The Feast of Corpus Christi

On June 18, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). Pat Cetera, OFS, offers this brief reflection, illustrating how we might live “the faith of Saint Francis, who often said, ‘I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except his most holy body and blood.'” (OFS Rule #5)

Our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. The minds and hearts of those present were overcome with fear and uncertainty, as they focused on Good Friday. The love, joy, and gratitude for the Gift of the Blessed Sacrament was not expressed.

In her great wisdom, Holy Mother Church established the Feast of Corpus Christi (Body and Blood of Christ) in the Diocese of Liege, in Belgium in the year 1246. The reigning Holy Father, Urban IV, declared that the Feast be celebrated throughout the world in 1264, on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday. There was to be a Eucharistic Procession as part of the celebration either on that Thursday or the following Sunday. Thus,the Feast of Corpus Christi would allow public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in joy, with gratitude.

A few years ago on Pentecost Sunday, I learned of a local parish celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi with a Eucharistic Procession and Benediction following Mass. This would be my first Eucharistic Procession, and I planned to participate.

Upon entering the church on the Feast, it was easy to recognize the extensive planning being executed. Floral arrangements adorned the altar. Recent First Communicants, wearing their special dresses and suits, were being instructed. The Knights of Columbus were quietly waiting in full attire. Several vested priests were discussing the Liturgy. The church was filled to capacity.

The choir stood, the organ played, and we began. Every note sung, every response spoken, every prayer prayed by the congregation could have been heard miles away. The homily seemed to be addressed to each person individually. We received Our Blessed Lord in Communion. The final blessing and dismissal was given. Soon everyone was taking their assigned places in the procession. Father carried the monstrance around the perimeter of the church grounds. With eyes fixed on the Blessed Sacrament, the choir led us in song as we sometimes just blindly followed.

As we were processing around the front of the church, it was impossible not to notice a young couple walking a dog. They stopped, and in complete silence, just watched. There were more than six cars that stopped in a straight line in the middle of a fairly busy street. Not one honked the horn, not one tried to pull around the car ahead of them. They all watched until the procession was out of sight. Were they all Catholic and knew what was going on? Or, were they wondering what the Catholics were up to this time?  Why did they stop and watch? Was it curiosity, or were they somehow drawn in? Perhaps they may have stopped to say a prayer – something they never do! Or, maybe they just knew in their heart that something special was taking place.

All too quickly, we returned to our places in church for Benediction. Many were deeply moved, and some visibly emotional. We had all been touched in some personal way by Our Lord.

At the end of every Mass, the Church is commanded at the dismissal, to bring Christ out into the world with us, but that by far is not the same as “carrying” Christ into the world. We literally took Our Lord from His Church into the universe He created! For a few moments, time seemed to stand still – it was as if all creation paused to take a breath. For a moment in time in that Divine Silence, all of creation seemed to fall into its own proper order, and responded in adoration with joy and gratitude.

In this confused and broken world, so often even unaware, we cry out from our inmost being for that Divine Silence. When we taste it, we thirst even more deeply for another taste. It is there that creation falls into its ordered place, and so do we. It is there that we can be touched, in a quiet personal way, a way that only we know, by Our Lord.

My hope is that every Catholic participate in a Eucharistic Procession (possibly on the Feast of Corpus Christi, June 18, 2017) to experience carrying Christ to the world, and bringing the world to Christ. And, it is my deepest prayer, that every Catholic believe with all their heart, in the True Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

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