Monday, 28 May 2018


   Corpus Christi processions! Great occasions for us to proclaim our faith to the world at large. As people see us processing through the streets they may well wonder what’s going on. Why are we demonstrating? And what is the priest carrying? Whatever it is, it’s the focus of our attention. Why is it so important to us Catholics? What answers would you give, if you were asked these questions?
Ask them of yourselves; searching for answers will help to deepen your faith. But don't be surprised if you are lost for words and explanations. We are using our feeble human minds to try to penetrate what the great Dominican theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, called the ‘great mystery’ –the ‘magnum mysterium.’ He is said to have composed the liturgy for the feast of Corpus Christi, including the Benediction hymns, ‘O Salutaris Hostia’ and ‘Tantum Ergo.’ Our picture shows him holding the monstrance, containing the Blessed Sacrament.

So, what is the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi all about, and why do we make such a fuss about it? Well, the title ‘Corpus Christ’ means, ‘Body of Christi.’ The feast is now call the ‘Body and Blood of Christ.’ Amazingly, crazily, we believe a piece of bread has been changed into the crucified and risen body of the creator of heaven and earth, the saviour of the world. If we stop and think, this is mind blowing! If, as we believe, this is true, its no wonder we show what we call the ‘Blessed Sacrament’ so much honour. Under the appearance of bread the creator of heaven and earth, the redeemer of the world is present in our midst, in the remotest corners of the world. This is staggering! It demands enormous faith. And that is what we proclaim to the world in every Corpus Christ –or Blessed Sacrament –procession.
Why do we believe this? How do we know this is true? Well, St Paul writing years before the Gospels were composed tells us,
In a few words St. Paul tells us that at the Last Supper Jesus celebrated what we now
know as the first Mass. In this He changed the bread and wine into His own Body and Blood. In obedience to Christ’s command the Church continues to celebrate that sacred meal. As we do so we proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes. Each Mass makes present for us Christ’s sacrifice of the cross. Under the form of bread and wine He nourishes us with His own crucified and risen Body and Blood -the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation. With this sustenance we can grow into the saving power of Christ’s death and resurrection.
That is the wonder we celebrate at every Mass.
On the feast of Corpus Christi we stress the mystery of Jesus remaining with us under the form of bread. He is reserved in what we call the 'tabernacle' -named after the 'Tent of Meeting,' the focus of God's presence as He led His people across the desert to the Promised Land.
Why does our saviour remain with us in this special way?   Firstly, so that He can be taken to the sick and house-bound, who can’t get to Mass. Jesus comes to nourish them in a special way when they receive Him in Holy Communion. He supports them in their frailty and suffering as, in a unique way, they identify with Him in His Passion. When Jesus is taken to them from the sacrifice of the Mass He makes Himself the sacred bond between those able to go to Mass and those who can’t. This should give the lonely a sense of belonging to the worshipping community, and that community a sense of loving responsibility for those who are no longer able to come to church.
The Blessed Sacrament is also reserved in the tabernacle so that we can drop into the church, to worship Jesus, who is present amongst us in a very special way. As we pray before the Blessed Sacrament we have time to prolong and deepen our understanding and devotion for Masses we have already attended. This, in turn, should prepare us to take part in future Masses with greater reverence. In other words, Eucharistic devotion outside Mass should always be linked to the Mass itself. It’s not meant to be a devotion independent of the Mass. That’s very true of Benediction and Blessed Sacrament processions.
Corpus Christi is a wonderful, joyful feast. We celebrate Christ’s gift of Himself in the Mass, His becoming present in a very special way, when bread and wine are changed into His own Body and Blood. As He offers Himself to His heavenly Father and gives Himself to us in the form of a meal He strengthens our unity with God and with each other, as His people.
It’s not surprising the Mass should be called the ‘Eucharist,’ which means, ‘Thanksgiving.’ Today, above all others, we should be filled with gratitude for the gift of the Mass!
Isidore Clarke O.P.

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