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Deacon Fournier: Corpus Christi, The Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus

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By Deacon Keith Fournier
6/23/2019 (4 months ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

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

We have received the Bread of Heaven. Let us choose to become what we consume. These Feasts are not just rituals on a Church calendar. They are invitations to encounter the Lord Jesus Christ, and then offer Him to a world waiting to be born anew. On this Feast of Corpus Christi, let us ask the Lord to come and take up residence within us anew. Let us receive, adore and become Eucharist for others.

There is also an ancient and beautiful custom in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church called the Corpus Christi procession. The consecrated Host, the Body of the Lord, is reposed in what is called a monstrance. The term is derived from a Latin phrase which means to show or reveal.  The faithful process the Body of the Lord through the streets surrounding their church buildings. This Eucharistic procession can be a powerful witness to an age which has lost its sense of the sacred.

There is also an ancient and beautiful custom in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church called the Corpus Christi procession. The consecrated Host, the Body of the Lord, is reposed in what is called a monstrance. The term is derived from a Latin phrase which means to show or reveal. The faithful process the Body of the Lord through the streets surrounding their church buildings. This Eucharistic procession can be a powerful witness to an age which has lost its sense of the sacred.

Highlights

TYLER, TX (Catholic Online) - Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus which is given to us in the Most Holy Eucharist, is a profound, prophetic and powerful Feast in the liturgical year of the Catholic Church.  Though this Feast has been transferred to Sunday in the United States, the Church in much of the world celebrated it on Thursday. Whenever it is celebrated, it is meant to be a richly significant day in Catholic Christian life.

On this day, through our readings at Holy Mass, the homily which is to be focused on the meaning of the Feast, and our active preparation and participation, we are reminded that Jesus Christ still gives Himself to us, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. He comes to live within us, and we live in Him through our Baptism into His Body, the Church.

There is also an ancient and beautiful custom in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church called the Corpus Christi procession. The consecrated Host, the Body of the Lord, is reposed in what is called a monstrance. The term is derived from a Latin phrase which means to show or reveal.  The faithful process the Body of the Lord through the streets surrounding their church buildings.

This Eucharistic procession can be a powerful witness to an age which has lost its sense of the sacred. We proclaim by our action that the Lord is truly present, giving Himself to all who call upon him. The faithful process out of the Church building and go into the street, singing songs of worship. Jesus Christ is not dead, He is alive. He has been raised from the dead. He still walks through our streets in this hour as truly as He walked the streets of Galilee. 

When I was a child, growing up in a Catholic neighborhood of Dorchester, Massachusetts, the procession was woven into the experience of the Catholic culture. It fell out of practice in many churches as the practice of the faith itself waned. Over the many years I have served as a Deacon of the Church, I have found that the parishes which practice the procession have experienced tremendous grace. 

In one inner city parish I served, I remember the beauty of witnessing the people come out of their homes as we marched through the streets. Many knelt on their porches, as the Lord passed by. It was an amazing moment of encountering the living witness of the Risen Jesus Christ. How much the world of this hour needs to encounter Him!

The Corpus Christi procession is one of those practices wherein we can truly encounter the Lord, if we approach participation with living faith. I hope it finds new impetus in this age of the New Evangelization, as more and more Catholics are encountering the Lord in a personal, life changing way.  So much of our life in the Church presupposes such an encounter.

Priests, accompanied by Deacons, lead the faithful in a solemn procession of the Consecrated Holy Eucharist throughout the Streets of the world. We make a prophetic statement. And, to those who witness the event with the eyes of living faith, we offer them an encounter with the Risen Lord, as they choose to accept Him.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, St. 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 one of them St. 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.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.
 
On this Feast we proclaim our belief in the Real presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. We also proclaim that same Jesus lives within each one of us who are baptized into His Body, the Church, of which we are members. That is also a Real presence. The Lord Himself teaches us that the entire Trinity takes up residence within us. (See, e.g., John 14:23) Then, through our life in the Church, which is His Body, and our participation in the Sacraments, which communicate Divine Life, we can begin to live in the Trinity, right now.

This is the theological mystery we call communion. It is a huge word, with multiple implications. It is one reason why we call the reception of the Eucharist, Holy Communion. The Christian faith and life is about relationship, with the Father, in and through His Son Jesus through the Holy Spirit. And, in Jesus Christ, with one another, for the sake of the world. The world into which we process is the world that God still loves so much that He continues to send His Son - to save, recreate and transform it from within.  The Corpus Christi procession symbolizes the ongoing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ - and our participation in it. 
 
He comes to dwell within us - and we live our lives now in Him. We are invited to become a living monstrance, carrying the Lord within us; living manifestations, of the Lord, showing Him forth to the world, in word and deed. We are invited to enthrone the Lord in our hearts, which is, in biblical language, the moral center of the person. In the Holy Eucharist we receive the Divine Host, Jesus the Christ.  Through our Baptism, Jesus Christ has taken up residence within each one of us. We carry Him into the real world just as we carry the monstrance into its streets today.  When we process - we proclaim by symbolic action that the Lord continues to come into the world, through the Church.

Jesus told his disciples, Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  We who have been given the bread of angels truly do have His Life within us; the very life of the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit - a communion of Divine Persons in the Perfect unity of Perfect love. The Feast of Corpus Christi follows the great Feast of the Holy Trinity in the Western Catholic Church calendar in order to show us this profound connection every year. Through our continual reception of the Eucharist we are invited to live more fully in the Trinitarian communion- and we are given the grace to do so!
 
Then we are sent into the world to carry Jesus to others. The Lord wants all men and women to live within the Church. She is the home of the whole human race and a seed of the kingdom. The implications of that invitation are meant to unfold into a life of continual conversion in every believer. This conversion happens in and through the very real stuff, the struggles and travail of our daily lives; through even the mistakes, the wrong choices, the failures, and the pain, when they are joined to His Passion in our lives of joyful penitence. 

Through it all, the love of God purifies and refines us like the refiners' fire purified the gold that was used to make the many Monstrances we carry into the Streets of the world on this great and glorious Feast of Corpus Christi. Like Mary, the Mother of the Lord - and the mother of all who follow her Son - we are invited to give our own Fiat, our Yes to the God of love. We enthrone Him in our hearts. She carried him in her womb.

For me, this is the day when I celebrate my ordination to the Diaconate in Christ. Because this event, which changed my entire life and ordered me for service in Christ, occurred on this feast in 1996, I always celebrate the Feast as my ordination anniversary, rather than the calendar date. Since my ordination, has come to signify my call to go from the altar and ambo into the world. This is how I explain the ministry of a deacon to anyone who asks. We are clergy called into the world, as witnesses of Christ the Servant. 

I have grown to understand more deeply with each passing year, how significant it was that the Lord who called me allowed me to root my service as a member of the Clergy in the rich and deep meaning of this marvelous Feast. The mystery it recalls to our hearts and minds and the invitation to intimacy with the Lord which it extends to every one of us. Though I have fond memories of this beautiful event which stretch back into my early childhood, memories are not sufficient. The faith must be alive, continually rekindled.

This Feast reminds all of us of the call to continuing conversion, the universal call to holiness. Each of us who bear the name Christian is to become more like the One whom we love and in whom we live. As we march the Monstrance into the cities of the whole world we participate in a profoundly prophetic act. The early Eastern Church Fathers referred to the Church as the "world transfigured" and the "world reconciled." That reconciliation and transfiguration continues through the Church. Jesus has been raised from the dead and he walks into the world, through His Body, of which we are members. (1 Cor. 12,13)

St. Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Philippi, reminds us our true citizenship is in heaven. While we live in this current age we participate in bringing heaven to earth and earth to heaven. Christians live in the Church and go into the world. Our mission is to bring this world back to God in and through Jesus Christ.

We have received the Bread of Heaven. Let us choose to become what we consume. These Feasts are not just rituals on a Church calendar. They are invitations to encounter the Lord Jesus Christ, and then offer Him to a world waiting to be born anew. On this Feast of Corpus Christi, let us ask the Lord to come and take up residence within us anew. Let us receive, adore and become Eucharist for others.

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Deacon Keith A. Fournier is an ordained minister of the Catholic Church, a Deacon. He and his wife Laurine have five grown children and seven grandchildren. He is a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate who served as the first and founding Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice in the nineteen nineties and has long been active at the intersection of faith and culture. 

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