Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Hymn: Pange, lingua, gloriosi Corporis mysterium
Sing, my tongue, the Saviour glory
Of His Flesh the mystery sing;
Of the Blood, all price exceeding,
Shed by our immortal King,
Destined, for the world's redemption,
From a noble womb to spring.
Of a pure and spotless Virgin
Born for us on earth below,
He, as Man with man conversing,
Stay'd the seeds of truth to sow;
Then he closed in solemn order
Wondrously his life of woe
On the night of that Last Supper,
Seated with his chosen band,
He the Paschal victim eating,
First fulfils the law's command;
Then, as Food to his Apostles
Gives himself with his own hand.
Word made Flesh, the bread of nature
By His word to Flesh he turns;
Wine into His Blood he changes: -
What though sense no change discerns?
Only be the heart in earnest,
Faith he lesson quickly learns.
Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail;
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing,
Never rites of grace prevail;
Faith, for all defects supplying
Where the feeble senses fail.
To the Everlasting Father,
And the Son who reigns on high,
With the Holy Ghost proceeding
Forth from Earth eternally,
Be Salvation, honour, blessing,
Might, and endless majesty. AMEN

O God, who under a wonderful Sacrament hast left us a memorial of thy passion: grant us, we beseech thee, so to venerate the sacred mysteries of thy body and blood, that we may evermore feel within the fruit of thy redemption: Who livest.

From "Devout Instructions" by Father Goffine, 1896 edition

Why is this day called Corpus Christi?
Because on this day the Catholic Church solemnly celebrates the institution of the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. The name, which is Latin, siginifies the body of Christ.

Why is this feast not celebrated on Maundy Thursday?
Because on Moundy Thursday, the day of the institution of this sacrament, the Church is occupied with the passion and death of Christ, and has no thought of joy, but gives herself up to grief.

By whom was this feast established?
It was instituted by Pope Urban IV. Persuaded by a devout nun of Liege, who believed herself to be divinely encouraged to introduce this feast, Robert, Bishop of Liege, determined, in the year 1247, to celebrate this feast in his diocese. This intention he was prevented from carrying out by death. In the year 1264 Pope Urban IV commanded this feast to be solemnly celebrated throughout the whole Church. Clement V confirmed this order, at the Council of Vienna, 1311, and fixed the feast on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday.

For what purpose was this feast instituted, and why are processions so solemnly held on this day?
1. To declare, openly, to the faithful the real and substantial presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. 2. In order to manifest, in the sight of heaven and earth, honour and adoration for Him before Whom every knee shall bow. 3. To give public thanks for the institution of this holy sacrament, and for all the graces thereby conferred upon the faithful. 4. To repair, in some measure, by solemn adoration, the wrongs done to Christ, in this sacrament. 5. To bring down God's blessing upon the land and upon the people. 6. To show that Jesus, as true God, dwells not only in temples built by hands, but He has heaven of His throne, the earth for His Footstool, and the whole world for His temple.
The Church sings at the Introit of the Mass:"He fed them with the fat of wheat, alleluia; and filled them with honey out of the rock, alleluia, alleluia. Rejoice to God our helper, sing aloud to the God of Jacob" (Ps. lxxx)> Glory be to the Father, etc.

EPISTLE. I Cor. xi. 23-29
Brethren: For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread. And giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come. Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.

GOSPEL. John vi.56-59.
For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.

Why did Jesus say,"this is the bread that came down from heaven"?
He wished thereby to teach the Jews that the bread which He would give them, like the manna, came down from heaven, and was, indeed, the only true bread from heaven. The manna was but the a type, and could only prolong the life of the body. The type was now to be fulfilled: the bread that he was about to give them would impart to them eternal life, and this bread
would be His flesh, - Himself, Who truly came from heaven, to redeem mankind, and to bring them to life everlasting. Jesus calls His flesh bread, partly on account of his likeness to the manna, partly on account of its effect; for as bread nourishes the body, and sustains the earthly life, so the body of Christ, in the Holy Sacrament, nourishes the soul, and imparts to it, continually, a new, divine, and everlasting life.

What is the Holy Sacrament of the Altar?
It is that sacrament in which, after the words of its institution have bees spoken by the priest, Jesus Christ is present, whole and entire, in His Godhead and in His manhood, under the appearance of bread and wine.

When and how did Jesus institute the sacrament?
At the Last Supper. In the night, before His was betrayed, he took bread, and, giving thanks, broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, "Take and eat, for this is My body which will be given for you." In the same manner, he took the chalice and said, "Take and drink, for this chalice is the new covenant in My blood. Do this as often as you drink from it in commemoration of Me."

What did Jesus effect by these words?
He changed bread and wine into His most precious body and blood.
Has He given to others the power to do the same?
Yes; He gave this power to His apostles and their successors, the bishops and priests, in these words: "Do this in commemoration of Me."

What takes place at the words of consecration?:
Bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and only the outward appearances of bread and wine remain.

How is Jesus present in the Most Holy Sacrament?
He is present, truly, really, and substantially, in His divinity and humanity, in flesh and blood, in body and soul, under the appearances of bread and wine.

Why do we believe this?
1. Because the words of Jesus do not reasonably admit of any other meaning: since by them we see (a) that Jesus gave His disciples a certain nourishment which they were to eat; (b) that this nourishment was bread and wine to all appearances, but Jesus called the bread His body, which was afterwards to be sacrificed for us, and the wine His blood, which was to be shed for us: this food consequently was not bread and wine, but, under the appearance of bread and wine, was indeed His body and blood; since what he gave for our redemption was not bead and wine, but His true body and His true blood; (c) that as the body and blood of Jesus were inseparable from His soul and divinity, he gave Himself up for our nourishment, whole and undivided, as he hung, bled, and died upon the cross; (d) that He commanded what He had done to be continued until He should come again (1 Cor. xi. 26), that is, until the end of the world; and that he, (e) on account of this being His testament, and the New Law, was not at liberty to speak figuratively, but plainly and distinclty.
2. Because the apostles preached this very doctrine.
3. Because the Catholic Church, the pillar and foundation of truth, has thus constantly taught, from the apostle' times down to the present day, as the oldest Councils and the Holy Fathers unanimously testify.

Why is communion given only in one kind?
1. The Church gives holy communion only under one kind, to guard against abuses; as, for example, the spilling of the wine; 2. In opposition to those who hold that communion can be received under both kinds, to hold fast to true doctrine, which is that Christ, whole and undivided, the entire sacrament, is received under one kind. The truth of this doctrine is plain from this, that where the living body of Christ is, there is the whole Christ; that Christ promises eternal life to him who eats this bread alone (John vi. 59); and finally, that there is no divine law which commands the receiving of this sacrament under both kinds.