At the Feast of the Three Hosts on September 25 in Andechs Monastery, Bishop Asztrik Várszegi, long-time Archabbot of Pannonhalma (Hungary), promoted in very personal words "a deep and living experience of Jesus".

During his homily at the festive service, the bishop said, "Jesus, the Lord, wants to nourish us also today through his body and blood, to make us strong, hopeful and happy."

Andechs: Kloster - Dreihostienfest Foto: Nila Thiel
Andechs: Kloster - Dreihostienfest Foto: Nila Thiel
Andechs: Kloster - Dreihostienfest Foto: Nila Thiel

Connectedness over centuries

Bishop Asztrik emphasised the long-standing bond between two mountains - the Holy Mountain of Andechs - and the Martinsberg, the old name of the Archabbey of Pannonhalma. For him, this bond is also a very personal bridge to this day.

According to Bishop Asztrik, the two places are historically connected by "your and our Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia", whose mother, the Hungarian Queen Gertrud of Andechs-Merania, was born at Andechs Castle.

In the recent past, especially before and after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, he said, it was the many-sided and multiple help that Hungarian Catholics and Benedictines had received from the Bavarian Benedictines and in particular from St Boniface Abbey and personally Altabt Odilo. "I always feel obliged when I am in Bavaria to thank you. Your help has helped us to survive in dark times," the bishop reports from his own painful experience."

Andechs history deeply connected with the Eucharist

For Bishop Asztrik, the history of Andechs is very closely connected with the Eucharist, "because this very Eucharist is like a hidden treasure that is found again and again during Holy Mass."

Outwardly, one sees only the Eucharistic gifts of bread and wine, and yet "these gifts hold the highest good, the body and blood of our Lord". In this way, Jesus himself creates unity again and again and becomes the centre of the Christian community, said the Bishop. As pilgrims, it is important to set out again and again and to trust that the Lord gives us communion with him and with one another in the Eucharist.

"The Andechs pilgrimage to the Three Holy Hosts wants to remind us of this," Bishop Asztrik emphasised in conclusion, "the Lord lives in his Church. He is there for his Church. He gathers the faithful. The Andechs pilgrimage church invites us to do this again and again. May our Lord grow in you the longing for joy and happiness, ultimately for the life in fullness that the Lord alone can give us."

One of the oldest church festivals on the Holy Mountain

Several hundred people came to one of the oldest Andechs church festivals on the Holy Mountain. Flag delegations from the local associations took part in the festive service and the subsequent procession, as did Stefan Frey, District Administrator of the Starnberg district, and the Mayor of Andechs, Georg Scheitz.

With the Three Hosts Monstrance, the procession led around the pilgrimage church after the service. This was one of the few days in the year when the monstrance, weighing around ten kilograms, leaves the sanctuary chapel of the pilgrimage church in solemn procession. Two altars - below the monastery shop and near the Old Pharmacy - were stations on the way before the sacramental blessing in the pilgrimage church formed the conclusion.

Bishop Asztrik Várszegi Archabbot of Pannonhalma until 2017

Bishop Asztrik Várszegi (Photo: Thaler Tamas)
Coat of arms and motto of Bishop Asztrik Várszegi: Deus, fortitudo mea ("God, my strength")

Imre Asztrik Várszegi was born in Sopron, Hungary, in 1946. He entered the Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma and made his solemn profession in 1965. After his theological training, he received priestly ordination in 1971. From 1971 to 1976 he studied history and German language and literature for the teaching profession in Budapest and worked as a teacher until 1988. He received his doctorate in history in 1985 and in philosophy in 1997.

Pope John Paul II appointed him auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest in 1988. He was consecrated bishop in 1989. His motto is Deus, fortitudo mea ("God, my strength"). From 1989 to 1991 he was secretary of the Hungarian Bishops' Conference and rector of the central seminary. In 1991 he was elected Archabbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma and re-elected in 2009. Imre Asztrik Várszegi developed the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma into an important international meeting centre during this time.

In 2006, he was appointed by the Hungarian Bishops' Conference to head the "Ödön Lenard Foundation", which has the task of researching the Church and communism in communist times. At the end of 2017, Imre Asztrik Várszegi announced his resignation as archabbot, which Pope Francis accepted on 16 February 2018.

Imre Asztrik Várszegi is, among other things, a Knight of the Order of Malta, a member of the Historical Section of the Bavarian Benedictine Academy. In 1990, the Catholic University of Leuven awarded him an honorary doctorate. He has been a recipient of the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria since 2012. To this day, Várszegi is active far beyond the Archabbey of Pannonhalma. He is President of the Christian-Jewish Council in Hungary as well as Chairman of the Culture and Science Committee and the Holy Life Committee of the Hungarian Bishops' Conference.

Andechs Monastery Emblem