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``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Corpus Christi



As on Maundy Thursday, we celebrate the Body of Christ -- but this time without the sense of impending doom of knowing what would come on Good Friday. God, in His infinite Majesty not only became man, but becomes our Heavenly Bread, our manna, our Source of spiritual life.

The Feast of Corpus Christi -- which is always on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday -- has an interesting history. Its inspiration is due to two things: the first is the Miracle of Bolsena, which happened in A.D. 1263. Peter of Prague, a German priest, during a pilgrimage to Rome, stopped at the Church of St. Christina there to offer Mass. While he was a holy and devout man, he harbored doubts about the Real Presence -- doubts which were completely resolved when the Host he consecrated during that Mass began to bleed. He rushed to meet Pope Urban IV in Orvieto, bringing the Host with him. The miracle was declared, and the Host is still on display at the Cathedral of Orvieto today.

The second source of inspiration was an Augustinian nun, a Belgian named St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon (A.D. 1193-1258). She had a vision of the Moon that was full and beautiful, but marked by a black spot that signified that there was no joyous celebration of the Eucharist in the entire Church calendar.

In response to both of the above, Pope Urban IV eventually published a Bull, Transiturus, in A.D. 1264, which made this Feast a part of the calendar.

The Mass includes the Lauda Sion Sequence by St. Thomas Aquinas, and a procession followed by the greatest Eucharistic hymns of the Church, also written by St. Thomas especially for this Feast. These include Sacris Solemnis, Ave Verum, Adoro Te, and Verbum Supernum (the last two verses of Verbum Supernum are the lyrics to the hymn "O Salutaris Hostia").


Some will have prepared for this Feast by praying the Corpus Christi Novena starting on the Tuesday after Pentecost. As to prayer for this feast itself, the Litany of the Blessed Sacrament would be perfect.

Eucharistic processions are held today, and in still relatively Catholic countries, those who live along the procession route decorate their homes with greenery, floral wreaths, and banners, and put candles in the windows. Rose petals are strewn in the path the Sacrament takes. Bystanders fall to their knees as Our Eucharistic Lord is carried past them.Philippians 2:5-9:

For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  But emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names: That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.

This is how Maria Von Trapp recalls Corpus Christi in her native country:

On the Thursday after the octave of the Pentecost falls the feast of Corpus Christi -- the feast of the Holy Eucharist. The actual anniversary of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament is celebrated on Holy Thursday, but on this day the Church cannot summon the proper festive mood, because of all the other happenings following the Last Supper, which she also has to commemorate. For this reason this used to be the great feast day at summer's beginning, with its distinctive feature the solemn procession, after the High Mass, in which the Blessed Sacrament was carried through the streets and over the fields and meadows. Such a Corpus Christi day belong among our most beautiful memories.

The day before, the big boys of the village cut young trees in the woods, usually birch, and plant them on either side of the road along which the priest will carry the Blessed Sacrament. From the village inn you hear the brass band having a last rehearsal, while mothers pin-curl the hair of their little girls. Everybody is preparing his finery for the great day. The Association of Voluntary Firemen come in their best uniforms and brass helmets. The war veterans will also be in uniform with big plumed hats. The big girls are making garlands by the yards which will span the street. All windows will be decorated, houses and families vying with each other: the best carpets, flanked by candles and flowers, are hung out the windows and statues and holy paintings are exhibited on them. Four times the procession will come to a halt, the priest will solemnly sing the beginning of one of the four Gospels and each time there will be a Solemn Benediction. At those four spots altars are erected and decorated with trees and greenry and a profusion of flowers and candles. A great deal of love and care and time goes into these processions.

Then comes the great day. The church choir gives its best at the Solemn High Mass and all the people attend from the mayor to the smallest child, for everybody wants to accompany Our Lord on His triumphal way. The procession is headed by an altar boy carrying a crucifix, followed by all the school children -- the girls in white, their veils held in place by wreaths of flowers, looking for all the world like so many little brides; the boys wearing a wreath of flowers on their left upper arm over their Sunday-best, just like "best men." Then come the fraternities with their banners and costumes. In the towns the convents would send every member they could spare. There would be the blue Vincentian Sisters with their coronets, looking like a group of doves, the white Dominican nuns, the brown Carmelites of the Third Order, the black Benedictines followed by the brown Franciscans, then the Mission Fathers and the bearded Capuchins followed by the secular clergy in their liturgical vestments. They are all like heralds of the great King Who is following now under the richly embroidedered baldachin carried by the four most important men of the community. The pastor carries the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. Two little girls are throwing flower petals out of baskets directly at the feet of Our Lord. Little altar boys alternate in ringing silver bells and swinging the censer from which rise billowing clouds, enveloping the Sanctissimum. On the right and on the left are marching solders carrying guns as if on parade. Behind the Blessed Sacrament follows the church choir, then a detachment of firemen, the war veterans in uniforms, and the rest of the community. At the very end of the procession comes the brass band playing hymns while everybody joins in the singing. The highlights for everybody, young and old, are the moments of benediction with the priest raising the monstrance for all to see and the soldiers lifting their guns and shooting their salute, while from the outskirts cannons resound with a thundering echo. I cannot rememer a single occasion when it rained on Corpus Christi Day. From a cloudless blue sky a hot June sun would shine. At the end of such a triumphal procession everyone from the oldest grandfather in a plumed hat to the smallest flower girl would be in a truly festive mood.

In Catalonia and a few cities in Spain is the tradition of "the dancing egg" (l'ou com balla), which dates to at least the 15th century. An egg is emptied out, the holes needed to empty it out are sealed with wax, and then the egg is placed over a vertical jet of water in one of the city's fountains. The water pushes up against the egg, causing it to turn, but not fall. The egg dances in the water, and with the fountain having been festooned with flowers beforehand, the scene is said to represent the Host in a bejewelled monstrance.

A gorgeous Italian tradition is l'infiorata: the laying out of flowers and their petals in elaborate mosaic-like displays on streets and roadways. This practice is done In Spello, Perugia; Cannara, Perguia; Diano Marina, Liguria; Genzano, Lazio; San Bartolomeo in Galdo, Campania; and Chiaravalle, Marche. During the days and nights before, hundreds and hundreds of people work to make the colorful displays. Miles-long stretches of road might be decorated in this manner in order to form a beautiful carpet on which the procession can make its way. These sorts of floral extravaganzas are carried out in places in Spain as well.

In Campobasso, Molise, Italy, the Sagra dei Misteri is held now -- a parade consisting of moving tableaux vivants depicting St. Isidore, San Crispino, San Gennaro, Abraham, St. Mary Magdalene, Saint Anthony Abbot, the Immaculate Conception, San Leonardo, San Rocco, St. Michael, the Assumption, St. Nicholas.and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Seventy-seven living actors dress as the characters they're depicting, form their tableaux vivants, and are borne on platforms throughout the city, each platform being carried by up to twenty-two people. They're followed by 100 musicians as they make their way along the streets and through the squares of the town's historic center.

Also today, Catholics may start a public Novena to the Sacred Heart in anticipation of the Feast of the Sacred Heart which will be on Friday of next week. Doing so may earn one a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions. Even if the Novena is said privately, and if one says the Novena on all 9 days, a plenary indulgence may be gained.

As to music, there are many ways to celebrate Corpus Christi. Four of the greatest hymns for the day are Tantum Ergo, Panis Angelicus, O Salutaris Hostia, and Ave Verum Corpus. I have to present to you Tomaso Albinoni's version of Ave Verum Corpus; it's too beautiful to resist. It is sung by a boy's choir called Libera:

To tie together the Feasts of Corpus Christi and the Sacred Heart, meditating on the reality of Eucharistic miracles is in order. Read about the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano!


Excerpt on the Eucharistic center of the rites of the Mass,
from "The Shape of the Liturgy"
By Dom Gregory Dix, A.D. 1945

The outlines of that ritual pattern come down to us unchanged in Christian practice from before the Crucifixion, the synaxis from Jesus' preaching in the synagogue of Galilee, the eucharist proper from the evening meals of Jesus with His disciples. The needs of a Christian corporate worship gradually brought about their combination. The needs of a Christian public worship have added to these inheritances from our Lord's own Jewish piety only an "introduction" of praise and a brief prayer of thanksgiving. The whole has a new meaning fixed for all time in the Upper Room. But the form of the rite is still centered upon the Book on the Lectern and the Bread and Cup on the table as it always was, though by the new meaning they have become the Liturgy of the Spirit and the Liturgy of the Body, centering on the Word of God enounced and the Word of God made flesh.

At the heart of it all is the eucharistic action, a thing of an absolute simplicity -- the taking, blessing, breaking and giving of bread and the taking, blessing and giving of a cup of wine and water, as these were first done with their new meaning by a young Jew before and after supper with His friends on the night before He died. Soon it was simplified still further, by leaving out the supper and combining the double grouping before and after it into a single rite. So the four-action shape of the liturgy was found by the end of the first century. He had told His friends to do this henceforward with the new meaning "for the anamnesis" of Him, and they have done it always since.

Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetish because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so wounded and prisoner of war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc-- one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei -- the holy common people of God.

On the Mysteries (excerpt)
By St. Ambrose, A.D. 240-397

43. The cleansed people, rich with these adornments [the baptized people in their new white robes], hastens to the altar of Christ, saying: "I will go to the altar of God, to God Who maketh glad my youth;" for having laid aside the slough of ancient error, renewed with an eagle's youth, it hastens to approach that heavenly feast. It comes, and seeing the holy altar arranged, cries out: "Thou hast prepared a table in my sight." David introduces the people as speaking, where he says: "The Lord feedeth me, and nothing shall be wanting to me, in a place of good pasture hath He placed me. He hath led me forth by the water of refreshment." And later: "For though I walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff have comforted me. Thou hast prepared in my sight a table against them that trouble me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and Thy inebriating cup, how excellent it is!"

44. We must now pay attention, lest perchance anyone seeing that what is visible (for things which are invisible cannot be seen nor comprehended by human eyes), should say, "God rained down manna and rained down quails upon the Jews," but for the Church beloved of Him the things which He has prepared are those of which it is said: "That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him." So, lest any one should say this, we will take great pains to prove that the sacraments of the Church are both more ancient than those of the synagogue, and more excellent than the manna.

45. The lesson of Genesis just read shows that they are more ancient, for the synagogue took its origin from the law of Moses. But Abraham was far earlier, who, after conquering the enemy, and recovering his own nephew, as he was enjoying his victory, was met by Melchisedech, who brought forth those things which Abraham reverently received. It was not Abraham who brought them forth, but Melchisedech, who is introduced without father, without mother, having neither beginning of days, nor ending, but like the Son of God, of Whom Paul says to the Hebrews: "that He remaineth a priest for ever," Who in the Latin version is called King of righteousness and King of peace.

46. Do you recognize Who that is? Can a man be king of righteousness, when himself he can hardly be righteous? Can he be king of peace, when he can hardly be peaceable? He it is Who is without mother according to His Godhead, for He was begotten of God the Father, of one substance with the Father; without a father according to His Incarnation, for He was born of a Virgin; having neither beginning nor end, for He is the beginning and end of all things, the first and the last. The sacrament, then, which you received is the gift not of man but of God; brought forth by Him Who blessed Abraham the father of faith, whose grace and deeds we admire.

47. We have proved the sacraments of the Church to be the more ancient, now recognize that they are superior. In very truth it is a marvellous thing that God rained manna on the fathers, and fed them with daily food from heaven; so that it is said, "So man did eat angels' food." But yet all those who ate that food died in the wilderness, but that food which you receive, that living Bread which came down from heaven, furnishes the substance of eternal life; and whosoever shall eat of this Bread shall never die, and it is the Body of Christ.

49. Now consider whether the bread of angels be more excellent or the Flesh of Christ, which is indeed the body of life. That manna came from heaven, this is above the heavens; that was of heaven, this is of the Lord of the heavens; that was liable to corruption, if kept a second day, this is far from all corruption, for whosoever shall taste it holly shall not be able to feel corruption. For them water flowed from the rock, for you Blood flowed from Christ; water satisfied them for a time, the Blood satiates you for eternity. The Jew drinks and thirsts again, you after drinking will be beyond the power of thirsting; that was in a shadow, this is in truth.

49. If that which you so wonder at is but shadow, how great must that be whose very shadow you wonder at. See now what happened in the case of the fathers was shadow: "They drank, it is said, of that Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were done in a figure concerning us." You recognize now which are the more excellent, for light is better than shadow, truth than a figure, the Body of its Giver than the manna from heaven.

50. Perhaps you will say, "I see something else, how is it that you assert that I receive the Body of Christ?" And this is the point which remains for us to prove. And what evidence shall we make use of? Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed.

51. Moses was holding a rod, he cast it down and it became a serpent. Again, he took hold of the tail of the serpent and it returned to the nature of a rod. You see that by virtue of the prophetic office there were two changes, of the nature both of the serpent and of the rod. The streams of Egypt were running with. a pure flow of water; of a sudden from the veins of the sources blood began to burst forth, and none could drink of the river. Again, at the prophet's prayer the blood ceased, and the nature of water returned. The people of the Hebrews were shut in on every side, hemmed in on the one hand by the Egyptians, on the other by the sea; Moses lifted up his rod, the water divided and hardened like walls, and a way for the feet appeared between the waves. Jordan being turned back, returned, contrary to nature, to the source of its stream. Is it not clear that the nature of the waves of the sea and of the river stream was changed? The people of the fathers thirsted, Moses touched the rock, and water flowed out of the rock. Did not grace work a result contrary to nature, so that the rock poured forth water, which by nature it did not contain? Marsh was a most bitter stream, so that the thirsting people could not drink. Moses cast wood into the water, and the water lost its bitterness, which grace of a sudden tempered. In the time of Elisha the prophet one of the sons of the prophets lost the head from his axe, which sank. He who had lost the iron asked Elisha, who cast in a piece of wood and the iron swam. This, too, we clearly recognize as having happened contrary to nature, for iron is of heavier nature than water.

52. We observe, then, that grace has more power than nature, and yet so far we have only spoken of the grace of a prophet's blessing. But if the blessing of man had such power as to change nature, what are we to say of that divine consecration where the very words of the Lord and Saviour operate? For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? You read concerning the making of the whole world: "He spake and they were made, He commanded and they were created." Shall not the word of Christ, which was able to make out of nothing that which was not, be able to change things which already are into what they were not? For it is not less to give a new nature to things than to change them.

53. But why make use of arguments? Let us use the examples He gives, and by the example of the Incarnation prove the truth of the mystery. Did the course of nature proceed as usual when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? If we look to the usual course, a woman ordinarily conceives after connection with a man. And this body which we make is that which was born of the Virgin. Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body.

54. The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: "This is My Body." Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.

55. Christ, then, feeds His Church with these sacraments, by means of which the substance of the soul is strengthened, and seeing the continual progress of her grace, He rightly says to her: "How comely are thy breasts, my sister, my spouse, how comely they are made by wine, and the smell of thy garments is above all spices. A dropping honeycomb are thy lips, my spouse, honey and milk are under thy tongue, and the smell of thy garments is as the smell of Lebanon. A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed." By which He signifies that the mystery ought to remain sealed up with you, that it be not violated by the deeds of an evil life, and pollution of chastity, that it be not made known to thou, for whom it is not fitting, nor by garrulous talkativeness it be spread abroad amongst unbelievers. Your guardianship of the faith ought therefore to be good, that integrity of life and silence may endure unblemished.

56. For which reason, too, the Church, guarding the depth of the heavenly mysteries, repels the furious storms of wind, and calls to her the sweetness of the grace of spring, and knowing that her garden cannot displease Christ, invites the Bridegroom, saying: "Arise, O north wind, and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, and let my ointments flow down. Let my Brother come down to His garden, and eat the fruit of His trees." For it has good trees and fruitful, which have dipped their roots in the water of the sacred spring, and with fresh growth have shot forth into good fruits, so as now not to be cut with the axe of the prophet, but to abound with the fruitfulness of the Gospel.

57. Lastly, the Lord also, delighted with their fertility, answers: "I have entered into My garden, My sister, My spouse; I have gathered My myrrh with My spices, I have eaten My meat with My honey, I have drunk My drink with My milk." Understand, you faithful, why He spoke of meat and drink. And there is no doubt that He Himself eats and drinks in us, as you have read that He says that in our persons He is in prison.

58. Wherefore, too, the Church, beholding so great grace, exhorts her sons and her friends to come together to the sacraments, saying: "Eat, my friends, and drink and be inebriated, my brother." What we eat and what we drink the Holy Spirit has elsewhere made plain by the prophet, saying, "Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man that hopeth in Him." In that sacrament is Christ, because it is the Body of Christ, it is therefore not bodily food but spiritual. Whence the Apostle says of its type: "Our fathers ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink," for the Body of God is a spiritual body; the Body of Christ is the Body of the Divine Spirit, for the Spirit is Christ, as we read: "The Spirit before our face is Christ the Lord." And in the Epistle of Peter we read: "Christ died for us." Lastly, that food strengthens our heart, and that drink "maketh glad the heart of man," as the prophet has recorded.

59. So, then, having obtained everything, let us know that we are born again, but let us not say, How are we born again? Have we entered a second time into our mother's womb and been born again? I do not recognize here the course of nature. But here there is no order of nature, where is the excellence of grace. And again, it is not always the course of nature which brings about conception, for we confess that Christ the Lord was conceived of a Virgin, and reject the order of nature. For Mary conceived not of man, but was with child of the Holy Spirit, as Matthew says: "She was found with child of the Holy Spirit." If, then, the Holy Spirit coming down upon the Virgin wrought the conception, and effected the work of generation, surely we must not doubt but that, coming down upon the Font, or upon those who receive Baptism, He effects the reality of the new birth.

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