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Corpus Christi

May 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Corpus Christi, Eucharist, Liz Estler, Solemnity

Corpus Christi
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ


DetailMerazhofenPfarrkircheChorgestuhlLinksJulianaIn today’s solemnity (which was celebrated last Thursday, May 26th in some locations), we honor the most holy Body and Blood of Christ. This feast was promoted by St. Juliana of Liège (also known as St. Juliana of Cornillon), who lived between 1191/2 and 1258, an Augustinian nun in charge of a leper colony. Jesus appeared to her at the age of 16 and told her to plead for the establishment of this feast, in order to promote the adoration of the Eucharist, to increase faith and virtue, and to atone for offenses against the Blessed Sacrament. This vision continued for 20 years, kept secret until she revealed it and submitted it to her confessor for his discernment. It was first approved locally, and then finally established for the entire Church in 1264 by Pope Urban IV. Eucharistic processions were not initially part of the feast but gradually came to be included in many celebrations.

Corpus Christi honors the Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic life in which the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, the whole Christ is really, truly and substantially contained (cf Catechism, paragraph 1374). In the Eucharist, then, there is present in a sacramental way, under the Eucharistic species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and man (cf Compendium of the Catechism, paragraph 282).

Saint Thomas Aquinas, who composed various hymns for this celebration (Pange Lingua, Tantum Ergo, O Salutaris Hostia), explained in his Summa Theologica:

“Absolutely speaking, the sacrament of the Eucharist is the greatest of all the sacraments…First of all because it contains Christ Himself substantially: whereas the other sacraments contain a certain instrumental power which is a share of Christ’s power… that which is essentially such is always of more account than that which is such by participation.

“…This is made clear by considering the relation of the sacraments to one another. For all the other sacraments seem to be ordained to this one as to their end. For it is manifest that the sacrament of order is ordained to the consecration of the Eucharist: and the sacrament of Baptism to the reception of the Eucharist: while a man is perfected by Confirmation, so as not to fear to abstain from this sacrament. By Penance and Extreme Unction [Anointing of the Sick] man is prepared to receive the Body of Christ worthily. And Matrimony at least in its signification, touches this sacrament; in so far as it signifies the union of Christ with the Church, of which union the Eucharist is a figure: hence the Apostle says (Ephesians 5:32): ‘This is a great sacrament: but I speak in Christ and in the Church.'” (Thomas Aquinas, ST, q 65, a3 response).

Even before the establishment of this feast, many saints, many Fathers and Doctors of the Church, praised and instructed the faithful on this most holy and august Sacrament. And, many popes and saints since the establishment of the Corpus Christi feast have also extolled the glories of the Eucharist.

BenedictXVIEucharistJesusChrist2In more modern days, Servant of God John Paul I, when he was still Bishop Albino Luciani in 1963, listed and expounded on seven ways to honor the Eucharist: Holy Mass, Holy Communion, spiritual Communion, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, Eucharistic procession and Viaticum (from The Smiling Pope by Raymond and Lauretta Seabeck). Blessed Paul VI wrote an encyclical on the Eucharist titled Mysterium Fidei and Saint John Paul II wrote one called Ecclesia de Eucharistia. As well, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the book God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life, and went on to write Sacramentum Caritatis as Supreme Pontiff. We can be absolutely sure that, when the Papal Magisterium pronounces on something over and over again, it is at the heart of what we believe.

Over all these many years, Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and who cannot deny himself (cf 2 Timothy 2:13), has remained faithful to what He promised, “Behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. What a marvelous and singular gift He has given us: Jesus Himself, the Gift par excellence by which we become more and more conformed to Him, who saved us and opened for us the doors to eternal life.

And so, let us visit and adore Our Lord often in the Blessed Sacrament. And, along with the Church, let us pray the antiphon O Sacrum Convivium (O Sacred Banquet) for the Magnificat at Evening Prayer, or Vespers, for today’s solemnity, which was written by St. Thomas Aquinas (as found in the Liber Usualis) — in Latin and in English below:

O sacrum convivum!
in quo Christus sumimtur:
recolitur memoria passionis eius:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.


O sacred banquet,
in which Christ is received,
the memory of His Passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory is given to us.


Happy and Blessed Solemnity to one and all!


Art: Juliana von Lüttich (Juliana of Liège-Catholic Parish Church of St. Gordian and Epimachus, Merazhofen, city of Leutkirch im Allgäu, Ravensburg, The Choir Stalls), Peter Paul Metz, 1896, photo by Andreas Praefcke, May 2009, CCA; Monstrance (a rare early example, as monstrances for the Host became popular only after the establishment…of the Feast of the Holy Sacrament (Corpus Christi), dedicated to the Host), Mosan Workshop, circa 1230, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less; Detail from Canonization ceremony of Brazilian Friar Frei Galvão celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at the Campo de Marte, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Fabio Pozzebom/ABr, 11 May 2007, CCA; all Wikimedia Commons.

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About Liz Estler

Editor, Liz holds a Master of Arts in Ministry Degree (St. John's Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts), Liturgy Certificate (Boston Archdiocese), and a BS degree in Biology and Spanish (Nebraska Wesleyan University - Lincoln). She has served as hospital chaplain associate, sacristan, translator and in other parish ministries. She was a regular columnist for a military newspaper in Europe and has been published in a professional journal. She once waded in the Trevi Fountain!

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  • Prettylady!

    Thank you. But I thought the feast was linked to a miricle where the host began to bleed while being held by a doubting priest.

    • LizEst

      You’re welcome Prettylady! There are many Eucharistic miracles; but, this solemnity, historically, was promoted because of Jesus’ appearance to Saint Juliana and the Pope’s official promulgation of it.

      What you are thinking of is a miracle which famously took place in the year 750 in Lanciano, Italy (close to the “spur” of the “boot” of Italy) and is described in a 17th-century inscription in marble. In 1970, the Archbishop of Lanciano, with Vatican approval, had It scientifically investigated by a professor of anatomy, histology, chemistry and clinical microscopy. The results presented in 1971 were that the Flesh and Blood were just as fresh as if they had been taken today from a living person: fiber cells, nerves, adipose tissue, blood type AB.

      • Prettylady!

        Well, thank you. Your article really helped me appreciate the gift we have as Catholics,mand this feast. I think I was thinking of the inspiration to st Thomas’s poetry on the the body and blood, not the origin of the feast!

        Thanks for clarifying. I need to look into these miracles more! Happy feast day!

  • Lisa

    Dear Liz,
    Thank you for sharing this. I was just talking with my young son about it earlier this morning, and I asked myself, “How did this Feast originate?” Then I read your post!

    Last year, on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we traveled to a little bayou town nearby to participate in a Eucharistic Boat Procession along the bayou. It was such an amazing event as Our Lord was greeted and revered all along the bayou. They arrived at their destination and processed on land to the historic church and finally back to the chapel at the monastery. I was overwhelmed with joy to be able to honor our King as he deserves (as unworthy as I am) in the public sphere. I shared this with a friend; he said how important it is to have Public Eucharistic Processions … one reason being that demons “on the streets” flee in His Presence. So, by doing these processions, we are instruments of Our Savior in aiding those who would be tempted to sin. I’d never thought of that before!

    It seems that our poor world is in need more than ever to celebrate these visible events more frequently. Perhaps other U.S. parishes and dioceses do have widespread processions on this Feast day. Our parish does not. In light of so many public offenses towards our Lord, the Satanic Black “Masses” taking place, tattoo parlor industry increasing, and yoga centers for all ages (babies to the elderly), our Bishops would do well to HIGHLY ENCOURAGE his priests/flocks to make this Feast Day Procession a priority.

    I believe it would bring many graces to our troubled communities.
    Praise and Glory be Yours, O Lord!

    • LizEst

      You’re welcome, Lisa…and thank you for sharing about the Eucharistic Boat Procession. It sounds wonderful. I would also love to see more Eucharistic processions. God bless you and your family now and always.

  • Jeanette

    “Permit me to approach You and be refreshed. Allow me to come, a beggar, weak, crippled and blind, for the wealthy and strong scorn Your banquet; they consider themselves on the right path and believe their sight is sure. They are presumptuous, and so much the more incurable the prouder they are. Although a beggar, I come to You because You invite me; You, who being rich became poor for me, so that Your poverty would make me rich. Weak as I am, I shall draw near, for it is not the healthy who need the physician, but the sick. I shall approach You like a cripple and say: ‘set my feet in Your paths.’ I shall come like a blind person and say: ‘Give sight to my eyes, that I may sleep the sleep of death'” (St. Augustine).

    • LizEst

      Thank you for sharing this, Jeanette! God love you!

      • Jeanette

        God love you too!

  • LizEst

    Indeed, it was approved in February of 2014. Thank you for highlighting that. God bless you on this solemnity and always, fourthofeleven.

  • Judy Silhan

    Thanks, Liz, for this most informative reflection. I read other reflections today, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, and they were very moving as well. However, I had not read about Jesus appearing to St. Juliana of Luiege, and asking her to plead for today’s feast. Reading from St. Thomas Aquinas, in the Office of Readings this morning, his words “…to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us forever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine,” prepared me also for doing the Second Reading at Mass, 1Cor. 11:23-26, and proclaiming, with the Holy Spirit speaking through me – “This is my body that is for you…In the same way also the cup…saying This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this…in remembrance of me. These words of our Lord and St. Thomas Aquinas, were followed by one our priests most prophetic homilies, comparing Catholics to young people who might stand before one of the great pyramids and asking, is that all there is? Sadly, many do receive our Lord with this attitude, rather than realizing just what happens before their very eyes, that one of the greatest miracles of all times is occurring on the altar they stand before; but I have to confess, before I came to Avila, I did not have this awesome realization either, and just attended Mass out of obligation. Now, I want to help others realize the beauty and greatness of what our Lord has left with us and for us,

    God Bless you, Liz, and thanks again for this reflection.

    • LizEst

      You’re quite welcome, Judy. Blessings to you and yours on this most awesome solemnity!

  • Patricia

    Today, I visited Vatican International Exhibition of the Eucharistic Miracles of the World and saw the visual displays of all these miracles grouped by countries with enlargements of the maps of each county where the miracles took place. I noticed that Italy, Spain, France, and Poland had a very high number of locations of miracles and it made me think about the great number of really strong saints that came from each country. I also remembered Jesus referring to the strength of a person’s faith when He performed a miracle. Could it be that the faith of the people is in relationship to the number of Eucharistic Miracles in that country?

    It was a most beautiful and moving exhibit, one that also made me really think about how all creation knows and adores the Lord. One exhibit told the story of consecrated hosts being stolen in a ciborium and buried in the ground many years ago. One day a farmer was plowing his field, and turned over a large clump of dirt. The oxen stopped, got down on their knees, all facing one spot, and suddenly a strong ray of light shone forth from under the earth. The farmer dug down and found the ciborium with perfectly preserved hosts and returned it to the church. Another told of a priest crossing a stream when carrying a ciborium to the sick. He slipped and fell and the hosts spilled out. A man on the side called to the priest. Three fish were holding the hosts up out of the water while staying in one place. The priest bought the ciborium over to them and one by one each fish dropped the host into it.

    The Eucharistic Miracles of the World Paperback – 2009. I saw this book today. It is very beautiful with lots of details and colored pictures…well worth the money. The woman working at the display said there was also a 2016 version of the book, but she had sold out of it so I did not see it.

    • LizEst

      Thank you for all this information, Patricia. Where was the exhibit being held? As well, my sister gave me the “Eucharistic Miracles of the World” (2009 edition). I had no idea there was a 2016 version out. I will be sure to let her know about that and to keep an eye out for that new version, too! God bless you on this most holy solemnity…and always.

  • Pingback: CORPUS CHRISTI: How did the Solemnity of Corpus Christi get its start? |

  • Mr Grumpy

    Can anyone explain what Aquinas means by this?

    “while a man is perfected by Confirmation, so as not to fear to abstain from this sacrament”

    It seems to say the opposite to what I would expect.

    • LizEst

      Thanks for your question Mr Grumpy — though I hesitate to call you that!

      I’m not sure why you say that what Aquinas said is the opposite of what you would expect. The sacraments of initiation are baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. From ancient times, this has always been the order in which they were received…until there were not enough bishops to go around to all the parishes to that people could be confirmed. So, in the West, many places changed the order of that, although in the East, the order was kept (and this is only one of the reasons that the order of reception was changed). So, what Aquinas wrote was in keeping with the order in which the sacraments were received. And, it makes sense to me because all the sacraments are oriented towards the Eucharist, the source and summit, the apex of our Catholic life. The other sacraments do not have as their great blessing the actual reception of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. There is nothing greater!

      God bless you and yours, Mr. Grumpy, on this Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

      • Mr Grumpy

        Thank you very much Liz. Have no fear of calling me by my name – it’s borrowed from a character from a popular British series of children’s books and I only sometimes live up to it in real life!

        I should have made my question clearer. What puzzled me was that I would have expected Aquinas to say that being perfected by Confirmation frees us from the fear of receiving the Eucharist unworthily – not from the fear of abstaining from it. Why would we look to one sacrament to help us to abstain from another?

        Could it be that he thought one thing and wrote the opposite?

        God bless you today and always.

        • LizEst

          I went back and reread the statement on the “New Advent” website here: Yes, that is what he wrote. Perhaps there was an error in transcription, translation, or something was inadvertently left out. It should have read something on the order of: “a man is perfected by Confirmation, so as not to fear, and not abstain, from this sacrament [the Eucharist].” Aquinas loved the Eucharist. He would never have said anything contrary to it, or its worthy reception. Thanks for pointing that out, Mr. Grumpy!

          • Mr Grumpy

            I can’t make the Latin mean anything different. Bearing in mind that Aquinas left part 3 of the Summa Theologica unfinished, perhaps it is something he would have gone back and corrected if he’d had the chance. I’m sure you’re right about what he really meant.

          • LizEst

            I certainly could be wrong. But, I really doubt he would have written something that would appear contrary to everything the Church believes and teaches about the Eucharist. As well, he is the one who wrote the office for this feast.

          • marybernadette

            ‘So right LIz,
            I believe it was St. Thomas re: his ‘Summa Theologica’ that he
            believed that it was like ‘so much straw’ as who could really write regarding
            our Amazing God and all things pertaining to him and creation etc. He heard from the Lord who said to him, ‘you have written well of me, Thomas.’

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