Liturgical Colour: White
Type of Feast: Solemnity; Holy Day of Obligation
Time of year: The Thursday After Trinity Sunday; Translated to the Sunday After Trinity Sunday (depending on where the Catholic dioceses is located)
Duration: One Day
Celebrating: The Holy Eucharist
Other Names: Festum Corpus et Sanguinis Christi
Scriptural References: Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:19-20; John 6:51-58; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Why is this day called Corpus Christi?
Because on this day the Catholic Church solemnly celebrates the institution of the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. The name, which is Latin, signifies the body of Christ.
Why is this feast not celebrated on Maundy Thursday?
Because on Maundy Thursday, the day of the institution of this sacrament, the Church is occupied with the passion and death of Christ, and has no thought of joy, but gives herself up to grief.
By whom was this feast established?
It was instituted by Pope Urban IV. Persuaded by a devout nun of Liège, who believed herself to be divinely encouraged to introduce this feast, Robert, Bishop of Liège, determined, in the year 1247, to celebrate this feast in his diocese. This intention he was prevented from carrying out by death. In the year 1264 Pope Urban IV. commanded this feast to be solemnly celebrated throughout the whole Church. Clement V. confirmed this order, at the Council of Vienne, 1311, and fixed the feast on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday.
For what purpose was this feast instituted, and why are processions so solemnly held on this day?
- To declare, openly, to the faithful the real and substantial presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
- In order to manifest, in the sight of heaven and earth, honour and adoration for Him before Whom every knee shall bow.
- To give public thanks for the institution of this holy Sacrament, and for all the graces thereby conferred upon the faithful.
- To repair, in some measure, by solemn adoration, the wrongs done to Christ, in this sacrament.
- To bring down God’s blessing upon the land and upon the people.
- To show that Jesus, as true God, dwells not only in temples built by hands, but that He has heaven for His throne, the earth for His foot stool, and the whole world for His temple.
The Church sings at the Introit of the Mass:
“I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, Alleluia, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. alleluia, alleluia. (Psalm 81:16) Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob.” (Psalm 81:1) Glory be to the Father, etc.
O God, Who in this wonderful sacrament hast left us a memorial of Thy passion, grant us, we beseech Thee, so to reverence the sacred mysteries of Thy body and blood, that we may ever perceive within us the fruit of Thy redemption. Through Christ, etc.
EPISTLE. I Corthians 11:23-29
The Institution of the Lord’s Supper:- (23-26)
Brethren: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for[a] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Partaking of the Supper Unworthily:– (27-29)
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.
GOSPEL. John 6:56–58.
At that time while Jesus taught at the synagogue at Capernaum, He said to the multitudes of the Jews: Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Why did Jesus say, “this is the bread that came down from heaven”?
He wished thereby to teach the Jews that the bread which H e would give them, like the manna, came down from heaven, and was, indeed, the only true bread from heaven. The manna was but a type, and could only prolong the life of the body. The type was now to be fulfilled; the bread that He was about to give them would impart to them eternal life, and this bread would be His flesh,-Himself, Who truly came from heaven, to redeem mankind, and to bring them to life everlasting. Jesus calls His flesh bread, partly on account of its likeness to the manna, partly on account of its effect; for as bread nourishes the body, and sustains the earthly life, so the body of Christ, in the Holy Sacrament, nourishes the soul, and imparts to it, continually, a new, divine, and everlasting life.
What is the Holy Sacrament of the Altar?
It is that sacrament in which, after the words of its institution have been spoken by the priest, Jesus Christ is present, whole and entire, in His Godhead and in His manhood, under the appearance of bread and wine.
When and how did Jesus institute this sacrament?
At the Last Supper. On the night, before He was betrayed, He took bread, and, giving thanks, broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying,“Take and eat, for this is My body which will be given for you.” In the same manner, He took the chalice and said, “Take and drink, for this chalice is the new covenant in My blood. Do this as often as you drink from it in commemoration of Me.”
What did Jesus effect by these words?
He changed bread and wine into His most precious body and blood.
Has He given to others the power to do the same?
Yes; He gave this power to His apostles and their successors, the bishops and priests, in these words: “Do this in commemoration of Me.”
What takes place at the words of consecration?
Bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and only the outward appearances of bread and wine remain.
How is Jesus present in the Most Holy Sacrament?
He is present, truly, really, and substantially, in His divinity and humanity, in flesh and blood, in body and soul, under the appearances of bread and wine.
Why do we believe this?
- Because the words of Jesus do not reasonably admit of any other meaning: since by them we see: (a) that Jesus gave His disciples a certain nourishment which they were to eat; (b) that this nourishment was bread and wine to all appearances, but Jesus called the bread His body, which was afterwards to be sacrificed for us, and the wine His blood, which was to be shed for us: this food consequently was not bread and wine, but, under the appearance of bread and wine, was indeed His body and blood; since what He gave for our redemption was not bread and wine, but His true body and His true blood; (c) that as the body and blood of Jesus were inseparable from His soul and divinity, He gave Himself up for our nourishment, whole and undivided, as He hung, bled, and died upon the cross; (d) that He commanded what He had done to be continued until He should come again (1 Cor. 11:26), that is, until the end of the world; and that He, (e) on account of this being His testament, and the New Law, was not at liberty to speak figuratively, but plainly and distinctly.
- Because the apostles preached this very doctrine.
- Because the Catholic Church, the pillar and foundation of truth, has thus constantly taught, from the apostles’ times down to the present day, as the oldest Councils and the Holy Fathers unanimously testify.
Why is communion given only in one kind?
- The Church gives holy communion only under one kind, to guard against abuses; as, for example, the spilling of the wine;
- In opposition to those who hold that communion can only be received under both kinds, to hold fast the true doctrine, which is that Christ, whole and undivided, the entire sacrament, is received under one kind. The truth of this doctrine is plain from this, that where the living body of Christ is, there is the whole Christ; that Christ promises eternal life to him who eats this bread alone (John 6:59); and finally, that there is no divine law which commands the receiving of this sacrament under both kinds.