Sunday, 26 June 2011

Corpus Christi

GospelJohn 6:51-58 
Jesus said to the Jews:
‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’
Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

Juliana of Li├Ęge, an Augustinian nun,  had visions of a full moon containing a single black spot. The Lord came to her in these visions and explained that the spot was the absence of a feast to celebrate the Blessed Sacrament. Twenty-something years later and with the approval of Bishops and Pope Urban IV and the feast day was established. 

Despite the fact that we celebrate the Last Supper during Holy Week and the Eucharist itself at each Mass; the Lord seemed to think that we needed a dedicated feast day. 

A wonderful feast day to celebrate and we have celebrated. In our church we have held the Quarant'Ore (40 hours vigil before the Blessed Sacrament). The opportunity to stay overnight in church being something I love to do; we have had Holy Communicants and people received into the church and the revival of a procession to bring the Lord out among his people (albeit still within the church grounds) and our ministers renewed their commitment to their various vocations all over this one weekend.

Overnight vigils are always bound to inspire thoughts and images -  the lack of sleep -  the commitment of those trying to be attentive grooms and maids - the midnight feeling that you simply are joined to something greater.  Whatever reason they are times when my journal writing often goes into overtime and this was no exception. 

 As I sat last night in our tall roofed church, with the rafters cracking from the wind and rain; the candles bobbing and flickering from untraceable draughts and car headlights passing across the angles of the church like searchlights it was impossible not be drawn to the Blessed Sacrament enthroned in his sunburst monstrance. Way back when I started my blog I wrote about how Benediction was the high point 
           of my spiritual youth; seeing our tiny priest being turned into an Aztec god by the elevation of the monstrance during a service spoken in Latin. It was, for a long 
          time, my understanding of God's majesty and mystery. 

These days, mystery for me surrounds much simpler things, and I find myself feeling sorry for a God who  we think we can lock in a tabernacle and bring out for high days and holidays and as I sat with the Lord I wondered why he would want such a feast;
 after all he is a man of humility and didn't seem to take very well to being adored.But then it is not so much about the Lord's need of us as our need of Him. 

Pope Urban approved the solemnity after he had witnessed a consecrated host bleeding.  Proof enough for him that the Consecration did bring about the changing of the bread and wine into the Real Presence. But why had he needed this proof? The belief in the Real Presence was confirmed by the Church hundreds of years earlier.We have a strange sense of the miraculous - that it is easier to see Jesus heal the paralytic man that for us to believe his sins were forgiven. We have not learnt much from that Gospel.  Why had the Pope needed a miracle to convince him; why today, do we?

According to various polls, anything between 30 and 50% of Catholics don't believe in the Real Presence as a Real presence; the celebration is a memorial; an evangelistic tool; a reminder of who we work for. 

Perhaps we would do well to remember exactly who it is we do work for? Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Person of the Trinity, Alpha and Omega, the Word made flesh. God, for whom nothing is impossible. Jesus said; 'For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.' And, as Karl Rahner pointed out if God says bread and wine is his body and blood - should we not expect it to be true. 

Jesus asks us to continue his work; to be his brothers and sisters; believing that we can do what he does with less than a mustardseed of faith and the food of eternal life.  St Paul tells us that this is the purpose of Eucharist - to be fed by God, with God, calling to us to be temples of God's living presence. 

A presence that cannot be contained; if Jesus can give himself to us then we cannot hope to keep him just to ourselves - the Lord is not like that - remember he overfills water jars with wine and baskets with the crumbs of feeding thousands. His generosity is a challenge to us to do the same. In the early church the response to 'The body of Christ' was 'I am'. 

Take me, eat me,  be me, share me - what a fearsome challenge - a challenge that Jesus made to his disciples repeatedly through John's Gospel until there were only a few left. And for them his promise 'to be with you always'. 

Corpus Christi - a feast day that is not meant to remind the Lord that he is the Body of Christ but to remind us that we are.



sattler said...

The beauty of this celebration is overwhelming. Perhaps all the more so in the simplicity you describe. That the vessels of our hospitality and imagination have become so small as to make the Eucharist a symbol of division grieves me. It's a sign of hope that sooner or later God escapes our confinement.

I love your last sentence which reminds of Teresa of Avila.

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you Phil - I'm reading her at the moment maybe I'm being inspired?