The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ - Corpus Christi: 06 June 2021
|(Veneration of Corpus Christi by the Angels)|
Along with a relentless news cycle and the various stresses and worries that find their way into each day, the Corona pandemic is ravaging our lives, families and communities. In the midst of this, we celebrate the solemnity of Corpus Christi, a feast which so tangible and dear to us because of its symbolic and personal meaning. Hence, the feast comes as a soothing balm to us. We can relate to this feast as closely as possible because of our utmost devotion and reverence to the body and blood of Christ which we venerate and receive at every Eucharist. The Feast of Corpus Christi – and every Mass – celebrates Christ’s gift of the Eucharist, which the Catechism calls “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). The pandemic has meant that some of us have been long separated from the sacrament, which may make the meaning of today’s feast feel somewhat distant.
1. Creation and Incarnation as God's loving acts
In our liturgies and other church practices, we often use a phrase referred to God’s unconditional love for humanity that is ‘He gave Himself to us’. God as our creator not only allowed us to be what we are but he gave himself freely to us. If creation marks the beginning of God’s first visible sign of his love, then God’s incarnation through the person of Jesus marks another witness of God’s presence amongst us. Today we celebrate in a specific manner both these two acts of God: creation and incarnation.
The feast of Corpus Christi embodies both these acts of God - creation and incarnation. This feast also attracts a special celebration through the public veneration of God’s presence among us in the form of Consecrated Bread, which in fact manifests our deep faith in this mystery of our religion.
In most places today the consecrated bread will be taken out in procession as a mark of public veneration. However, due to the Corona pandemic lockdown, this may not be possible in many places. This devotional tradition may not be very attractive for many yet it can illuminate in so many of us a sense of great spiritual uplifting. Perhaps at this point, we may ask ourselves why do we conduct such an act, and what is the significance of this feast for each one of us.
2. Eucharist as a lasting and eternal meal in abundance
At every Eucharist, we celebrate God’s unfailing love for us; we celebrate the real presence of Jesus. Each Eucharist is an extraordinary reality and becomes a mystery of God’s coming in our midst, his mission, his death, and resurrection. In every Eucharist, we celebrate Christ’s last meal with us as a memory. For us, therefore, the memory of God’s presence among us becomes vital and important. This memory enables us in re-living the blessed love of God for us. Jesus is often depicted eating with his disciples and teaching them during the meal. Today we see Jesus blessing the bread, giving thanks for the wine, and sharing these gifts. This is a simple, familiar moment for us.
St Mark gives us a short account of how Jesus offered himself to his disciples as food on his last Passover meal on this earth. At that special meal, he transformed bread and wine as his body and blood and asked his disciples to conduct such a fellowship meal in his memory. This is what we call the Eucharist as a living and lasting meal of his memory among us. And this meal keeps us united with him and we should make every effort to participate at least once a week.
3. Christ meets us on the altar face to face
The feast of the body of Christ is rich with symbolism. Through the Eucharist, we are called to be part of Christ in a concrete way where divisions of any kind cease to exist. We can draw an insight from the fifth century Father of the Church St John Chrysostom. He writes that ‘Christ gave us his flesh to eat in order to deepen our love for him. When we approach him, then, there should be burning within us a fire of love and longing.’
St John relates Christ in the Eucharist to that of Christ in the manger. As we are called to be the citizens of heaven, we need to imitate those foreign three wise men who came to see the baby Jesus in Nazareth. Chrysostom writes further that ‘they only saw Christ in a manger, they saw nothing of what you now see, and yet they approached him with profound awe and reverence. You see him, not in a manger but on an altar, not carried by a woman but offered by a priest; and you see the Spirit bountifully poured out upon the offerings of bread and wine.’ (Homilies on the First Letter to the Corinthians 24, 4: PG 61, 204-205).
We are called in a special way to be part of this mystery of Christ’s body where we become one with by receiving it. This makes our earthly life heaven, a gateway to something special which we call grace and blessedness. Writing about the Lord’s Supper, St Augustine imagines Jesus saying to him, “you will not, as with bodily food, change me into yourself, but you will be changed into me.”
4. Christ at the Eucharist same as Christ at the community
The feast of the body of Christ also has another meaning. It is not only we see Christ at Eucharist but also we receive him in the form of bread. This bread is received in a Church where the community gathers together in His Name and Word. This community is one with Christ through the sacrament of baptism. Therefore Church is called the body of Christ. As a community of believers of Christ’s mission of healing, teaching and preaching and action of salvation, we are called to live in fellowship and friendship with Him and with each other and act in the person of Christ (Persona Christi).
During these times of the deprivation of celebration of the Eucharist, we are at loss. The Eucharist binds us very closely to one another as the Body of Christ. Technology has helped us in our distress to hear the Word of God proclaimed by live-streamed of Masses, zoom and other ways. In place of physical communion now we have spiritual communion! Perhaps we need to put more devotedly ourselves into these pious activities. Finally, it is God who takes that gift and unites it perfectly to Jesus’ sacrifice of his own life on the Cross for the salvation of the many.
Questions for Reflections:1. In these quiet moments of separation, we might ask ourselves how and where can we encounter Christ?
2. How have we allowed these encounters to transform us?
3. How can we bring this life-giving bread to others?
4. Can I ask with the Psalmist "what shall I render to the Lord for all his bounty to me?"
5. “This is my body,” Jesus said – words that are repeated every time the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, is celebrated. But what do those words mean to you? How do you understand them? What do you think Jesus is saying to us in these words?
7. Imagine you are one of the disciples at that last meal with Jesus and he hands you a piece of bread which he says ‘this is my body’ and a cup of wine which he says ‘this is my blood'. How do you feel about this?
Lord Jesus, giver of life, thank you for giving the gift of yourself in the Holy Eucharist. When we receive the sacrament, strengthen us and grant that we may see the world through your eyes, and see your presence in all our brothers and sisters. O Lord Jesus Christ, You who have given us Your precious Body and Blood to be our meat and drink, grant that through frequent reception of You in the Holy Eucharist, we may be strengthened in mind and body to do Your holy will. Amen.