The feast of Corpus Christi, or in more modern terms the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, was introduced into the Church calendar in the mid 1200’s to give the Eucharist special recognition outside of the solemn remembrance of Holy Thursday.
Originally it was celebrated on the first Thursday after Pentecost for two reasons. The first is that this Thursday did not already have a feast or solemnity associated with it. The second reason is that this first Thursday after Pentecost is also the 60th day after Easter, tying this celebration back into the Easter season.
Why would there be a second Feast celebrating the Eucharist when we celebrated its institution on Holy Thursday? What should we be thinking about and learning as we celebrate this second feast?
On Holy Thursday we memorialized the institution of the Eucharist while looking forward to the passion and death of our Lord, as well as His resurrection. We recalled again the story of the first Passover in Egypt, with the paschal lamb and the deliverance of Israel from slavery. Jesus is the true Paschal Lamb. His death and resurrection, His own Body and Blood, brought about our deliverance, our salvation, from slavery to sin and evil.
This deliverance happens to the Church as a whole, but it also happens for the individual. Each person experiences the deliverance from sin and evil in a unique way.
Today is a wonderful day to sit quietly with the Lord and thank Him for all the times He has delivered you. Perhaps you have been healed from an illness, gotten a better job, found a solution to a family crisis. Perhaps you have received the strength to persevere in your struggle against a physical illness or a personal weakness. Meditate on the graces you have received from the Lord and give thanks.
On this feast of Corpus Christi, we take the graces and lessons learned on Holy Thursday and begin to apply them to our daily lives in ordinary time.
There are many ways to celebrate God’s great gift to us in our daily lives. The first is to receive the Eucharist often. Attend Mass at least weekly, and through the week if and when you can.
The second is to spend time with our Lord in adoration. Many parishes have dedicated chapels where people can pray before the Jesus present in the Eucharist during the day and early evening. If your parish does not yet have a chapel, or a time set aside for Eucharistic Adoration, ask if you can start such a program or find a neighboring parish that already has one. Once you begin to visit Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament you will not be able to stop!
The third way is to begin a private devotion at home, as part of your personal prayer. There are many devotions like the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and the prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that will deepen you knowledge of and faith in Christ’s actual presence in the Eucharist.
However you do it, give the Lord, present to us all in the Eucharist, first place in your life and heart.
For further study:
- Days of the Lord: The Liturgical Year, Volume 7: Solemnities and Feasts
- Breaking Open the Lectionary, Cycle C, by Margaret Nutting Ralph
- The Christian Calendar: A Complete Guide to the Seasons of the Christian Year, text by L.W. Cowie & John Selwyn Gummer
Copyright © 2013, Carol Ann Chybowski