6.The christian“performance” Baptismand the Eucharist: aprocess of transformationBeing Christian is not to say something, but undergo a process of transformation. A fact of history, theresurrection of Jesus, reaches me in and transformed me. This is what happens in baptism. The stars nameda quantum leap in evolution. The named is me, but not me, then mysteriously have joined their lives andthat of Christ, and Christ so that He will never leave, even in death. Thanks to the gift of baptism we areborn to new life, a life that is life. This transformation is most complete when we participate in theecuaristía, by which we becomethe Body of Christ.Mysterious claims, while essential to understanding the Christian identity.
1.6 Christianity is performativeChristianity was not only “good news”—the communication of a hitherto unknown content. In our language we would say: the Christianmessage was not only “informative” but “performative”. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hopelives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life. Spe Salvi 2 1.6.aIt is clear that this event is not just some miracle from the past, the occurrence of which could be ultimately a matter of indifference to us. It isa qualitative leap in the history of "evolution" and of life in general towards a new future life, towards a new world which, starting from Christ,already continuously permeates this world of ours, transforms it and draws it to itself. But how does this happen? How can this eventeffectively reach me and draw my life upwards towards itself? The answer, perhaps surprising at first but totally real, is: this event comes tome through faith and Baptism. For this reason Baptism is part of the Easter Vigil, as we see clearly in our celebration today, when thesacraments of Christian initiation will be conferred on a group of adults from various countries. Baptism means precisely this, that we are notdealing with an event in the past, but that a qualitative leap in world history comes to me, seizing hold of me in order to draw me on. Baptism is something quite different from an act of ecclesial socialization, from a slightly old-fashioned and complicated rite for receivingpeople into the Church. It is also more than a simple washing, more than a kind of purification and beautification of the soul. It is truly deathand resurrection, rebirth, transformation to a new life.How can we understand this? I think that what happens in Baptism can be more easily explained for us if we consider the final part of the shortspiritual autobiography that Saint Paul gave us in hisLetter to the Galatians. Its concluding words contain the heart of this biography: "It is nolonger I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). I live, but I am no longer I. The "I", the essential identity of man - of this man, Paul - hasbeen changed. He still exists, and he no longer exists. He has passed through a "not" and he now finds himself continually in this "not": I, butno longer I.With these words, Paul is not describing some mystical experience which could perhaps have been granted him, and could be of interest to usfrom a historical point of view, if at all. No, this phrase is an expression of what happened at Baptism. My "I" is taken away from me and isincorporated into a new and greater subject. This means that my "I" is back again, but now transformed, broken up, opened throughincorporation into the other, in whom it acquires its new breadth of existence. April 15, 2006 1.6.bThe great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life intowhich, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced. To live one’s own life as a continual entry into this open space:this is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter Vigil. The Resurrection is not a thing of the past, theResurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that he holds us firmly even whenour hands grow weak. We grasp hold of his hand, and thus we also hold on to one another’s hands, and we become one single subject, not justone thing. I, but no longer I: this is the formula of Christian life rooted in Baptism, the formula of the Resurrection within time. Vatican Basilica. Holy Saturday, April 15, 2006. 1.6.c2.6 I, but no longer II, but no longer I: if we live in this way, we transform the world. It is a formula contrary to all ideologies of violence, it is a programme opposedto corruption and to the desire for power and possession."I live and you will live also",says Jesus in Saint John’s Gospel (14:19) to his disciples, that is, to us. We will live through our existentialcommunion with him, through being taken up into him who is life itself. Eternal life, blessed immortality, we have not by ourselves or inourselves, but through a relation - through existential communion with him who is Truth and Love and is therefore eternal: God himself.Simple indestructibility of the soul by itself could not give meaning to eternal life, it could not make it a true life. Life comes to us from beingloved by him who is Life; it comes to us from living-with and loving-with him. I, but no longer I: this is the way of the Cross, the way that"crosses over" a life simply closed in on the I, thereby opening up the road towards true and lasting joy. Vatican Basilica. Holy Saturday, April 15, 2006. 2.6.aDuring his earthly life, Jesus, like all of us, was tied to the external conditions of bodily existence: to a determined place and a determinedtime. Bodiliness places limits on our existence. We cannot be simultaneously in two different places. Our time is destined to come to an end.And between the “I” and the “you” there is a wall of otherness. To be sure, through love we can somehow enter the other’sexistence. Nevertheless, the insurmountable barrier of being different remains in place. Yet Jesus, who is now totally transformed through theact of love, is free from such barriers and limits. He is able not only to pass through closed doors in the outside world, as the Gospels recount(cf. Jn 20:19). He can pass through the interior door separating the “I” from the “you”, the closed door between yesterday and today, betweenthe past and the future. On the day of his solemn entry into Jerusalem, when some Greeks asked to see him, Jesus replied with the parable ofthe grain of wheat which has to pass through death in order to bear much fruit. In this way he foretold his own destiny: these words were notaddressed simply to one or two Greeks in the space of a few minutes. Through his Cross, through his going away, through his dying like thegrain of wheat, he would truly arrive among the Greeks, in such a way that they could see him and touch him through faith. His going away istransformed into a coming, in the Risen Lord’s universal manner of presence, yesterday, today and for ever. He also comes today, and heembraces all times and all places. Now he can even surmount the wall of otherness that separates the “I” from the “you”. This happened withPaul, who describes the process of his conversion and his Baptism in these words: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” 2
(Gal 2:20). Through the coming of the Risen One, Paul obtained a new identity. His closed “I” was opened. Now he lives in communion withJesus Christ, in the great “I” of believers who have become – as he puts it – “one in Christ” (Gal 3:28).So, dear friends, it is clear that, through Baptism, the mysterious words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper become present for you once more.In Baptism, the Lord enters your life through the door of your heart. We no longer stand alongside or in opposition to one another. He passesthrough all these doors. This is the reality of Baptism: he, the Risen One, comes; he comes to you and joins his life with yours, drawing youinto the open fire of his love. You become one, one with him, and thus one among yourselves. St. Peter Basilica, Holy Saturday, March 22, 2008. 2.6.bThis is the reality of Baptism: he, the Risen One, comes; he comes to you and joins his life with yours, drawing you into the open fire of hislove. You become one, one with him, and thus one among yourselves. At first this can sound rather abstract and unrealistic. But the more youlive the life of the baptized, the more you can experience the truth of these words. Believers – the baptized – are never truly cut off from oneanother. Continents, cultures, social structures or even historical distances may separate us. But when we meet, we know one another on thebasis of the same Lord, the same faith, the same hope, the same love, which form us. Then we experience that the foundation of our lives isthe same. We experience that in our inmost depths we are anchored in the same identity, on the basis of which all our outward differences,however great they may be, become secondary. Believers are never totally cut off from one another. We are in communion because of ourdeepest identity: Christ within us. Thus faith is a force for peace and reconciliation in the world: distances between people are overcome, inthe Lord we have become close (cf. Eph2:13). St. Peter Basilica, Holy Saturday, March 22, 2008.. 2.6.c"The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life" (Gn 2: 7). Man is this mysterious creaturewho comes entirely from the earth, but in whom has been placed the breath of God. Jesus breathes on the Apostles and gives them the breathof God in a new and greater way.In people, notwithstanding all of their limitations, there is now something absolutely new: the breath of God. The life of God lives in us. Thebreath of his love, of his truth and of his goodness. In this way we can see here too an allusion to Baptism and Confirmation, this newbelonging to God that the Lord gives to us. The Gospel Reading invites us to this: to live always within the breath of Jesus Christ, receiving lifefrom him, so that he may inspire in us authentic life, the life that no death may ever take away. Sunday, May 15, 2005. 2.6.d3.6 We say “yes” and “no”Baptism inserts us into communion with Christ and therefore gives life, life itself. We have thus interpreted the first dialogue we had with himhere at the entrance to the Sistine Chapel.Now, after the blessing of the water, a second dialogue of great importance will follow. This is its content: Baptism, as we have seen, is a gift;the gift of life. But a gift must be accepted, it must be lived.A gift of friendship implies a "yes" to the friend and a "no" to all that is incompatible with this friendship, to all that is incompatible with the lifeof Gods family, with true life in Christ.Consequently, in this second dialogue, three "noes" and three "yeses" are spoken. We say "no" and renounce temptation, sin and the devil.We know these things well but perhaps, precisely because we have heard them too often, the words may not mean much to us.If this is the case, we must think a little more deeply about the content of these "noes". What are we saying "no" to? This is the only way tounderstand what we want to say "yes" to.In the ancient Church these "noes" were summed up in a phrase that was easy to understand for the people of that time: they renounced,they said, the "pompa diabuli", that is, the promise of life in abundance, of that apparent life that seemed to come from the pagan world, fromits permissiveness, from its way of living as one pleased.It was therefore "no" to a culture of what seemed to be an abundance of life, to what in fact was an "anticulture" of death. It was "no" tothose spectacles in which death, cruelty and violence had become an entertainment.Let us remember what was organized at the Colosseum or here, in Neros gardens, where people were set on fire like living torches. Crueltyand violence had become a form of amusement, a true perversion of joy, of the true meaning of life.This "pompa diabuli", this "anticulture" of death was a corruption of joy, it was love of deceit and fraud and the abuse of the body as acommodity and a trade. Sistine Chapel, Sunday, January 8, 2006. 3.6.aJust as in this baptismal dialogue the "no" is expressed in three renunciations, so too the "yes" is expressed in three expressions ofloyalty: "yes" to the living God, that is, a God Creator and a creating reason who gives meaning to the cosmos and to our lives; "yes" to Christ,that is, to a God who did not stay hidden but has a name, words, a body and blood; to a concrete God who gives us life and shows us the pathof life; "yes" to the communion of the Church, in which Christ is the living God who enters our time, enters our profession, enters daily life.We might also say that the Face of God, the content of this culture of life, the content of our great "yes", is expressed in the TenCommandments, which are not a pack of prohibitions, of "noes", but actually present a great vision of life.They are a "yes" to a God who gives meaning to life (the first three Commandments); a "yes" to the family (Fourth Commandment); a "yes" tolife (Fifth Commandment); a "yes" to responsible love (Sixth Commandment); a "yes" to solidarity, to social responsibility, to justice (SeventhCommandment); a "yes" to the truth (Eighth Commandment); a "yes" to respect for others and for their belongings (Ninth and 10thCommandments). 3
Sistine Chapel, Sunday, January 8, 2006. 3.6.bBasically, it is a matter of choosing between selfishness and love, between justice and dishonesty and ultimately, between God and Satan. Ifloving Christ and ones brethren is not to be considered as something incidental and superficial but, rather, the true and ultimate purpose ofour whole existence, it will be necessary to know how to make basic choices, to be prepared to make radical renouncements, if necessary evento the point of martyrdom. Today, as yesterday, Christian life demands the courage to go against the tide, to love like Jesus, who even went sofar as to sacrifice himself on the Cross. St. Clemente´s Square. Velletri-Segni Sunday September 23, 2007. 3.6.c4.6 We born againThis is exactly what happens in Baptism: he draws us towards himself, he draws us into true life. He leads us through the often murky sea ofhistory, where we are frequently in danger of sinking amid all the confusion and perils. In Baptism he takes us, as it were, by the hand, he leadsus along the path that passes through the Red Sea of this life and introduces us to everlasting life, the true and upright life. Let us grasp hishand firmly! Whatever may happen, whatever may befall us, let us not lose hold of his hand! Let us walk along the path that leads to life. St. Peter´s Basilica, Holy Saturday, March 22, 2008. 4.6.aThese words of the Psalm, read as a dialogue between the Risen Christ and ourselves, also explain what takes place at Baptism. Baptism ismore than a bath, a purification. It is more than becoming part of a community. It is a new birth. A new beginning in life. The passage ofthe Letter to the Romans which we have just read says, in words filled with mystery, that in Baptism we have been “grafted” onto Christ bylikeness to his death. In Baptism we give ourselves over to Christ – he takes us unto himself, so that we no longer live for ourselves, butthrough him, with him and in him; so that we live with him and thus for others. In Baptism we surrender ourselves, we place our lives in hishands, and so we can say with Saint Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” If we offer ourselves in this way, if we accept,as it were, the death of our very selves, this means that the frontier between death and life is no longer absolute. On either side of death weare with Christ and so, from that moment forward, death is no longer a real boundary. Paul tells us this very clearly in his Letter to thePhilippians: “For me to live is Christ. To be with him (by dying) is gain. Yet if I remain in this life, I can still labour fruitfully. And so I am hardpressed between these two things. To depart – by being executed – and to be with Christ; that is far better. But to remain in this life is morenecessary on your account” (cf. 1:21ff.). On both sides of the frontier of death, Paul is with Christ – there is no longer a real difference. Yes, it istrue: “Behind and before you besiege me, your hand ever laid upon me” (Ps 138 : 5). To the Romans Paul wrote: “No one … lives tohimself and no one dies to himself… Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom 14:7ff.). Vatican Basilica, Holy Saturday, April 7,2007. 4.6.bIn this context we may recall that Moses’ mother placed him in a basket in the Nile. Then, through God’s providence, he was taken out of thewater, carried from death to life, and thus – having himself been saved from the waters of death – he was able to lead others through the seaof death. Jesus descended for us into the dark waters of death. But through his blood, so the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, he was broughtback from death: his love united itself to the Father’s love, and thus from the abyss of death he was able to rise to life. Now he raises us fromthe waters of death to true life. Vatican Basilica, Holy Thursday, April 5, 2007. 4.6.c5.6 … and we won´t dieThis is what is new about Baptism: our life now belongs to Christ, and no longer to ourselves. As a result we are never alone, even in death, butare always with the One who lives for ever. In Baptism, in the company of Christ, we have already made that cosmic journey to the very abyssof death. At his side and, indeed, drawn up in his love, we are freed from fear. He enfolds us and carries us wherever we may go – he who isLife itself. Vatican Basilica, April 7, 2007. 5.6.awe know that Christ has truly risen from the dead. Yes, indeed! This is the fundamental core of our profession of faith; this is the cry of victorythat unites us all today. And if Jesus is risen, and is therefore alive, who will ever be able to separate us from him? Who will ever be able todeprive us of the love of him who has conquered hatred and overcome death?The Easter proclamation spreads throughout the world with the joyful song of the Alleluia. Let us sing it with our lips, and let us sing it aboveall with our hearts and our lives, with a manner of life that is “unleavened”, that is to say, simple, humble, and fruitful in good works. “SurrexitChristus spes mea: praecedet vos in Galileam” – Christ my hope is risen, and he goes before you into Galilee. The Risen One goes before us andhe accompanies us along the paths of the world. He is our hope, He is the true peace of the world. Domingo, 12 abril 2009 5.6.b6.6 Enter in the lightThe early Church described Baptism as fotismos, as the Sacrament of illumination, as a communication of light, and linked it inseparably withthe resurrection of Christ. In Baptism, God says to the candidate: “Let there be light!” The candidate is brought into the light of Christ. Christnow divides the light from the darkness. In him we recognize what is true and what is false, what is radiance and what is darkness. With him,there wells up within us the light of truth, and we begin to understand. On one occasion when Christ looked upon the people who had come tolisten to him, seeking some guidance from him, he felt compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mk 6:34).Amid the contradictory messages of that time, they did not know which way to turn. What great compassion he must feel in our own time too 4
– on account of all the endless talk that people hide behind, while in reality they are totally confused. Where must we go? What are the valuesby which we can order our lives? The values by which we can educate our young, without giving them norms they may be unable to resist, ordemanding of them things that perhaps should not be imposed upon them? He is the Light. The baptismal candle is the symbol ofenlightenment that is given to us in Baptism. Thus at this hour, Saint Paul speaks to us with great immediacy. In the Letter to the Philippians,he says that, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, Christians should shine as lights in the world (cf. Phil 2:15). Let us pray to theLord that the fragile flame of the candle he has lit in us, the delicate light of his word and his love amid the confusions of this age, will not beextinguished in us, but will become ever stronger and brighter, so that we, with him, can be people of the day, bright stars lighting up ourtime. St. Peter´s Basilica, Holy Saturday, April 11, 2009. 6.6.aDarkness, at times, can seem comfortable. I can hide, and spend my life asleep. Yet we are not called to darkness, but to light. In ourbaptismal promises, we rekindle this light, so to speak, year by year. Yes, I believe that the world and my life are not the product of chance, butof eternal Reason and eternal Love, they are created by Almighty God. Yes, I believe that in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, in his Cross andresurrection, the face of God has been revealed; that in him, God is present in our midst, he unites us and leads us towards our goal, towardseternal Love. Yes, I believe that the Holy Spirit gives us the word of truth and enlightens our hearts; I believe that in the communion of theChurch we all become one Body with the Lord, and thus we encounter his resurrection and eternal life. The Lord has granted us the light oftruth. St. Peter´s Basilica, Holy Saturday, March 22, 2008. 6.6.b7.6 …and in the fireThis light is also fire, a powerful force coming from God, a force that does not destroy, but seeks to transform our hearts, so that we trulybecome men of God, and so that his peace can become active in this world.In the early Church there was a custom whereby the Bishop or the priest, after the homily, would cry out to the faithful: “Conversi adDominum” – turn now towards the Lord. This meant in the first place that they would turn towards the East, towards the rising sun, the sign ofChrist returning, whom we go to meet when we celebrate the Eucharist. Where this was not possible, for some reason, they would at leastturn towards the image of Christ in the apse, or towards the Cross, so as to orient themselves inwardly towards the Lord. Fundamentally, thisinvolved an interior event; conversion, the turning of our soul towards Jesus Christ and thus towards the living God, towards the true light. St. Peter´s Basilica, Holy Saturday, March 22, 2008. 7.6.a thGregory of Tours (4 century) recounts a practice that in some places was preserved for a long time, of lighting the new fire for the celebrationof the Easter Vigil directly from the sun, using a crystal.Light and fire, so to speak, were received anew from heaven, so that all the lights andfires of the year could be kindled from them. This is a symbol of what we are celebrating in the Easter Vigil. Through his radical love for us, inwhich the heart of God and the heart of man touched, Jesus Christ truly took light from heaven and brought it to the earth – the light of truthand the fire of love that transform man’s being. He brought the light, and now we know who God is and what God is like. Thus we also knowwhat our human situation is: what we are, and for what purpose we exist. St. Peter´s Basilica, Holy Saturday, March 22, 2008. 7.6.bWhen we are baptized, the fire of this light is brought down deep within ourselves. Thus, in the early Church, Baptism was also called theSacrament of Illumination: God’s light enters into us; thus we ourselves become children of light. We must not allow this light of truth, thatshows us the path, to be extinguished. We must protect it from all the forces that seek to eliminate it so as to cast us back into darknessregarding God and ourselves. Darkness, at times, can seem comfortable. I can hide, and spend my life asleep. Yet we are not called todarkness, but to light. CELEBRATION OF THE EASTER VIGIL. HOMILY. St. Peter´s Basilica, Holy Saturday, March 22, 2008. 7.6.c8.6 Transformation in the EucharistThe process of transformation must now gather momentum. The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will betransformed in our turn. We are to become the Body of Christ, his own Flesh and Blood.We all eat the one bread, and this means that we ourselves become one. In this way, adoration, as we said earlier, becomes union. God nolonger simply stands before us as the One who is totally Other. He is within us, and we are in him. His dynamic enters into us and then seeks tospread outwards to others until it fills the world, so that his love can truly become the dominant measure of the world. August 21, 2005 8.6.aWhat is happening? How can Jesus distribute his Body and his Blood? By making the bread into his Body and the wine into his Blood, heanticipates his death, he accepts it in his heart, and he transforms it into an action of love. What on the outside simply brutal violence - theCrucifixion - from is within becomes an act of total self-giving love. This is the substantial transformation which was accomplished at the LastSupper and was destined to set in motion a series of transformations leading ultimately to the transformation of the world when God will beall in all (cf. I Cor 15: 28).In their hearts, people always and everywhere have somehow expected a change, a transformation of the world. Herenow is the central act of transformation that alone can truly renew the world: violence is transformed into love, and death into life.Since thisact transmutes death into love, death as such is already conquered from within, the Resurrection is already present in it. Death is, so to speak,mortally wounded, so that it can no longer have the last word. 5
August 21, 2005 8.6.dLet us return once more to the Last Supper. The new element to emerge here was the deeper meaning given to Israels ancient prayer ofblessing, which from that point on became the word of transformation, enabling us to participate in the "hour" of Christ. Jesus did not instructus to repeat the Passover meal, which in any event, given that it is an anniversary, is not repeatable at will. He instructed us to enter into his"hour".We enter into it through the sacred power of the words of consecration - a transformation brought about through the prayer of praisewhich places us in continuity with Israel and the whole of salvation history, and at the same time ushers in the new, to which the older prayerat its deepest level was pointing. August 21, 2005 8.6.eThe new prayer - which the Church calls the "Eucharistic Prayer" - brings the Eucharist into being. It is the word of power which transforms thegifts of the earth in an entirely new way into Gods gift of himself, and it draws us into this process of transformation. That is why we call thisaction "Eucharist", which is a translation of the Hebrew word beracha - thanksgiving, praise, blessing, and a transformation worked by theLord: the presence of his "hour". Jesus hour is the hour in which love triumphs. In other words: it is God who has triumphed, because he isLove.Jesus hour seeks to become our own hour and will indeed become so if we allow ourselves, through the celebration of the Eucharist, to bedrawn into that process of transformation that the Lord intends to bring about. The Eucharist must become the centre of our lives. August 21, 2005 8.6.f 6