During the celebration of the Lord's Passion, the Preacher of the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa recalled that the Eucharist, fruit of the Lord's Passion, is the only hope for a world that mocks God.
The solemn commemoration of Good Friday was led by Cardinal J. Francis Stafford at the Basilica of St. Peter. After the reading of the Passion, Father Cantalamessa delivered an moving homily inspired by the Church's traditional Eucharistic prayers.
"Good Friday of the year 2005, the year of the Eucharist! What light is shed on both these mysteries when we think of the two together! And yet a question arises. If the Eucharist is 'the memorial of the Passion', why is it that the Church abstains from celebrating it precisely on Good Friday? For we are now gathered to take part, not in a Mass, but rather in a liturgy of the Passion in which we will receive the body of Christ consecrated yesterday," Father Cantalamessa began.
"The fact that we do not celebrate the Eucharist today does not weaken, but rather strengthens, the bond between Good Friday and the Eucharist. The Eucharist is to the death of Christ as the sound and the voice are to the word they carry through the space into the ear of the listeners."
Father Cantalamessa referred to the traditional Latin hymn, "Adoro te devote" and said "It is not possible to find a better way to bring to light the link between the Eucharist and the cross. Written in the thirteenth century as an accompaniment to the elevation of the Host at Mass, it serves us today equally well as our salutation of Christ raised up on the cross."
"The Eucharist is the way Jesus invented to remain forever Emmanuel, God-with-us," he continued. "This presence is a guarantee, not only for the Church, but for the entire world. 'God is on our side', that is, on the side of humankind, our friend and ally against the powers of evil. God alone personifies the kingdom of good against the kingdom of evil. We need to bear witness to this hope that is in us, rising up against the gloomy wind of pessimism blowing through our society."
"Faith gives us the assurance that, whatever may happen, it will not be the total and final end. God did not reconcile the world to himself only to abandon it to nothingness; he did not promise to remain with us to the end of the world only to go, alone, back to his heaven when that end comes," Father Cantalamessa noted.
"The Eucharist is the sacrament of non-violence! Thanks to the Eucharist, God's absolute 'no' to violence, spoken on the cross, echoes alive down the centuries. And, at the same time, it is God's 'yes' to the innocent victims, and it is the place where all the blood spilled on earth joins with the blood of Christ and cries out to God and 'pleads more insistently than Abel's'.
"But Christ's meekness is no justification for the violence that is done today to his person, and in fact renders it the queerer, the more odious. This is not just a question of the pressure to remove the cross from public places and the crib from Christmas folklore. In an unending stream of novels films and plays, writers manipulate the figure of Christ under cover of imaginary and non-existent new documents and discoveries. This is becoming a fashion, a literary genre."
"It is trading on the vast resonance of the name of Christ and on all that he means to a large part of humankind, to achieve wide publicity at very little cost, or to shock with advertisements which exploit Gospel symbols and images, as the one of the Last Supper. This is literary parasitism!"
"Yet if in some extreme cases believers react and phone to protest about these things, some people are scandalised and decry it as intolerance and censorship. Intolerance has changed sides in our day, at least in the West: where we used to have religious intolerance, we now have intolerance of religion!"
"We could perhaps appeal to these people of our time, not only for our own sake but for theirs as well," concluded Father Cantalamessa, "saying what Tertullian said to gnostics of his time who denied the humanity of Christ: 'Parce unicae spei totius orbis': Do not destroy the only hope of the world”.