society, the Christian people, in giving thanks to God through the Eucharist, should be conscious that they do so in the name of all creation, aspiring to the sanctification of the world and working intensely to that end. The Eucharist itself powerfully illuminates human history and the whole cosmos. In this sacramental perspective we learn, day by day, that every ecclesial event is a kind of sign by which God makes himself known and challenges us. The eucharistic form of life can thus help foster a real change in the way we approach history and the world. The liturgy itself teaches us this, when, during the presentation of the gifts, the priest raises to God a prayer of blessing and petition over the bread and wine, "fruit of the earth," "fruit of the vine" and "work of human hands." With these words, the rite not only includes in our offering to God all human efforts and activity, but also leads us to see the world as God's creation, which brings forth everything we need for our sustenance. The world is not something indifferent, raw material to be utilized simply as we see fit. Rather, it is part of God's good plan, in which all of us are called to be sons and daughters in the one Son of God, Jesus Christ (cf. Eph 1:4-12). The justified concern about threats to the environment present in so many parts of the world is reinforced by Christian hope, which commits us to working responsibly for the protection of creation. The relationship between the Eucharist and the cosmos helps us to see the unity of God's plan and to grasp the profound relationship between creation and the "new creation" inaugurated in the resurrection of Christ, the new Adam. Even now we take part in that new creation by virtue of our Baptism (cf. Col 2:12ff.). Our Christian life, nourished by the Eucharist, gives us a glimpse of that new world – new heavens and a new earth – where the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven, from God, "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev 21:2).
Come to think of it, this post is a fitting follow-up to yesterday’s look at the Annunciation. Both serve as reminders of the place of creation—and, thus, of rightly utilizing and protecting the natural order—in the Catholic faith.

As such, the subject of both posts serve as warnings to those who would diminish the ecological concerns of Catholics (and all people of good will), as well as to those who would seek to save the planet without first seeking the Grace of God—a Grace found especially in Christ’s glorious Sacrament of Charity.

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Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.