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The Eucharist: The Church’s Source of Unity
Alan Schreck completes his explanation of the Encyclical Letter, ‘Ecclesia de Eucharistia’, highlighting John Paul II’s teaching on the Eucharist as a source and deepening of communion with the Trinity and with each other in the Church. Here we conclude our study of Pope John Paul II’s final encyclical letter, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (on the Church and the Eucharist) published on Holy Thursday, 2003. Chapter IV of the encyclical focuses on the central theme of the Second Vatican Council: communion. The entire purpose of God’s saving design is to bring humanity back into loving communion with himself and with each other after the original sin disrupted and broke this communion. The Eucharist is one of the great gifts God has provided to restore and deepen our communion with God and with each other. As the Pope observes: ‘It is not by chance that the term “communion” has become one of the names given to this sublime sacrament… The Eucharist thus appears as the culmination of all the sacraments in perfecting our communion with God the Father by identification with his only-begotten Son through the working of the Holy Spirit’ (no. 34). In response to this great gift, the Holy Father urges us to cultivate a constant desire for the Eucharist. He affirms St. Teresa of Avila’s practice of making a ‘spiritual communion’ if one cannot attend Mass (34).