Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi—2 June A.D. 2013
Second Sunday after Pentecost


Ordinary of the Mass

Mass Text Latin - Sunday within the Octave
Mass Text English - Sunday within the Octaveh

English Mass Text - Corpus Christi
Latin Mass Text - Corpus Christi

“He who eats this Bread shall live forever.”

    Most of you know that the Church celebrates Her great feasts on the feast day itself, and then for the following seven days—what we call an “Octave.”  Today is the Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi—which is the reason for the white vestments, even though the text of the Mass is that of the Second Sunday after Pentecost.  The second collects, and the preface are those of Corpus Christi.

    “Corpus Christi,” of course, means “the Body of Christ” in Latin, and as a feast of the Latin Rite it has been celebrated since the thirteenth century.  It is said that Our Lord appeared to a Norbertine nun, Juliana of Liège, requesting that the Church celebrate a feast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, in addition to the Holy Thursday observance during Lent.  The bishop of Liège ordered the celebration of the feast in his diocese in 1246, and Pope Urban IV extended it to the entire Latin Rite in 1246, with the bull, Transiturus de hoc mundo.[1]  The Office and Mass in their present form were composed by Saint Thomas Aquinas.  They contain masterpieces of Eucharistic poetry, written with the theological precision for which Saint Thomas is so well known.  Parts of two of these hymns are sung whenever benediction is given with the Blessed Sacrament.

    In introducing the feast, Pope Urban reminded us of a few important points concerning the Most Blessed Sacrament.  It is, first of all, a demonstration of God’s love for His people.  What greater gift can one give than one’s self?  And none can be greater than God, the Son of God, who gives us His very own body, blood, soul, and divinity in this most holy Sacrament of the Altar.  «O singular and admirable, O unique and extraordinary gift, whereby the Giver comes as gift, and the very same is given with the Giver inside.»

    Holy Mass is unique in all the celebrations of mankind.  When Jesus Christ is memorialized in the Holy Eucharist, He is not merely called to mind, but is actually present among His people.  «Indeed, as He was about to ascend into Heaven, He said to the Apostles and to their followers: “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt. 28:20), comforting them by the gracious promise, that He would abide and be with them even in his bodily presence.»  And, for us material creatures, it is well to note that His presence is tangible—going beyond the merely spiritual presence of God as He dwelt in the Temple at Jerusalem.

    In the Gospel of the feast, our Lord reminds the crowd that God gave their fathers “bread from heaven” to eat as they journeyed out of Egypt, through the desert.[2]  But the bread that Jesus would give “is the Bread that has come down from heaven not as your fathers ate the manna and died.  He who eats this Bread shall live forever.”  Pope Urban calls to mind that  «He gives to us Himself as sustenance, that, because man had been overcome by death [by food in Eden], even so He might be raised to life by food. A taste [of the food in Eden] mortally wounded man, and a taste [of this food] cured him.»  Of the tree in the garden «it is written accordingly: “In whatsoever day you eat [of it], you shall die to the death” (Gen. 2:17)»  Of the bread of Life, «it reads truly: “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.” (John 6:52)»

    «A taste [of the food in Eden] mortally wounded man, and a taste [of this food] cured him. See this: because, whence the wound was sprung [from a tree (in the garden)], so came the cure [from a tree (the cross)], and whence death crept in, thence life came forth.»  “that he who overcame by the tree might also be overcome on the tree; through Christ our Lord.”[3]

    « This bread is received [as food], but it is not truly “devoured;” it is eaten, but it is not changed, because in the eating it is not transformed at all, but, if it is received worthily, the one who receives it is conformed to Him.»  This is the same distinction made by Saint Thomas.  After the consecration, the accidents of bread and wine remain—the color, the taste, the texture, and so forth—but the substance of bread is entirely replaced by the substance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  This substance of Jesus Christ is entirely unchanged by the communicant—his eating and digestion affect only the accidents of bread and wine.  Indeed, it is the substance of Jesus Christ that changes the communicant!  One who received Holy Communion in the state of grace is conformed to Almighty God.

    Finally, this mention of receiving in the state of grace calls to mind the epistle for Corpus Christi, in which Saint Paul warned the Corinthians: “whoever eats this Bread or drinks this Cup unworthily, will be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord.”[4]  Remember, this is no symbol, but the true body and blood of Jesus Christ.  One must approach the Sacrament free from serious sin.  That does not mean Confession before every reception of Communion, but certainly when one is conscious of having committed unforgiven mortal sin.

    And, while we are at it, let me suggest that some outward preparation is appropriate as well.  We live in the tropics, but that is no excuse for coming to Holy Mass in a slovenly state.  There is no one on earth more deserving of our respect than Jesus Christ.  It is therefore something of a compromise when I say that for Holy Mass we should dress at least as well as we would if we were invited to the Governor’s house for dinner.  (A governor for whom you personally voted.)


“He who eats this Bread shall live forever.”


[1]   Bull of Urban IV, Transiturus de hoc mundo, Cf. fragmentary translation at .  Quotations within chevrons « » are from the bull.

[2]   Gospel: John vi: 56-59

[3]   Preface of the Holy Cross

[4]   Epistle: 1 Corinthians xi: 23-29


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