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Corpus Christi – Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

The Feast of Corpus Christi, also called Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, was celebrated on Sunday, 6 June 2021.   First, what is a Solemnity in our Catholic Faith?  A Solemnity in the Catholic Faith is the highest liturgical rank of a feast in the ecclesiastical calendar where there are fourteen solemnities celebrated yearly in our universal Church.   Corpus Christi is celebrated the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.  Since it is a moveable observance, it can also be celebrated on the following Sunday.

The feast was proposed by Saint Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, to Pope Urban IV, to create a feast focused solely on the Holy Eucharist that emphasized the joy of the Eucharist being the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. 

This feast originated through the Eucharistic miracle of Bolsena, Italy, in 1263.  Father Peter of Prague, a German priest, stopped at Bolsena while on a pilgrimage to Rome. He was pious but found it difficult to accept that Christ was truly present in the consecrated Host. While celebrating Mass above the tomb of St. Christina (located in the church named for this martyr), he spoke the words of consecration and immediately Blood started to seep from the consecrated Host and trickle over his hands and onto the altar. At first the priest tried to hide the Blood, but eventually he interrupted the Mass and asked to be taken to the neighboring city of Orvieto, where Pope Urban IV resided. The Pope sent representatives to investigate. When the facts were ascertained, he ordered the bishop of the diocese to bring the Host and the linen cloth bearing the stains of Blood to him.    

The linen bearing the spots of Blood is reverently enshrined and exhibited in the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy. Again, Pope Urban IV prompted by this miracle commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the Office for the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours to celebrate the Most Holy Body of the Lord – Corpus Christi.  One year after the miracle, August 1264, Pope Urban IV introduced Aquinas’s composition, and through a papal bull, an edict issued by the Pope, instituted the feast of Corpus Christi.

In today’s Gospel, while Jesus and the Apostles were eating at the last supper, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, saying, “Take; this is my body.” Then Jesus took a cup, and after giving thanks He gave it again to His Apostles, and all of them drank from it.  He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

So, how does the bread and wine that we offer at each Mass become the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ?  This change occurs during Mass which the Church calls transubstantiation, “change of substance”.   At the Consecration of the Mass, the priest says the words which Jesus Himself pronounced over bread and wine, “This is My Body,” “This is the chalice of My Blood,” “Do this in remembrance of Me.”  Through transubstantiation, the physical substance has not changed.  However, it is now the Body and Blood of Jesus. 

At the last supper, Jesus gave Himself to us in the form of the bread and wine.  Declaring this to be our food and drink with taking, eating, drinking and finally, giving ourselves wholly to Him. 

Jesus gave us His most Holy Body and Blood at the last supper.  However, that last supper was not the end – but the beginning!   Corpus Christi Blessings – Dcn Jim