Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Sunday Within the Octave of Corpus Christi—10 June AD 2007


Ordinary of the Mass
English Text
Latin Text

    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.[2]

    Saint 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 lingua, Sacris solémnis, 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.

    Saint Thomas 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 place.

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 to drink.”[3]  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.




[3]   Cf. John vi.


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