Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, traditionally known as “Corpus Christi.” Some of us may have heard of the celebration, without knowing the beautiful story behind it. Also, the Eucharistic Procession is not a crazy invention of ours, but a long tradition of the Church.
This feast dates back from a couple of events from the early 13th Century. Before then there was no veneration of the Blessed Sacrament outside Mass. The blessed sacrament was reserved exclusively for the sick. However, at the change of Millenniums, in 1124, we see a start of a Eucharistic Movement centered in Belgium at the beginning of the second Millennium with the introduction of bells during consecration and blessings with the Blessed Sacrament. One hundred years after that, Sister St. Juliana of Liege, who was born during the Eucharistic Cenacle, had private visions regarding the desire from Jesus to create a feast of Corpus Domini (Body of the Lord). At the age of 16, she saw the moon in its splendor, but it was partially covered by a black spot. She understood that the moon symbolized the Church and the black spot the lack of a feast dedicated to the Body and Blood of Christ. She kept her visions to herself for many years, until it was made known to the Bishop Robert Thourotte, the Bishop of Liege at the time, and to the Archdeacon Jacques Pantaleon, who later in life became Pope Urbanus IV. It was Bishop Thourotte who first celebrated the feast in his diocese. Soon other local bishops also started celebrating this feast. A few years later, in 1264, there was a German priest who was doubting the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist while he was on a pilgrimage near Rome. During a mass he was celebrating, the consecrated host began to bleed and soaked the Corporal and the Altar linens. At that sight, they made a procession with the Blessed Sacrament to the nearby town of Orvieto, where the recently elected Pope Urbanus IV was staying. In that same year, moved by the visions of St. Juliana and the event that happened in Orvieto, the Pope ordered the Feast to be celebrated in the whole world.
This Feast is celebrated as a reminder that the Body and Blood of Christ is truly, really, and substantially present under the appearance of bread and wine. Although it still looks, smells, tastes like bread and wine, it is actually the Body and Blood of Jesus. This change of substance during the consecration of Mass while the priest repeats the words of Jesus (“this is my Body”, “this is my Blood”) is called in theology transubstantiation. While the Protestants believe that communion is a sign/symbol, a lookalike, we believe that it is indeed the Body and Blood of Christ. In a recent poll conducted here in the US, it showed that many people did not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. There were MANY Eucharistic Miracles in the world, when the Eucharist started bleeding or blood coagulated. Recently, these miracles were tested blindly in independent labs across the world and all the results are the same. It’s the same blood type, from an adult male that was severely beaten before death. If that was not sufficient proof, Jesus himself said that “IT IS HIS BODY AND BLOOD.” That is why the priest during consecration repeats the word of Jesus also to help people understand that it is truly the Body and Blood of Christ.
Pope Francis says that “every year the feast of Corpus Christ invites us to renew the wonder and joy for this wonderful gift of the Lord, which is the Eucharist.” I hope you are able to join us in our procession with the Blessed Sacrament this Sunday after our 11:00am outdoor mass. In case you cannot, at least come to admire the sawdust carpet that the parishioners are preparing to welcome Jesus into our Church.
Father Steven Clemence