HEART OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE: Thoughts on Holy Mass
by Pope Benedict XVI
(Ignatius Press, 2010,110pp, $29.90.
ISBN: 978-1-58617-432-3. Available from Freedom Publishing)
"It's the Mass that matters." This old Catholic phrase encapsulates the centrality of the Mass in Christian worship. In this anthology of sermons and addresses, Pope Benedict XVI calls believers to reflect upon the importance of the Mass. As with his other spiritual works, Benedict draws on his insights that are the product not only of his extensive scholarship and reading, but more importantly also of his prayer and reflection.
In reading through the addresses a number of common themes emerge. Central to his reflections is the fact that the Eucharist is an intimate encounter with Christ because communicants receive Christ himself. Through this encounter, believers are called to grow in love of Christ and of their neighbour.
Benedict also emphasises the communal aspect of the Eucharist, contending that the Eucharist nourishes and builds up the whole body of Christ. He thus not only underscores the importance of the communitarian aspect of Christian life and worship, but subtly reminds readers that it is founded in the risen Christ and complements the idea expressed in his other writings that when the community gathers together, they do so to worship Christ, not themselves.
Because of the centrality of the Eucharist, the Sunday celebration, in honour of Christ's resurrection, is an integral part of a believer's life. Benedict thus reflects on the importance of keeping Sunday as the "Day of the Lord" and is highly critical of secularism which seeks to treat Sunday as any other day of the week and which ultimately ends up depriving people of the leisure not only to worship God but to take time out with their family from work and other commitments.
Heart of the Christian Life is best read as the basis of prayer and reflection, one address at a time. As the homilies and addresses are pitched for an average cross-section of believers, they do not require the extensive prior content knowledge that Benedict's more academically based works require. This volume would make for ideal reading at any time of the year, but would be particularly suitable as preparatory reading for the Feast of Corpus Christi.