Today we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christ – the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. As on Trinity Sunday last Sunday (when we celebrated a solemn day dedicated to honoring God in His nature as a trinity of persons), we have the occasion on this day to honor and celebrate another central truth and mystery of our Catholic faith: the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as Jesus’ Real Presence – His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Our celebration of this feast accordingly invites us to deeper and more perfect faith in the gift and mystery of the Eucharist through our intentional focus upon it.
While this feast is intended to be kept on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, we are blessed to be able to celebrate this great feast on the following Sunday in the interest of giving greater attention to it than may be possible during the week. However, there is good reason that this feast is traditionally kept on a Thursday (which dates to the 13th century). For as it was on Holy Thursday that Jesus willed to institute both the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, every Thursday retains a very significant place as the day of the institution of the Eucharist. Particular to this feast, it was Pope Urban IV in 1264 who firmly established that it was to be kept on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, with the granting of a plenary indulgence to all who assisted (that is, participated) in Mass and the Office. It was also at this time that St. Thomas Aquinas wrote the traditional eucharistic hymns “Pange Lingua Gloriosi” and “O Salutaris Hostia” that were meant for this feast day and still remain in regular use today for Eucharistic Adoration as well as for the procession of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday.
Given our celebration of this feast, we are exhorted to always give proper solemnity to the very offering of the Holy Mass with the greatest reverence and attentiveness to worshiping God, and to participate in additional eucharistic devotions, particularly eucharistic processions. This year, as has been announced for some time, Catholics from several local parishes will join together to keep this feast with a eucharistic procession originating here at St. Benedict and processing to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. Our procession will serve multiple purposes. First of all, we can consider this procession as an outward and public expression of the worship of the Eucharist wherein we are led by the Eucharist in procession as a witness to God himself leading us – just as the pillar of cloud and fire had once lead Israel out of Egypt, so the Eucharist leads us through our pilgrimage in this life to the promised land of heaven. Similarly, our procession draws us together as one people in Christ, united in processing, with the one end goal of eternal life through Christ. Finally, as processions are public events, our processing with the Eucharist through this portion of Duluth gives testimony to our Eucharistic faith and the hope we have in salvation in Jesus Christ, to give joyful witness to others in our community.
As we keep this day, my hope and prayer for all is that our faith in Jesus’ presence with us and among us in the Eucharist will increase and become more central to every moment of our lives. As Jesus himself said that he is the vine and we the branches, and that without him we can do nothing (see John 15:5), may this day increase our faith and true reliance upon Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist in all moments, and may our reverence in worship and desire to be perfectly united with Christ be made ever more perfect and pure – allowing Jesus to lead us through this life to the perfection of all worship and unity in the Kingdom of Heaven.