Today is the feast of St. John Paul II. On this day, it is fitting to look at his writing on the Holy Eucharist since it was the center of his life and it is the center of the Church. His devotion to the Eucharist was evident to those who were at Mass with him or who saw him during Eucharistic Adoration. Jason Everet quoted an observer in his book St. John Paul the Great: His Five Loves, “He lingered lovingly over every syllable that recalled the Last Supper as if the words were new to him.” He would follow the words of Consecration with profound genuflection. Everet goes on to explain that John Paul became a priest precisely because of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, “For me, the Mass constitutes the center of my life and my every day…nothing means more to me or gives me greater joy than to celebrate Mass each day and to serve God’s people in the Church.” It should come as no surprise given his great love for the Holy Eucharist, that he devoted an encyclical to the topic.
On April 17, 2003, which was Holy Thursday, then Pope John Paul II promulgated his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: On the Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church. It is a rich, profound, and beautiful reflection on the theological connection between the Eucharist and the Church. It is an encyclical worth reading and praying with over and over again. It begins:
The Church draws her life from the Eucharist. This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church. In a variety of ways she joyfully experiences the constant fulfillment of the promise: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20), but in the Holy Eucharist, through the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, she rejoices in this presence with unique intensity.
Ecclesia de Eucharistia 1