Today, we celebrate the solemn feast of Corpus Christi. It is three feasts in one: the feast of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the feast of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the feast of the Real Presence of Jesus in this Sacrament.
Corpus Christi is a doctrinal feast established for three purposes: 1) to give God collective thanks for Christ’s abiding presence with us in the Eucharist and to honor Him there; 2) to instruct the people in the Mystery, Faith and devotion surrounding the Eucharist, and 3) to teach us to appreciate and make use of the great gift of the Holy Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and as a sacrifice. In the three-year cycle of the Sunday liturgy, there is a different theme each year for this Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. In Cycle A the theme is the Eucharist as our food and drink; in Cycle B the emphasis is on the Eucharist as the sign of the covenant; and in Cycle C the theme focuses on the priesthood of Jesus. Although we celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday, the Church wants to emphasize its importance by a special feast, formerly called “Corpus Christi.” It was Pope Urban IV who first extended the feast to the universal Church. This is one of the few feasts left in which we observe a procession and a sung “Sequence.”
Dominic Tang, the courageous Chinese archbishop, was imprisoned for twenty-one years for nothing more than his loyalty to Christ and Christ’s one, true Church. After he had spent five years of solitary confinement in a windowless, damp cell, he was told by his jailers that he could leave it for a few hours to do whatever he wanted. Five years of solitary confinement and he had a couple of hours to do what he wanted! What would it be? A hot shower? A change of clothes? Certainly, a long walk outside? A chance to call or write to family? What would it be? the jailer asked him. “I would like to say Mass,” replied Archbishop Tang.
Today’s celebration of the Body and Blood of the Lord originated in the Diocese of Liege in 1246 as the feast of Corpus Christi. In the reforms of Vatican II, Corpus Christi was joined with the feast of the Precious Blood (July 1) to become the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord. We celebrate today Christ’s gift to us of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our life together as the Church. The Council of Trent, declared that we must honor Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist publicly so that those who observed the faith of Catholics in the Most Holy Eucharist might be attracted to the Eucharistic Lord and believe in the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, present in this great Sacrament. “The Catholic Church teaches that in the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the God-man are really, truly, substantially, and abidingly present together with his soul and divinity by reason of the Transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This takes place in the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass.”
Our belief in this Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist derives from the literal interpretation of the promise of Christ to give us his Body and Blood for our spiritual food and drink, as found in St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 6, and also in the four independent accounts of the fulfillment of this promise at the Last Supper (Mt 26; Mk 14; Lk 22; 1 Cor 11). Eucharistic theologians explain the Real Presence by a process called transubstantiation: the entire substance of bread and wine is changed into the entire substance of the risen, living, and glorified Body and Blood of Christ, retaining only the “accidents” (taste, color, shape) of bread and wine. Can there be a religion in which God is closer to man than our Catholic Christianity? Jesus does not believe that he is humiliating himself in coming to us and giving himself to us in his Flesh and Blood to be our spiritual Food.
As we celebrate this great feast of faith, let us worship what St. Thomas Aquinas did not hesitate to call, “the greatest miracle that Christ ever worked on earth …… My Body …….. My Blood”.
Heaven is our goal.
Source: Reflections for the Feast of Corpus Christi – Vatican News