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The Feast of Corpus Christi has been celebrated since the 13th century,

but it celebrates something far older: the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper.

 

The instrument in the hand of Divine Providence for this feast day 
was St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon, in Belgium.

She was born in 1193 at Retines near Liège.
Orphaned at an early age, she was educated by
the Augustinian nuns of Mont Cornillon.
Here she in time made her religious profession and later became superioress.
Intrigues of various kinds several time drove her from her convent.
She died 5 April, 1258, at the House of the Cistercian nuns at Fosses,
and was buried at Villiers.

Juliana, from her early youth, had a great veneration for the Blessed Sacrament,
and always longed for a special feast in its honour.
This desire is said to have been increased by a vision of the Church
under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot,
which signified the absence of such a a joyous celebration of the Eucharist
in the entire Church calendar.
She made known her ideas to Robert de Thorete, then Bishop of Liège.
Bishop Robert was favourably impressed, and, since bishops as yet had the right
of ordering feasts for their dioceses, he called a synod in 1246
and ordered the celebration to be held in the following year.


Bishop Robert did not live to see the execution of his order, for he died 16 October, 1246;
but the feast was celebrated for the first time by the canons of St. Martin at Liège.
Jacques Pantaléon became Pope Urban 29 August, 1261.
The recluse Eve, with whom Juliana had spent some time,
and who was also a fervent adorer of the Holy Eucharist,
now urged Henry of Guelders, Bishop of Liège,
to request the pope to extend the celebration to the entire world.

Pope Urban IV, always an admirer of the feast, published the Bull "Transiturus"
(8 September,1264),
in which, after having extolled the love of Our Saviour as expressed in the Holy Eucharist,
he ordered the annual celebration of Corpus Christi in the Thursday next
after Trinity Sunday, at the same time granting many indulgences
to the faithful for the attendance at Mass and at the Office.
This Office, composed at the request of the pope
by the Angelic Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas,
is one of the most beautiful in the Roman Breviary
and has been admired even by Protestants.

For centuries after the celebration was extended to the universal Church,
the feast was also celebrated with a eucharistic procession,
in which the Sacred Host was carried throughout the town,
accompanied by hymns and litanies.

Wherever possible, public homage and adoration are paid
to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament
with a procession around the church on the feastday,
celebrated throughout most of the universal Church on the Thursday
following Trinity Sunday.
 


The faithful would venerate the Body of Christ as the procession passed by.
In recent years, this practice has almost disappeared,
though some parishes still hold a brief procession around the outside
of the parish church.

 

 

When and in what manner did Christ institute

the most holy Sacrament of the Altar?

At the Last Supper, on the day before His passion,
after He had eaten with His apostles the paschal lamb,
which was a prototype of this mystery.
Three Evangelists, Matthew 26: 26-29. Mark, 14: 22-25, and Luke 22:19-20,
relate in few, but plain words, that on this evening
Jesus took into His hand bread and the chalice,
blessed and gave both to His disciples, saying:
This is my body, that will be given for you;
this is my blood, which will be shed for you and for many. 

Here took place in a miraculous manner, by the all-powerful word of Christ,
the mysterious transformation; here Jesus gave Himself to His apostles for food,
and instituted that most holy meal of love which the Church says contains all sweetness.
That which three Evangelists. plainly relate,
St. Paul confirms in his first epistle to the Corinthians, 11:23-29
in which to his account of the institution of the Blessed Sacrament he adds:
Whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily,
(that is, in a state of sin) shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord
. . . .eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.

From these words and those of the three holy Evangelists already mentioned,
it is clear that Jesus really fulfilled His promise,
really instituted the most holy Sacrament,
 and gave His most sacred Body and Blood to the apostles for their food.
None of the Evangelists, nor St. Paul,
informs us that Christ said: this will become my body, or, this signifies my body.
All agree that our Saviour said this is my body, this is my blood,
and they therefore decidedly mean us to understand
that Christ's body and blood are really, truly, and substantially present
under the appearance of bread and wine,
as soon as the mysterious change has taken place.
And this is confirmed by the words:
that is given for you; which shall be shed for you and for many;
because Christ gave neither bread nor wine,
nor a figure of His Body and Blood, for our redemption,
but His real Body, and His real Blood,
and St. Paul could not assert
that we could eat the Body and Blood of the Lord unworthily,
 if under the appearance of bread and wine
were present not the real Body and Blood of Christ,
but only a figure of them, or if they were only bread and wine.
This is also proved by the universal faith of the Catholic Church,
which in accordance with Scripture and the oldest,
uninterrupted Apostolic traditions
has always believed and taught, that under the appearance of bread and wine
the real Body and Blood of Christ are present,
as the Ecumenical Council of Trent expressly declares: (Sess. XIII. C. I. Can. I. de sacros. Euchdr.)
"All our ancestors who were of the Church of Christ,
and have spoken of this most Blessed Sacrament,
have in the plainest manner professed that our Redeemer
instituted this wonderful Sacrament at the Last Supper,
when, having blessed the bread and wine,
He assured the apostles in the plainest and most exact words,
that He was giving them His Body and Blood itself;
and if any one denies that the holy Eucharist truly, really, and substantially
contains the Body and Blood, the Soul and Divinity of, our Lord Jesus Christ,
therefore the whole Christ, and asserts that it is only a sign or figure without virtue,
let him be anathema." +

 

In what does the worthy preparation for this holy Sacrament consist?

The worthy preparation of the soul
consists in purifying ourselves by a sincere confession from all grievous sins,
and in approaching the holy table with profound humility,
sincere love, and with fervent desire.
He who receives holy Communion in the state of mortal sin
draws down upon himself, as the, apostle says,
judgment and condemnation.
The worthy preparation of the body consists in fasting before receiving Communion,
and in coming properly dressed to the Lord's banquet.

The holy Sacrament of the Altar is preserved in the tabernacle,
in front of which a light is burning day and night,
to show that Christ, the light of the world, is here present,
that we may bear in mind that every Christian congregation
should contain in itself the light of faith, the flame of hope,
the warmth of divine love, and the fire of true devotion,
by a pious life manifesting and consuming itself, like a light, in the service of God.
As a Christian you must believe
that under the appearance of bread Christ is really present in the tabernacle,
and that He is your Redeemer, your Saviour, your Lord and King,
 the best Friend and Lover of your soul,
whose pleasure it is to dwell among the children of men;
 then it is your duty often to visit Him in this most holy Sacrament,
and offer Him your homage and adoration.
"It is certain," says: St. Alphonsus Ligouri, that next to the enjoyment
of this holy Sacrament in Communion,
the adoration of Jesus in this Sacrament
is the best and most pleasing of all devotional exercises,
 and of the greatest advantage to us."
Hesitate not, therefore, to practise this devotion. +

Visit Jesus not only in the church, but also accompany and adore Him
when carried in processions, or to sick persons.
You will thus show your Lord the homage due to Him,
gather great merits for yourself,
and have the sure hope that Christ will one day repay you a hundredfold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

+ + From: Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine's, The Church's Year: Feast of Corpus Christi
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