The feast day of Corpus Christi was celebrated this year Thursday June 7 or Sunday June 10. Corpus Christi means the “Body of Christ”. Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is present in this Sacrament under the appearances of bread and wine.
Corpus Christi was declared a universal feast of the Catholic Church in 1264, following a vision received by a Belgian nun Sister Juliana. Sister Juliana pleaded with her local priest Monsignor Pantaleon to designate a special feast day for the Body of Christ. The priest later became Pope, and as Pope Urban IV he fulfilled her wishes.
The presence of the body of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine takes place during the celebration of Mass. The Mass is the response of the Church to Our Lord who changed bread and wine into his body and blood at the Last Supper, and then added: “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22, 19). Since that command more than 2000 years ago, Mass or the “breaking of bread” (Acts of the Apostles 1, 46), has been celebrated in Catholic communities at least every Sunday, and often more frequently.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta had an interesting observation. She said that the Mass is connected with the sufferings and death of Jesus, and that without the tradition of celebrating Mass we would have forgotten the crucifixion. It would have faded into the past, and we would soon have forgotten that God loves us.
Each Mass is meant to send you out with a new awareness that you are loved by God. Unfortunately the simple “breaking of bread” has developed over time into a very wordy and elaborate ritual that has made the Mass a complicated and sometimes boring experience for many people.
The essence of the Mass is that bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ so that you can be sacramentally nourished by the God who loves you. In response to that love you pledge yourself to be more caring towards your brothers and sisters at home and abroad. That is the meaning of Holy Communion, communion with your fellow human beings through your communion with God.
It is important that the words and rituals in the Mass give emphasis to this central meaning, and not obscure it or distract from it. The Mass has a long tradition, and the many changes added over the centuries can actually obscure the meaning of the original simple ceremony. Mother Teresa’s comment is profound, and it also has the virtue of simplicity.
Pope John XXIII once remarked: “Some people make simple things complicated. I like to make complicated things simple”. I like to think that God wants it that way too. Thank you, Pope John XXIII. Thank you, Mother Teresa.