The Nigerian Archbishop started his lecture with a short overview on his homeland, the inhabitants of which amounts upto 200 million, that splits 50-50 % between the Christians and Muslims. 20 % of the Christians are Catholics. It is a huge challenge to maintain an appropriate relationship with the Muslims, since “Muslims can be quite aggressive”, nonetheless they are not afraid, they remain Christians by all means and have their faith and hope that the Lord is with them.
The Emeritus Archbishop of Abuja presented the mystery of the Eucharist, that we should always “believe, celebrate and live by.” When we are talking about the Eucharist as a mystery, we experience God’s action in our human existence through the Sacrament – outlined the Cardinal. Current doctrine emphasizes the hidden character of the mystery, and the fact that in the Eucharist the act of God is beyond our understanding, that is to say: “His ways are not our ways.”
The Cardinal highlighted that in the Holy Eucharist Jesus is present in His Church, in His nation and in the faithful community. Through the servants of the sacraments Jesus is there at the Altar, as well as in the material elements, in the bread and in the wine. Jesus said at the Last Supper: “This is my body” (Mark 26:26), “This is my blood”. From these sayings originate the Church’s teachings as from the very beginning that Jesus Christ is present at the Holy Mass. Jesus’ listeners seemed to have great difficulties in accepting this of his saying: “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53). The lecturer explained that an endless difference appeared between the animal sacrifice in the Old Testament and the sacrifice of Jesus, as it is written in the letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 9:13-14). Jesus, by saying to his disciples “Keep doing this in Remembrance of Me!” gave a spiritual strength to act alike to him.
Let us not just eat, but to adore the Eucharist!
The Cardinal went on his catechesis saying that we should not just eat, but rather should adore the Eucharist. Jesus’ presence does not disappear in the Eucharistic elements after the Mass, until the material elements are there, Christ’ body and blood is fully present. This doctrine is the reasoning of the Eucharistic Adoration, and that the sacred elements are handled carefully.
The Cardinal spoke about the dissent between the Orthodox and the Catholic Church, which negatively affected sharing the Holy Communion. According to him, instead of cursing each other, the approach between the two sister-churches, which has begun since 1965, is to be welcomed. The substance that appears as Christ’s Body and Blood is actually “the fruit of earth and the fruit of human work.” - said John Onaiyekan. Thereby, the entire Creation, along with the Holy Spirit’s contribution, transforms into Christ’s body and blood, through a transcendence process. At the Holy Mass the summit of the liturgy is the Eucharistic celebration. In developing ways more familiar with it, the mother tongue liturgy brought a significant change.
The healing Eucharist
At the Last Supper it is Jesus himself who presents the Eucharist, then the ordained priests follow him. They are the ones celebrating on behalf of Jesus. In fact, besides the priests, the entire faithful community participates and joins the event. That is the reason that an active and full participation in the Mass by receiving the Holy Communion is of primary importance. The Cardinal mentioned that surely this action is subject to some conditions, like baptism, confirmation and an appropriate life. Saint Paul warned us not to eat or drink the Eucharist dishonourably, since doing so we eat our judgement (Cor. 11:29). This warning should be taken very seriously! - noted the Archbishop.
As to John Onaiyekan it is part of the teaching that the Eucharist heals. Taking the Holy Sacrament is preceded by a confession, through which we get purified from our sins. The Cardinal sadly noted that many fail to do their confession, and are just rushing to the Altar for the Holy Host without being spiritually prepared.
The Eucharist must be protected from politics!
The Cardinal raised up the topic of the Catholic politicians’ responsibility, who should keep in mind when taking decisions – with special regard to the matter of abortion – the teachings of the Catholic Church. Abortion “is the killing of innocent unborn children” – emphasized John Onaiyekan. The Church should protect the Eucharist, and must ensure that the Eucharist does not fall into the arena of political fights. “Don’t let more damage be done that we wanted to avoid.” In his conclusion he invited everyone for solidarity: “We do not share the Heavenly Bread only. We should share our earthly bread as well. In his farewell words he said: “Our prayer in the Eucharist for the entire humankind is our valuable contribution to the healing of the world.” The Nigerian Cardinal’s catechesis received a huge applause by the Hungexpo attendees.
Photo: Marcsi Ambrus