Cardinal Ratzinger on the Meaning of the Eucharist

"God Gives Himself to Us"

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2003 (Zenit.org).- What is the answer to the decrease in the number of faithful attending Sunday Mass?



For Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the answer lies in explaining the real meaning of the sacrament of the Eucharist, which perpetuates the presence of Christ among people.

The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith addresses the question in his recently published book "A God Who Is Near" ("Il Dio Vicino," St. Paul Editions). It precedes the encyclical on the Eucharist that John Paul II will sign this Holy Thursday.

"The Eucharist is sacrifice," memorial of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, the cardinal explains.

"When we hear this phrase, we resist within," he states. "The question arises: When we speak of sacrifice, are we not before an unworthy, or at least ingenuous, image of God? Do we not end up by thinking that we men could and should give something to God?"

Cardinal Ratzinger adds: "The Eucharist responds precisely to these questions. The first thing it tells us is that God gives himself to us so that we, in turn, can give ourselves. The initiative in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ comes from God. In the beginning, it was he himself who lowered himself."

"Christ is not a gift that we men present to an irritated God; on the contrary, the fact that he is here, lives, suffers and loves, is already the work of the love of God," the cardinal writes. "It is the merciful love of God, who stoops down to us; the Lord who makes himself a servant for us.

"Although we are the ones who caused the conflict, and although God was not the culprit, but us, it is he who comes to meet us and who, in Christ, begs for reconciliation."

"The more we walk with him the more conscious we are that the God who seems to torment us is the one who really loves us and is the one to whom we can abandon ourselves without resistance or fear," Cardinal Ratzinger states.

He adds: "The more we enter into the night of the misunderstood mystery the more we trust him, the more we find him, the more we discover the love and freedom that sustain us through all the nights. God gives so that we can give. This is the essence of the eucharistic sacrifice, of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ."