This Sunday is now called the Body and Blood of Christ, but when I was younger I, and probably some of you, remember it as Corpus Christi Sunday. Reference to the Blood of Christ has rightly been added, and this Sunday is a special moment in our liturgical year to help us realize that bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, his gift to each one of us, every time we receive him in communion.
Bread and wine appear at various points in the Bible, as we are reminded in the first reading when, in celebration of Abram’s victorious return home after defeating his enemies, the high priest and king, Melchizedek, “brought out bread and wine” and blessed him. And in St. Paul’s letter we are once again reminded about what happened at the Last Supper, quoting Our Lord saying, when he gave the bread to his apostles, “Do this in remembrance of me,” and, when he gave the wine, “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
One evening some time ago I was meeting the parents of children whom I was preparing to receive their first communion, trying to get them interested and involved in this preparation. I told them the most amazing gift Christ gave us was himself in the host which becomes his body at the consecration at mass. I mentioned that, in my experience, children did not have a problem believing this miracle. At that point, one of the parents stood up and challenged this: “Who told you that the host becomes the Body of Christ?” I replied that this was our faith, based on Jesus’ own words, but this parent was not convinced at all, saying, “It is not Christ’s body. It’s only a symbol.” He then said he would write to the bishop and also to the pope about what I was saying! If he did, he was probably set straight, because he continued to come to our meetings and the subject did not come up again, and his child did receive her first communion.
On certain major feasts in our liturgical year, there is a Sequence, which the Living with Christ publication says is optional, though, if used, it must be sung. In our parish, a member of our choir usually does sing it, and it is beautiful. The language in this Sunday’s Sequence is rather old-fashioned and quaint, but beautifully touches the heart of the miracle that is the eucharist: “blood and flesh as wine, bread broken; yet beneath each wondrous token, Christ entire we know to be . . . Jesus, with your love befriend us . . .”
A few years ago at our diocese we had a guest speaker, a priest from Belgium, who talked about our liturgies. He mentioned that in the past he had noticed that, when he raised the host at the consecration and the bells were rung, the members of his congregation all bowed their heads, and when he lowered the host and then knelt or bowed, all the congregation was looking up at him. He said this was strange, since they were supposed to be looking at the host when he raised it up. But when he knelt or bowed down all that the congregation saw was the bald spot on the top of his head! So he encouraged us to look upon the host when it is raised and then, when it is lowered to the altar, to bow at the same time as the priest does. What happens in your congregations?
At the beginning of May the Catholic Women’s League of Canada launched a national initiative called “12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care.” This was held in the small chapel in our parish office building and all our parish congregation were invited to come and spend some time in prayer with the blessed sacrament. It was a beautiful day of silent and spoken prayer, in Christ’s presence, and, looking at the host in the monstrance, I am sure each of us felt Christ’s presence in our midst.
When, every so often, we stop and think of Christ’s amazing gift of himself to us, is it not the deepest comfort?
Noble was pastoral animator in an elementary Catholic school for 30 years, produced community television programs for 11 years in the 1980s and ’90s, was animator for her diocesan English Region from 2000-2006 and is past national president of the CWL (2006-2008). She lives in Candiac, Que.