What is The Feast of Corpus Christi?
Corpus Christi literally means “Body of Christ.” It is one of the biggest festivals of the Catholic Church which celebrates the actual presence of the body and blood of Christ (the sacrament of the Eucharist). The feast of the Most Holy Body of Christ, also known as ‘the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ’, is celebrated annually on the Thursday following Pentecost Sunday.
According to Holy Scripture, on Holy Thursday, the day before His death by crucifixion, Jesus initiated His Last Supper. It was during this gathering when Jesus instituted the eucharist by saying, “This is my body [holding up the bread], and this is my blood [pointing to the wine].” Catholics around the world celebrate the divine and mysterious gift of the Eucharist by acknowledging God’s actual presence with them.
History records the celebration of Corpus Christi beginning in 1193 on the initiative of Juliana of Cornellon, a Belgian woman who was visited by the Virgin Mary. Ms. Cornellon claimed the Blessed Mother asked her to have a party with the sole intention of honoring the body of Jesus presented within the Eucharist to all mankind.
In 1264, Pope Urban IV established the feast within the Universal Church noting three primary purposes: to honor Jesus Christ; to ask for forgiveness (from Jesus) for what had been done to Him; and to protest against those denying the Lord’s presence in the sacred host (transubstantiated bread).
When a priest proclaims the words, “This is My body and this is My blood” during Mass, it is referred to as the act of “transubstantiation”. Transubstantiation occurs when the substance of bread (wafer) and wine become (are transformed into) the actual body and blood of Christ. Not only is this act one of the greatest mysteries of faith, it is also the most important moment of the entire celebration of Corpus Christi—when the unconsecrated hosts become consecrated (sanctified; blessed; Holy).
Another important part of the Corpus Christi celebration is the procession proceeding Mass. In many cities around the world, it is customary to adorn the streets with colorful rugs through which the faithful pass. There are drawings scattered throughout the streets resembling Jesus by way of the bread and chalice (wine).
One thing is for sure, the One Whom we adore is not some distant power. Rather, our Lord is right here with us. This should give us believers tremendous relief, hope for the future, and joy as we press forward into the unknown. Let’s join together in asking our Lord to grant us deeper understanding of His infinite Wisdom and mysteries of our faith. And may His Holy presence forever join us together as One Body at all times.
“…that there may be no division in the Body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all [will] suffer together; if one member is honored, all [will] rejoice together” –1 Corinthians 12:25-26.
Three additional important dates to remember:
1.) Lent: the period that comprises the 40 days preceding Easter;
2.) Palm Sunday: The Sunday before Easter Sunday;
3.) Pentecost: celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday