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Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Pope Benedict: Mass not just a social gathering

Today's General Audience address was a rich and fascinating discourse on the Benedictine theologian and Abbot, Rupert of Deutz (c. 1075-1129) covering a range of topics including the investiture controversy, the heresy of Berengarius, the problem of evil, and the motive of the incarnation.

The Holy Father recalled the way in which Rupert opposed the theology of Berengarius of Tours who said that Christ was only symbolically present in the Eucharist and argued that the body of Christ in the Eucharist is the same as the body of the incarnate Word. Pope Benedict then suggested an application for our own time (my translation):
Dear brothers and sisters, it seems to me that at this point we should also think of our own time; even today there is the danger of reducing Eucharistic realism, that is, of understanding the Eucharist only as a rite of communion, of socialisation, forgetting too easily that in the Eucharist the risen Christ is really present – with his risen body – which he puts into our hands to draw us out of ourselves, to incorporate us in his immortal body, and thus to guide us to the new life. This great mystery that the Lord is present in all his reality in the Eucharistic species is a mystery to adore and always to love anew.
An over-emphasis on the Mass as a social gathering is a problem that has many practical consequences. In England, I think that we are blessed with the priest generally having quite a close familial contact with the people. If the Mass is generally seen as another social gathering, the priest can therefore seem stand-offish if he tries to make the Church a place reserved for prayer and worship, rather than a continuation of all the other social activities of the parish. A renewed sense of the sacred in Church would allay such fears and provide a sensible distinction between what we are doing in the Church and what we are doing in the Hall next door.
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