Sunday, June 10, 2007

Corpus Christi 2007

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting." John 3:14

"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself." John 12:32


Bishop Robert de Thorte of Liege ( Belgium) established this feast of the Blessed Sacrament in the year 1246 at the suggestion of St. Juliana of Mont Carvillon. Juliana, a Belgian nun, from age 16 onwards, often had a vision during her prayers of a full moon in brilliant light, while a part of its disc remained black. Finally, Christ told her the meaning of this vision. The moon represented the liturgical year; the black spot indicated the lack of a festival in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. She was to tell the Church hierarchy that God wished the establishment of such a feast.

In 1230 Juliana revealed this secret to a small group of theologians and, as a result, she had to suffer scorn and ridicule. But the bishop of Liege eventually listened to her. A diocesan synod in 1246 decided in her favor and prescribed such a feast for the churches of Liege. Some years later, Jacques Pantaleon, archdeacon of Liege, was elected Pope, taking the name Urban IV (1261-1265). On September 8, 1264, six years after Juliana's death, he established for the whole Church that feast in honor of the Holy Eucharist. It was to be celebrated with great solemnity on the Thursday after Pentecost week, and indulgences were granted to all who would receive Holy Communion or attend special devotions in addition to hearing Mass.

Pope Urban IV commissioned both Saints Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas to compose the texts of the Mass and the Divine Office for the new feast. It is said that when St. Bonaventure read what his friend St. Thomas had come up with, he burned his own composition. Thomas Aquinas composed five beautiful hymns to the Holy Eucharist: “Adoro Te Devote” (“I adore Thee devoutly”), “Lauda Sion” (“Laud, O Zion”), “Pange Lingua” (“Sing, my tongue”), “Sacris Solemniis” (“At this our Solemn Feast”) and “Verbum Supernum” (“The Word of God”).

Pope Urban IV presented the following reasons for establishing Corpus Christi as a universal feast: “1) that the Catholic doctrine receive aid from the institution of this festival at a time when the faith of the world was growing cold and heresies were rife; 2) that the faithful who love and seek truth and piety may be enabled to draw from this source of life new strength and vigor to walk continually in the way of virtue; 3) that irreverence and sacrilegious behavior towards the Divine Majesty in this adorable Sacrament may, by sincere and profound adoration, be extirpated and repaired; 4) to announce to the Christian world His will that the feast be observed.”

Canon Law

Canon 944 §1,2: "Wherever in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop it can be done, a procession through the streets is to be held, especially on the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, as a public witness of veneration of the Blessed Eucharist. It is for the diocesan Bishop to establish such regulations about processions as will provide participation in them and for their being carried out in a dignified manner."

Canon 1246 §1: "… the following holy days are to be observed: the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension of Christ, the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the feast of Mary, the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, the feast of St. Joseph, the feast of the Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul, and the feast of All Saints." Notice that Corpus Christi is mentioned along with Holy Days of Obligation.

The Importance of the Feast Today:
Loss of the Sense of God

The Temptation of Christ: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Mt. 4, 3). Benedict XVI comments: “'If you are the Son of God’ – we will hear these words again in the mouths of the mocking bystanders at he foot of the Cross – ‘If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross’" (Mt. 27, 40).

The Ultimate Question Today: Does God exist? Benedict comments: “And we make this same demand of God and Christ and his Church throughout the whole of history. ‘If you exist, God,’ we say, ‘then you’ll just have to show yourself. You’ll have to part the clouds that conceal you and give us the clarity that we deserve. If you, Christ, are really the Son of God, and not just another one of the enlightened individuals who deep appearing in the course of history, then you’ll just have to prove it more clearly than you are doing now. And if the Church is really supposed to be yours, you’ll have to make that much more obvious than it is at present.’”[1]

Benedict builds the argument of the primacy of the worship of the invisible God in faith above and before solving the social problem. Wasn’t this the point of the Exodus from the abundance of bread in Egypt to the desert of Sinai and receiving the Torah and faith? And it was then, and only then, stripped of bread in the desert in the act of obedience that is faith that God feeds the people with the manna and water from the rock (that was Christ). Wasn’t this also the point of the Sermon on the Mount when the people come to hear the words of Christ, and then, having been fed with the word, they are fed to satiety with the five loaves and two fish? The point is: seek first the kingdom of God and the rest will be added.

Benedict comments: “Is there anything more tragic, is there anything more opposed to belief in the existence of a good God and a Redeemer of mankind, than world hunger? Shouldn’t it be the first test of the Redeemer, before the world’s gaze and on the world’s behalf, to give it bread and to end all hunger? During their wandering through the desert, God fed the people of Israel with bread from heaven, with manna. This seemed to offer a privileged glimpse into how things would look when the Messiah came: Did not, and does not, the Redeemer of the world have to prove his credentials by feeding everyone? Isn’t the problem of feeding the world – and, more generally, are not social problems – the primary, true yardstick by which redemption has to be measured? Does someone who fails to measure up to this standard have any right to be called a redeemer? Marxism – quite understandably – made this very point the core of its promise of salvation: It would see to it that no one went hungry anymore and that the ‘desert would become bread.’

“’If you are the Son of God’ – what a challenge! Should we not say the same thing to the Church? If you claim to be the Church of God, then start by making sure the world has bread – the rest comes later. It is hard to answer this challenge, precisely because the cry of the hungry penetrates so deeply into the ears and into the soul – as well it should. Jesus answer cannot be understood in light of the temptation story alone. The bread motif pervades the entire Gospel and has to be looked at in its full breadth.”

By Giving Bread First, the West Has Created Poverty: The "Third World"

By giving bread first, and not God, the West has created what we understand to be the “Third World. Benedict XVI says: “The aid offered by the West to developing countries has been purely technically and materially based, and not only has left God out of the picture, but has driven men away from God. And this aid, proudly claiming to ‘know better,’ is itself what first turned the ‘third world’ into what we mean today by that term. It has thrust aside indigenous religious, ethical, and social structures and filled the resulting vacuum with its technocratic mind-set. The idea was that we could turn stones into bread; instead our ‘aid’ has only given stones in place of bread. The issue is the primacy of God. The issue is acknowledging that he is a reality, that he is the reality without which nothing else can be good. History cannot be detached from God and then run smoothly on purely material lines. If man’s heart is not good, then nothing else can turn out good, either.[3] And the goodness of the human heart can ultimately come only from the One who is goodness, who is the Good itself.” He goes on: “We live in this world, where God is not so manifest as tangible things are, but can be sought and found only when the heart sets out on the ‘exodus’ from ‘Egypt.’ It is in this world that we are obliged to resist the delusions of false philosophies and to recognize that we do not live by bread alone, but first and foremost by obedience to God’s word. Only when this obedience is put into practice does the attitude develop that is also capable of providing bread for all.”[4]

The Celebration of Corpus

John Paul II restored the procession of Corpus Christi from the Lateran Basilica through the streets of Rome to St. Mary Major on June 10, 2004. He said: “We will carry the Divine Sacrament in procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Looking at Mary, we will understand better the transforming power that the Eucharist possesses. Listening to her, we will find in the Eucharistic mystery the courage and energy to follow Christ… and to serve him in the brethren.”

Benedict followed this up in 2006 referring to the cosmic realities of flour and water that make up the bread that becomes the Body of Christ. It is the power of God that totally transcends our strength and ability. He said: “During the procession and in adoration we look at the consecrated Host, the most simple type of bread and nourishment, made only of a little flour and water. In this way, it appears as the food of the poor, those to whom the Lord made Himself closest in the first place.

The prayer with which the Church, during the liturgy of the Mass, consigns this bread to the Lord, qualifies it as fruit of the earth and the work of humans.
It involves human labor, the daily work of those who till the soil, sow and harvest [the wheat] and, finally, prepare the bread. However, bread is not purely and simply what we produce, something made by us; it is fruit of the earth and therefore is also gift.
"We cannot take credit for the fact that the earth produces fruit; the Creator alone could have made it fertile. And now we too can expand a little on this prayer of the Church, saying: the bread is fruit of heaven and earth together. It implies the synergy of the forces of earth and the gifts from above, that is, of the sun and the rain. And water too, which we need to prepare the bread, cannot be produced by us.”[5]

We produce neither wheat, flour, sun or water in order to make bread. “The bread is fruit of heaven and earth together. It implies the synergy of the forces of eartht and the gifts from above, that is, of the sun and the rain. And water too, which we need to prepare the bread, canot be produced by us.” Benedict commented at the beginning of 2006 : “The essential problem of our times, for Europe and for the world, is that although the fallacy of the Communist economy has been recognized, its moral and religious fallacy has not been addressed. The unresolved issue of Marxism lives on: the crumbling of man’s original uncertainties about God, himself, and the universe. The decline of a moral conscience grounded in absolute values is still our problem, and left untreated, it can lead to the self-destruction of the European conscience, which we must begin to consider as a real danger – above and beyond the decline predicted by Spengler.”[6]

Joseph Ratzinger: “What Corpus Christi Means to Me"

“What does Corpus Christ mean to me? Well, first of all it brings back memories of special feast days when we took quite literally that Thomas Aquinas put so well in one of his Corpus Christi hymns: Quantum potes tantum aude: dare to do as much as you can, giving him due praise, In fact, these words also recall something Justin Martyr said as early as the second century. In his description of the Christian liturgy he writes that the one who presides at the Eucharistic celebration, i.e., the priest, is to offer our prayers and thanksgivings ‘as much as he is able.’ This is what the entire community feels called to do at Corpus Christi: dare to do what you can. I can still smell those carpets of flowers and the freshness of the birch trees; I can see all the houses decorated, the banners, the singing; I can still hear the village band, which indeed sometimes dared more, on this occasion, than it was able! I remember the joie de vivre of the local lads, firing their gun salutes – which was their way of welcoming Christ as head of state, as the Head of State, the Lord of the world, present on their streets and in their village. On this day people celebrated the perpetual presence of Christ as if it were a state visit in which not even the smallest village was neglected….
[The Council of Trent] said that the purpose of Corpus Christi was to arouse gratitude in the hearts of men and to remind them of their common Lord. Here, in a nutshell, we have in fact three purposes: Corpus Christi is to counter man’s forgetfulness, to elicit his thankfulness, and it has something to do with fellowship, with that unifying power which is at work where people are looking to the one Lord. A great deal could be said about this; for with our computers, meetings and appointments we have become appallingly thoughtless and forgetful.”[7]

Corpus Christ and The Kingdom of God

The praise given to Christ in the Eucharist has to do with the Kingdom of God. “The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God.”[8] The Kingdom of God is the activity of the living Person of Jesus Christ, loving us (grace) and therefore empowering us to make the sacrificial gift of ourselves in work. As other Christs, we become the kingdom in the creation of a secular (secularized) society of men. Benedict says: "When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, he is quite simply proclaiming God, and proclaiming him to be the living God, who is able to act, concretely in the world and in history and is even now so acting. He is telling us: ‘God exists’ and ‘God is really God,’ which means that he holds in his hands the threads of the world. In this sense, Jesus’ message is very simple and thoroughly God-centered. The new and totally specific thing about his message is that he is telling us: God is acting now – this is the hour when God is showing himself in history as its Lord, as the living God, in a way that goes beyond anything seen before. ‘Kingdom of God’ is therefore an inadequate translation. It would be better to speak of God’s being-Lord, of his lordship.”[9]

[1] Ratzinger-BenedictXVI, “Jesus of Nazareth” Doubleday (2007) 30.
[2] Ibid 32.
[3] See here the major theme of John Paul II’s “Veritatis Splendor.” Since only God is good, the human person – created in the image of the divine Persons – perceives what is “good” in the ontological tendency of his very being to act in this way, and not in that. This consciousness that is ontologically grounded in the relational dynamic of the person is the grounding of all ethics and what has hitherto been called “natural law” although it is neither from “nature” nor a “law.” It is more aptly called the “law of the person.”
[4] Ibid 34.
[5] Benedict XVI, The Square at St. John Lateran, Thursday, June 15, 2006.
[6] Benedict XVI, “Europe and Its Discontents,” First Things, January 2006, 20.

[7] J. Ratzinger, “Feast of Faith,” Ignatius (1986) 127-129.
[8] John Paul II, “Redemptoris Missio,” #18,
[9] Ratzinger-Benedict XVI, op. cit 56-57.

No comments: