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56 The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers the cult of Latria to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving Consecrated Hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to solemn veneration, and carrying them processionally to the joy of great crowds of the faithful.
57 In the ancient documents of the Church we have many testimonies of this veneration. The pastors of the church in fact, solicitously exhorted the faithful to take the greatest care in keeping the Eucharist which they took to their homes. "The Body of Christ is meant to be eaten, not to be treated with irreverence," St. Hippolytus warns the faithful (61 )
58 In fact the faithful thought themselves guilty, and rightly so, as Origen recalls, if after they received the Body of the Lord in order to preserve it with all care and reverence, a small fragment of it fell off through negligence. (62 )
59 The same pastors severely reproved those who showed lack of reverence if it happened. This is attested to by Novitianus whose testimony in the matter is trustworthy. He judged as deserving condemnation any one who came out of Sunday service carrying with him as usual the Eucharist, the sacred Body of the Lord, "not going to his house but running to places of amusement." (63 )
60 On the other hand St. Cyril of Alexandria rejects as folly the opinion of those who maintained that if a part of the Eucharist was left over for the following day it did not confer sanctification.
«For," he says, "neither Christ is altered nor His Holy Body changed, but the force and power and vivifying grace always remain with it." (64 )
61 Nor should we forget that in ancient times the faithful, harassed by the violence of persecution or living in solitude out of love for monastic life nourished themselves even daily, receiving Holy Communion by their own hands when the priest or deacon was absent. (65 )
61 "Tradit. Apost." Ed Botte, "La Tradition Apostolique De St. Hippolyte," Munster 1963, p. 84.
62 "In Exod. Fragm." P.G. 12, 391.
63 "De Spectaculis" C.S.E.L. III, p. 8.
64 "Epist. Ad Calosyrium" P.G. 76, 1075.
65 Cf. Basil "Epist." 93, P.G. 32, 483-486.
62 We say this not in order that there may be some change in the way of keeping the Eucharist and of receiving Holy Communion which was later on prescribed by Church laws and which now remain in force, but rather that we may rejoice over the faith of the Church which is always one and the same.
63 This faith also gave rise to the feast of Corpus Christi which was first celebrated in the diocese of Liege specially through the efforts of the servant of God, Blessed Juliana of Mount Cornelius, and which our predecessor Urban IV extended to the Universal Church. From it have originated many practices of Eucharistic piety which under the inspiration of divine grace have increased from day to day and with which the Catholic Church is striving ever more to do homage to Christ, to thank Him for so great a gift and to implore His mercy.
64 We therefore ask you, venerable brothers, among the people entrusted to your care and vigilance, to preserve this faith in its purity and integrity--a faith which seeks only to remain perfectly loyal to the word of Christ and of the Apostles and unambiguously rejects all erroneous and mischievous opinions. Tirelessly promote the cult of the Eucharist, the focus where all other forms of piety must ultimately emerge.
65 May the faithful, thanks to your efforts, come to realize and experience ever more perfectly the truth of these words: "he who desires life finds here a place to live in and the means to live by. Let him approach, let him believe, let him be incorporated so that he may receive life. Let him not refuse union with the members, let him not be a corrupt member, deserving to be cut off, nor a disfigured member to be ashamed of. Let him be a grateful, fitting and healthy member. Let him cleave to the body, let him live by God and for God. Let him now labor here on earth, that he may afterwards reign in heaven." (66)
66 St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Tract." 26, 13 P.L. 35, 1613.
66 It is to be desired that the faithful, every day and in great numbers, actively participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass, receive Holy Communion with a pure heart, and give thanks to Christ our Lord for so great a gift. Let them remember these words: "The desire of Jesus Christ and of the Church that all the faithful receive daily Communion means above all that through the sacramental union with God they may obtain the strength necessary for mastering their passions, for purifying themselves of their daily venial faults and for avoiding the grave sins to which human frailty is exposed." (67) In the course of the day the faithful should not omit to visit the Blessed Sacrament, which according to the liturgical laws must be kept in the churches with great reverence in a most honorable location. Such visits are a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, an acknowledgment of the Lord's presence.
67 Decr. S. Congr. Concil., 20 Dec. 1905, Approb. A. S. Pio X, A.A.S. XXXVIII, 1905, p. 401.
67 No on can fail to understand that the Divine Eucharist bestows upon the Christian people an incomparable dignity. Not only while the sacrifice is offered and the sacrament is received, but as long as the Eucharist is kept in our churches and oratories, Christ is truly the Emmanuel, that is, "God with us." Day and night He is in our midst, he dwells with us, full of grace and truth. (Cf. Jn 1,14) He restores morality, nourishes virtues, consoles the afflicted, strengthens the weak. He proposes His own example to those who come to Him that all may learn to be, like Himself, meek and humble of heart and to seek not their own interests but those of God.
Anyone who approaches this august Sacrament with special devotion and endeavors to return generous love for Christ's own infinite love, will experience and fully understand--not without spiritual joy and fruit--how precious is the life hidden with Christ in God (Cf. Col 3,3) and how great is the value of converse with Christ, for there is nothing more consoling on earth, nothing more efficacious for advancing along the road of holiness.
68 Further, you realize, venerable brothers, that the Eucharist is reserved in the churches and oratories as in the spiritual center of a religious community or of a parish, yes, of the universal Church and of all of humanity, since beneath the appearance of the species, Christ is contained, the invisible Head of the Church, the Redeemer of the World, the Center of all hearts, "by whom all things are and by whom we exist." (1Co 8,6)
69 From this it follows that the worship paid to the Divine Eucharist strongly impels the soul to cultivate a "social" love, (71) by which the common good is given preference over the good of the individual. Let us consider as our own the interests of the community, of the parish, of the entire Church, extending our charity to the whole world, because we know that everywhere there are members of Christ.
71 Cf. St. Augustine, De Gn Ad Litt. XI, 15, 20; P.L. 34, 437.
70 The Eucharistic Sacrament, venerable brothers, is the sign and the cause of the unity of the Mystical Body, and it inspires an active "ecclesial" spirit in those who venerate it with great fervor. Therefore, never cease to persuade those committed to your care that they should learn to make their own the cause of the Church, in approaching the eucharistic mystery to pray to God without interruption to offer themselves to God as a pleasing sacrifice for the peace and unity of the Church, so that all the children of the Church be united and think the same, that there be no divisions among them, but rather unity of mind and purpose, as the Apostles insists. (Cf. 1Co 1,10) May all those not yet in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, who though separated from her glory in the name of Christian, share with us as soon as possible with the help of divine grace that unity of faith and communion which Christ wanted to be the distinctive mark of His disciples.
71 This zeal in praying and consecrating one's self to God for the unity of the Church should be practiced particularly by religious, both men and women, inasmuch as they are in a special way devoted to the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, according it homage and honor on earth, in virtue of their vows.
72 Nothing has ever been or is more important to the Church or more consoling than the desire for the unity of all Christians, a desire which we wish to express once again in the very words used by the Council of Trent at the close of its decree on the Most Blessed Eucharist: "In conclusion, the sacred synod with paternal love admonishes, exhorts, prays and implores 'through the merciful kindness of our God' (Lc 1,78) that each and every Christian come at last to a perfect agreement regarding this sign of unity, this bond of charity, this symbol of concord, and, mindful of such great dignity and such exquisite love of Christ Our Lord who gave His beloved soul as the price of our salvation and 'his flesh to eat' (Jn 6,48ss) believe and adore these sacred mysteries of His Body and Blood with such firm and unwavering faith, with such devotion, piety and veneration, that they can receive frequently that super-substantial bread, (Mt 6,11) which will be for them truly the life of the soul and unfailing strength of mind, so that fortified by its vigor (Cf. 1R 19,8) they can depart from this wretched pilgrimage on earth to reach their heavenly home where they will then eat the same 'bread of angels' (Ps 77,25) no longer hidden by the species which now they eat under the sacred appearances." (78)
78 Decr. De SS. Eucharistia, C. 8.
73 May the all-good Redeemer who shortly before His death prayed to the Father that all who were to believe in Him would be one even as He and the Father were one, (Cf. Jn 17,20-21) deign speedily to hear our most ardent prayer and that of the entire Church, that we may all with one voice and one faith, celebrate the Eucharistic Mystery and, by participating in the Body of Christ, become one body, (Cf. 1Co 10,17) linked by those same bonds which He Himself desire for its perfection.
74 And we turn with paternal affection also to those who belong to the venerable Churches of the Orient, from which came so many most illustrious Fathers whose testimony to the belief of the Eucharist we have so gladly cited in our present letter. Our soul is filled with intense joy as we consider your faith in the Eucharist, which is also our faith, and as we listen to the liturgical prayers by which you celebrate so great a mystery we rejoice to behold your eucharistic devotion, and to read your theologians explaining or defending the doctrine of this most august Sacrament.
75 May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary from whom Christ Our Lord took the flesh which under the species of bread and wine "is contained, offered and consumed," (81) may all the saints of God, specially those who burned with a more ardent devotion to the Divine Eucharist, intercede before the Father of mercies so that from this same faith in and devotion toward the Eucharist may result and flourish a perfect unity of communion among all Christians.
Unforgettable are the words of the holy martyr Ignatius, in his warning to the faithful of Philadelphia against the evils of division and schism, the remedy for which lies in the Eucharist: "Strive then," he said, "to make use of one form of thanksgiving for the flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ is one and one is the chalice in the union of His Blood, one altar, one bishop." (82)
81 C.I.C., CIS 801.
82 Epist. Ad Philadelph., 4 P.G. 5, 700.
76 Encouraged by the most consoling hope of the blessings which will accrue to the whole Church and the entire world from an increase in devotion to the Eucharist, with profound affection we impart to you, venerable brothers, to the priests, Religious and all those who collaborate with you and to all the faithful entrusted in your care, the apostolic benediction as a pledge of heavenly graces.
Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, the third day of September, the Feast of St. Pius X, in the year 1965, the third year of our pontificate.
Paul VI, Pope
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