Eucharistic Reflection: Eucharist & Pentecost Part 2
by Diocese of Des Moines | May 24, 2021
Eucharist and Pentecost as the Origin of the Church (part 2)
A homily preached by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Chrism Mass, 1981
The Holy Spirit is transformation [Verwandlung]. The Mass, which begins as gathering, has its climax in the consecration [Wandlung]. Bread of this earth becomes the Body of Christ, the bread of eternal life. What shines forth in the distance ahead of us, the new heaven and the new earth, is reality here. "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev 21:5). Bread, the fruit of the earth and of our work, becomes his Body. HE is in it, the One who gives himself to us as the beginning of the transformation of the world, as the beginning of our transformation, since we are supposed to enter into this transformation. In the Eucharist, Christ is not added, so to speak, to the bread as a second thing, so that he would now be there with it. After all, he is not one thing alongside something else; he is the source, the root, the creative power of the whole. When he touches a place, there is not something else besides what was there before but, rather, a new creation takes place; things then become new. That is also why being a Christian cannot be a little Sunday world in addition to our workaday world, something that we build as an addition in some devotional corner of our life; rather, it is a new foundation, it is transformation that changes us.
The decisive work of the Holy Spirit is transformation. For this reason, being a Christian is continual conversion. Conversion is correspondence to the transformation in the Eucharist. Tradition designates both with the one word conversio and thus expresses the intrinsic unity of the two events. We can be Christians only if we submit to this process of new creation, of transformation, by regarding Christianity, not as a pious supplement, but as the power that defines our whole life, a power that we allow to penetrate every routine action as a new, transforming form in us.
We should become Christ's wheat-the bread of Jesus Christ-with him, as Saint Ignatius of Antioch said. Becoming wheat means letting oneself sink into the earth, letting oneself be taken, and not remaining shut up in one’s own privacy. It means letting oneself be permeated by the forces of the earth and from on high. Letting oneself be changed in them, letting oneself be decisively transformed by what comes to us as a challenge: by God’s trials, by his gifts, by yearning, by the good things and the difficult things that people give us to bear. And growing, becoming new in this maturation process. It means taking God's sun and the earth's water-in the power of the Spirit-and allowing them to ferment in us, so that we become Christ's good bread. It means accepting the oven-of afflictions, too- and being ground down by everyday troubles. Or to use another image: in order for a cluster of grapes to become good wine, it has to drink a lot of sunlight. This, dear brothers and sisters, dear confreres, is our task: to drink a lot of sunlight, so that we become good wine. To expose ourselves again and again to the sunlight of the word of God, of God’s appeals, but also to the storm and the wind and the water, the only way in which we can become a cluster that is ripe and produces good wine to drink.
And finally: the Holy Spirit is mission. At the end of the Mass come the words, "Ite, missa est." Go, it is mission! And it is not wrong that this key word in tradition gave the name "Mass" to the whole event, because this whole thing is mission, because all of God's deeds always exist for others, also. The Holy Spirit always works under the banner of For; he never merely comes to someone privately; rather, he always comes so that something can be handed on. He is always the mission, the appeal to hand on. And so we should take into ourselves anew this law of For. It is depicted in Sacred Scripture when the Holy Spirit appears in the image of the fiery tongue. Fire is the power that warms and brightens. "Did not our hearts burn within us … while he opened to us the Scriptures?" (Lk 24:32). Only someone who himself is burning can kindle. We must become burning Christians. We must make that journey of the disciples of Emmaus with him, in which we let him make us burn with his word, in which we submit to and expose ourselves to the fire that makes separated elements molten and combines them and creates unity.
The Holy Spirit is also message [Wort]. The end of Sacred Scripture tells us something about his language. There it says, "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come!'" (Rev 22:17). And this is his message--Come, Lord Jesus! He calls to Christ. And that is how we recognize the Holy Spirit, the fact that he calls to Christ. And for this reason, he remains a power that points forward; he wants to complete the Incarnation; he wants to make all mankind into the Body of Jesus Christ. He wants to bring to its fullness what was begun in Nazareth. This is why the Holy Spirit is the true renewal and the true rejuvenation of the Church, because he leads us to the future, to the coming of Jesus Christ. Of course this rejuvenating power always has fidelity as its origin, too; for something that has no roots cannot grow or live and therefore cannot be rejuvenated, either.
The Holy Spirit says, "Come!" Wherever he is, there is Advent, setting out into the true future, into the new creation. He is the only one who, by calling Christ over, can renew the earth. Let us try to learn his language and call on Christ by calling on him. Let us go forth to meet the future of the world: gathering, unification, transformation. Let us go toward that power which renews the face of the earth.
- Have I submitted to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, letting Christianity be “the power that defines [my] whole life?”
- Where is the Holy Spirit calling me to mission, so that I can be more fully for others?
- For the life of the Spirit to more deeply penetrate our lives, and transform “every routine action” of our days, we pray…
- That the challenges we face in life may become the transforming work of God, so that we may become the “good wine” of God’s love in the world, we pray…
- May we recognize the mission the Holy Spirit has anointed us with, so that as we burn with the love of God we may enkindle others, we pray…
Homily taken from Teaching and Learning the Love of God: Being a Priest Today, by Joseph Ratzinger, 2017. Pages 46-54.