Corpus et Sanguis Christi

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This certainly applied to a Belgian nun called Juliana who lived in the 13th century. She was a great devotee of Eucharistic Adoration, and her friend was the archdeacon of Liege. Later he became Pope Urban IV and, influenced by Juliana, he instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi. The eucharist is first and foremost a sacrificial meal in which we eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Yet, we believe that the presence of Christ abides in the elements. So, what was bread and wine become the most perfect way in which Jesus Christ is present to his people. To adore Jesus in the Eucharist is to continue and reflect his presence in the Mass.
While he was Pope, Urban IV lived for a while at Orvieto, near Lake Bolsena, north of Rome. It was in this city that the first procession of the Blessed Sacrament took place and then spread to other parts of the Christian world. Even today on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the procession takes place with citizens of the various quarters of Orvieto dressing up in medieval costume to accompany the Bishop, who carries the monstrance through the narrow streets. Afterwards there is eating, drinking, singing and dancing to complete the holyday. This procession takes place today throughout the world and in many parishes throughout our own country since its revival in recent years.

Most of us, have grown up calling this Feast “Corpus Christi”. But the Second Vatican Council changed its name to “Corpus et Sanguis Christi” (Body and Blood of Christ) to emphasise the fuller symbolism of eating and drinking the body and blood which is now available to us when we receive Communion. Jesus said, “Do this…eat and drink…in memory of me”. The English word ‘memorial’ is much more than a mere remembrance. The word in the Greek scriptures is ‘anamnesis’, meaning much more to ‘do this to make me present’.

“My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink,” says Jesus. Christ abides in us as we receive holy communion, this communion strengthens us to proclaim the love of God outside the walls of our Churches, in the ordinary circumstances of our lives. Strengthened for this mission as we partake of the Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, let us tell others of his love in this great sacrament and witness to that love in our service to others.

‘Blessed praised hallowed and adored, be Jesus Christ on his throne of glory, and in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar’.