19 June – Corpus Christi – Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
There are two questions that are often asked about the feast of Corpus Christi. The first is: When and where did the feast originate? The history goes as follows. The feast of Corpus Christi originated in the thirteenth century, when Robert de Torote, bishop of Liège, instituted the festival in his Belgian diocese. He had been persuaded to do so after the Prioress of a nearby monastery, Blessed Juliana, received a vision. Its spread to the universal Church was thanks to the archdeacon of Liège, a man named Jacques Pantaléon, who became Pope Urban IV. The celebration of the feast was finally confirmed by the Council of Vienne early in the fourteenth century.
So then to the second question: Why should we celebrate such a feast? It is because of the important place that the Eucharist has in our lives as Catholics. In the Eucharist, when the bread and wine are consecrated, we believe that they cease to be bread and wine. After the consecration, the elements make present that same sacrifice of Calvary where Jesus gave himself for us all. Here we have Christ truly present, body and blood, soul and divinity. On Corpus Christi, in a special way, we are reminded of the grace which flows from the Eucharist, and of the reality of what we receive at Mass each time we receive communion. It’s something that we are all familiar with, but how often do we receive communion and forget to pause and think about what, or more precisely, who we have received? At the feast of Corpus Christi, we can resolve to consider anew the great gift of receiving Christ in the Eucharist, the strength and the hope that Christ brings us through the sacrament. We are also able, through processions and periods of adoration, to renew our sense of awe and wonder at the real presence, and to proclaim to those who are not Catholics this source of grace, and its power in our lives.
Today’s Gospel serves to remind us of how Jesus provides for our needs with a generosity that springs for his great love for us. His feeding of the five thousand was a manifestation of his love for the people, a love which lead him to provide for their needs. The depth of his love was shown most clearly in his suffering, death and resurrection, through all of which he accomplished the will of the Father and brought us into new life. The feast is a small way by which we acknowledge with gratitude the love which is made present for us in the Eucharist, a love which continues to nourish as sustain us throughout our lives.