The Church's Year
OF CORPUS CHRISTI
is this day called Corpus Christi?
this Thursday the Catholic Church celebrates the institution of
the most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. The Latin term Corpus Christi
signifies in English, Body of Christ.
instituted this festival?
IV, who, in the decree concerning it, gives the following explanation
of the institution and grandeur of this festival: "Although
we daily, in the holy Sacrifice of the Mass; renew the memory of
this holy Sacrament, we believe that we must, besides, solemnly
commemorate it every year, to put the unbelievers to shame; and
because vie have been informed that God has revealed to some pious
persons that this festival should be celebrated in the whole Church,
we direct that on the first Thursday after the octave of Pentecost
the faithful shall assemble in church, join with the priests in
singing the word of God," &c. Hence this festival was instituted
on account of the greatness of the divine mystery; the unbelief
of those who denied the truth of this mystery; and the revelation
made to some pious persons. This revelation was made to a nun at
Liege, named Juliana, and to her devout friends Eve and Isabella.
Juliana, when praying, had frequently a vision in which she saw
the bright moon, with one part of it somewhat dark; at her request
she received instructions from God that one of the grandest festivals
was yet to be instituted the festival of the most Blessed Sacrament
of the Altar. In 1246, she related this vision to Robert, Bishop
of Liege, who after having investigated the matter with the aid
. of several men of learning and devotion, among whom was Jacob
Pantaleon, Archdeacon of Liege, afterwards Pope Urban IV. made arrangements
to introduce this festival m his diocese, but death prevented his
intention being put into effect. After the bishop's death the Cardinal
Legate Hugh undertook to carry out his directions, and celebrated
the festival for the first time in the year 1247, in the Church
of St. Martin at Liege. Several bishops followed this example, and
the festival was observed in many dioceses, before Pope Urban IV.
in 1264 finally ordered its celebration by the whole Church. This
order was confirmed by ClementV, at the Council of Vienna in 1311,
and the Thursday after the octave of Pentecost appointed for its
celebration. In 13 17, Pope John XXII. instituted the solemn procession.
are there such grand processions on this day?
For a public
profession of our holy faith that Christ is really, truly and substantially
present in this Blessed Sacrament; for a public reparation of all
the injuries, irreverence, and offences, which have been and are
committed by impious men against Christ in this Blessed Sacrament;
for the solemn veneration and adoration due to the Son of God in
this Sacrament; in thanksgiving for its institution; and for all
the graces and advantages received therefrom; and finally, to draw
down the divine blessing upon the people and the country.
this procession a prototype in the Old Law?
in which was carried the Ark of the Covenant containing the manna,
was a figure of this procession.
sings at the Introit the words of David:
fed them with the fat of wheat, alleluia: and filled them with honey
out of the rock. Allel. allel. allel. Rejoice to God our helper;
sing aloud to the God of Jacob. (Ps. LXXX.) Glory etc.
O God, who under a wonderful sacrament hast left us a memorial of
Thy Passion; grant us, we beseech Thee, so to venerate the sacred
mysteries of Thy body and blood, that we may ever feel within us
the fruit of thy redemtion. Who livest etc.
(I Cor. XI. 23-29.) Brethren, I have received of the Lord, that
which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night
in which he was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke,
and said: Take ye, and eat; this is my body which shall be delivered
for you: this do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also
the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This Chalice is the New
Testament in my blood: this do' ye; as often as you shall drink.,
for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this
bread, and drink this chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord
until he come. Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink
of the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body
and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so
let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that
eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to
himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.
VI. 56?59.) At that time, Jesus laid to the multitude of the Jews:
My flesh is meat indeed arid my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth
my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As
the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he
that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This is the bread
that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna and
are dead. He that eateth this bread shall live forever.
explanation of the epistle and gospel is contained in the following
The Jews, liberated
by the powerful hand of God from Egyptian captivity, went on dry
ground through the midst of the Red Sea, whose waters became the
grave of their pursuer, King Pharao, and, his whole army. Having
arrived in the desert called Sin they began to murmur against Moses
and Aaron, their leaders; on account of the want of bread, and demanded
to be led back to Egypt where there was plenty. The Lord God took
pity on His people. In the evening He sent into their, camp great
flocks of quails, which the Jews caught and ate, and on the morning
of the next day the ground was covered with white dew, and in the
desert something fine, as if pounded in a mortar, looking like frost
on the earth, which as soon as the Jews beheld, they exclaimed in
surprise: "Man hu?" "What is that?" But Moses
said to them: "This is bread which the Lord has given you."
And they at once began to collect the food which was white, small
as Coriander seed, and tasted like wheat?bread and honey, and was
henceforth called man or manna. God gave them this manna every morning,
for forty years, Sabbaths excepted, and the Jews lived upon it in
the desert, until they came to the Promised Land. This manna is
a figure of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar which contains all
sweetness, and nourishes the soul of him who receives it with proper
preparation, so that whoever eats it worthily, dies not, though
his body sleeps in the grave, for Christ will raise him to eternal
ON THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR
is the Sacrament of the Altar?
It is that
Sacrament in which under the appearance of bread and wine the Body
and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are really, truly and substantially
and to what manner did Christ promise this Sacrament?
one year before its institution He promised it in the synagogue
at Capharnaum, according to St. John the Evangelist: (VI, 24-65.)
When Jesus, near the Tiberian Sea, had fed five thousand men in
a miraculous manner with a few small loaves, these men would not
leave Him, because they marvelled at the miracle, were anxious for
this bread, and desired to make Him their king. But Jesus fled to
a high mountain, and in the night went with His disciples to Capharnaum
which was a town on the opposite side of the sea; but a multitude
of Jews followed Him, and He made use of the occasion to speak of
the mysterious, bread which He would one day give them and all men.
He first exhorted them not to go so eagerly after the perishable.
bread of the body, but to seek the bread of the soul which lasts
forever, and which the Heavenly Father would give them, through
Him, in abundance. This imperishable bread is the divine word, His
holy doctrine, especially the doctrine that He had come from heaven
to guide us to eternal life. (Vers. 25-38.) The Jews murmured because
He said that He had come from heaven, but the Saviour quieted them
by showing that no one could believe without a special grace from
His Heavenly Father (V. 43, 44.) that He was the Messiah, and had
come from heaven. After this introduction setting forth that the
duty of faith in Him and in His divine doctrine was a spiritual
nourishment, Christ very clearly unfolded the mystery of another
bread for the soul which was to be given only at some future time,
and this the Saviour did not ascribe to the Heavenly Father, as
He did the bread of the divine word, but to Himself by plainly telling
what this bread was: I am the living bread which came down from
heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever, and
the bread that I will give, is my flesh for the life of the world.
(V. 51, 52.)
But the Jews
would not believe these words, so clearly expressed, for they thought
their fulfillment impossible, and said: How can this man give us
his flesh to eat? (V. 53.) But Jesus recalled not His words, answered
not the Jews' objections, but confirmed that which He had said,
declaring with marked emphasis: Amen, amen, I say unto you, except
you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall
not have life in you., (V. 54.) He that eateth my flesh and drinketh
my blood, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up in the
last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed;
he that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and
I in him. As the living Father bath sent me; and I live ,by the
Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. This
is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did
eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread; shall live forever:
(V. 55-59.) Jesus, therefore, said distinctly and plainly, that
at a future time He would give His own Body and Blood as the true
nourishment of the soul; besides, the Jews and the disciples alike
received these words in their true, literal sense, and knew that
Jesus did not here mention His Body and Blood in
figurative sense, but meant to give them His own real Flesh and
Blood for food; and it was because they believed it impossible for
Jesus to do this, and because they supposed He would give them His
dead flesh in a coarse, sensual manner, that the Jews murmured,
and even several of His disciples said: This saying is hard, and
who can hear it? But Jesus persisted in His words: My flesh is meat
indeed, &c., and calls the attention of His disciples to another
miracle: to His future ascension, which would be still more incredible,
but would come to pass; and by the words: It is the spirit which
quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing, the words that I have spoken
to you, are spirit and life, (V. 64) He showed them that this mystery
could be believed only by the light and grace of the Holy Spirit,
and the partaking of His Bodes and Blood would not be in a coarse,
sensual manner, but in a mysterious way. Notwithstanding this, many
of His disciples still found the saying hard, and left Him, and
went no longer with Him. (V. 67.) They found the saying hard, because,
as our Saviour expressly said, they were lacking in faith. He let
them go, and said to His apostles: Will you also go away? thereby
showing that those who left Him, understood Him clearly enough,
and that His words did contain something hard for the mind to believe.
The apostles did not leave Him, they were too well assured of His
divinity, and that to Him all was possible, as St. Peter clearly
expresses: Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal
life. And we have believed and have known that thou art Christ,
the Son of God.
From the account
given by St. John, it is plainly seen that Christ really promised
to give us for our food His most precious Body and Blood, really
and substantially, in a Wonderful, mysterious manner, and that He
did not speak figuratively of faith in Him, as those assert who
contemn this most holy Sacrament. If Jesus had so meant it, He would
have explained it thus to the Jews and to His disciples who took
His words literally, and therefore could not comprehend, how Jesus
could give His Flesh and Blood to them for their food. But Jesus
persisted in His words, that His Flesh was truly food, and His Blood
really drink. He even made it the strictest duty for man to eat
His Flesh and drink His Blood; (V. 54) He shows the benefits arising
from this nourishment of the soul, (V. 55) and the reason why this
food is so necessary and useful. (V. 56.) When His disciples left
Him, because it was a hard saying, He allowed them to go, for they
would not believe His words, and could not believe them on account
of their carnal manner of thinking. This holy mystery must be believed,
and cannot be comprehended. Jesus has then promised, as the Catholic
Church has always maintained and taught, that His Body and Blood.
would be present under the appearance of bread and wine in the Blessed
Sacrament, a true nourishment for the soul, and that which He promised,
He has really given.
and in what manner did Christ institute the most holy Sacrament
of the Altar?
At the Last
Supper, on the day before His passion, after He had eaten with His
apostles the paschal lamb, which was a prototype of this mystery.
Three Evangelists, Matthew, (XXVI: 26?29.) Mark, (XIV. 22-25.) and
Luke (XXII. 19-20.) relate in few, but plain words, that on this
evening Jesus took into His hand bread and the chalice, blessed
and gave both to His disciples, saying: This is my body, that will
be given for you; this is my blood, which will be shed for you and
for many. Here took place in a miraculous manner, by the all?powerful
word of Christ, the mysterious transformation; here Jesus gave Himself
to His apostles for food, and instituted that most holy meal of
love which the Church says contains all sweetness. That which three
Evangelists. plainly relate, St. Paul confirms in his first epistle
to the Corinthians, (XI. 23-29. ,See this day's epistle) in which
to his account of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament he adds:
Whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord
unworthily, (that is, in a state of sin) shall be guilty of the
body and of the blood of the Lord . . . .eateth and drinketh judgment
to himself. (V. 27-29.)
words and those of the three holy Evangelists already mentioned,
it is clear that Jesus really fulfilled His promise, really instituted
the most holy Sacrament, and gave His most sacred Body and Blood
to the apostles for their food. None of the Evangelists, nor St.
Paul, informs us that Christ said: this will become my body, or,
this signifies my body. All agree that our Saviour said this is
my body, this is my blood, and they therefore decidedly mean us
to understand that Christ's body and blood are really, truly, and
substantially present under the appearance of bread and wine, as
soon as the mysterious change has taken place. And this is confirmed
by the words: that is given for you; which shall be shed for you
and for many; because Christ gave neither bread nor wine, nor a
figure of His Body and Blood, for our redemption, but His real Body,
and His real Blood, and St. Paul could not assert that we could
eat the Body and Blood of the Lord unworthily, if under the appearance
of bread and wine were present not the real Body and Blood of Christ,
but only a figure of them, or if they were only bread and wine.
This is also proved by the universal faith of the Catholic Church,
which in accordance with Scripture and the oldest, uninterrupted
Apostolic traditions1 has always believed
and taught, that under the appearance of bread and wine the real
Body and Blood of Christ are present, as the Ecumenical Council
of Trent expressly declares: (Sess. XIII. C. I. Can. I. de sacros.
Euchdr.) "All our ancestors who were of the Church of Christ,
and have spoken of this most Blessed Sacrament, have in the plainest
manner professed that our Redeemer instituted this wonderful Sacrament
at the Last Supper, when, having blessed the bread and wine, He
assured the apostles in the plainest and most exact words, that
He was giving them His Body and Blood itself; and if any one denies
that the holy Eucharist truly, really, and substantially contains
the Body and Blood, the Soul and Divinity of, our Lord Jesus Christ,
therefore the whole Christ, and asserts that it is only a sign or
figure without virtue, let him be anathema."
Christ institute this Sacrament for all time?
Yes; for when
He had promised that the bread which He would give, was His flesh
for the life of the world, (john. vi. ga.) and had said expressly
that whosoever did not eat His Flesh and drink His Blood would not
have life in Him, He, at the Last Supper, by the words: Do this
for a commemoration of me, (Luke XXII. 19.) gave to the apostles
and their successors, the priests, the power in His name to change
bread and wine into His Body and Blood, also to receive It and administer
It as a food of the soul, which power the apostles and their successors,
the priests, have always exercised, (I Coy. X. 16.) and will exercise
to the end of the world.
long after the change does Christ remain present under the appearance
of bread and wine?
As long as
the appearances remain; this was always the faith of the Church;
therefore in the primitive ages when the persecutions were raging,
after the sacrifice the sacred body of our Lord was taken home by
the Christians to save the mystery from the pagans; at home they
preserved It, and received It from their own hands, as affirmed
by the holy Fathers of the Church Justin, Cyprian, Basil, and others.
But when persecution had ceased, and the Church was permitted to
profess the faith openly, and without hinderance, the Blessed Sacrament
was preserved in the churches, enclosed in precious vessels, (ciborium,
monstrance, or ostensorium) made for the purpose. In later times
it was also exposed, on solemn occasions, for public adoration.
we Catholics adore bread when we pay adoration to the Blessed Sacrament?
No; we do not
adore bread, for no bread is there, but the most sacred Body and
Blood of Christ, and wherever Christ is adoration is due Him by
man and angels. St. Augustine says: "No one partakes of this
Body until he has first adored, and we not only do not sin when
we adore It, but would sin if we did not adore It." The Council
of Trent excommunicates those who assert that it is not allowable
to adore Christ, the only?begotten Son of God, in the Blessed Sacrament.
How unjust are those unbelievers who sneer at this adoration, when
it has never entered into the mind of any Catholic to adore the
external appearances of this Sacrament, but the Saviour hidden under
the appearances; and how grievously do those indifferent Catholics
sin who show Christ so little veneration in this Sacrament, and
seldom adore Him if at all!
are the external signs of this Sacrament?
The form and
appearance, or that which appears to our senses, as the figure,
the color, and the taste, but the substance of the bread and wine
is by consecration changed into the real Body and Blood of Christ,
and only the appearance of bread and wine remains, and is observable
to the senses.
and by whom is this consecration effected?
is effected on the altar during the holy Sacrifice of the Mass (therefore
the name Sacrament of the Altar), when the priest in the name and
by the power of Christ pronounces over the bread and wine the words
which Christ Himself pronounced when He instituted this holy Sacrament.
St. Ambrose writes: "At the moment that the Sacrament is to
be accomplished, the priest no longer uses his own words, but Christ's
words therefore. Christ's words complete the Sacrament."
Christ present under each form?
Christ is really
and truly present under both forms, in Divinity and Humanity, Body
and Soul, Flesh and Blood. That Jesus is thus present is clear from
the words of St. Paul: Knowing that Christ rising again from the
dead, dieth now no more. (Rom. VI. 9.) Because Christ dies no more,
it naturally follows that He is wholly and entirely present under
each' form. Hence the council of Trent says: "Whoever denies
that in the venerable Sacrament, of the Eucharist the whole Christ
is present in each of the forms and in each part of each form, where
a separation has taken place, let him be anathema."
no matter how many receive this Sacrament, does each receive Christ?
Yes, for each
of the apostles received Christ entirely, and if God by His omnipotence
can cause each individual to rejoice at the same instant in the
sun's light, and enjoy its entireness, and if He can make one and
the same voice resound in the ears of all the listeners, is He not
able to give the body of Christ, whole and entire, to as many as
wish to receive It?
it necessary that this Sacrament should be received in both forms?
No, for as
it has already been said, Christ is wholly present, Flesh and Blood,
Humanity and Divinity, Body and Soul, in each of the forms. Christ
promises eternal life to the recipient also of one form when He
says,: I f any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever, and
the bread that I will give, is my flesh for the life of the world.
(John. VI. 52.) The first Christians, in times of persecution, received
this Sacrament only in the form of bread in their houses. Though
in earlier times the faithful, like the priests, partook of the
chalice, it was not strictly required, and the Church for important
reasons has since ordered the reception of Communion under but one
form, because there was danger that the blood of our Lord might
be spilled, and thus dishonored; because as the Blessed Sacrament
must always be ready for the sick, it was feared that the form of
wine might be injured by long preservation; because many cannot
endure the taste of wine; because in some countries there is scarcity
of wine, and it can be obtained only at great cost and with much
difficulty, and finally, in order to refute the error of those who
denied that Christ is entirely present under each form.
area the effects of holy Communion?
of this most holy Sacrament are, as the Roman Catechism says, innumerable;
it is the fountain of all grace, for it ,contains the Author of
all the Sacraments, Christ our Lord, all goodness and perfection.
According to the doctrine of the?Church , there are six special
effects of grace produced by, this Sacrament in those who worthily
receive it. It unites the recipient with Christ, which Christ plainly
shows when He says: He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood,
abideth in me and I in him; (John VI. 57.) hence the name Communion,
of which St. Leo writes: "The participation of the Body and
Blood of Christ transforms ' us into that which we receive,"
and from this union with Christ, our Head, arises also a closer
union with our brethren in Christ, into one body. (I Cor. X. 17.)
It preserves and increases sanctifying grace, which is the spiritual
life of the soul, for our Saviour says: He that eateth me, the,
same also shall live by me. (John VI, 58.) It diminishes in us concupiscence
and strengthens us against the temptations of the devil. St. Bernard
says: "This holy Sacrament produces tow effects in us, it diminishes
gratifiation in venial sins, it removes the full consent in grievous
sins; if any of you do not feel so often now the harsh emotion of
anger, of envy, or impurity, you owe it to the Body and Blood of
the Lord:" and St. Chrystostom: "When we communicate worthily
we return from the table like fiery lions, terrible to the devils."
It causes us to perform good works with strength and courage; for
be who abides in Christ, and Christ in him, bears much fruit. (John
XV.) It effaces venial sin, and preserves from mortal sin, as St.
Ambrose says: "This daily bread is used as a help against daily
weakness: and as by the enjoyment of this holy Sacrament, we are
made in a special manner the property, the lams of Christ, which
He Himself nourishes with His own heart's blood, He does not permit
us to be taken out of His hands, so long as we cooperate with His
grace, by prayer, vigilance and contest. It brings us to a glorious
resurrection and to eternal happiness; for he who communicates worthily,
possesses Him who is the resurrection and the life, (John XI. 25.)
who said: He that eatheth my flesh, and drinketh ? my blood, hath
everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. (John
VI, 55.) He has, therefore, in Christ a pledge, that he will rise
in glory and live for ever. If the receiving of this Sacrament produces
such great results, how frequently and with what sincere desire
should we hasten ~ to enjoy this heavenly banquet, this fountain
of all grace! The first Christians received it daily, and St. Augustine
says: "Daily receive what daily benefits!" and St. Cyril:
The baptized may know that they remove themselves far from eternal
life, when they remain a long time from Communion." Ah, whence
comes in our days, the indifference, the weakness, the impiety of
so many Christians but from the neglect and unworthy reception of
Communion! Christian soul, close not your ears to the voice of Jesus
who invites you so tenderly to His banquet: Come to me all you who
are heavily laden and I will refresh you. Go often, very often to
Him; but when you go to Him, do not neglect to prepare for His worthy
reception, and you will soon feel its effects in your soul.
what does the worthy preparation for this holy Sacrament consist?
preparation of the soul consists in purifying ourselves by a sincere
confession from all grievous sins, and in approaching the holy table
with profound humility, sincere love, and with fervent desire. He
who receives holy Communion in the state of mortal sin draws down
upon himself, as the, apostle says, judgment and condemnation. The
worthy preparation of the body consists in fasting from midnight
before receiving Communion, and in coming properly dressed to the
The holy Sacrament
of the Altar is preserved in the tabernacle, in front of which a
light is burning day and night, to show that Christ, the light of
the world, is here present, that we may bear in mind that every
Christian congregation should contain in itself the light of faith,
the flame of hope, the warmth of divine love, and the fire of true
devotion, by a pious life manifesting and consuming itself, like
a light, in. the service of God. As a Christian you must believe
that under the appearance of bread Christ is really present in the
tabernacle, and that He is your Redeemer, your Saviour, your Lord
and King, the best Friend and Lover of your soul, whose pleasure
it is to dwell among the children of men; then it is your duty often
to visit Him in this most holy Sacrament, and offer Him your homage
and adoration, "It is certain," says: St. Alphonsus Ligouri,
that next to the enjoyment of this holy Sacrament in Communion,
the adoration of Jesus in this Sacrament is the best and most pleasing
of all devotional exercises, and of the greatest advantage to us."
Hesitate not, therefore, to practise this devotion. From this day
renounce at least a quarter of an hour's intercourse with others,
and go to church to entertain yourself there with Christ. Know that
the time which you spend in this way will be of the greatest consolation
to, you in the hour of death and through all eternity. Visit Jesus
not only in the church, but also accompany and adore Him when carried
in processions, or to sick persons. You will thus show your Lord
the homage due to Him, gather great merits for yourself, and have
the sure hope that Christ will one day repay you a hundredfold.
1. Thus St. Ignatius, the Martyr, who was instructed
by the apostles themselves, rebukes in these words those who even
at that time would not believe in the change of the bread and wine
into the body and blood of the. Lord: "They do not believe
that the real body of Jesus Christ our Redeemer who suffered for
us and has risen from death is contained in the Sacrament of the
Altar." (Ep. ad Smyr.) Thus St. Irenaeus who was a disciple
of St. Polycarp, a pupil of St. John the Evangelist, writes: "Of
the bread is made the body of Christ" (Lib. IV adv. haer.)
In the same manner St. Cyril: "Since Christ our Lord said of
this bread, This is my body, who dares doubt it? Since He said,
This is my blood, who dares to say, it is not His blood?" (Lib.
IV. regul. Cat.) and in another place: "Bread and wine which
before the invocation of the most Holy Trinity were only bread and
wine, become after this invocation the body and blood of Christ."
(Cat. myrt. I.)
What can the unbelievers say to this testimony? Do they know the
truth better than those apostles who themselves saw and heard Jesus
at the Last Supper, and who taught their disciples that which they
had seen and heard? All Christian antiquity proves the error of
Blessed Sacrament as a Sacrifice and the Holy Mass and its ceremonies,
are treated upon towards the end of this book.