June 23, 2019: The Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ - Pastor’s Corner
O sacred banquet in which Christ becomes our food. The memory of his passion is celebrated, the soul is filled with grace and a pledge of future glory is given to us.
These simple yet profound words are taken from an Antiphon for the Liturgy of the Hours for Corpus Christi, the solemnity that we are celebrating this Sunday. They were penned by the great Dominican theologian Thomas Aquinas at the request of Pope Urban IV. At the time, Pope Urban recognized a need to have a feast specifically to celebrate the rich treasure that the Eucharist is for the life of the Church. Certainly Holy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Eucharist, but because it is the gateway into Triduum, Pope Urban saw the wisdom in establishing a feast that simply focused on the mystery of our Lord’s most holy body and blood present in the Eucharist. Some of the perennial prayer and anthems for the Eucharist come from Thomas’ masterpiece: “Pange Lingua” (concluding in the “Tantum Ergo”), “Verbum Supernum” (concluding with the “O Salutaris Hostia”), the sequence before the gospel “Lauda Sion,” and the “Adoro Te Devote.” Of all of these masterpieces there is perhaps none so succinctly beautiful and profound as the “O sacrum convivium.”
In these few words contain a not only the beauty of Eucharistic piety and poetry but also the strength of real, bracing theology. In fact, it is a rule of thumb that if you want to know what we believe as Catholics, pay attention to how we pray. So let’s take a moment to mediate thoughtfully, if briefly, on this antiphon line by line in order to mine some of the vast richness of the mystery that we celebrate today.
O sacred banquet in which Christ becomes our food. First and foremost the Eucharist is spiritual food, the fruit of a sacred feast. In order to fully appreciate this image, imagine yourself transported back into the upper on Holy Thursday. You are brought into contact with Jesus and his disciples as he takes the bread, gives thanks to his Father. He breaks the bread and gives it to you and says: “Take and eat, this is my body…take and drink this is my blood.” This is a moment of re-creation. In the beginning, the world is created through the Image of the Eternal Word. This Word becomes flesh in Christ and now transforms simple bread and wine into himself. The result: when you partake of Christ as food, you are recreated into his Image. As you come forward to communion prepare to receive this transformation!
The memory of his passion is celebrated. The Eucharist always needs to be understood in light of the sacrifice of the cross. The Eucharist is the sacrament of love precisely because it is the fruit of sacrifice. And so in our Eucharistic meditation, allow yourself to be transported from the Upper Room to Calvary. There Jesus hangs upon the cross for your sins. Jesus does not avoid his cross. He willingly takes it up and carries it in order to show how much he truly loves you. This total act of self-giving is present in the Eucharist. This love is redemptive because it is rooted in Jesus’ obedience to the Father. Not my will be done Father but yours. This is an obedience which is the expression of a total gift of himself. At every Mass, Jesus’ total offering of self to the Father for our sake is represented. And the fruit of this sacrifice is nothing less than the Blessed Sacrament. As you come forward to communion bring to mind God’s love for you, consider your own sufferings, and in the moment of receiving Jesus entrust your sufferings into His abundant love.
The soul is filled with grace. When you receive the Eucharist, you become what you receive. For this reason, it is in the context of the Last Supper that Jesus invites his apostles to friendship, “I no longer call you slaves, but friends.” The Eucharist establishes the basis of friendship between you and God. The grace which fills your soul in the moment of Holy Communion awakes you to discover where God is in your lives and where he wants you to go and what he asks of you. Just as friends share their joys and sorrows with one another, so too, Christ calls us to share your live with him as a friend.
A pledge of future glory is given to us. Your destiny is heaven. God has created you for Himself and the Eucharist itself is a promise which points you to your eternal reward. Heaven is characterized by joy and thanksgiving. The saints rejoice with God in that placed prepared for them. Meditating on the gift of the Eucharist should awaken the joy and gratitude which you will experience in heaven. The word “Eucharist” means thanksgiving, and it is the proper response that we are called to in receiving the Eucharist. As the minister says “The Body of Christ,” let your response be a firmly, joyful response “Amen!” As you celebrate Corpus Christi, approach the altar recalling God’s love, inviting his friendship and giving thanks for his blessings in your life.