The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

The purpose of the celebration today, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord, is to remind us all of the importance and joy at receiving the Eucharist. We are reminded of Who it is we are receiving and what we are doing when we approach the Eucharist[1].

The original celebration of the Body of Christ was begun in the thirteenth century promoted by one of our spiritual ancestors named St. Juliana of Liege, a visionary and an Augustinian nun[2]. Soon after this the pope, Pope Urban IV, asked the great theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, to prepare a Mass to celebrate this new feast. We still sing some of the hymns that St. Thomas Aquinas wrote for this Mass, particularly the Tantum Ergo, which is part of the Pange Lingua, and the O Salutaris Hostia [3]. On this day the Eucharist was honored by carrying the host in a solemn procession, stopping several times for Benediction. This custom is still encouraged and practiced in many countries throughout the world, including our own.

The readings for this Sunday emphasize the Eucharist as the Blood of the New Covenant. Covenants were those solemn promises of the Bible that demanded action on both sides. They were also always sealed with a sign. The rainbow was a sign of the covenant with Noah. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant with Abraham. Another rather strange way of sealing the covenant was mentioned in the first reading. As their way of accepting the Covenant of the Ten Commandments, people were sealed into the covenant by being sprinkled with the Blood of a sacrificed animal.

All this is presented to emphasize the Eucharist as the sign of the covenant Jesus made with the Father for us. We are reminded in today’s Gospel that this is the Blood of the New Covenant. This means that when we receive communion we are entering into a covenant with God. The very reception of communion is a solemn commitment on our parts to make the Kingdom of God real in the world.

Most often we refer to the Eucharist as "communion". But we should understand that the communal aspect of the Eucharist is far more than a group of people sharing a meal. It is the union of those who share the Body of Christ into the Kingdom of God. When we receive communion we are by that very action recommitting ourselves to the Battle for the Kingdom, to fighting paganism in our lives and our world. We are recommitting ourselves to be active members of that community that spreads the Kingdom of God through sacrificial love. We do need to take care that we don’t overlook the huge commitment we are making to live and spread the Kingdom of God.

The strength needed to accomplish this task is provided for by the Eucharist itself. The Eucharist is the Body of Christ, the real presence of the Lord. This is the aspect of the Eucharist that has been impressed upon us all since the days of our First Communion. This is Jesus. The real presence of the Lord is the reason why we always allot time for silent prayer after communal song, why we genuflect when we enter our pew, why we kneel, why we make visits to the Blessed Sacrament and why we maintain a silence before and after Mass so others can pray before the Lord.

The Eucharist, a word that means thanksgiving, is the way that we thank God for life we have received, and the saved community of which we are a part. It is the way that we thank God for the manifestations of His Love we experience in every aspect of our lives. We thank God in the Eucharist for giving us His Power to make His Presence real in the world. Again, returning to our Diocesan Eucharistic initiative, we thank God for the nourishment that allows us to be sent to others.

The Eucharist is the mystery of commitment and strength. The commitment is to do the work of the Kingdom. The strength is the very Presence of the Lord.

We pray today that we might be sincere in the commitment we make whenever we receive communion. And we thank God for the strength that He gives us to live out this commitment ■

[1] Sunday 14th June, 2009, Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Exodus 24:3-8. I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord—Ps 115(116):12-13, 15-18. Hebrews 9:11-15. Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
[2] Saint Juliana of Liège (also called St. Juliana of Mt. Cornillon) (1193 – 5 April 1252) was a nun and visionary from Retinnes in Fléron in the Bishopric of Liège, now in Belgium. She was a significant member of the Premonstratensian convent of Mount Cornillon. She was known for her holiness, and for promoting the introduction of the Feast of Corpus Christi.
[3] Verbum Supernum Prodiens is a Catholic hymn by St Thomas Aquinas. It was written for the Hour of Lauds in the Divine Office of Corpus Christi. It is about the institution of the Eucharist by Christ at the Last Supper, and His Passion and death. The last two verses form a hymn on their own as well, O Salutaris Hostia, which is sung at the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris