PASTOR’S CORNER June 6, 2012
I thank you in advance for your presence at the parish picnic. It is a wonderful time to celebrate ourselves and meet parishioners you haven’t met.
Today we celebrate The Feast of Corpus Christi, or the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ as it is often called today, goes back to the 13th century, but it celebrates something far older: the institution of the Sacrament of Eucharist at the Last Supper.
The celebration of Corpus Christi as a feast was due to the petitions of the 13C Augustinian nun Juliana of Liège. From her early youth Juliana had a veneration for the Blessed Sacrament, during one of her mystical revelations she had a vision of the Church under the appearance of the full moon having one dark spot, which signified the absence of such a solemnity. In 1208 she reported her first vision of Christ in which she was instructed to plead for the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi. The vision was repeated for the next 20 years but she kept it a secret. When she eventually relayed it to her confessor, he relayed it to the bishop.
In 1246, Bishop Robert de Thorete of the Belgina diocese of Liège, convened a synod and instituted the celebration of the feast. From Liège, the celebration began to spread, and, on September 8, 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull “Transiturus,” which established the Feast of Corpus Christi as a universal feast of the Church, to be celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday. It was one of the original 10 Holy Days of the Roman Catholic Church. (We now have six.)
At the request of Pope Urban IV, St. Thomas Aquinas composed the the official prayers of the Church for the feast. This office is widely considered one of the most beautiful in the traditional Roman Breviary and it is the source of the famous Eucharistic hymns “Pange Lingua Gloriosi” and “Tantum Ergo Sacramentum.”
For centuries the feast was celebrated with a eucharistic procession, in which the Sacred Host was carried throughout the town, accompanied by hymns and litanies. 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. In 1969 the Feast was moved to Sunday.