Corpus Christi! God’s Feast Day! What a beautiful name! God’s Feast Day and ours also! Let us see in what way.
THIS feast day of God, which the Church calls Festum sacratissimi Corporis Christi, “Feast of the most sacred Body of Christ,” is the only day dedicated exclusively to the honor of His adorable Person, of His living presence in our midst. The other feasts commemorate some mystery of His past life; they are beautiful; they glorify God; and they are a rich source of graces for us. But after all they are only reminders, anniversaries of an already distant past, which relives only in our piety and devotion. Our Savior is no longer personally present in those mysteries; He accomplished them once for all and left only His grace in them. But Corpus Christi is an actual mystery; the object of this feast is our Lord’s Person, living and present in our midst. That is why the celebration of it has a character all its own. No relics or symbols of the past are exposed, but the very object of the feast, which is living. In the countries where God is free, see how all the people proclaim His presence, how they prostrate themselves before Him! The impious themselves tremble and bow the head; God is there! How glorious for our Lord’s presence is this feast, on which all men acknowledge His presence and adore Him!
Corpus Christi is also the most lovable of feast days. We were not present at all the mysteries of our Savior’s life and death which we celebrate in the course of the year. We find joy in them because they are sources of grace. But on the feast of Corpus Christi we participate in the mystery itself, which takes place under our eyes. This mystery is for us.
There is a relation of life between Jesus living in the Sacrament and ourselves living in the midst of the world: a relation of body to body. For that reason this feast is not called simply the feast of our Lord, but the Feast of the Body of our Lord: Corpus Christi. Through this Body we touch Him; through it He is our Food, our Brother and our Guest. Feast of the Body of Jesus Christ: a name as full of love as it is unpretentious and well adapted to our misery! Our Lord asked for this Feast so as to draw still closer to us, just as a father is desirous of being wished a happy birthday by his child in order to have a reason for giving him a more ardent proof of his paternal affection, and or granting him some special favor.
Let this Feast therefore be one of joy, and let us expect from it the most abundant blessings. All the hymns and canticles of this solemnity express the thought that on this day our Lord will show Himself more gracious than ever. The Church, it seems, should have celebrated Corpus Christi on Holy Thursday, since the Eucharist was instituted on that day. But she could not have duly expressed her joy on that day of mourning; the Passion begins in Holy Thursday, and it is impossible to rejoice at the thought of death which predominates during the solemn days of Holy Week.
Corpus Christi was also postponed until after the Ascension because sad farewells had still to be bidden and a painful separation effected. It was put off until after Pentecost so that, filled with the graces and joys of the Holy Ghost, we might be able to celebrate with all possible splendor the Feast of the Divine Bridegroom Who dwells among us.
CORPUS CHRISTI is the most solemn Feast of the Church. The Church is the Bride of our Lord in all His risen glory, not of Jesus Christ at His birth or His death; when these last two mysteries took place the Church was not yet in existence. Of course she follows her Divine Bridegroom to the Crib and accompanies Him in His sufferings, but of these mysteries she has only the remembrance and grace. But Jesus Christ lives with His Church in His Sacrament.
People who have never set foot inside one of her churches think she is widowed. They look upon her as a corpse, and upon her temples as places where only death and suffering are spoken of. But today the very ones who never attend her solemn festivals will see her in all her wealth and beauty, in a natural attractiveness which God, her Bridegroom, will enhance with His presence. What magnificence in the processions as they pass by! What reverence in the faithful as they kneel down! ! The Church shows to everyone her Bridegroom in the radiant monstrance. Ah! Who today will presume to say she is widowed? Her friends are in adoration and her enemies tremble. Jesus shows Himself to all men; He gives His blessing. to the good; He looks on sinners with compassion; He calls them and draws them to Himself. The Council of Trent calls this Feast the triumph of faith, and rightly so. It is also the triumph of the Church through her Divine Bridegroom.
LASTLY, Corpus Christi is our Feast, we who are adorers of the Blessed Sacrament. The Congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament together with its affiliated societies exists for the sole purpose of honoring Jesus Christ with a continual Feast of Corpus Christi. To prolong this Feast throughout the entire year is the object of our life and happiness. We leave to other children of the Church the care of the poor, the healing of the physical and moral ills of afflicted humanity, and the administration of the Sacraments. We are called only to perpetuate the Feast of Corpus Christi. It is therefore the special feast of us religious. It is also your Feast, my dear brethren. Have you not consecrated yourselves entirely to the service of the Most Blessed Sacrament? [An act of consecration is recited by persons who join the Eucharistic societies founded by Blessed Peter Julian.] At night you withdraw and leave us to watch with our Lord. The proprieties demand it. But you leave your hearts at the feet of the Divine King, and we can say that you spend your life here. Besides, when you receive Communion, do you not really celebrate Corpus Christi in your hearts? Oh! You know the joy and happiness Jesus brings with Him! I will go further and say that for souls who know how to receive Communion, there is only one feast day, that is, Communion day. They find therein the object of all the mysteries, the Being Who makes these mysteries and in Whose honor they are celebrated, whereas most Christians recall them only in a vague manner.
More than that! I say that if our Lord were not living in His Sacrament, all our Catholic feast days would be nothing but a series of funeral services. The Eucharist is the sun that gives light, life, and joy to the feasts of the Church.
Someone has rightly called the soul that communicates well and often a perpetual banquet, juge convivium. To live with Jesus in us, to live of Jesus and through Jesus is to be a tabernacle and a precious ciborium. Oh! What a joy is that of these souls, a pure and unchanging joy!
Come! Learn how to single out these days from all the others. Our Lord has His royal feast days; today is one of them. A king is a bounteous giver. Pay homage to our Lord, and He, in return, will give you everything; He will give you His very Self with a greater abundance of His graces. He discriminates among His friends; He knows those who are more deserving of His favors. My desires and wishes for you on this beautiful day are not that you become Saints weighted down with magnificent and extraordinary virtues—–when would that ever be?—–but that you be very happy in the service of God, and also that our Lord give Himself to you with more of His kindness and love. If you feel that He loves you more, you will give yourself to Him more entirely; and the result of these two loves will be perfect union. Therein lie holiness and perfection. Pray with confidence to attain it. Give Him your whole heart. Jesus is a tender Father; act towards Him as loving children. He is a tender Friend; delight in His love. Ah! I fear for the salvation of the one who has never tasted the goodness of God! Penetrate into that infinite goodness! Sentite de Domino in bonitate. “Think of the Lord in goodness.
Excerpt from The Real Presence by St. Peter Julian Eymard
Photo by Z I on UnsplashSt. Peter Julian Eymard St. Peter Julian Eymard
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