and The Sacrament of Charity
On March 13, 2007, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI issued his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, addressed to bishops, clergy and consecrated persons, but also to the lay faithful, formally closing the Synod of Bishops held in Rome in October 2005.
His topic was "The Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission."
The pope, embracing his role as Supreme Teacher of theological truth, re-affirms doctrine on the Eucharist, and offers guidelines for making it the center of our lives.
Some excerpts, particularly pertinent to musicians and liturgists, follow.
 Jesus continues, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, to love us "to the end," even to offering us his body and his blood.
What amazement must the Apostles have felt in witnessing what the Lord did and said during that Supper!
What wonder must the eucharistic mystery also awaken in our own hearts!
The development of the Eucharistic rite
 From the varied forms of the early centuries, still resplendent in the rites of the Ancient Churches of the East, up to the spread of the Roman rite; from the clear indications of the Council of Trent and the Missal of Saint Pius V to the liturgical renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council: in every age of the Church's history the eucharistic celebration, as the source and summit of her life and mission, shines forth in the liturgical rite in all its richness and variety.
The difficulties and even the occasional abuses which were noted, it was affirmed, cannot overshadow the benefits and the validity of the liturgical renewal, whose riches are yet to be fully explored.
Concretely, the changes which the Council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of the historical development of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities.
The Church's Eucharistic faith
 The Sacrament of the Altar is always at the heart of the Church's life: "thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew!"
The more lively the eucharistic faith of the People of God, the deeper is its sharing in ecclesial life in steadfast commitment to the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples.
The Eucharist, the fullness of Christian initiation
 As the Synod Fathers said, we need to ask ourselves whether in our Christian communities the close link between Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist is sufficiently recognized.
In persona Christi capitis
 The Church teaches that priestly ordination is the indispensable condition for the valid celebration of the Eucharist.
Indeed, "in the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, High Priest of the redemptive sacrifice."
Certainly the ordained minister also acts "in the name of the whole Church, when presenting to God the prayer of the Church, and above all when offering the eucharistic sacrifice."
As a result, priests should be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in first place, but Jesus Christ.
Any attempt to make themselves the centre of the liturgical action contradicts their very identity as priests.
The priest is above all a servant of others, and he must continually work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord's hands.
This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart, and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality.
I encourage the clergy always to see their eucharistic ministry as a humble service offered to Christ and his Church.
The priesthood, as Saint Augustine said, is amoris officium, it is the office of the good shepherd, who offers his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:14-15).
The Eucharist and the Virgin Mary
 From the Annunciation to the Cross, Mary is the one who received the Word, made flesh within her and then silenced in death.
It is she, lastly, who took into her arms the lifeless body of the one who truly loved his own "to the end" (Jn 13:1).
Consequently, every time we approach the Body and Blood of Christ in the eucharistic liturgy, we also turn to her who, by her complete fidelity, received Christ's sacrifice for the whole Church.
The Synod Fathers rightly declared that "Mary inaugurates the Church's participation in the sacrifice of the Redeemer."
She is the Immaculata, who receives God's gift unconditionally and is thus associated with his work of salvation.
Mary of Nazareth, icon of the nascent Church, is the model for each of us, called to receive the gift that Jesus makes of himself in the Eucharist.
Lex orandi and lex credendi
 The Synod of Bishops reflected at length on the intrinsic relationship between eucharistic faith and eucharistic celebration, pointing out the connection between the lex orandi and the lex credendi, and stressing the primacy of the liturgical action.
The Eucharist should be experienced as a mystery of faith, celebrated authentically and with a clear awareness that "the intellectus fidei has a primordial relationship to the Church's liturgical action."
Theological reflection in this area can never prescind from the sacramental order instituted by Christ himself.
On the other hand, the liturgical action can never be considered generically, prescinding from the mystery of faith.
Our faith and the eucharistic liturgy both have their source in the same event: Christ's gift of himself in the Paschal Mystery.
Beauty and the liturgy
 This relationship between creed and worship is evidenced in a particular way by the rich theological and liturgical category of beauty.
Like the rest of Christian Revelation, the liturgy is inherently linked to beauty: it is veritatis splendor.
The liturgy is a radiant expression of the paschal mystery, in which Christ draws us to himself and calls us to communion.
As Saint Bonaventure would say, in Jesus we contemplate beauty and splendour at their source. This is no mere aestheticism, but the concrete way in which the truth of God's love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us, enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love.
God allows himself to be glimpsed first in creation, in the beauty and harmony of the cosmos (cf. Wis 13:5; Rom 1:19- 20).
In the Old Testament we see many signs of the grandeur of God's power as he manifests his glory in his wondrous deeds among the Chosen People (cf. Ex 14; 16:10; 24:12-18; Num 14:20- 23).
In the New Testament this epiphany of beauty reaches definitive fulfilment in God's revelation in Jesus Christ: Christ is the full manifestation of the glory of God.
In the glorification of the Son, the Father's glory shines forth and is communicated (cf. Jn 1:14; 8:54; 12:28; 17:1).
Yet this beauty is not simply a harmony of proportion and form; "the fairest of the sons of men" (Ps 45:3) is also, mysteriously, the one "who had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him" (Is 53:2).
Jesus Christ shows us how the truth of love can transform even the dark mystery of death into the radiant light of the resurrection.
Here the splendour of God's glory surpasses all worldly beauty.
The truest beauty is the love of God, who definitively revealed himself to us in the paschal mystery.
The beauty of the liturgy is part of this mystery; it is a sublime expression of God's glory and, in a certain sense, a glimpse of heaven on earth.
The memorial of Jesus' redemptive sacrifice contains something of that beauty which Peter, James and John beheld when the Master, making his way to Jerusalem, was transfigured before their eyes (cf. Mk 9:2).
Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation.
These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendor.
 In the course of the Synod, there was frequent insistence on the need to avoid any antithesis between the ars celebrandi, the art of proper celebration, and the full, active and fruitful participation of all the faithful.
The primary way to foster the participation of the People of God in the sacred rite is the proper celebration of the rite itself.
The ars celebrandi is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio.
The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness; indeed, for two thousand years this way of celebrating has sustained the faith life of all believers, called to take part in the celebration as the People of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (cf. I Pet 2:4-5, 9).