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Posted by on Jun 9, 2012

The Feast of Corpus Christi: Celebrating the Mystery of Divinity Transforming Humanity

The Feast of Corpus Christi: Celebrating the Mystery of Divinity Transforming Humanity


Corpus Christi Procession

Known as the solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ and celebrated on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday, the Feast of Corpus Christi has been officially celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church since the mid-thirteenth century. The feast is the result of a series of visions of St. Juliana of Liege, a Belgian canoness regular (a member of an Augustinian order) and a mystic. The visions occurred over a period of more than 20years before she began to understand their meaning. In the vision, she saw a full moon with a dark spot in it. Eventually she came to believe that the dark spot represented the lack of a solemn feast dedicated specifically and exclusively to the Body and Blood of Christ. Working with her confessor and a group of theologians and Dominicans living and working in Liege, she arranged for the feast to be instituted as a local feast of the diocese of Liege in 1246. She and her confessor, Canon John of Lausanne, composed the first music and prayers for the feast. Later, Pope Urban IV commissioned the composition of an office (a ritual of music and prayers)  for the feast by St. Thomas Aquinas.  Aquinas’ hymn, Pange Lingua, composed for this feast, expresses the idea of transubstantiation— the doctrine that the substance of the bread and wine offered in the Mass are transformed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ without changing in outer appearance.

The Church’s belief in the Eucharistic transformation of bread and wine into Jesus’ body and blood dates to the earliest days of the Christian community. Christians have always gathered to celebrate The Lord’s Supper. The disciples on the road to Emmaus described recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Understanding of the implications of this great gift, however, has developed and deepened over the centuries.

Like many of the mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the mystery of the Eucharist defies easy explanation. That’s part of the nature of mystery: part of the wonder and awe we experience in the face of the great love God has poured out into all of creation and each of us through the life of Jesus and the gifts of their Holy Spirit. As St. Augustine explained it in his Confessions, Christ says to us, “You will not change me into you, but you will be changed into me.”  In the Eucharist, the divine takes over and transforms the profane — the everyday reality we experience. We see and experience no obvious change, yet when we eat the bread and drink the wine that have been transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, we are ourselves transformed into his mystical Body and Blood. Our bodies don’t absorb his; rather his transforms ours and we are strengthened and pulled into his mission of transforming our world into God’s Kingdom.

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Posted by on Jun 25, 2011

Realities and Wonders Beyond Our Comprehension – The Feasts of The Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi

The mystery of the Holy Trinity is at the core of our faith as Christians. God is one undivided unity. Yet God is also Father (Mother/Parent), the incarnate Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit – all united as one in being and each separate in identity.

Early Church writers spoke of the Trinity in terms of perichoresis, a mutual indwelling and interpenetration of being shared by the members of the Trinity. The word itself comes from Greek roots meaning around and to contain. In some ways it’s akin to a dance in which the dancers and the dance are one. None can be separated from each other because their essence is one, yet each has an individual role and part in the whole.

We experience God as Trinity in our lives. God as parent brings all things into being through love overflowing and keeps us safely in existence – never forgetting us. God our brother Jesus who has shared the joys and sorrows, hopes and fears of human life is truly one of us – 100% human. God the Holy Spirit of love gives us courage to live in love and words to speak of what we have experienced of divine life and love. God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the greatest fan each of us will ever have – always hopeful and encouraging us as we forge ahead through life’s challenges.

Following Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi – the Body and Blood of Christ. One mystery following on another. How can simple bread and wine be the body and blood of the Lord? Yet that is what Jesus told us he was giving us – his own flesh and blood to eat, as divine food to strengthen us on our journey as we travel back to union with the Trinity. One of our prayers tells us that we become what we eat. As we share in the divine meal, we share in the life of the Trinity and are drawn ever closer into it.

What a gift!

The wonder of all this struck me as I reflected on an experience I had with my young grandson last week. We were at Disneyland on the last day of a trip with my Girl Scout troop. The girls graduated from high school this year and this was our last major outing.

The park was closing early in preparation for a “Grad Night” for local high school seniors, so despite having a young child along, we were there for the fireworks and final show. It was a show with light, water and music telling of a dream Mikey Mouse was having, complete with ominous music and threatening villains. Could Mickey triumph over the evil that threatened by using the power of imagination? Of course he could and did. The show ended with great joy and happy, triumphant music.

What fascinated me was watching our little boy. He quickly lost interest in watching the story and we moved off into a nearby area where there was a short wrought iron fence (about 36 inches tall). As the music, lights and story blared around us, he quite happily climbed up on the bottom cross-piece of the fence and made his way sideways, holding on to the top rail, from one end of the fence to the other. Then he jumped down, clapped his hands, climbed back up onto the fence and went back to his original starting place. He did this through the entire performance – at least four or five trips back and forth along the fence. He’d have continued doing it all night had we allowed it!

I had been concerned that the ominous, scary music, the tone of voice of the villains, the colors of the threatening sections of the show would frighten him. Had he been a few years older, they would have. However, at his young age, he had no negative associations with any of those cues. What we considered scary music was the same to him as the triumphal music or a sweet ballad. The lights that flickered and changed from peaceful pastels to discordant, multi-colored, dark or flaring reddish-orange bursts of color meant nothing to him.  It was all just background to what he was exploring. He was having a wonderful time on the fence.

In thinking about his reaction, I find myself wondering how much we are like this young child – totally enthralled with our own activities in our own little worlds and totally missing the wonder of the dance going on all around us. We live and move and have our being within the loving presence and reality of God, yet we don’t notice most of the time.

I pray that as the coming weeks unfold, I will be ever more aware of the divine presence – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – enveloping me and all of us in the great dance of being. In the words of Jesse Manibusan’s song, “Open my eyes, Lord. Help me to see your face … Help me to hear your voice … Help me to love like you… Help me to love.”

I send the same wish to all who read these words. May the blessings of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit descend on you and remain with you forever. Amen.




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