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Posted by on Jun 11, 2023

Celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi

Celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi (Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ) weekend! I’m writing to my spiritual family today and thought of my own birth family as well.

Some people have very powerful or peaceful experiences at their First Communion, others not so much. How was yours? Was yours at St. Pats, like me? We were in Spokane for Spring break and Grandmom took me to the sacristy before Mass to let Father know. Someone got a cake for the house after.

Many years later, when I was about 15, I had a truly special experience with the Eucharist. After Communion, there was a warmth that started in my tummy and went out to my head and to my toes. I told my mom about it and she asked if it could have been from the properties of the wine (the Precious Blood still has all the external properties of the wine, which is part of the miracle.)

I knew it wasn’t that; I’d only taken a sip. The next day at school at Marist (in Eugene), I went to the lunch time Communion Service where we received Communion – just the host – from the tabernacle and it happened again!! Warmth from my tummy to my head and to my toes.

It happened a few more times – enough for the Lord to make sure I knew that the Eucharist is really him – body, blood, soul, and divinity. Our God is a good, good God.

God gives us gifts for our salvation and the building up of others. When a nun told St. Theresa of Avila that she was envious that she didn’t have mystical experiences like her, Teresa responded saying something like, “Some people like you have such faith you only need to hear about mystical experiences to believe, while others of us are so hard-hearted that God has to do such things to help us believe.”

May we all be given the gift of faith and respond to it soft-heartedly, so as to believe the wonder that is the Eucharist.

Love and blessings.

 

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Posted by on Jun 19, 2022

We remember, We Celebrate, We Believe

We remember, We Celebrate, We Believe

The second Sunday after Pentecost we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. On this day we remember Jesus’ words and actions at the Last Supper, when he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. He told them to take it and eat it. It was his body, given for them. They were to do the same in remembrance of him. He also took the cup of wine that would normally close the meal with a toast to God. He told his friends it was the cup of the new covenant in his blood. Again, “Do this … in remembrance of me.”

How, you ask, do we know this? It’s there in the Gospels, but they were mostly written later. Today, however, we hear one of the earliest voices telling of this event. St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, tells us of Jesus’ words and actions on this last night of his life. (1 Cor 11:23-26) Paul doesn’t say he was an eyewitness. He wasn’t and never makes that claim. But he tells us that he is passing on to us what he had been told by the eyewitnesses. This is what Jesus did and said.

It’s important to understand what it means to remember in Jewish tradition. Remembering means to enter again into the reality of what happened. When we remember, we are present at the event. When we share in the bread and wine at Mass, we are present with the disciples in that upper room when Jesus spoke those words and shared that bread and wine. A traditional Jewish saying goes like this, “Our ancestors crossed the Red Sea and our feet are wet.” Jesus gave that bread and wine to his friends, and we receive his body and blood just as they did. We are now part of the New Covenant with God.

OK, so why the emphasis on eating and drinking a sacrificial victim? And how can bread and wine take the place of a real animal sacrifice?

Humans have a long history of offering something of value as a sacrifice to their deities. It may be to ask for a favorable outcome in daily activities. It may be to ask the deity to have mercy and take away something that is causing hardship to the community. It may be to give thanks for blessings received. There are many reasons for offering a sacrifice.

In pastoralist communities, especially before money began to be used commonly, a gift of a young animal as sacrifice was not uncommon. The animal might be killed and the entire body burned in sacrifice. Sometimes, choice parts of the animal were burned and the rest was shared and eaten by the priests or together with the community. Blood of the animal might be poured on the altar and burned as part of the sacrifice too.

For the Hebrew people, the blood of a lamb held a powerful meaning. It was the blood of the lambs sacrificed for the meal shared by the people on the first Passover that marked their doors and protected their children from the Angel of Death who moved through Egypt, killing the firstborn children of people and animals. This truly was blood that marked a covenant of protection between God and his people.

We see a different tradition of sacrifice in the first reading, from the book of Genesis (14:18-20). Abram, not yet known as Abraham, had entered the land promised to him by God, along with his brother, Lot, and their extended family. They had been there many years already, including a time in Egypt. Abram was living in the western part of the land and Lot had moved with his family to the eastern side.

There were many kings in the area and a great battle broke out among them. Lot was captured by those in the east. Abram gathered a large group of men from his side and set out to rescue Lot. His actions were successful. It was quite a battle and a major victory for Abram and his allies. The victorious kings gathered to celebrate with Abram and praise his success. One of the men who came was Melchizedek. He was known as king of Salem and was a priest. Melchizedek brought bread and wine to offer in sacrifice to God. He offered the sacrifice and blessed Abram, describing him as “blessed by God most High, the creator of heaven and earth.” As was customary, Abram gave a tenth of what he had in thanks to the priest.

Melchizedek is remembered in Jewish history and celebrated in Psalm 110. “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” Jesus is also described as a priest forever, the new high priest who needed only to offer sacrifice once to redeem all the people – to restore harmony between the Most High and humanity.

We again see bread blessed, broken, and shared in today’s Gospel. St. Luke (9:11b-17) tells of the day a large crowd of people went out into the countryside to hear Jesus and bring their sick to be healed. At the end of the day, it was time to eat. Jesus’ disciples asked him to send the people to the local villages to get something to eat. But Jesus responded, “Give them some food yourselves.” This was not at all feasible to the minds of the disciples. There were around 5,000 men in the crowd! (That didn’t necessarily include any women and children.) They had among themselves only five loaves and two fish. Nowhere nearly enough to feed all of those people.

But Jesus was undeterred. “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty.” (Fifty people would be about like having a good family party.) He took the little bit of food he and the disciples had, offered a blessing, broke the loaves and fish, and gave them to the disciples to feed the crowd.

Who knows whether people laughed or stayed solemnly quiet at this bold action of faith. But food was in plenty for all. In fact, there was more than enough. After all had eaten their fill, the scraps were picked up and filled twelve baskets! Did people share what they had brought with them? Not at all unlikely. Does that make it less of a miracle? Not really. We humans don’t always share very freely.

One commentator on the Gospels, Stephen Wilbricht, CSC, in a series of explanations for Lectors and readers of the Gospels, has noted that this story is placed between the account of the time Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs to preach the good news and the first time that Peter professed his faith in Jesus as the Messiah. The preaching is followed by service (the feeding of the hungry). Out of that service, came the realization that the time of salvation was at hand. The Messiah had come at last.

The fact that there were twelve baskets of food left is also important. Twelve tribes of Israel. Twelve disciples. Twelve baskets of food. This is enough for all and represents all.

We remember. We celebrate. We believe.

Today we remember what Jesus has done for us. We celebrate and participate in it. We believe what we have heard. We also believe what we have seen and experienced. We have seen communities of peoples of all nations coming together as one family of God. We have seen resources shared. We see work for social justice. We hope for peace and security for all to return to our world.

This day we begin a three-year celebration of Renewal of our understanding and celebration of this mystery of Jesus’ gift of his Body and Blood. We celebrate this gift in our Eucharist. It is the “source and summit” of our lives as Christians, as taught by the bishops in Lumen Gentium – the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church – at Vatican II.

Marty Haugen wrote a song and Mass setting many years ago that sums it all up nicely. The refrain goes like this:

“We remember how you loved us to your death, and still we celebrate for you are here; and we believe that we will see you when you come in your glory, Lord. We remember, we celebrate, we believe.”

Let us remember today and in the days to come. Let us celebrate this great gift. And Lord, help us to believe always this great good news of God’s presence and loving entrance into our lives.

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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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