The Feast of Corpus Christi celebrates the wonderful and mysterious event of Jesus giving us His Body and Blood for our food and drink. In many parts of the Church we celebrate the Adoration of Jesus at Exposition of this most Holy Sacrament and in public Processions. Let us remind ourselves of these two aspects of this celebration and reflect on them.
We know that this event took place first at the Last Supper and takes place at the Consecration of each Mass and that we receive Christ´s Body and Blood in Holy Communion.
Even before the Last Supper Jesus spoke about himself as “ the living bread which has come down 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, (Jn. 6: 51-58)”. This passage from the Gospel of John is the gospel for today’s Mass and contains other promises of Jesus worth reflecting on.
Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I shall raise them up on the last day.
Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in them.
Whoever eats me will draw life from me.
Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.
What did Jesus mean to give us at the last supper when he said “This is my body?”
In biblical terminology and therefore in that used by Jesus and Paul, “body” indicates the whole human being in so far as one lives one’s life in a body. In his gospel, John uses the word “flesh” instead of “body”, but this word in the sixth chapter means the same as in the first chapter where John says “the Word became flesh ,” that is, human. The word “body” indicates, therefore, the whole of life. Jesus left us the gift of his whole life, from the first moment of the incarnation to the very end, including all that had made up his life: silence, sweat, hardship, prayer, struggle, joy, humiliation.
Jesus then said “This is my blood.” What else does he give us with his blood if he has already given us his whole life with his body? He also gives his death, its most precious part.
Again , as we know, in biblical terms blood does not indicate a part of the body but it indicates a happening – death. The Eucharist is the mystery of the Body and Blood of the Lord, that is of the life and death of the Lord.
When we offer ourselves with Jesus at Mass, we offer our “body” all that constitutes our physical life : time, energy, health, ability, sentiments; and by “blood” we offer our death, not necessarily our final death, but all right now that anticipates our death: humiliations, failures, sickness that cripples us, limits due to age or health, everything that “mortifies” us. Then, after Mass we must make the effort to give our “bodies”, in a word, our lives, to others, that is, our time, energy and attention.
A further reflection on the Eucharist is the presence of the whole Trinity in the Eucharist. In theological terms, by virtue of the interpenetration (perichoresis) of the three persons of the Trinity, the other two persons are present. A great mystic, St. Veronica Giuliani wrote; ”It seemed that in the most Holy Sacrament, as on a throne, I saw the one and triune God: the Father in his omnipotence, the Son in his wisdom, the Holy Spirit in his love. Every time we receive Holy Communion, our souls and hearts become the temple of the Most Holy Trinity. And when God comes to us, the whole of paradise comes. On seeing God enclosed in the Host, I was transported with joy for the whole day. If I had to give my life to confirm this truth, I would do so a thousand times.”
In A. Rublev´s well-known icon of the Trinity, in which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, symbolised by the three angels that appeared to Abraham under the oak of Mamre, form a sort of mystic circle round the altar and they seem to say to us: May you all be one, as we are one!”
A second aspect to reflect on is the Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament. This can be expressed in personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, hours of adoration, expositions that can be either short or long. Pope John Paul wrote in a letter of Holy Thursday 1980:”Jesus awaits us in the Sacrament of Love. Let us find time to meet Him in faith-filled adoration and contemplation.”
Today, in many cities and towns, where we join in the public processions of the Blessed Sacrament to profess our faith in the real presence of Christ and to remind ourselves that we are pilgrims on our journey through life and that God is with us and within us at every moment of our lives.
O Sacrament most Holy,
O Sacrament Divine,
All praise and all thanksgiving,
Be every moment Thine.
Sr. Aedris Coates OP