The Catholic Church has a rich heritage of traditions and practices many of which are enshrined as annual celebrations. Today’s feast of Corpus Christi (also known as the Feast of the Body of Christ) is a case in point. Corpus Christi is unique in
several ways. The feast was not instituted within the Church until the 14th century AD, and its principal advocate for inclusion in the Church roster of holy days was a woman: St. Juliana, an Augustinian nun in Belgium. She looked upon the Holy Eucharist with great reverence, and desired to have
a feast within the Church devoted specifically to its honor.
We know that Holy Thursday is generally associated with the institution of the Holy Eucharist. However, Holy Week was often seen as a time of great sorrow and repentance, and so Juliana felt that the celebration of the Eucharist should be a time of rejoicing. After receiving a vision concerning the Church and its lack of devotion to the Eucharist, she petitioned Robert de Thorete, the Bishop of Liege. The Bishop convened a synod in 1246 and decreed that the celebration should take place the following year. In 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the bull transiturus, a declaration ordering the Feast of Corpus Christi extended throughout the entire Church. The date was set for the celebration to be held on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday.
When I came to the US, I was quite amazed and impressed by the cities named after the Holy Eucharist: Corpus Christi and Sacramento. My reading of history tells me that the Franciscan missionaries originally named the Gulf of Mexico the “Bay of Corpus Christi,” and gave the mission there the same name. While in California, the mission at Sacramento and its corresponding river were named in honor of the Eucharist.
Many visitors have commented positively about the Sunday worship here at St. Matthias. Some of their comments to me are:
Attending Mass at St. Matthias is very experiential;
This community is very welcoming;
People are very alive, everyone participates even by clapping.
Is different and where the Lord who comes at the altar touches all of us.
We can be very proud of such comments as we try to be a Eucharistic people. I have this request to all of you: How nice it will be if all of us, when we enter the church, dip our fingers in the holy water, (that is when we restore the use of holy water) trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads and show a sign of respect (bow or genuflect) towards the Blessed Sacrament! That will be one important visible connection between last Sunday’s feast of the Holy Trinity and this Sunday’s feast of Corpus Christi.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal