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Pope Benedict XVI’s Christocentric Ecclesiology and the National Eucharistic Revival

We are now more than halfway through the National Eucharistic Revival called for by the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference. As the Year of Diocesan Revival gave way to the Year of Pastoral Revival, it is worth noting that one of the most preeminent and influential theologians of the last century (or more) returned to the Lord a little over a year ago.

I am of course referring to Pope Benedict XVI. This “humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord’’ has been a constant spiritual guide to me in my own scriptural, theological and sacramental development, and it has been one of the joys of my life to engage with his work. His theological approach can act as a great help to those of us committed to the Eucharistic Revival in the United States.

With that said, I would like to offer a brief examination of the Christocentric ecclesiology of Pope Benedict XVI in the hopes that the late pope’s appreciation for the Real Presence might aid us in our understanding of the Eucharist as the “source and summit of the Christian life.”

According to St. Irenaeus, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive!” If that is true, it begs the question — how does one become “fully alive?” In the view of Benedict, it is possible only if we are first free. That freedom (which allows us to be fully alive) is grounded in a personal encounter with Jesus of Nazareth, the Incarnate God. It is in and through Christ that we become who we are meant to be and can therefore be oriented to God in a true posture of adoration (from the Latin adoratio meaning “mouth to mouth”). Clearly associated with the questions of appropriate orientation and posture is the natural follow-up: where can I experience this personal encounter?

For Benedict, the most complete experience of encounter with the Lord is in and through the universal Church, founded by Christ himself, as a dispensary of his grace. Participation in the life of the universal Church occurs simultaneously with one’s participation in the local Church alongside men and women of restless hearts, and reaches its climax in the full, active and conscious reception of the Eucharist.

This assimilation into the Divine is sacramentally and spiritually possible in a way similar to how the Council Fathers at Chalcedon (451) elaborate on the dual nature of Christ. In this case, we are brought into the experience of the Divine in the Eucharist without losing our human nature. Benedict writes, “Unlike the impersonal stoic idea of God the Father and the vague paternal idea of the Enlightenment, the Fatherhood of God is the Fatherhood mediated by the Son, and including brotherly union in the Son.” For Benedict, the Incarnation makes possible the Divine “sonship” for all mankind — a brotherhood and sisterhood where all are welcome at Christ’s table.

We can now see clearly that Benedict has a Christocentric view of the Church — but how did he get it?

Read more at National Catholic Register 

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