Br. Bernard Delcourt, OHC
Corpus Christi – Thursday 19 June 2014
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
|Bread and wine; Body and Blood|
“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” says Deuteronomy. And in the gospel according to John, Jesus tells us “I am the living bread which comes from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”
Today, we celebrate our joy at having the sacrament of the Eucharist. Nine weeks ago, on Maundy Thursday we commemorated the institution of the Eucharist but our attention was divided by the washing of the feet and the praying at the Garden of Gethsemane that led to the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today, with singular focus, we get to celebrate the presence of our Lord in the bread and wine that is consecrated for us in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Corpus Christi, or the feast of the Holy Eucharist, is a feast whose origin goes back to the Middle Ages, and I am not a little proud to say, to Belgium.
The institution of Corpus Christi as a feast in the Christian calendar resulted from approximately forty years of work on the part of Juliana of Liège, a 13th-century Norbertine canoness.
Juliana de Cornillon, lived in Liège, Belgium, a city where there were groups of women dedicated to Eucharistic worship. Guided by exemplary priests, they lived together, devoting themselves to prayer and to charitable works.
Juliana was orphaned at the age of five. She and her sister Agnes, were entrusted to the care of the Augustinian nuns at the convent and leprosarium of Mont-Cornillon, where Juliana developed a special veneration for the Blessed Sacrament.
She always longed for a feast day outside of Lent in honour of the Blessed Sacrament. Her vita reports that this desire was enhanced by a vision of the Church under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which signified the absence of such a solemnity.
In 1208, she had her first vision of Christ in which she was instructed to plead for the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi. The vision was repeated for the next 20 years but she kept it a secret. When she eventually relayed it to her confessor, he relayed it to the bishop.
Juliana also petitioned the learned religious leaders, and Robert de Thorete, Bishop of Liège. At that time bishops could order feasts in their dioceses, so in 1246 Bishop Robert convened a synod and ordered a celebration of Corpus Christi to be held each year thereafter.
The feast spread from there until Pope Urban IV in 1264, instituted the Solemnity of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday as a feast for the entire Latin Rite, by the papal bull Transiturus de hoc mundo.
|Juliana of Cornillon|
As monks, it is our joy and privilege to participate in the Eucharist most days of our life. At times, we run the risk of taking that Eucharist for granted as part of our daily routine. It behooves us to remember often just how lucky we are to be given daily a visible sign of God’s loving presence amongst us and in us through the Eucharist.
To our outward senses, the Blessed Sacrament can appear to remain a simple wheaten wafer and regular sweet wine. But our inner senses perceive otherwise. We know that consecration transforms those simple elements into what we poetically call “the bread of heaven” and “the cup of salvation.” At consecration, those simple elements borne from creation and the labour of humans are transformed into the body and blood of Christ.
At Ascension, our human nature was exalted into heaven to the right hand of God the Creator. At Pentecost, the Spirit was given us to have the strength and courage to announce the good news of God’s Kingdom and to be the Body of Christ in the world. On Trinity Sunday, we were invited to ponder the mystery of the Three Persons of God as one community of Love and Light.
Now, at Corpus Christi, we draw on our human nature celebrated with God and in God the Son, we draw on the ever-abiding presence of God and and we draw on the loving unity of God to step into the long season of Pentecost, to live God and be church in the world.
At Corpus Christi, we celebrate the sacrament that regularly reinvigorates our strength on the road to God. At Corpus Christi, we are reminded that we are One Body, the Body of Christ, uniting God’s beloved both on earth and in heaven. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him” says Jesus.
At Corpus Christi, we rejoice in a sacrament that gives us visible and tangible unity with our ever-present God. In that way, the feast of the Holy Eucharist is very much a feast of the Incarnation.
At Corpus Christi, we rejoice in a sacrament that gives us eternal life with God. Jesus said “As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from my Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.” and “anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.”
Today especially, as we approach the Lord’s table to partake of the feast offered to us, I invite you to taste and see that the Lord is good and to give thanks in your heart for the gift of the Blessed Sacrament of Jesus’ body and blood. And may we remember our good fortune every time we get to participate in the Holy Eucharist.