Sunday, August 16, 2009

In the Eucharist, We too are Assumed into the Divinity of Christ

Address of Pope Benedict XVI
Angelus, August 16, 2009

Dear brothers and sisters:

Yesterday we celebrated the great feast of Mary's Assumption to heaven, and today we read in the Gospel these words of Jesus: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven" (Jn 6,51). One cannot but be struck by this correspondence which revolves around the symbol of "heaven": Mary was "assumed" into the place from where her Son had "descended."

Of course, this language, which is Biblical, expresses figuratively something which can never enter completely into the world of our ideas and our images. But let us stop a moment to reflect: Jesus presents Himself as the "living bread," that is, the nourishment which contains the life of God Himself, and He is able to communicate this to whoever eats of Him, the true food that gives life and truly nourishes us profoundly.

Jesus says: "Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world" (Jn 6,51). And from whom did the Son of God take "flesh" - His concrete earthly humanity?

He took it from the Virgin Mary. God assumed from her His human body in order to enter into our mortal condition. In turn, at the end of her earthly existence, the body of the Virgin was assumed into heaven by God and made to enter into the celestial condition.

It is a sort of exchange in which God always has the full initiative, but as we have discussed on other occasions, He needed Mary, in a certain sense - He needed the "Yes" of His creature, her flesh, her concrete existence, in order to prepare the material of His sacrifice: His Body and Blood to offer on the Cross as an instrument of eternal life, and in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, as spiritual food and drink.

Dear brothers and sisters, what happened to Mary is also valid in other ways that are just as real for every man and woman, because God asks each of us to welcome Him, to place our hearts and bodies at His disposition, our entire existence, our flesh, as the Bible says - so that He may dwell in the world.

He calls us to unite with Him in the Sacrament of Eucharist, bread that is broken for the life of the world, so that together we may constitute the Church, His historical Body. If we say "Yes," as Mary did, then to the degree that we say "Yes," the mysterious exchange also takes place for us and in us: we are assumed into the divinity of Him who assumed our humanity.

The Eucharist is the means, the instrument, for this reciprocal transformation, which always has God as the end and as principal actor: He is the Head and we are the members; He is the vine and we are the shoots. Whoever eats of this Bread and lives in communion with Jesus, allowing Himself to be transformed by Him and in Him, is saved from eternal death: certainly, he will die like everyone, taking part in the mystery of the passion and Cross of Christ, but he is no longer a slave to death, and will rise on the last day to partake of the eternal feast with Mary and all the saints.

This mystery, this feast of God, starts down here: it is a mystery of faith, hope and love, celebrated in life and in liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, and is expressed in fraternal communion and service to our neighbor.

Let us pray to the Blessed Virgin so that she may help us nourish ourselves in faith with the Bread of eternal life in order to experience now on earth the joy of heaven.

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