Deacon Keith A. Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
Today the Catholic Church in America celebrates the Feast of “Corpus Christi”, the “Body and Blood of the Lord”. Much of the rest of the Catholic world celebrated it on its actual place in our common liturgical calendar, last Thursday. Whenever it is celebrated, it is a richly significant day in Catholic faith and life.
It is also an extremely important day in my own personal life, the anniversary of my ordination to the Diaconate in Christ.
What a beautiful custom the Corpus Christi Procession truly is! After having received the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion, and after the priest has enthroned the consecrated Sacred Host in a Monstrance, we come from the Sanctuary and process into the Streets of the world, pausing along the way for solemn worship, singing songs of adoration, and holding the Lord, enthroned.
The celebration of this Solemnity goes back to the thirteenth century. Pope Urban IV instituted it in 1264 for the entire Church. He wanted it to be filled with joy and accompanied by hymns and a festive procession. He asked the great Western Church father, Thomas Aquinas, to compose two Offices of prayer. St Thomas did so- along with five hymns - and they have nourished the piety of Christians for centuries. In writing concerning the Holy Eucharist as heavenly provision and eternal food for our earthly journey, Thomas noted:
“Material food first of all turns itself into the person who eats it, and as a consequence, restores his losses and increases his vital energies. Spiritual food, on the other hand, turns the person who eats it into Itself, and thus the proper effect of this sacrament is the conversion of man into Christ, so that he may no longer live for himself, but that Christ may live in Him. And as a consequence it has the double effect of restoring the spiritual losses caused by sins and defects and of increasing the power of the virtues”.
In this celebration we proclaim in both word and deed our belief in the Real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. We also proclaim the implications of this fact: Jesus Christ comes to truly live within us. In fact, the entire Trinity takes up residence within us. We also live within the Trinity. This is the mystery of communion.
The Christian faith and life is all about relationship, with God, in Christ, and because of Jesus Christ, with the world that He still loves so much that He continues to come into it to save it and make it new. The Corpus Christi procession symbolizes this ongoing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ to the world and our participation in it, as it is lived out through his Church.
I have fond memories of this beautiful event which stretch back into my early childhood. Since my ordination to ministry as a Deacon, it has also come to signify my call to go, as I often say “from the altar into the world.”
As the years have unfolded in my life, the true beauty and profound symbolism of this Western Catholic custom has captured me. It is a richly beautiful experience. We march with the Body of Jesus Christ, the Eucharistic Host, enthroned in a “monstrance”, a sacred vessel made of precious metal, specifically designed to be a place of repose for the Lord. There we recognize His glory and worship Him.
This recognition of His Real presence - and the accompanying worship- not only occurs in the Church sanctuary but spreads out into the “city streets” of the entire world. In this act of public procession we are reminded that God still loves the world so much that He still sends His Son into the world.
This solemn procession is a reminder of the baptismal vocation of every Christian, to carry on the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ, through His Church, until He returns. At an interior level, it symbolizes the universal call to holiness. All Christian men and women, in all the states of life, are called to conversion and transformation. All of the baptized are called into intimate communion with God. He comes to dwell within us and we live our lives now in Him.
In this we are all invited to become “living monstrances”, enthroning the Lord in our “hearts”, which is, in biblical language, the center of the person. Then, as we are filled with His real presence, we are called to carry Him into the world of our daily lives.
At its very core, the Christian faith reveals this profound truth - the God who created the entire universe can be known - intimately and personally. He is more than a theory or a principle; He is a loving Father who hungers for a relationship of love, a communion, with all men and women.
It proclaims that in the fullness of time, this God of love came to us, in His Son Jesus Christ. Through His Incarnation, life, death and ...
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