20 June 2017

Address for the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament from the Church of Our Lady Immaculate, Farm Street, visiting the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family for Benediction, Latin Feast of Corpus Christi, 18th June, 2017

Today, before the Sacrament of the Eucharist, our gaze is held by the vision of the Universal Church: one, holy, Catholic and apostolic. Today we are all one, in the same anticipation of that moment immediately before Holy Communion, now repeated in this ceremony of adoration, and of hope. Today the most precious Gift of the Western Church comes in solemn rite to the Eastern Church, and this Blessed Sacrament conjoins us in Its Presence. Today we stand on the imminent edge of the perfect union of eternity; we see the end to our divisions, between Catholic and Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican, nation and nation, between race and race, the rulers and the ruled, rich and poor, between rival principle, ideal and passion; and between earthbound preoccupation and heavenly peace, good will. Today we see before us the resolution of everything in the Kingdom of God that has come among us.

For God is with us! The Latin Church’s adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed, and the rite of Benediction, is not part of the custom of the Byzantine Church. But, like you, who have brought the Lord in His Presence here to us with such honour, we also reserve the Sacrament upon the Altar in the Ark, so that we may bring the Lord to the sick and dying, and to those newly reconciled to Christ after Confession. Yet it is untrue to think that we adore the Presence of God among us any less than our Latin fellow Catholics. Indeed, every Divine Liturgy that we serve contains the rites and customs that are resemble yours at the rite of Benediction.

Immediately after the Eucharist is consecrated, we bow down in worship and cover it with clouds of incense. And in that moment of high anticipation before Communion, we pause to contemplate His Presence and we pray to the Lord, who is God with us,

Attend, O Lord, Jesus Christ our God, from Your holy dwelling place and from the throne of glory in Your Kingdom, and come to sanctify us, You, who are seated on high with the Father and invisibly present here with us.
Then, at the end of the Holy Communion, when the Lord returns to the Holy Place, the priest holds up the Holy Gifts of Christ’s Body and Blood in the chalice, and he blesses them with It in the sign of the Cross, saying,
Save Your people, O God, and bless Your inheritance.
At once, the people acclaim,
We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith. We worship the undivided Trinity for having saved us.
So, in a way, the rite of Benediction is a treasure of the Church of the East that is shared and loved in the Latin West. For us, it is integral to our Divine Liturgy, heaven amid the world; for you, it takes the Liturgy out and beyond. It is all the same mystery, approaching us in different ways, and drawing us into the same Kingdom of Heaven according to the different roads the Lord has provided for us to walk with Him - from your part of Jerusalem and our part of Jerusalem - to His Emmaus where He makes Himself known in the breaking of Bread.
On this your Feast of Corpus Christi, the most precious Thing that heaven affords you have brought on your path as the Church through this world. In the western Tradition, the Sacrament is exposed and adored, for moments, for hours, perpetually. Thus, praying without thinking, prayer without words, unites the adoring soul into the prayer of Christ Himself, into His intercession. It bonds us in His work of mediation, and brings to fruition the prayer of the night before He died that we may all be one, as He and the Father are one in unbroken and eternal communication of self-giving love. In the East, such an act of adoration is not the custom. Yet we can add a "take" of our own.
You see before you the Iconostasis, bearing the icons of the Lord, the Mother of God and the saints, looking out from the Holy Place where the Blessed Eucharist now stands enthroned. We constantly venerate these icons. But they are never the mere objects of our devotion. For it is not we who look at them, but they whose image looks out on us. It is as though here, in the Temple, the veil between the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of this world is very thin. This is what we mean by the reign and the Kingdom of God. Here, against this very thin veil, the Lord and His saints, and "The One who Bore Him", press their faces, transfigured in glory, to look upon us, to hold our gaze, to attract our hearts into the mysteries of the Divine Majesty that lies beyond, to ensure that the Divine Majesty transfigures us too, and adorns every aspect of our faith, our hope, our love and our living as His disciples. So, while we look in adoration upon the Church’s Most Blessed Sacrament, to the world we are regarding nothing more than a symbol, an object, a work of spiritual imagination. Yet thanks to the gift of faith, we see that quietly, insistently, almost unnoticed, we are being surveyed by one Thing in our midst that is constant and unmoving in a life of constant change and re-arrangement: we are being measured for the Kingdom of God, we are being asked by the Lord to stay with Him, to persevere, and to allow grace upon grace to take its effect. So it is not just that we venerate the Lord, for our Creator in His humility and mercy has chosen in the Lord's humanity to venerate us and raise us up. It is less that we adore and pour out our hearts to Him, and more that He adores us and pours our His heart upon us. It is less that we hope for heaven, and more that He hopes for the world. It is less that we are sinners, and more that He is Mercy Itself. It is less that we hope to come to the Kingdom of God, and more that He is our King. For God is with us.
And so we declare, “we have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith. We worship the undivided Trinity for having saved us.”
The address was followed immediately by a recitation of the Prayer before the Ambo from the Divine Liturgy of St John Chryosostom, and Benediction in the Latin rite.