Encountering Christ in the Eucharist
We need the living Christ, whom we can know only through our encounter with him. But encounter presumes actual presence—the Real Presence, which, in turn, requires the Sacrament and the Church that alone is authorized to give us the Sacrament, the Church that Christ himself willed into existence and continues to support. The Eucharist, at each new celebration, must be recognized anew as the core of our Christian life. But we cannot celebrate the Eucharist adequately if we are content to reduce it to a ritual of—more or less—a half-hour’s duration. To receive Christ means to worship him. We welcome him properly and worthily at the solemn moment of receiving him only when we worship him and in worshipping him learn to know him, come to understand his nature, and follow him. We need to learn once more how to rest peacefully in his gentle presence in our churches, where the Eucharist is likewise always present because Christ intercedes for us before the Father, because he always awaits us and speaks to us. We must learn again how to draw inwardly close to him, for it is only thus that we become worthy of the Eucharist. We cannot prepare ourselves to receive the Eucharist simply by thinking about how it should be done. We can prepare for it only when we try to comprehend the depths of its demands on us, of its greatness; when we do not reduce it to our level, but let ourselves be raised to its exalted level; when we become aware of the accumulated sound of the prayers offered during all the centuries in which generations of men have advanced and are still advancing toward Christ. It is petty and undiscerning to criticize such prayers because we do not understand them; it is an expression of a genuinely “critical” sentiment (of which, be it noted, self-criticism is also a form) when we begin to recognize their greatness and, opening ourselves to that greatness, let ourselves be deepened and purified by it.
From: Joseph Ratzinger, Roman homilies, October 12, 1982