Corpus Christi 2014

An austerely Protestant friend once confided to me that she didn’t really ‘get’ the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. Two things in particular bothered her. One was the Church’s refusal to open reception of the sacrament to all Trinitarian Christians as her own denomination did, and the other was Catholic devotion to the reserved sacrament. She had been to Spain and been rather aghast at a Corpus Christi procession and the way in which people flopped to their knees as the priest passed by under a canopy of white silk, holding ‘some great gold thinggy in his hands’. I tried to explain.

Catholics have a very high doctrine of the Eucharist. We believe that it is much more than a memorial meal. It is a sacrifice, one with the sacrifice of Calvary. Bread and wine are transformed by the action of the priest into the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour, and it is necessary to share the faith of the Church in order to share in the sacrament. This did not satisfy her, nor did my patient offering of all the relevant numbers in the Catechism, Dominus Est and so on. I had slightly more success when I read through the Eucharistic Prayers with her and threw in some little tidbits of history and theology from Jungmann (see below). However, it was when we went into a nearby Catholic church during Adoration that light began to dawn. The sight of many people kneeling in silent prayer before the Host in the monstrance affected my friend profoundly. The candles, the flowers, the faint smell of incense probably helped, too; but it was the prayer and the depth of the silence that moved her most. That wasn’t faked; it wasn’t in any way exclusionary; it was simply a group of people united in their love of the Lord, kneeling before him and listening.

Today Catholics in Britain will celebrate Corpus Christi in many different ways. Some will hold Corpus Christi processions, scattering rose petals and singing hymns; others will spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament (how we usually refer to the reserved sacrament), either exposed in the monstrance for Adoration and Benediction or contained within the tabernacle (its place of reservation); all, I trust, will take part in the Mass because, of course, it is the Mass from which all worship of the Blessed Sacrament proceeds. It is in the action of the Mass that we are united with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, with his death and resurrection, and in communion made one with him in love and prayer.

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21 thoughts on “Corpus Christi 2014”

  1. I will be honest, I find it appalling that such things have divided a church, scrapping in the past like dogs over a bone about the meaning of the body of our in the Eucharist. As long as our eyes are opened to Him in the breaking of the bread, like those on the road to Emmaus, shouldn’t we just rejoice in God our Saviour, His goodness, His mercy, His sacrifice. I have no objection to how people choose to meet our Lord, as long as they do.

    • I don’t share your view but, naturally, I accept it as sincerely held and legitimately argued. It may help explain my own position, however, if I tell you I felt a slight shock at your likening theological discussion of the Eucharist to dogs scrapping over a bone. The Eucharist matters supremely. That is why people have been prepared to die for what they hold to be true about it and why in this house everything to do with the Eucharist is the best we can manage — always. (Hope that doesn’t sound priggish: I’m just trying to explain why I think the theology of the Eucharist is so important.)

      • I deeply respect your views, and Roman Catholisism. If I have offended you by likening some of the disputes between Catholics and Protestant to dogs over a bone, I apologize, but unfortunately that is often how non Christians see it and want non of it. The very fact people who have called themselves Christians have killed one another over such disputes I find so utterly appalling I cannot begin to describe my feelings.
        What has gone on has been no interlectual theological discussion and we are all to blame.

  2. … some little tidbits of history and theology from Jungmann (see below).

    Sister, I was just wondering, were you intending to post or link something additional concerning this? (I just didn’t notice anything further on it below that.)

  3. And yet, the importance that the Church attaches to the Eucharist is a stumbling block for many. It is less important than love of God and love of one’s neighbour.

    • There I would disagree with you, though I take your point. One cannot separate the Church’s understanding of the Eucharist from love of God and neighbour: Catholic doctrine holds together and it is indeed a stumbling block for many as John 6 points out; but that doesn’t mean the Church can change her teaching on the subject. She must be true to what she has received. She must also be compassionate, and there, I’m sorry to say, her members have been only too fallible.

      • But we must not attribute to the Church that which is Christ’s. She is the bride of Christ, not equal to Him. The Gospels do not place emphasis on the Eucharist; even that part of St Luke’s Gospel… ‘this do in remembrance of me’… was not, as I understand it, in the original.

        • According to a Catholic understanding of ecclesiology, there can be no opposition between Christ and the Church. She alone is the authoritative interpreter of the scriptures, etc.

  4. The stumbling block is this. For Catholics, it IS the body and blood of Jesus Christ, not a representation or symbol. For protestants, it is merely a symbol. If the resurrected Christ were to appear to you, would you walk up and shake hands or would you fall to your knees before your Lord and Saviour? Personally, I would kneel until He bid me to rise because I am not worthy to stand in His presence. To me, it is ironic that Protestants stress a personal relationship with Jesus yet pass up this most intimate opportunity.

    • Partaking of the Body and Precious Blood of Jesus as He commanded us to do in the Eucharist is the ultimate sign of our unity.

  5. Today is my first Corpus Christi as a Catholic.
    Part of my call to Catholicism was my understanding the Eucharist. Eventually I could no longer take communion in the Presbyterian church as it was a million miles away from where The Lord had led me.

    Being now effectively housebound I have never been to Mass in Church nor had the chance to pray in silence before the Blessed Sacrament.

    Nevertheless receiving communion at home regularly and the Divine Offices keep me close to Our Lord.

    I will never forget my first communion as Mass and Confirmation were celebrated in my own living room. My heart sang.

  6. I have been very upset recently at how little respect is shown for the Blessed Sacrament sometimes. On Easter Sunday, I returned to my place after receiving Communion only to be bombarded by a conversation from behind me which lasted until after the Communion hymn. This is one example among many and it ditresssed me. As to the Eucharist being less important than love of God and neighbour, they are inextricably linked to each other. Reception of the Eucharist isn’t a private devotion. I become intimately united to Jesus who sends me out to spread his love.

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