Sunday Within the
Octave of Corpus Christi—10 June AD 2007
Ordinary of the Mass
On the traditional calendar, today is the Sunday within the
Octave of Corpus Christi. You may already know that Corpus
Christi (the feast of the Blessed Sacrament, the Body and Blood of Christ)
was celebrated this past Thursday, nine weeks after Holy Thursday. Because
it falls during the most solemn (and sorrowful) days of Lent, Holy Thursday is
not celebrated with all the joy that the institution of the Blessed Sacrament
warrants. So, the feast of Corpus Christi has been on the calendar
of the Universal Church since the pontificate of Pope Urban IV in
1264—primarily through the urging of an Augustinian nun named Saint Juliana of
Liège (also called St.
Juliana of Mt. Cornillon) (1193–5 April 1252). Saint Juliana, in
turn, influenced Saint Thomas Aquinas to compose the Mass and Office that were
prayed on Thursday.
Thomas’ composition is not far short of being miraculous in its combined
musical beauty and theological precision—in modern terms, Saint Thomas wrote
with both left and right brain fully engaged. Pange
Verbum supérnum, and Lauda Sion are the hymns of the
feast—containing, perhaps more well known excerpts which we call Tantum
ergo, Panis angélicus, and O salutáris hóstia.
wrote in the thirteenth century, a time of nearly universal belief in the
Catholic Faith—at least in Western Europe, where he lived. In addition
to their artistic beauty, Saint Thomas’ verses are a treasury of the authentic
teaching of the Catholic Church on the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament.
They cry out to us in this age of disbelief and sacrilege in which we
live—perhaps even demanding reparation for the insults offered our Lord in
this Holy Sacrament. I am going to share just a few verses with you
today, but I urge you to have a look at them in their entirety in your missal or
in a Catholic hymnal.
Sing His praise with voice sonorous;
Every heart shall hear the chorus
Sweet in melody sublime;
For this day the Shepherd gave us
Flesh and Blood to feed and save us,
Lasting to the end of time.
The Blessed Sacrament is truly the “Flesh and Blood” of
Jesus Christ, given to us to sustain ourselves and to preserve us from the
temptations of this world, so that on the day of Judgment we may join Him in
heaven before the throne of the Father. This Sacrament will exist until
the end of time wherever the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is validly
offered—right up to the day of Judgment!
And as He has done and planned it—
“Do this” — hear His love command it,
“My own memory to renew.”
Taught so Lord, in Thine own science,
Bread and wine in sweet compliance,
As a host we offer You.
We often use the word “host” incorrectly. Host
does not refer to a piece of bread somehow inhabited by Christ, as a
biologist might use that word. The substance of the bread and wine are
completely replaced with the body and blood of Christ; there is nothing to
be inhabited, as only the appearances remain. “Host” comes from the
Latin word for “victim.” As we pray in the canon of the Mass, just
shortly after the Consecration: “hóstiam
+ puram, hóstiam +
sanctam, hóstiam + immaculatam—the pure +
Victim, the holy + Victim, the all-perfect +
Victim.” Saint Thomas is reminding us that our Lord is offered as the
Victim for our sins, the perfect sacrifice to the father, each time that Holy
Mass is offered and the Sacrifice of the Cross is renewed in our own time and
In faith thus strong the Christian hears:
Christ's very Flesh as bread appears,
And as wine His precious Blood,
Though we feel it not, nor see it,
Living faith does so decree it,
All defects of sense makes good.
Like we said last week, about the Trinity, there are things
that men and women could never know if we had nothing more than our natural
senses and reasoning powers. We know that God exists in Trinity only
because He has revealed it to us, and only because He has given us the gift of
Faith to believe what He has revealed. Likewise with the Blessed
Sacrament. We know that It is His body and blood, precisely because (a year
before the Last Supper, after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves in
the desert) He told us that He would give us His “flesh to eat and His blood
And then, at the Last Supper, He said, in no uncertain terms: “This is
My body.... This is My blood.” We believe because He is God, the Son of
God, Truth Himself incarnate.
He who eats of It can never
Break the Body, rend, or sever;
Christ entire our hearts does fill:
Thousands eat the bread of heaven,
Yet as much to one is given:
Christ though eaten, is with us still.
Saint Thomas reminds us that it matters not how many
people receive the Sacred Host—whether it be the priest alone, or a
congregation of thousands; It matters not how many Masses are
offered—the last Supper alone, or all the Masses offered by all of the priests
in the world down to the day of Judgment. Jesus Christ is received in His
entirety by each and every communicant, at each and every Mass. If
anything, the gift of Holy Communion is increased, rather than diminished
by being shared among many of the faithful.
Make us, at your table seated,
By Thy saints, like friends be greeted,
In that paradise above. Amen. Allelúja.
There is an aspect of fellowship in Holy Mass—it has been
exaggerated in modern times, at the expense of the sacrificial aspect—but it
is real, nonetheless. It is not a fellowship of people with nothing
to do, finding time on their hands, and looking for a way to make it
pass—rather it is a fellowship of the saints. It is the fellowship
by which we become saints—the fellowship we attend regularly in order to
become like Christ and His holy ones, here on earth, so that we may one day join
them in that paradise above.
Again, I would urge you to read Saint Thomas’ words for
yourself. But let me quote just one more verse
Praise, 0 Sion, praise the Savior
with glad behavior,
praise in hymn and canticle;
Sing His glory without measure
For the merit of Thy treasure
Never shall Thy praises fill.
We are the adopted sons and daughters of His Father—so,
truly enough, Christ is our brother. But all too often in the modern
world, people lose sight of the reality that He is also our God! Our
encounter with Him should not be casual. At all times in our spiritual
lives—but especially at Holy Mass and before the Blessed Sacrament—we should
be fully recollected; in the state of grace; presentable in our
outward appearance as well as in our inward reflections. “Sing His glory
without measure,” but do not omit spending time with Him in quiet praise
and silent adoration.