Skip to main content

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, but for those who remember their Latin, you might better recognize it as the Feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for Body of Christ).  The Feast was originally established in 1246 by Bishop Robert de Torete, of the Diocese of Liège, Belgium, but not without the 40 year effort of St. Julia of Liège, a Norbertine sister who had a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, who spend most of her life petitioning for this special feast day.


Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a
Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
John 6:51-58

When Jesus established the Eucharist at the Last Supper, his use of bread and wine was deliberate and purposeful.  They were the most ordinary of foods, yet represented what was necessary to sustain us.  In Jewish ritual, bread and wine have always been an important part of the Passover meal, and have long been associated with their covenant with God.  Our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, reminds us how God sustained his people during the Exodus from Egypt.  The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert before reaching the Promised Land, during which time God provided them with manna and water.  In our reading this week Moses urges the people to remember not only how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt, but how he sustained them in their journey.  The praise we have for the Lord for this is echoed in our Psalm when we sing, “Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.”

Our second reading is a very short passage from Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians.  In one of Paul’s more poetic moments, he reminds us that it is through the Eucharist, through the bread that is Christ’s body, through wine that is Christ’s blood, that makes us one body.  In this very economic passage we are not only reminded of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, but it is that Eucharist that forms us into the Body of Christ.  This is why the Church believes in the importance of the faithful taking the Eucharist regularly and often, to help build and maintain that bond to the Body of Christ, both spiritually and physically.

Our Gospel for this feast day comes from John where Jesus is preaching to the crowd about what we read in our first reading with Moses… How God provided them with “bread from heaven.”  Jesus uses this opportunity to extend this idea to himself, explaining how his flesh and his blood are the true food and drink that provides eternal life.  To us Catholics this is no surprise, but to those in the crowd, including the Apostles, they find great difficulty with this teaching, as we continue to read the verses beyond this passage.  In fact, after two millennia and volumes of writings from theologians, we still have difficulty with this teaching… that Jesus is real and present in the Eucharist… that we are in fact eating his flesh and drinking his blood.  It requires a leap of faith.  Jesus himself told us this, and it is our faith in him as Lord that allows us to accept this great Mystery of the Church.  It is also through this same Eucharist, the most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, that binds us together as Church and makes us the people of God.

Final thoughts:
Many older Catholics will commonly refer to today’s Solemnity as Corpus Christi:  The Body of Christ.  This is one of those Church feast days that’s hard for us to wrap our tongues around.  The words Corpus Christi are both simple and poetic… much more so than the mouthful we say now, “The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.”  So why change it?

Because this is more than just a new translation from Latin to English.  It also helps us give greater dignity and importance to the celebration.  Notice first the addition of “Most Holy.”  Like with last week’s solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, it puts this celebration above most other solemnities and feasts.  The words, “Most Holy” make us take notice, reminding us of the importance of the celebration. 

The other important change in the name is that we are no longer recognizing just the “Body” of Christ, but both the “Body” and the “Blood” of Christ.  The full form of the Eucharistic meal.  This is meant to remind us that the fullest celebration of the Eucharist comes through partaking of both the host and the chalice… a privilege that the laity lost for hundreds of years, and only since the liturgical reforms of the late 20th century has been regained.  So the truest celebration of this feast must reflect the true presence of Christ in both the bread and the wine, regardless of whether we receive the chalice during communion.

But regardless of whether you receive only the host during communion, or both the host and the chalice, we are reminded that these elements have been transformed – Transfigured under the hands of the priest – into something much more precious than bread and wine.  Through the Eucharist we take in our Lord in a very physical and personal way so that we can be strengthened by his presence to go and love and serve the Lord.  Thanks be to God!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

3rd Sunday of Advent

The third Sunday of Advent marks the midpoint of the season… in Catholic terms, this is like “hump day”, where we happily see that the conclusion of our journey is within sight.  Referred to as Gaudete Sunday, it takes its name from the Latin word for rejoice.  We will hear this word several times throughout this Sunday's Mass in our prayers and our readings.  We light the rose colored candle on our Advent wreaths, rose being a mixture of Advent violet and Christmas white.  Not only is Christmas a joyous occasion to celebrate the birth of our Lord, but it reminds us that we are joyous (not fearful) of his return.


The Word for the 3rd Sunday of Advent Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

We open with a great announcement from Third Isaiah, that the anointed brings glad tidings to the poor.  If his words sound familiar, they should.  Not only are they reminiscent to the announcement made by the angels to the shepherd in th…

4th Sunday of Lent

This Sunday we continue our Lenten journey through Salvation History with a continued focus on covenant.  We’ve already given witness to the covenants with Noah, Abraham, and Moses.  This week we turn our attention to the Davidic Covenant (the covenant with King David), or more accurately, the covenant with the monarchy of Israel.


The Word for the 4th Sunday of Lent 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
Psalms 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21

Our first reading comes from the end of the 2nd book of Chronicles.  Though our intent this Sunday is to remember the Davidic Covenant, our Lectionary has chosen an interesting approach.  Rather than give us a story about King David, we are presented with a story  from the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Why approach the covenant with David from this tail-end view? 

It’s an approach that actually fits very well with the Book of Chronicles, for you see, the Book of Chronicles is much more than a retelling of the story we heard in books …

Nuns and Nones... continued...

On 6-24-2016 I wrote a brief commentary on what we call the "nones"... that is, those people who check the box that says "none" when asked about their religious affiliation.  That commentary was based on an address by my former high school's principal at their 2016 graduation address.  But this topic of the "nones" returned to my attention with this article posted on our daily Angelus News email from the e-magazine Crux:

Notre Dame debuts digital platform to reach young Catholics, ‘nones’
Please take a moment to read it... 

Of particular interest is the increasing number of "nones," those people who claim no religious affiliation. I first heard this term a few years back from one of the speakers at our LA Religious Education Congress. The term itself grew out of a 2012 Pew Research study that showed this rising trend. Working as I do with the RCIA and Adult Faith Formation, this was a known issue, but the Pew study validated what ma…