.- Pope Benedict XVI continued his series of reflections on prayer at his Jan. 11 general audience by explaining why the Eucharist stands at âthe apexâ of all Christian prayers.
âBy participating in the Eucharist we have an extraordinary experience of the prayer which Jesus made, and continues to make for us all,â he said to the 7,000 pilgrims gathered in the Vaticanâs Paul VI Hall.
Jesus offers us this prayer, he taught, so that âthe evil we encounter in our lives may not triumph, and that the transforming power of Christâs death and resurrection may act within each of us.â
The Popeâs reflections today were part of his ongoing set of discourses on prayer. He devoted his Jan. 11 words to explaining the deep significance of the Last Supper in salvation history, with âits overtones of the Passover and the commemoration of Israelâs liberation.â
This connection is why the prayer of Jesus âechoes the Hebrew berakah, which includes both thanksgiving and the gift of a blessing.â Christâs act of âbreaking the bread and offering the cup on the night before he diedâ thereby becomes âthe sign of his redemptive self-oblation in obedience to the Fatherâs will,â the Pope said.
In doing so, Pope Benedict taught, Jesus revealed himself as âthe true paschal lambâ which brings the ancient worship of the Jewish people to fulfillment.
It was also Christâs wish that the supper be âsomething special, different from other gatherings,â and so he âgave something completely new: Himself,â in anticipation of his cross and resurrection.
âHe offered in advance the life that would shortly be taken from him, thus transforming his violent death into a free act of the giving of self, for others and to others. The violence he suffered became an active, free and redemptive sacrifice.â
The Pope said that in contemplating the words and gestures of Jesus âwe can clearly see that it was in his intimate and constant relationship with the Father that he accomplished the gesture of leaving to his followers, and to all of us, the sacrament of love.â
He also gave support to his disciples, knowing the difficulty they had âin understanding that the way of God had to pass through the Paschal mystery of death and resurrection, which was anticipated in the offer of bread and wine.â
Pope Benedict noted that even today the Eucharist is âthe food of pilgrimsâ as well as âa source of strengthâ for those who are âtired, weary and disoriented.â
He concluded his reflection by praying that the Eucharist âalways remain the apex of all our prayers,â especially through proper preparation for it, including receiving the Sacrament of Penance.
Among the more noticeable guests at this morningâs general audience was a live Cuban crocodile brought to the Vatican by the staff of Romeâs zoo, the âBioparco,â which is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary.
The Cuban crocodile is an endangered species and can only be found in a small part of Cuba. Todayâs specimen will be returned to the country in March which, by coincidence, is also when Pope Benedict visits the Caribbean island.