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BY Jim Cosgrove
The Jubilee Year 2000 is an “intensely Eucharistic year,” Pope John Paul II reminded the Church in the Letter to Priests he signed in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, traditional site of the Last Supper. His words for Holy Thursday, from Nos. 14-18, follow.
My dear brother priests, who on Holy Thursday gather in the cathedrals around your pastors, just as the presbyters of the Church in Rome gather around the Successor of Peter, please accept these reflections, my meditation in the evocative setting of the Upper Room! It would be hard to find a place better able to stir thoughts of both the Eucharistic mystery and the mystery of our priesthood.
Let us remain faithful to what the Upper Room “hands on” to us, to the great gift of Holy Thursday. May we always celebrate the Holy Eucharist with fervor. May we dwell long and often in adoration before Christ in the Eucharist. May we sit at the “school” of the Eucharist. Through the centuries, countless priests have found in the Eucharist the consolation promised by Jesus on the evening of the Last Supper, the secret to overcoming their solitude, the strength to bear their sufferings, the nourishment to make a new beginning after every discouragement, and the inner energy to bolster their decision to remain faithful. The witness which we give to the People of God in celebrating the Eucharist depends in large part upon our own personal relationship with the Eucharist.
Let us rediscover our priesthood in the light of the Eucharist! Let us help our communities to rediscover this treasure in the daily celebration of Holy Mass, and especially in the more solemn Sunday assembly. Through your apostolic labors, may love for Christ present in the Eucharist grow stronger. This is a particularly important goal in this Jubilee Year. I think of the International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Rome from 18-25 June, which has as its theme Jesus Christ, the one Savior of the World, bread for our life. It will be a highlight of the Great Jubilee, which is meant to be “an intensely Eucharistic year” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, No. 55). The Congress will emphasize the profound link between the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word and the Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ's real presence.
From the Upper Room, I embrace you in the Eucharist. May the image of Christ surrounded by his own at the Last Supper fill each of us with a vibrant sense of brotherhood and communion. Great painters have employed their finest gifts in depicting the face of Christ among his Apostles in the scene of the Last Supper: How can we forget Leonardo's masterpiece? But only the saints, by the intensity of their love, can enter the depths of this mystery, leaning their head, as it were, like John, on the Lord's breast (see John 13:25). Here in fact we come to the height of love: “[H]aving loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”