Next Sunday

Corpus Christi - The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ - Solemnity

June 2, 2024

Commentary

Discover the deeper meaning and connections found in this weeks' readings, through these great commentaries written by our priests.

The Word

Explore this weeks' readings and hear what God is saying to us through His Word.

Liturgy notes

Find out more about how we can mark this special day in our liturgy.

Music

See our music recommendations for the liturgy.

Commentary

Mgr Canon Peter Townsend

The Solemnity of Corpus et Sanguis Christi

Each time we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we are drawn again and anew into the ‘Covenant’ established by Jesus in the Paschal Mystery. Our entering into that Covenant begins with Baptism and is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation.

The Covenant into which we enter is, like the Sacrament of Marriage, one that requires our total commitment and lifelong fidelity. That Covenant agreement is honoured by God in Christ regardless of our weakness, infidelity or even sin. We are reminded by God’s faithfulness and love in the Penitential Rite at Mass.

To eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, places upon us an awesome responsibility as disciples of the Lord, a discipleship which Mark, the author of this year’s Gospel, spells out in a challenging way. There are a number of key aspects.

We begin by believing that when we receive Holy Communion, we are taking into ourselves the risen life of Jesus while, at the same time, being drawn more deeply into the Body of Christ which is the Church; this has huge implications for our loyalty to the Church and its life. As we eat and drink, we commit ourselves to the truth that bread and wine is no longer bread and wine, though they may have that appearance. They become the risen life of Jesus himself and we are intimately caught up in the life and love of the Trinity, as is so beautifully expressed in the first preface of Christmas. St. Thomas Aquinas’s hymn ‘Lauda Sion’, which is the sequence for today, should be sung and taken home for frequent reflection.

Each reception of Holy Communion brings with it the responsibility to renew our relationship of faith and trust in Jesus. This has implications for the development and deepening of our commitment to daily prayer and our readiness to listen to the Word of God and his communication to us through creation and the events of daily life.

To eat and drink the Lord’s Body and Blood is to accept the invitation to become temples of the Holy Spirit. We are to become, through the power of the Eucharist, those in whom the mission of the Church is present and active. This means we are to take on the task of evangelisation with serious commitment. Evangelisation includes ‘evangelism’ which is about inviting and welcoming others into our faith communities.  There are questions here for the quality of our welcome, hospitality, and the quality of our liturgical celebration.

But evangelisation has a wider meaning than evangelism. It embraces the totality of human experience including human development, the promotion of peace and social justice. Nearly 50 years later, the words of St. Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi, describe a fitting and indispensable response to the gift of the Lord in Holy Communion. In paragraph 18, Pope Paul says:” For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: "Now I am making the whole of creation new." But there is no new humanity if there are not first of all new persons renewed by Baptism and by lives lived according to the Gospel. The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change, and if it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs.”

St. Mark ends his narrative of the Lord’s Supper with “When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” St. John, in a similar place but not following the instruction immediately, Jesus says: “Rise let us be on our way”.  And at the end of Mass we hear “Go in peace, announce the Gospel…….but GO…” The gift of the Lord’s Body and Blood is about nourishing and energising us to ‘go out’ into our world and transform it. With such a great gift  as the Lord’s Body and Blood’ there is the possibility of not going out but remaining inside to appreciate the gift. But this ‘abiding in the Lord’s presence’ must not replace his instruction in John 15.16 to “Go out and bear fruit”.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

CCC 790, 1003, 1322-1419: the Holy Eucharist
CCC 805, 950, 2181-2182, 2637, 2845: the Eucharist and the communion of believers
CCC 1212, 1275, 1436, 2837: the Eucharist as spiritual food

 

Liturgy notes

Canon Alan Griffiths

CORPUS ET SANGUIS DOMINI  -  THE BODY AND BLOOD OF THE LORD.

The observance of a festival of the Body of Christ, ‘Corpus Christi’ seems to have begun in the 13th century in Northern Europe, as a response to the growing theological consensus on the ‘reality’ of the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 ‘canonized’ the doctrine of ‘Transubstantiation.’ In the light of eucharistic miracles, the feast was mandated for the whole Church in 1264. The prayers for the feast and the Sequence for the Mass are ascribed to St. Thomas Aquinas. It was a hugely popular occasion throughout medieval Europe, marked by a procession involving entire communities, as if the whole town were gathering around the eucharistic presence of Christ.

A good (and readable) summary of the history of this is Mirri Rubin’s Book Corpus Christi, the Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (Cambridge University Press 1992).

The Feast of the Precious Blood was mandated for the whole Church in 1849. Westminster Cathedral is dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In 1969, the two feasts were combined as ‘Corpus et Sanguis Domini’ - 'the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord.’

St. Thomas’ Sequence ‘Lauda Sion’ gives us a statement of the Church’s dogma of the Real Presence which succeeds in being both concise and poetic. It may be sung in either its full or shortened versions.

The Missal directs that either one of the two Prefaces ‘Of the Most Holy Eucharist’ may be used.

Music recommendations

These hymns have been selected from various sources:

Bread for the world, a world of hunger (CFE92, L625)

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer (CFE233, L960, LHON307, TCH221)

I received the living God (CFE280, L636, LHON371)

Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour (CFE379, L769 LHON444, TCH121)

This is my body, broken for you (CFE730, L627, LHON681)

Key

CFE - Celebration Hymnal for Everyone

L – Laudate

LHON – Liturgical Hymns Old and New (Mayhew,  1999)

TCH – The Catholic Hymnbook (Gracewing)

Any questions?

Do you have questions about the liturgy and how we are called to participate in it? Explore how the Church councils, saints and popes have answered this key question and many more.

Discover the Mass

Every movement of the Mass is rich in meaning but we can become over familiar with it. Rediscover the Mass and explore how it relates to the Exodus story, where many of its rituals come from and how it makes Jesus present to us today.