What is the Feast of Corpus Christi?

What is the Feast of Corpus Christi?

Written by Marlena Hinkle, friend of Stella & Tide

“This is the wonderful truth, my dear friends: the Word, which became flesh two thousand years ago, is present today in the Eucharist.” – St. John Paul II

On this great feast day of Corpus Christi (translated from Latin to “Body of Christ”), we are all called in a special way to celebrate the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. On this Solemnity, The Church invites us to reflect on the mystery, faith, and devotion of the Eucharist. For the Eucharist truly is the source and summit of our Catholic faith.

The Mystery of the Eucharist

As a cradle Catholic, one of the most vivid memories of my childhood is when I first learned about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It came at an unexpected time—in the backseat of my family’s van while talking to my friend about what takes place during the Mass.

We were on the way to Sunday morning Mass and, as a non-Catholic, she didn’t know what to expect. It turns out I didn’t quite know what to expect in the Mass either! Having not received my own First Communion yet, I explained what I knew about the Eucharist to my friend, “then, the priest will distribute the Bread and Wine as symbols of Jesus’ Body and Blood.”

Overhearing this, my father turned around and giving me a serious but loving look, tenderly explained to both my friend and me, “It’s not just a SYMBOL. During the Mass, the bread and wine REALLY become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. So, when we receive Communion, we REALLY do receive Jesus’ living, resurrected Body!”

When my father explained this to me, I remember being shocked that we Catholics believe something that sounds so strange at the outset. How is it possible that bread and wine can become Jesus’ real body and blood?! And why on earth would we want to eat His Flesh?

But, as with most of our journeys to faith, I tried my best to believe with childlike awe, knowing that, on this side of the veil, I could never fully understand the mystery of what happens at the Sacrifice of the Mass. From a young age, my parents helped me learn to love and revere the Eucharist, even when I didn’t fully understand it. Thanks be to God for my father’s devotion and great patience in teaching me the truths of our Catholic faith.

The Real Presence of Christ

There are indeed many reasons to believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

First and foremost, we believe this because Jesus repeatedly told us to do so. In the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, Jesus makes it very clear that we must eat (literally the Greek word “to gnaw”) His flesh if we want to enter eternal life. Again, at the Last Supper, Jesus teaches us the importance of the Eucharist as he breaks bread and shares this precious gift with his disciples saying, “This is My Body” and “This is the Chalice of my Blood”—“Do this in remembrance of me.”

At every Consecration of the Mass, the priest repeats Jesus’ words as he elevates the host. Through a process called transubstantiation, the substance of the bread and wine transform into the substance of Jesus’ Body and Blood, even when the appearance of the bread and wine remains the same. 

Although we most often witness this change of substance as an unbloody sacrifice of the altar at Holy Mass, sometimes the veil of reality breaks through. There are over one hundred Eucharistic miracles that provide witness to this amazing truth. For example, the Miracle of Lanciano when, at Mass, the Host visibly turned into flesh! You can read about this miracle in further detail here

Communion with Christ

While it is impossible to tackle the amazing mystery of the Eucharist in a short blog post, I would encourage you to continue to reflect on the Eucharist in your own heart and prayers. Contemplate what it means for the God of the Universe to make himself known to us in the image of bread and wine. Give thanks to God that He sustains us with this Bread of Heaven. Bow down in awe and wonder at Our Lord’s Most Holy Sacrifice. Let us pray for a greater reverence and greater faith when we, with clouded eyes of disbelief or unawareness, are tempted to disregard the Sanctity of the Eucharist. 

Today, the Church reminds us that we must receive Our Lord in the Eucharist with genuine love and respect rather than out of routine. For in the consecrated Bread and Wine, we are truly meeting Christ’s Body and Blood! On this feast day we can celebrate Corpus Christi by taking time to reflect on the Presence of Our Lord through Adoration and prayer. 

Take a moment to imagine being a child (like I was in the backseat of that family van), learning for the first time what the Eucharist really, truly is. If you are Catholic, think back to your first Communion and thank God that He continues to make himself known to us in the humble form of bread and wine. Soak in that wonder, amazement, and awe.

Before this great mystery, let us fervently proclaim St. Thomas Aquinas' prayer of devotion in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament: “O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament Divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!”

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