The Feast of the Eucharist
Krzysztof Poroslo, seminarian
In one of his publications Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) defined the Eucharist as ‘the feast of faith’; faith in the real presence of Christ, in his resurrection and in making this paschal mystery manifest in the liturgy. The Eucharistic cult flows from this faith and its special expression is the Eucharistic congresses. The 49th Congress will be held in Quebec (Canada) on 15-22 June 2008. This ‘feast of the Eucharist’ is a great event in the Church and every Catholic should be interested and involved in it.
The first congress
Organising congresses is basically a new enterprise in the Church. We can look for its beginnings in France where the laywoman Emilie Tamisier of Tours (1834-1910), helped by her confessor Fr Antoine Chevrier (d. 1879) and Peter Julian Eymard, whom John XXIII canonised and who was called the ‘Apostle of the Eucharist’, got the idea to organise the first Eucharistic congress. The first attempts were, unfortunately, unsuccessful for various reasons. But the ‘Apostle of the Eucharist’ and Mrs Tamisier did not lose hope and with help of bishops, priests, laymen and the blessing of Pope Leo XIII they managed to organise the First International Eucharistic Congress in Lille in 1881. The theme of the Congress was ‘The Eucharist saves the world.’
The German linguist Josef Andreas Jungmann is a very important figure in the development of congresses. He presented a new concept of organizing congresses. He proposed to experience congresses as ‘statio mundi’, i.e. gathering of the faithful to celebrate the Eucharist. The first form of experiencing congresses, in which the Eucharist celebration and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament were most important, was introduced during the 37th Congress in Muenich in 1960. Congresses are basically organized every fourth-fifth year in various places in the world. It is the Holy Father, consulting the Bishops’ Conference of a given country, that chooses the place and date. In 1997 Poland had the privilege and joy to organize a congress. It was held in Wroclaw and its theme was ‘Eucharist and Freedom’. Besides international congresses there are national and diocesan ones.
The 49th International Eucharistic Congress will be held in Quebec, Canada, which is extremely important for the North American Church because of its role in evangelising this continent. Currently, Quebec has a population of half a million. This year the city is celebrating the 400th anniversary of its foundation, which was the decisive factor for the Servant of God John Paul II to choose the place as the venue of the 49th Congress.
The Eucharist: Gift of God for the Life of the World
The theme of this year’s congress, approved by Pope Benedict XVI, is the words, ‘The Eucharist: Gift of God for the Life of the World.’ First of all, the mission to remind people of God’s gift – the Passion of Christ, of the Eucharist in which we can experience fully God’s presence – has been inscribed in the theme. And if fact, ‘experience’ is the main task of every congress, including this year’s congress. Through common prayer – celebration, adoration and contemplation of the Most Holy Eucharist as well as through theological reflection directed to honour the gift of the Eucharist, participants of the congress and the whole Church want to re-discover the Lord who is present among them and to experience his presence and love. The theme is the answer to the world that is experiencing total emptiness – the world of God’s absence. Only the Eucharist can fill this emptiness since only the Eucharist reveals God who constantly seeks man, waits to meet him and wants to enter into communion of love with him, to enter into a personal relationship of love.
Gift for the life of the world
As the theme of the congress in Quebec says, the Eucharist is the gift for the life of the world. Through Baptism we have been immersed into Christ’s life, into his paschal mystery, and through the Eucharist we develop this life and fully breathe in it, becoming real worshippers who praise and adore God. Such an attitude of a humble servant is inscribed into Christianity and is expressed by doing deeds of love for your neighbour: evangelisation, mission, help for the poor and the suffering. Christ who became man to offer his life for the world in the Eucharist teaches us this attitude of being a gift for others. Christ’s attitude of complete obedience to God’s will shows us another dimension of the Eucharistic life. To live in a real way means to fulfil God’s will, to realise one’s calling regardless of whether it is family life or consecrated life or life of loneliness. By realising our specific callings we express obedience to fulfil the fundamental calling to holiness. Only the Eucharist allows us to become the blessed, i.e. people having intimate relationships of love with Christ; relationships which mean unselfish gift of ourselves; giving ourselves to others because of love as Christ gives himself to us in the Eucharist.
Participation in the congress
Each of us can and even should participate in the congress. Of course, only some people can go to Canada but all people can gather in the Eucharist, in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or can do charity work. The 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec should become an occasion to increase our awareness and to grow in faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and thus it should help us ‘experience’ God.