Corpus ChristiHome > Fr_Thomas > Corpus Christi
The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is one of the oldest celebrations in the Roman Catholic Church dating from the 13th century. The Church acknowledges that divine reality of God transforming the bread and wine for us into His own precious essence. The theological word transubstantiation explains this occurrence. St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P. wrote the prayers and some of the hymns for the feast. The hymns seek to help us understand the mystery which the Church celebrates. The hymn “Tantum Ergo” translates:
Therefore we, before him bending, This great Sacrament revere; Types and shadows have their ending, For the newer rite is here; Faith, our outward sense befriending, Makes the inward vision clear. Glory let us give, and blessing To the Father and the Son; Honor, might, and praise addressing, While eternal ages run; Ever too his love confessing, Who, from both, with both is one. Amen.
In this beautiful poetic language Aquinas tries to help us understand that the reality of Jesus, present in the Eucharist, is more real than the world in which we inhabit. If we can believe that Jesus rose from the dead, why is it so difficult to conceive that Jesus could change bread and wine into His own body and blood? One of my fellow Dominicans explained that Eucharistic adoration is primarily a 19th century phenomenon. That’s not to say that it was absent from the piety of Catholics previous to that time, but it took on a new energy and meaning during this period. The intensity of devotion lasted almost a hundred years until it diminished in observance after Vatican II. Devotions come and go and rise and fall in popularity. Some Catholics, while accepting that the Spirit can transform the bread and wine at Mass, have trouble accepting that this essence can be reserved in the Blessed Sacrament. Christianity does require we accept some dogmas on faith. We must accept the Trinity in faith. We must accept the resurrection in faith. We must accept the virgin birth in faith. We must accept that Jesus, in his Spirit, transforms the bread and wine in faith. And we must equally accept that this “essence” remains as long as Jesus decides!
We must not lose sight that once again our God seeks to be one with us. The Eucharist comes to us at God’s instigation. Let us be thankful for this great gift.