It seems ironic to me that we celebrate this wonderful feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christi (Corpus Christi) today when we cannot be physically present at the Eucharist and receive Jesus in Holy Communion. This is the sacrifice that we are making to keep everyone safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The feast of Corpus Christi was established in 1264 by Pope Urban IV after a miracle that took place at Bolsena in Italy. A priest, who was having doubts about Jesus being truly present in the consecrated bread and wine, while reciting the prayer of consecration as he celebrated Mass, saw blood started seeping from the consecrated host and onto the altar and corporal. The Pope sent delegates to investigate and ordered that the host and blood-stained corporal be brought to him. The relics were then placed in the Cathedral of Orvieto, where they remain today.
Inspired by the miracle, Pope Urban commissioned a Dominican friar, St. Thomas Aquinas, to compose the Mass and Office for the feast of Corpus Christi. Aquinas’ hymns in honour of the Holy Eucharist, Pange Lingua, Tantum Ergo, Panis Angelicus, and O Salutaris Hostia are the beloved hymns the Church sings on the feast of Corpus Christi as well as throughout the year during Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
A dear class mate and friend of mine, Bishop Michael Evans, who died in 2011, wrote a booklet, “Is Jesus really present in the Eucharist?” In it he said, “We receive the body of Christ at Mass in order to become together, more fully, the Body of Christ that we are by Baptism. We receive the sacramental presence of Christ so that, as a real, living and united community, we can more faithfully be the sacrament of Christ to the world around us. We receive the consecrated and transformed bread and cup so that we who receive them, can be consecrated and transformed by the powerful presence of Christ within us. Our recognition and reception of the real presence of the Lord in the breaking of bread should open our eyes to recognise his hidden presence in one another, especially in the broken lives of the poor and oppressed, the unwanted and rejected, and to receive, revere and serve his presence in them.”
Here are the words of Saint Teresa of Calcutta
If we really understand the Eucharist,
if we really centre our lives on Jesus’ Body and Blood,
if we nourish our lives with the Bread of the Eucharist,
it will be easy for us to see Christ in the hungry one next door,
the one lying in the gutter,
the alcoholic we shun,
our husband or wife, or our restless child.
For in them, we will recognise the distressing disguises of the poor:
Jesus in our midst.