The Eucharist as the Sacrament of Transformations in the Teaching of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI | Father Donncha Ó hAodha | HPR
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s use of the image of nuclear fission—…in a positive sense, in order to explain the Eucharistic mystery—is contemporary and striking, and apt to convey the quiet, but immense, power of the Mass.
The Sacrament of Transformations
Recent history has made us all too aware of the overwhelming effects of nuclear fission. The enormous power it can have on nature is inversely proportional to the diminutive particles in which the initial process occurs. What is discreet and hidden, what defies normal sensory perception, turns out to have awesome consequences for good or ill. Nowhere is this paradox more dramatically evident than in the case of the atomic bomb. One survivor of the Nagasaki blast said it was like the sun bursting. A transformation within a tiny particle of matter unleashed a series of massive transformations—of the atmosphere and the landscape, of history and of human lives—that we are still grappling with today.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s use of the image of nuclear fission—but in a positive sense, in order to explain the Eucharistic mystery—is contemporary and striking, and apt to convey the quiet, but immense, power of the Mass. As Christ taught it, his self-offering is “like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being—the victory of love over hatred, the victory of love over death. Only this intimate explosion of good conquering evil can then trigger off the series of transformations that little by little will change the world.” 1
Benedict XVI’s papal teaching was eminently Eucharistic. His words on this sacrament, in numerous homilies and discourses, and especially in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis 2, invite constant meditation. But perhaps this Holy Father’s most profound teaching on the Eucharist was not, in fact, expressed in words. Periods of silent prayer before the monstrance during solemn exposition became a hallmark of his pontificate. One thinks, for example, of the throng at Hyde Park at the prayer vigil on the eve of the Beatification of John Henry Newman being in hushed adoration within the throbbing metropolis of London; or of the storm-drenched multitude of young people kneeling at the Eucharistic Vigil at World Youth Day in Madrid in August 2011.
Such adoration is, in itself, a powerful catechesis.