The feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to solemnly commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist and Christ’s presence with and for us in the Holy Sacrament. As most of you will know, the Church also commemorates this event on Maundy Thursday during Holy Week. Why, then, do we celebrate it twice? The answer is this: St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon, born 1193 in Belgium, longed for a special feast in honour of the blessed sacrament. It was her desire to have a day set aside to celebrate this gift of God that was not set within the context of Maundy Thursday – the day of Christ’s arrest and the beginning of his suffering and passion – so that, free of all distractions, our whole hearts and minds could focus on the mystery of God’s love in the holy sacrament. St. Juliana’s desire is said to have increased by a vision of the Church under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which signified to her the absence of such a solemnity.
Juliana made known her ideas to Robert de Thorete, Bishop of Liège, who called a synod in 1246 and ordered the celebration to be held in the following year. The office for the feast was composed by St. Thomas Aquinas at the request of the Pope.
At St. Barnabas, it has been a tradition of the parish to celebrate Corpus Christi with an evening service of Solemn Evensong and Benediction; where our reverence and love for Christ is given voice in a beautiful choral setting. It has been a few years since we last held this service, but are very happy to take up this tradition again.
To help us meditate on the gift of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, I offer these famous words of St. Augustine’s from The City of God:
In the very thing that the Church offers, she herself is offered. If you wish to understand what is meant by ‘the Body of Christ,’ listen to the apostle saying to the faithful, ‘You are the Body of Christ and his members’ (I Cor.12:27). It is the mystery of yourselves that is laid on the Lord’s table; it is the mystery of yourselves that you receive. To that which you are you answer ‘Amen,’ and in answering your assent. For you hear the words ‘the Body of Christ,’ and you reply ‘Amen.’ Be a member of the Body of Christ, that the Amen may be true. If you have received well, you are that which you have received. There you are on the table, there you are in the chalice.