Chapter I-6. Eucharist and Life
7. Since therefore the Eucharist is the source of charity, it has always been at the center of the life of Christ's disciples. It has the
appearance of bread and wine, that is to say of food and drink; it is therefore as familiar to people, as closely linked to their life,
as food and drink. The veneration of God, who is love, springs, in eucharistic worship, from that kind of intimacy in which He
Himself, by analogy with food and drink, fills our spiritual being, ensuring its life, as food and drink do. This "eucharistic"
veneration of God therefore strictly corresponds to His saving plan. He Himself, the Father, wants the "true worshippers"
to worship Him precisely in this way, and it is Christ who expresses this desire, both with His words and likewise with this
sacrament in which He makes possible worship of the Father in the way most in conformity with the Father's will.
From this concept of eucharistic worship there then stems the whole sacramental style of the Christian's life. In fact, leading a
life based on the sacraments and animated by the common priesthood means in the first place that Christians desire God to act
in them in order to enable them to attain, in the Spirit, "the fullness of Christ himself." God, on His part, does not touch them
only through events and by this inner grace; He also acts in them with greater certainty and power through the sacraments. The
sacraments give the lives of Christians a sacramental style.
Now, of all the sacraments it is the Holy Eucharist that brings to fullness their initiation as Christians and confers upon the
exercise of the common priesthood that sacramental and ecclesial form that links it-- as we mentioned before--to the
exercise of the ministerial priesthood. In this way eucharistic worship is the center and goal of all sacramental life. In the
depths of eucharistic worship we find a continual echo of the sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism and Confirmation.
Where better is there expressed the truth that we are not only "called God's children" but "that is what we are" by virtue of
the sacrament of Baptism, if not precisely in the fact that in the Eucharist we become partakers of the body and blood of God's
only Son? And what predisposes us more to be "true witnesses of Christ" before the world--as we are enabled to be by
the sacrament of Confirmation--than Eucharistic Communion, in which Christ bears witness to us, and we to Him?
It is impossible to analyze here in greater detail the links between the Eucharist and the other sacraments, in particular with the
sacrament of family life and the sacrament of the sick. In the encyclical Redemptor Hominis I have already drawn attention
to the close link between the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is not only that Penance leads to the
Eucharist, but that the Eucharist also leads to Penance. For when we realize who it is that we receive in Eucharistic
Communion, there springs up in us almost spontaneously a sense of unworthiness, together with sorrow for our sins and an
interior need for purification.
But we must always take care that this great meeting with Christ in the Eucharist does not become a mere habit, and that we do
not receive Him unworthily, that is to say, in a state of mortal sin. The practice of the virtue of penance and the sacrament of
Penance are essential for sustaining in us and continually deepening that spirit of veneration which man owes to God Himself
and to His love so marvelously revealed. The purpose of these words is to put forward some general reflections on worship of
the Eucharistic Mystery, and they could be developed at greater length and more fully. In particular, it would be possible to link
what has been said about the effects of the Eucharist on love for others with what we have just noted about commitments
undertaken towards humanity and the Church in Eucharistic Communion, and then outline the picture of that "new earth"
that springs from the Eucharist through every "new self." In this sacrament of bread and wine, of food and drink, everything
that is human really undergoes a singular transformation and elevation. Eucharistic worship is not so much worship of the
inaccessible transcendence as worship of the divine condescension, and it is also the merciful and redeeming transformation of
the world in the human heart.
Recalling all this only very briefly, I wish, notwithstanding this brevity, to create a wider context for the questions that I shall
subsequently have to deal with: These questions are closely linked with the celebration of the holy Sacrifice. In fact, in that
celebration there is expressed in a more direct way the worship of the Eucharist. This worship comes from the heart, as a most
precious homage inspired by the faith, hope and charity which were infused into us at Baptism. And it is precisely about this that
I wish to write to you in this letter, venerable and dear brothers in the episcopate, and with you to the priests and deacons. It
will be followed by detailed indications from the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship.