I remember Bishop Boyea at the second Diocesan Assembly shouting out to the large audience! What’s the most important part of the mass? Embarrassingly, I seized up under the pressure of an immediate response. However, my fellow Catholics bailed me out by loudly responding in unison: “The Eucharist.”
The Feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for “Body of Christ”) is the Catholic liturgical solemnity celebrating the real presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in the elements of the Eucharist— known as transubstantiation.
Now that’s a word not used in everyday conversation! According to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the change of substance or essence by which the bread and wine offered in the sacrifice of the sacrament of the Eucharist during the Mass, become, in reality, the body and blood of Jesus Christ, not merely symbolically or metaphorically.
The manner, in which the change occurs, the Roman Catholic Church teaches, is a mystery: “The signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ.” The understanding of this mystery is precious knowledge, thus requiring the Catholic sacrament of “First Communion” to understand the preciousness of what you are receiving. It cannot be taken lightly.
“History shows us that at the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, Jesus instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood.” While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” Jesus commanded his followers to “do this in memory of me”.
On that night, Jesus goes out and hands himself over to the betrayer, the destroyer, and in so doing, overcomes the night, overcomes the darkness of evil. Only in this way is the gift of the Eucharist, instituted in the Upper Room, fulfilled: Jesus truly gives his Body and his Blood. Crossing over the threshold of death, he becomes living Bread, true manna, and endless nourishment for eternity. The flesh becomes the Bread of Life.
Of course, by faith, the Eucharist is an intimate mystery. The Lord instituted the Sacrament in the Upper Room, surrounded by his new family, by the 12 Apostles, a prefiguration and anticipation of the Church of all times. And so, in the liturgy of the ancient Church, the distribution of Holy Communion was introduced with the words Sancta sanctis: the holy gift is intended for those who have been made holy. According to St. Paul to the Corinthians: “A man should examine himself first; only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup…” (I Cor 11: 28).
It is not possible to “eat” the Risen One, present under the sign of bread, as if it were a simple piece of bread. To eat this Bread is to communicate, to enter into communion with the person of the living Lord. This communion, this act of “eating”, is truly an encounter between two persons; it is allowing our lives to be penetrated by the life of the One who is the Lord, of the One who is my Creator and Redeemer.
Nevertheless, from this intimacy that is a most personal gift of the Lord, the strength of the Sacrament of the Eucharist goes above and beyond the walls of our Churches. In this Sacrament, the Lord is always journeying to meet the world. This universal aspect of the Eucharistic presence becomes evident in the Corpus Christi festive procession.
We bring Christ, present under the sign of bread, onto the streets of our city. We entrust these streets, these homes, our daily life, to his goodness. May our streets be streets of Jesus! May our houses be homes for him and with him! May our everyday life be penetrated by his presence?
With this gesture, let us place under his eyes the sufferings of the sick, the solitude of young people and the elderly, temptations, fears — our entire life. The procession represents an immense and public blessing for our city: Christ is, in person, the divine Blessing for the world. May the ray of his blessing extend to us all!
The feast of Corpus Christi was established to create a feast focused solely on the Holy Eucharist emphasizing the joy of the Eucharist being the body and blood of Jesus Christ. If we want to understand the meaning of Corpus Christi, the best thing to do is simply to look at the liturgical form in which the Church celebrates and expounds the significance of this feast. Over and above the elements common to all Christian feasts, there are three components especially that constitute the distinctive shape of the way we celebrate this day.
“First there is what we are doing right now, meeting together around the Lord, standing before the Lord, for the Lord, and thus standing side by side together. Next there is walking with the Lord, the procession. And finally there is the heart and the climax of it, kneeling before the Lord, the adoration, glorifying him and rejoicing in his presence.” (excerpted & paraphrased from God Is Near Us, by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger)
By tradition, Catholics hear Mass then go in procession through the streets of their parish church’s neighborhood, all whilst praying and singing. The Eucharist is placed in a monstrance and is held aloft by a member of the clergy during the procession. Did you know that our parish celebrates this feast day with a procession? Please join us at St. Joseph Oratory this Sunday, June 23rd at 2:00 p.m. to celebrate this solemnity.