By Laura Ann Phillips
The celebration of Corpus Christi seems a fitting prelude to the month of the Sacred Heart, the feast of love. Apt, since the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Himself, expresses precisely this.
A commentary by St Thomas Aquinas, author of the liturgy for the Corpus Christi Solemnity, appears in the Office of Readings for that day, in which he analyses Christ’s salvific action:
“He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin.”
This offering has a wondrous effect on those who receive it:
“…Through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all.”
This particular effect of the Eucharist came to mind as I gazed on our family of faith stretching from end to end in the Grand Stand of the Queen’s Park Savannah and, later, in pilgrimage to the Cathedral. Here, in truth, was the Body of Christ in perfect tension: holy, yet flawed; powerful, yet weak. Beautiful in its beatific hope, this assembly of sinful saints, whose work and prayer often go quite unseen.
Those who nurture high-risk children and teens. They who look after and educate the physically and mentally disabled with respect and affection, including persons who will never be able to hold jobs or look after themselves. The men and women who visit prisoners and remain faithful to that unpopular ministry. Teachers who share their lunch with students daily, or provide taxi fare and textbooks out of their own pockets. Professionals who also offer their expertise to those who cannot pay for it, and the poor who give out of their little.
Mini-sacrifices mirroring Christ’s. Loving actions of the children of a God of love.
For, Jesus came into the world out of love.
“It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly on the hearts of the faithful,” Aquinas said, that the Institution of the Eucharist occurs at the Last Supper. On that final night, Jesus knew His disciples would grieve during their separation from Him at His Death and, again, at His Ascension.
So, He left them: Himself.
“As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion.”
The Eucharist was, “the fulfilment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles,” said Aquinas, but, “…for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.”
Abiding, so you and I need never be separated from Christ while we await our eternal union.
Pope John Paul’s article: https://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2bvm37.htm
St Thomas Aquinas excerpt: http://www.liturgies.net/Liturgies/Catholic/loh/corpuschristior.htm