THE FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI
THE FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI
On Sunday 10th June we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, that is the Body and Blood of Christ. It is so very apt that we are reflecting on the theme of the Eucharist on this particular day as we in Ireland begin the 80th Eucharistic Congress week – a week in which we make a spiritual journey in Communion with Christ and with one another. (cf www.iec2012.ie)
The Israelites celebrated the first Passover in Egypt. The Lord ordered that they should celebrate it every year and that they should explain to their children and to their children’s children, from generation to generation, what this Passover signifies (Ex 12:25-27). The awareness of what it is, is absolutely necessary for appreciating this celebration and for celebrating it as it should be celebrated.
The same applies to the Eucharist, the Passover of the New Testament. Jesus celebrated the first Passover of the New Testament, when at the Last Supper he changed bread and wine into his Body and Blood and gave them to his Apostles as food and drink, and then the next day dying on the cross he offered himself as victim to his Father. Each time his followers celebrated the breaking of bread in his name, they would re-present, no longer the lamb of Egypt that saved the Israelites but the sacrificial death of Jesus that offers us liberation through his blood. In the Holy Mass, Jesus is offering himself, in the form of bread and wine, through the ministry of the priest, to God the Father, reminding us of his death and resurrection and what it means for us as people of faith.
From the very beginning, the Church believed these truths and taught them and upheld them against all errors and heresies. St Thomas Aquinas, expressed beautifully the Eucharistic faith of the Church in the hymn “Adoro te devote”, which he composed for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi and is still sung today. Along with him let us also say: ‘We cannot know you through seeing or touching or tasting, but we believe in you through hearing what you have said. We believe whatever you have said, for nothing is more true than your word. On the cross only your divinity was hidden, but here in the Eucharist also, your humanity is hidden. But we believe and proclaim both, i.e., that both your divinity and humanity are present in the Eucharist, and we make the same request of you as the penitent thief Lord remember me in your kingdom’.
If the sacrifice of the Mass is the same as the sacrifice of Calvary, but offered in an un-bloody manner, how devoutly should I celebrate it or participate in it? In the early Church, public sinners and non-Christians were not admitted to the Eucharist. The faithful were taught, that to be able to receive communion worthily and to benefit from it, one must be free from grave sin. St Paul had given a warning: You must examine yourselves before you receive the Body and Blood of the Lord. If one receives the Eucharist unworthily, one is bringing judgment upon oneself (I Cor 11:27-29). If you are at Mass and are also aware that you have committed a grave sin, do not go for Communion and bring judgement on yourself. Today let us resolve to worship the Lord in the Holy Eucharist and never to offend and dishonour him as so many people do in so many ways. When we receive from the Lord’s table we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ, who makes us sharers in his body and blood.
Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 A.D.) calls it the “one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ” (Ad Eph. 20,2). This supernatural food is healing for both body and soul and strength for our journey heavenward. When we approach the Table of the Lord, what do we expect to receive? Healing, pardon, comfort, and rest for our souls? The Lord has much more for us, more than we can ask or imagine. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist is an intimate union with Christ. As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens us in charity and enables us to break with disordered attachments to things and creatures and leads us to be more firmly rooted in the love of Christ. Jesus shared himself with his disciples in many different ways before offering himself to them as food and drink at the Last Supper. Jesus nourishes us in so many ways, spiritually and of course especially in the Eucharist. Those, who have a deep sense of the presence of God, in the whole of creation, will not have great difficulty in believing, that He is present in a very special way in the Eucharist. God alone can satisfy all the longings and hunger of our hearts because He alone can give us the bread of eternal life. Without it we would not have the strength to follow Christ. By receiving the Eucharist, we are nourished, and enabled to nourish others through the example of our lives and the way we live them.
We do not live in the Kingdom, even though we live in constant expectation of God’s reign. However, the Eucharist we celebrate makes the Kingdom real because the Lord in truly present what is called the ‘real presence’. He is with us at Mass so he can be one with us in our daily lives and living. Our struggles, our pain, our happiness and our sorrow and our anticipation of the Kingdom become his. And the gift of his self-giving becomes ours in order that we may pass it on to others as they see us living our lives as faith filled Christian people.
So let us remember on Sunday at the start of the 80th Eucharistic Congress that this is the day that the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it – rejoicing that we are in communion or rather trying to be in communion with Christ and with one another.