The following article is excerpted from Zenit's translation of Pope Benedict's question and answer session with priests of the diocese of Rome. It is part of a longer answer about the centrality of the Eucharistic celebration. The priest who asked the question wanted Benedict's take on the notion that all theology should be connected to the theology of the Eucharist. I think this is one of the most brilliant reflections I have ever read from Benedict.
The mystery is the heart from which comes our strength, and to which we return to find this center. And that is why I think that catechesis, let us say mystagogic [catechesis], is really important. Mystagogic also means realistic, referred to our life of men of today. If it is true that man in himself knows not his measure -- that he is just and that he is not just -- but that he finds his measure outside of himself, in God; it is important that this God not be distant but reconcilable, concrete, that he enter our lives and really be a friend with whom we can talk and who talks with us. We must learn to celebrate the Eucharist, learn to know Jesus Christ, the God with a human face, up close, really enter into contact with him, learn to listen to him and to allow him to enter into us. Because sacramental communion is precisely this interpenetration between two persons. I am not taking a piece of bread, or flesh, but I take or I open my heart so that the Risen One will enter the context of my being, so that he is within me and not just outside of me, and thus speaks with me and transforms my being. He gives me the sense of justice, the dynamism of justice, in zeal for the Gospel. (Wow, finally a confirmation that the Eucharist is about the Risen Christ.)
This celebration, in which God not only comes close to us, but enters into the fabric of our existence, is essential to really be able to live with God and for God and to take the light of God to this world. Let us not go into too many details now. But it is always important that the sacramental catechesis be an existential catechesis. Of course, even accepting and increasingly learning the mystic aspect -- where words and reasoning fail -- the latter is totally realistic, because it leads me to God, and God to me. It leads me to the other because the other receives the same Christ, as I do. Hence, if the same Christ is in him and me, we also are no longer separate individual beings. Herein lies the birth of the doctrine of the Body of Christ, because we have all been incorporated if we receive the Eucharist correctly in the same Christ. Hence, my neighbor is truly close: we are no longer two separate "I"s, but we are united in the same "I" of Christ. (In my book, this is what makes a Catholic a Catholic, the understanding that we are united in the same "I" of Christ through partaking in the Eucharist.)
In other words, Eucharistic and sacramental catechesis must really go to the depth of our existence, to be, in fact, education to open myself to the voice of God, to let myself be opened to break this original sin of egoism and to open my existence profoundly, so that I will really be just. In this sense, it seems to me that we must all learn the liturgy better, not as something exotic but as the heart of our being Christian, which does not open easily to a distant man, but which is, on the other hand, precisely openness to the other, to the world. We must all collaborate in celebrating the Eucharist ever more profoundly: not only as a rite but as an existential process that touches me profoundly, more than anything else, and changes me, transforms me and, by transforming me, sparks the transformation of the world that the Lord desires and of which He wishes to make me an instrument.
The Eucharist is an existential process that happens to be codified in a ritual. All valid spiritual ceremonies are at their heart existential processes. They derive their power from relationship, not ritual. In the Mass Catholics celebrate and engage in a relationship with the Risen Christ, and it's real. The only limits to the extent of the relationship are ones of our own creating. No one has any God given right to deny this relationship to any other believer. When it happens, it's because it's a Man taken right, and as such it has no basis in God's reality.
If this Eucharistic understanding of Benedict's really was the central teaching around which all other teachings orbit, this understanding of Benedict's would radically reform the Church. It is not only a good place to start, it is the core place to start and this is great theology. At least in my humble opinion.