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Prayers & Devotions

Solemnity of
The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Corpus Christi

Second Sunday after Pentecost or
Thursday after Trinity Sunday

The High Feast of the Lamb ((detail) Ghent altarpiece - Jan Van Eyck 16th c

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." -- John 6:53, 54

 

Corpus Christi Introduction | Catechism excerpt | Directory on Popular Piety excerpt | Readings for Corpus Christi | Family Activities | The Holy Eucharist: Resources for Devotion - Adoration - Benediction - Doctrine - Study - Link to order Holy Eucharist Booklets [the Adoremus Website] | Corpus Christi Novena [EWTN Website] | MYSTICI CORPORIS CHRISTI, Encyclical of Pope Pius XII on the Mystical Body of Christ [Vatican Website] | Homily of Pope Benedict XVI 2005 | Homily of Pope Benedict XVI 2006

 

Corpus Christi

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi commemorates the institution of the  Holy Eucharist, paralleling Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) commemorating Our Lord's institution of the Eucharist. Corpus Christ was introduced in the late 13th century to encourage the faithful  give special honor to the institution of the Holy Eucharist to the Blessed Sacrament.  The official title of this Solemnity was changed in 1970 to The Body and Blood of Christ (Latin: Sollemnitas Sanctissimi Corporis et Sanguinis Christi); and it is still on the Roman Missal’s official Calendar for the universal Church on Thursday after Trinity Sunday; however, where it is not a day of obligation (as in the United States) it is usually celebrated on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday.

Corpus Christi became a mandatory feast in the Roman Church in 1312. But nearly a century earlier, Saint Juliana of Mont Cornillon, promoted a feast to honor the Blessed Sacrament. From early age Juliana, who became an Augustinian nun in Liége, France, in 1206, had a great veneration for the Blessed Sacrament, and longed for a special feast in its honor. She had a vision of the Church under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which signified the absence of such a solemnity. She made known her ideas to the Bishop of Liége, Robert de Thorete, to the Dominican Hugh who later became cardinal legate in the Netherlands, and to Jacques Panaléon, at the time Archdeacon of Liége and who later became Pope Urban IV. Bishop Robert de Thorete ordered that the feast be celebrated in his diocese.

Pope Urban IV later published the Bull Transiturus (September 8, 1264), in which, after having extolled the love of Our Savior as expressed in the Holy Eucharist, ordered the annual celebration of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. More than four decades later, Pope Clement V published a new decree which embodied Urban IV's decree and ordered the adoption of the feast at the General Council of Vienna (1311). Pope John XXII, successor of Clement V, urged this observance.

The processions on Corpus Christi to honor the Holy Eucharist were not mentioned in the decrees, but had become a principal feature of the feast's celebration by the faithfl, and became a tradition throughout Europe. These processions were endowed with indulgences by Popes Martin V and Eugene IV.

(Principal source - Catholic Encyclopedia - 1913 edition, )


Catechism of the Catholic Church - The Eucharist §§ 1322 - 1419

1324 The Eucharist is "source and summit of the Christian life." "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."

1325 "The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit."

1326 Finally, by the Eucharistic Celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.

1327 In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking."

Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy Excerpt:

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

160. The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is observed on the Thursday following on the solemnity of the Most Blessed Trinity. This feast is both a doctrinal and cultic response to heretical teaching on the mystery of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the apogee of an ardent devotional movement concentrated on the Sacrament of the Altar. It was extended to the entire Latin Church by Urban IV in 1264.

Popular piety encouraged the process that led to the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi, which reciprocally inspired the development of new forms of Eucharistic piety among the people of God.

For centuries, the celebration of Corpus Christi remained the principal point of popular piety's concentration on the Eucharist. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, faith, in reaction to various forms of protestantism, and culture (art, folklore and literature) coalesced in developing lively and significant expressions Eucharistic devotion in popular piety.

161. Eucharistic devotion, which is so deeply rooted in the Christian faithful, must integrate two basic principles:

* the supreme reference point for Eucharistic devotion is the Lord's Passover; the Pasch as understood by the Fathers, is the feast of Easter, while the Eucharist is before all else the celebration of Paschal Mystery or of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ;
* all forms of Eucharisit devotion must have an intrinsic reference to the Eucharistic Sacrifice, or dispose the faithful for its celebration, or prolong the worship which is essential to that Sacrifice.

Hence, the Rituale Romanum states "The faithful, when worshipping Christ present in the Sacrament of the Altar, should recall that this presence comes from the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, and tends towards sacramental and spiritual communion"(169).

162. The Corpus Christi procession represents the typical form of an Eucharistic procession. It is a prolongation of the celebration of the Eucharist: immediately after Mass, the Sacred Host, consecrated during the Mass, is borne out of the Church for the Christian faithful "to make public profession of faith and worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament"(170).

The faithful understand and appreciate the values inherent in the procession: they are aware of being "the People of God", journeying with the Lord, and proclaiming faith in him who has become truly "God-amongst-us".

It is necessary however to ensure that the norms governing processions be observed(171), especially those ensuring respect for the dignity and reverence of the Blessed Sacrament(172). It is also necessary to ensure that the typical elements of popular piety accompanying the procession, such as the decoration of the streets and windows with flowers and the hymns and prayers used during the procession, truly "lead all to manifest their faith in Christ, and to give praise to the Lord"(173), and exclude any forms of competition.

163. The Eucharistic procession is normally concluded by a blessing with the Blessed Sacrament. In the specific case of the Corpus Christi procession, the solemn blessing with the Blessed Sacrament concludes the entire celebration: the usual blessing by the priest is replaced by the blessing with the Blessed Sacrament.

It is important that the faithful understand that this blessing is not an independent form of Eucharistic piety, but the end of a prolonged act of worship. Hence, liturgical norms prohibit "exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for the purpose of giving the blessing"(174).

(Link to complete Directory on Popular Piety andthe Liturgy on Vatican web site)

 

Readings for Corpus Christi

Collect:
O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament
have left us a memorial of your Passion,
grant us, we pray,
so to revere the sacred mysteries of your Body and Blood
that we may always experience in ourselves
the fruits of your redemption.
Who live and reign with God the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.

Readings for Mass
Year A

First Reading: Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a
Moses said to the people: "Remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments, or not. And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Do not forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground hwere there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not know."

 

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ? The Bread which we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.


Gospel Reading: John 6:51-58
Jesus said to the Jews, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh." The Jews them disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."

Year B
First Reading: Exodus 24:3-8
Second Reading: Hebrews 9:11-15
Gospel Reading: Mark 14:12-16,22-26


Year C
First Reading: Genesis 14:18-20
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!" And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Gospel Reading: Luke 9:11-17
When the crowds learned it, they followed him; and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing. Now the day began to wear away; and the twelve came and said to him, "Send the crowd away, to go into the villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place." But he said to them, "You give them something to eat." They said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish--unless we are to go and buy food for all these people." For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, "Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each." And they did so, and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

Family Activities:

Hymns

Saint Thomas Aquinas was given the task of composing hymns for the celebration of Corpus Christi by Pope Urban IV. These are among the best known (and beloved) of all Latin hymns, because they were traditionally sung by the people during regular Eucharistic Devotions, as well as by the choir on Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi. (Catholics over 50 can probably sing these by heart even yet.) The hymns are Lauda Sion - Pange Lingua - Tantum Ergo


BENEDICT XVI, GENERAL AUDIENCE
Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Saint Juliana of Cornillon
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with Saint Juliana of Cornillon, better known as Saint Juliana of Liège. Born at the end of the twelfth century, Juliana was orphaned young and became an Augustinian nun. Intelligent and cultured, she was drawn to contemplative prayer and devotion to the sacrament of the Eucharist. As the result of a recurring vision, Juliana worked to promote a liturgical feast in honour of the Eucharist. The feast of Corpus Christi was first celebrated in the Diocese of Liège, and began to spread from there. Pope Urban IV, who had known Juliana in Liège, instituted the solemnity of Corpus Christi for the universal Church and charged Saint Thomas Aquinas with composing the texts of the liturgical office. The Pope himself celebrated the solemnity in Orvieto, then the seat of the papal court, where the relic of a celebrated Eucharistic miracle, which had occurred the previous year, was kept. As we recall Saint Juliana of Cornillon, let us renew our faith in Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist and pray that the “springtime of the Eucharist” which we are witnessing in the Church today may bear fruit in an ever greater devotion to the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana 


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