This weekend, we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi; a Latin term, meaning “Body of Christ.” This solemnity is celebrated on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday to commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist. People often ask “Why do we need a special day for this celebration when every Mass is a celebration of the Eucharist?” A brief historical background may help clarify this. In the 13th century, St. Juliana of Liege in Belgium, an Augustinian nun, saw a vision in which she was instructed to tell the Church to institute a feast in honor of the Eucharist. She revealed the information to her bishop, Robert de Thorete, and later to Pope Urban IV. In 1246, the Pope called for a synod in which the feast was approved to be celebrated in the Latin Church as a solemnity. The great theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, composed some Eucharistic adoration hymns for the celebration such as “Tantum Ergo,” “Pange Lingua,” and the “O Salutaris Hostia.” We still sing these Eucharistic hymns today during Benediction and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
On this day, the Eucharist is traditionally honored by carrying the Host in a solemn procession through the town, stopping several times for Benediction. This custom is still encouraged and practiced in many countries throughout the world. I am glad our Bishop, Thomas Olmsted, is leading a Eucharistic procession through downtown Phoenix today, and has encouraged pastors to also hold a Eucharistic Procession in their own parishes. We are not able to hold a Procession this year, but we will consider it for next year. With the celebration of Corpus Christi, we now begin the full Ordinary Time of the Liturgical Calendar which will last until the Season of Advent begins in November.
As we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we are invited to reflect on our personal attitude and conviction about the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Receiving the Eucharist unworthily and taking the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for granted is dangerous. As St. Paul warns the Corinthians and all Christians, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:27-29). One resource that may help deepen our understanding of the Eucharist is the recent Pastoral Letter from Bishop Thomas Olmsted “Veneremur Cernui – Down in Adoration Falling”. I encourage you to fi nd time and read it to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist.
Thank you and remain blessed,
Fr. JamesBACK TO LIST