This Sunday we have the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, in which we celebrate the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Psalm 110:1, 2, 3, 4
open with a short passage from Genesis, where we are introduced to the
priest Melchizedek, king of Salem. Here he offers bread and wine while
giving God’s blessing to Abram (after his having defeated the forces and
allies of the king of Elam). While this is the one and only story we
have in Scripture about Melchizadek, his legacy has carried through to
the Psalms, the New Testament, and even to our Liturgy in the First
Eucharistic Prayer. Not only is he the first named priest of God Most
High, but during his encounter with Abram we see the first time bread
and wine as a blessed as an offering. These “firsts” play through many
important themes in scripture, including bread as a source of life, and
the role of high priest as servant of the Lord. This special position
of high priest is echoed in our Psalm.
Our second reading is from
Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians. In this passage Paul recounts
the blessing of the bread and wine that Jesus performed at the Last
Supper. If these words sound familiar, they should, as they are the
same words of consecration used during our own the Eucharistic prayer.
Paul’s words here are perhaps the first documented form of the
Eucharistic blessing, which predate the Gospels where we also find
Our Gospel, as we are in Cycle C, is from
Luke. With our theme focused on Eucharist, you might expect to hear
Luke’s Last Supper discourse. Instead, the Lectionary gives us the
story of the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fish. A curious choice? Not
really. In this reading we continue the theme of the bread as a
central part of the story. One could even present this story as a
foreshadowing of the Eucharist Jesus would eventually celebrate with his
Apostles. Perhaps the most significant reason for using this story in
today’s celebration is how through this miracle these loaves of bread
feed everyone. Jesus invites us all to eat at the table because he is
the bread of everlasting life.
Many older Catholics may remember this feast day referred to as Corpus Christi, Latin for the Body of Christ.
But what about the Blood of Christ? We need to remember that prior to
the Liturgical reforms of the 1950’s and 1960’s, lay Catholics never
received the Blood of Christ during Eucharist. As such, the focus of
the feast day centered only on the Body of Christ. This separation of
the species of Communion naturally lead to a separate feast day for the
Most Precious Blood of Christ, but when receiving of the Precious Blood
was restored to the Laity, the separate feast was considered redundant.
Thus the 1969 reforms of the General Roman Calendar combined the two
separate feasts to the Solemnity we celebrate today.