Corpus Christi Procession in my hometown of Buffalo, NY
It is well-known that many North American / West European Catholics do not understand the enormous gift of Christ that is present in the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of the altar, the reserved Sacrament kept in tabernacles around the Catholic and Orthodox world, the awesomeness of the Second Person of the Trinity willingly – indeed happily – choosing to live among us in the most accessible form possible – little pieces of bread. The God Who became little in the Incarnation and living in the womb of Mary as a baby, remains little today in this great mystery. The Roman rite feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) emphasizes this reality with processions in neighborhoods to special altars, with the Blessed Sacrament carried under a canopy with people walking and praying along a specific route. This celebration is all the more important for Roman Catholics today in the western world!
I don’t think that this is a problem among Eastern Catholics – the splendor of the Liturgy in the humblest of churches coupled with the great respect shown to the consecrated gifts combine to make you aware of just what is happening, and being given, and being kept. For Byzantine Catholics (and Orthodox), the beautiful prayer of St. John Chrysostom recited right before Communion makes it very clear that Jesus is here: “O Lord, I also believe and profess that this, which I am about to receive, is truly Your most precious Body and Your holy and life-giving Blood.”
American icon of the Most Holy Eucharist, atop the Gospel Book, under Jesus blessing the Bread
Pope Francis on the Holy Eucharist, from FIDES, for the celebration of Corpus Christi on Thursday:
Solemnity of Corpus Christi: the Eucharist is not a prize for the good
Vatican City, 5 June 2015 (VIS) – Yesterday, on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi), the Holy Father celebrated Holy Mass before thousands of people at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The Eucharist the procession began, led by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome, along the Via Merulana to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where the Pope imparted his solemn blessing with the Holy Sacrament.
In his homily, the Pope recalled that during the Last Supper, Jesus gives us His Body and Blood in the bread and wine, to leave us the memorial of His sacrifice of infinite love, and by means of this ‘viaticum’, full of grace, the disciples have everything that is necessary for their path through history, to extend the kingdom of God to all. As the responsory of today’s liturgy shows, “See in this bread the body of Christ which hung upon the cross, and in this cup the blood which flowed from His side. Take His body, then, and eat it; take His blood and drink it, and you will become His members. The body of Christ is the bond which unites you to Him: eat it, or you will have no part in Him. The blood is the price He paid for your redemption: drink it, lest you despair of your sinfulness”.
Francis explained the meaning today of being torn from Him and of despairing, as cowards. “We are torn from Him when we are not obedient to the Word of the Lord, when we do not live brotherhood between us, when we race to occupy the first places, … when we find the courage to witness to charity, when we are unable to offer hope. The Eucharist allows us to be not torn from Him, for it is the bond of communion, is the fulfilment of the Covenant … that we might remain united. … The Christ present in our midst, in the signs of bread and wine, requires that the power of love exceed every laceration, and at the same time that it become communion with the poor, support for the weak, fraternal attention to those who are struggling to carry the weight of everyday life and are in danger of losing faith”.
To be cowardly, to despair of our sinfulness, he said, “means to let ourselves be affected by the idolatries of our time: appearance, consumption, the self at the center of everything; but also being competitive, arrogance as the winning attitude, the idea that one never need admit to a mistake or to find oneself in need. All this demeans us, makes us mediocre, lukewarm, insipid Christians, pagans”.
“Jesus shed his blood as a ransom and as a lavacrum – a cleansing agent, that we might be purified of all sins”, he continued, “that we might be preserved from the risk of corruption. … The Blood of Christ will … give us back our dignity. … We will be His eyes that go in search of Zacchaeus and of the Magdalene; we will be His hand who helps the sick in body and spirit; we will be His heart that loves those in need of reconciliation and understanding. … In this way we understand that the Eucharist is not a reward for the good, but rather strength for the weak, for sinners. It is forgiveness, the viaticum that helps us on our way”.
“Today, the feast of Corpus Christi, we have the joy not only of celebrating this mystery, but also of praising Him and singing in the streets of our city”, he continued. “May the procession we will make at the end of the Mass, express our gratitude for all the journey that God has allowed us to make through the desert of our poverty, to take us out of slavery, by nourishing us with His love through the Sacrament of his Body and the Blood. Soon, as we walk the streets, let us perceive ourselves in communion with our many brothers and sisters who do not have the freedom to express their faith in the Lord Jesus. Let us feel that we are united with them, let us sing with them, praise with them, worship with them. And we venerate in our hearts those brothers and sisters who have been asked to sacrifice their lives for their fidelity to Christ. May their blood, united to that of the Lord, be a pledge of peace and reconciliation for the whole world.”
Tens of thousands following the Most Holy Eucharist in Rome, in the procession which was restored by St. John Paul II in 1979 for the diocese of Rome.