VATICAN CITY, 9 APR 2009 (VIS) - In the Vatican Basilica at 9.30 a.m. today, Holy Thursday, the Holy Father presided at the Chrism Mass, which is celebrated on this day in churches and cathedrals throughout the world. Cardinals, bishops and priests present in Rome concelebrated with the Pope. Following the homily, there was the renewal of priestly vows and the blessing of the oil used for catechumens, the sick and those being confirmed.
In his homily the Pope commented upon the prayer of the Lord for His disciples and for "disciples of all time: ... Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, so that they also may be consecrated in truth".
"In the Old Testament", the Holy Father explained, "the giving over of a person to God, his 'sanctification', is identified with priestly ordination. ... The priest is removed from worldly bonds and given over to God, and precisely in this way, starting with God, he must be available for others, for everyone".
The word of God, he continued, is as the bath which purifies the disciples, "the creative power which transforms them into God". And he asked his listeners: "is that word truly the nourishment we live by, even more than bread and the things of this world? Do we really know that word? Do we love it? Are we deeply engaged with this word to the point that it really leaves a mark on our lives and shapes our thinking? Or is it rather the case that our thinking is constantly being shaped by all the things that others say and do?"
Dwelling then on the phrase "sanctify them in the truth", the Pope explained how this means "make them one with me, Christ. Bind them to me. ... Our being priests is simply a new and radical way of being united to Christ. ... Being united to Christ calls for renunciation. It means not wanting to impose our own way and our own will, not desiring to become someone else, but abandoning ourselves to Him, however and wherever He wants to use us".
"Celebrating the Eucharist means praying. We celebrate the Eucharist rightly if with our thoughts and our being we enter into the words which the Church sets before us", said Benedict XVI.
"To be immersed in God's truth and thus in His holiness", he went on, "for us this also means to acknowledge that the truth makes demands, to stand up, in matters great and small, to the lie which in so many different ways is present in the world".
"If we become one with Christ, we learn to recognise Him precisely in the suffering, in the poor, in the little ones of this world; then we become people who serve, who recognise our brothers and sisters in Him, and in them, we encounter Him".
At 5.30 p.m. in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Benedict XVI presided at the Mass of the Lord's Supper. During the celebration, imitating the gesture of the Lord towards the Apostles, the Pope washed the feet of twelve priests. At the presentation of the gifts, he was given alms collected to support the Catholic community in Gaza.
Commenting in his homily on the narrative of the institution of the Eucharist, the Pope insisted that the Eucharist is first and foremost a prayer, "and only in the course of the prayer is the priestly act of consecration accomplished, which becomes transformation, transubstantiation of our gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ".
In that narrative "the praying Church gazes upon the hands and eyes of the Lord", said Pope Benedict, recalling then how "at our priestly ordination, our hands were anointed, so that they could become hands of blessing. Let us pray to the Lord at this hour that our hands will serve more and more to bring salvation, to bring blessing, to make His goodness present!"
When the Canon uses the words: "Looking up to heaven, to You His Almighty Father", the Pope explained, "the Lord teaches us to raise our eyes, and especially our hearts. He teaches us to fix our gaze upwards, detaching it from the things of this world, to direct ourselves in prayer towards God and thus to raise ourselves".
"Breaking the bread is the act of the father of the family who looks after his children and gives them what they need for life. ... Thus, in the act itself, the intimate nature of the Eucharist is already indicated: it is 'agape', it is love made corporeal. In the word 'agape', the meanings of Eucharist and love intertwine".
The wine chalice the Lord gives to His disciples is "the glorious chalice - the chalice of great joy, of the true feast, for which we all long - the chalice filled with the wine of His love".
What happened at the Last Supper, "and what has been renewed ever since whenever we celebrate the Eucharist", is that "God, the living God, establishes a communion of peace with us, or to put it more strongly, He creates 'consanguinity' between Himself and us. ... The blood of Jesus is His love, in which divine life and human life have become one.
"Let us pray to the Lord", the Pope added in conclusion, "that we may come to understand ever more deeply the greatness of this mystery. Let us pray that in our innermost selves its transforming power will increase, so that we truly acquire consanguinity with Jesus, so that we are filled with His peace and grow in communion with one another".
BXVI-HOLY WEEK/HOLY THURSDAY/... VIS 20090415 (970)