It is true we celebrate the real presence of Jesus — body, blood, soul and divinity — in the Eucharist of every Mass. Our annual celebration of the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi, helps us to deepen our appreciation of this graced encounter with the personal presence of Jesus.
While Catholics have always believed in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, our understanding of this mystery and our reverence for it has grown over the centuries. St. Paul clearly teaches of the Real Presence in his First Letter to the Corinthians (11:17-34). The Gospels of Luke and John bear explicit witness to the Real Presence as well (Luke 24:30, John 6). Even first-century documents like the Didacheattest to this firm belief of apostolic faith.
The universal commemoration of Corpus Christi began in the 13th century in celebration of the eucharistic miracle of Bolsena.
A Bohemian priest known as Peter of Prague was traveling to Rome and stopped at Lake Bolsena to celebrate Mass in 1264. The priest, who is reputed to have doubted the Real Presence, experienced a miracle when the eucharistic host left a large impression of blood on the corporal cloth. The local bishop investigated the miracle and found no natural explanation for the occurrence. The corporal was then carried in procession a few miles to the city of Orvieto where Pope Urban IV was residing. The pope formally recognized the eucharistic miracle, and Orvieto Cathedral was erected to house the relic of the corporal.
Thomas Aquinas was residing in Orvieto at the time, and Pope Urban asked the saintly Dominican theologian to compose a Divine Office in honor the miracle, for which St. Thomas composed several hymns, including Tantum Ergo. Pope Urban established the annual celebration of Corpus Domini so the universal church could share in the joy of the miracle. Visitors to Orvieto today can see the miraculous corporal on special occasions.
Today we celebrate Corpus Christi in a variety of ways. Some parishes continue the tradition of holding a eucharistic procession in commemoration of the translation of the miraculous corporal from Bolsena to Orvieto. However, more important than the procession is our encounter with the personal presence of Jesus who offers himself to us in the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is more than just a holy thing. It is the sacrament in which Jesus really becomes personally present to us. We receive the Eucharist not to gain grace credits, but to meet the Lord who created us, redeems us, and saves us. This is also the reason to spend time with the Lord in adoration.
Although Catholics have had many ways of articulating our faith in the Eucharist, we have never doubted or dismissed the reality of our Lord’s self-gift. It is our communion with Jesus that forms us as his mystical body and strengthens our communion with one another.
The annual celebration of Corpus Christi always has this twofold purpose: to recognize, receive and respond to Jesus offering himself to us; and to become the people Jesus wants us to be as members of our Lord’s body.
Pray that the Lord will reveal himself to you in the Eucharist!
Source: Northwest Catholic