Laudetur Jesus Christus! Gelobt sei Jesus Christus! Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! Praised be Jesus Christ!
We know that before our Lord ascended to the heights of Heaven to assume His place at the right hand of the Father, He promised never to leave us alone. He fulfilled His promise just ten days later when He sent the Holy Spirit to us at Pentecost. Today the Church reminds us of the fact that even though Christ has ascended to the Father, even though we may not physically see Him as our ancestors did when He walked this earth, that He does, in fact, remain with us. Not only has He sent to us the Holy Spirit, but He has left us the gift of His very self in the Holy Eucharist.
It is easy for us to take the Holy Eucharist for granted. It is easy for us to allow it to become routine. We see many lax practices all around us when it comes to the treatment of the Holy Eucharist. All the more important then is the Feast of Corpus Christi that the Church has given to us. Traditionally celebrated on the Thursday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi has regularly been observed in the United States on the Sunday following for quite some time. This gave the faithful the opportunity to reflect upon the role of the Holy Eucharist in the life of the Church, serving as a reminder of that great gift given to us by the Lord.
This Feast was instituted first in the Netherlands in 1246 and was later extended to the entire Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264. St. Thomas Aquinas was ordered to draw up the office for the new feast, giving to us many hymns we would still recognize (e.g. Tantum Ergo). The Feast helped to catechize the faithful on what the Holy Eucharist was, the true and abiding presence of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. This manner of explaining the Eucharist as a ‘transubstantiation’ had only been declared in 1215 A.D. by the Fourth Lateran Council. Transubstantiation meaning a real and true change in the substance, so that all that remained is the accidents. In other words, the bread and the wine are no longer present, though they retain the appears of bread and wine. What is present is the Body and the Blood of the Lord, even though it doesn’t look like flesh or blood.
For the Church, this is the continuation of the expression of love that Christ has for the Church, an expression that he began on the Cross. The Eucharist is the abiding expression of the love that God has for the Church and the world. Not only was He willing to send to us the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and sanctify our souls, but He Himself was willing to remain with us and give us Himself as food. Food and nourishment for our journey to eternal life.