Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
We just called it “Corpus Christi” when I was young. Many of us, of a “certain age”, will remember the extravagant processions through our childhood neighborhoods, the garmented priest carrying the elevated monstrance.
Little children and adults accompanied the journeying Christ who blessed our neighbors, families, businesses and playgrounds.
Although, for some, such devotional practices have changed since that time, I was still deeply moved when, during the depth of the current pandemic, Pope Francis stood alone to raise the monstrance in blessing over a starkly empty St. Peter’s Square.
Certainly, all our neighborhoods today could use such a blessing. And, it is we – the People of God and living Body of Christ – who must carry Christ’s Presence to our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and commonplaces.
Our Responsorial Psalm today offers us this question:
How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good God has done for me?
Poetry: Love’s Choice by Malcolm Guite
This bread is light, dissolving, almost air,
A little visitation on my tongue,
A wafer-thin sensation, hardly there.
This taste of wine is brief in flavour, flung
A moment to the palate’s roof and fled,
Even its aftertaste a memory.
Yet this is how He comes.
Through wine and bread
Love chooses to be emptied into me.
He does not come in unimagined light
Too bright to be denied, too absolute
For consciousness, too strong for sight,
Leaving the seer blind, the poet mute;
Chooses instead to seep into each sense,
To dye himself into experience.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, and on this solemn feast, we pray with the ancient sequence Lauda Sion.
This laudatory prayer was written by St.Thomas Aquinas around 1264, at the request of Pope Urban IV for a new Mass for the feast of Corpus Christi. St. Thomas also wrote four more magnificent hymns for the feast: Pange Lingua, Sacris solemniis, Adoro Te Devote, and Verbum supernum prodiens which are all prayed during the Divine Office.
Lauda Sion repeatedly affirms our belief in Christ’s Presence in the consecrated Bread and Wine. In lovely, poetic meter, the Sequence presents erudite theology in accessible, memorable form. It is an amazing work of art and pedagogy!
After reading through the entire piece, we might choose one or two verses which resound with our personal Eucharistic devotion. In these times when many of us find our liturgical participation limited, the words of this Sequence are particularly poignant.
These verses from the beginning and end of the Sequence are some of my favorites. The various English translations are masterful, but never capture the complete essence of the Latin which I have therefore included here.
Special theme for glad thanksgiving Is the quick’ning and the living Bread today before you set: From his hands of old partaken, As we know, by faith unshaken, Where the Twelve at supper met.
Laudis thema speciális, Panis vivus et vitális, Hódie propónitur. Quem in sacræ mensa cœnæ, Turbæ fratrum duodénæ Datum non ambígitur
Very bread, good shepherd, tend us, Jesu, of your love befriend us, You refresh us, you defend us, Your eternal goodness send us In the land of life to see. You who all things can and know, Who on earth such food bestow, Grant us with your saints, though lowest, Where the heav’nly feast you show, Fellow heirs and guests to be. Amen. Alleluia.
Bone pastor, panis vere, Jesu, nostri miserére: Tu nos pasce, nos tuére: Tu nos bona fac vidére In terra vivéntium. Tu, qui cuncta scis et vales: Qui nos pascis hic mortáles: Tuos ibi commensáles, Cohærédes et sodáles, Fac sanctórum cívium. Amen. Alleluia.
Music: Ecce Panis Angelorum – sung at the Papal Mass in Namugongo, Uganda. The site is an open-air shrine to the Ugandan Martyrs, forty-five Christians burned alive in the 1880s on the orders of the king who feared the growing influence of Christianity.
This rendition of the hymn is the one I love from novitiate days. Though the video is shaky, it is wonderful to hear these African sisters and brothers singing with such obvious joy and devotion, in a language and with a faith that we can all share.
Today, in Mercy, we celebrate a glorious feast, one through which we can trace the continuing evolution of Eucharistic theology.
Some of us will remember celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi, perhaps as children. The Host, carried in a beautiful monstrance, was processed through the neighborhood, bringing blessing to all who gathered.
While a rare occurrence today, and considered by some a saccharine expression of devotionalism, the practice was intended to convey a central belief of our faith. It is a belief whose theology continues to evolve and deepen with the passing years:
In the gift of Eucharist, Jesus Christ has made us
one Body with Him. We are One Body in Christ.
A significant step in the evolution of this theology occured with the issuing of the encyclical MYSTICI CORPORIS CHRISTI ( Pope Pius XII, 1943). In this letter, we see a theology beginning to unfold to include not only Christ’s presence on the altar and in the Host, but in the very lives of the faithful.
The Sacrament of the Eucharist is itself a striking and wonderful figure of the unity of the Church, if we consider how in the bread to be consecrated many grains go to form one whole,and that in it the very Author of supernatural grace is given to us, so that through Him we may receive the spirit of charity in which we are bidden to live now no longer our own life but the life of Christ, and to love the Redeemer Himself in all the members of His social Body.
In his encyclical, ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA (2003), Pope John Paul II, expands this teaching:
By the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the Church was born and set out upon the pathways of the world, yet a decisive moment in her taking shape was certainly the institution of the Eucharist in the Upper Room. Her foundation and wellspring is the whole Triduum paschale, but this is as it were gathered up, foreshadowed and “concentrated’ for ever in the gift of the Eucharist. In this gift Jesus Christ entrusted to his Church the perennial making present of the paschal mystery. With it he brought about a mysterious “oneness in time” between that Triduum and the passage of the centuries.
The infinite mystery of God’s relationship with us in Jesus Christ continues to call us to deeper understanding of our relationship with one another. Let us pray today for greater love and fuller surrender of our hearts to this awesome, self-emptying mystery.
At the heart of the Christian faith shines an open table without exclusion, where Christ is the chef, the host, and the food of life. The broken bread and the pouring wine manifests the Divine attitude to welcome especially the ones who are brokenhearted, neglected, rejected and crushed. And we are transformed into the body and blood of boundless and creative love, incorporated into the same divine DNA as everyone else – regardless of species, ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality, appearance, or social class. (Ivan Nicolleto)
Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. We just called it “Corpus Christi” when we were young. And I still do. Many of us, of a “certain age”, will remember the extravagant processions through our childhood neighborhoods, the garmented priest carrying the monstrance. Little children and adults accompanied the journeying Christ who blessed our neighbors, families, businesses and playgrounds.
Certainly, our neighborhoods today could use such a blessing. But the practice has become outdated in most parishes. Instead, it is we – the People of God and living Body of Christ – who must carry Christ’s Presence to our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and commonplaces. How will you be Corpus Christi for the world today?