Today’s the Solemnity of Corpus Domini, the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. I remember many times walking in procession with Pope John Paul II from the Lateran Basilica to Saint Mary Major down and then up the Via Merulana. In the early years of his Pontificate, the sainted Pontiff would, on foot, himself carry the monstrance with our Lord, no mean feat for any man for such a distance. Pope John Paul spoke much about his prayer life. He wanted so very much to encourage his priests right around the world. I looked forward to his messages, his letters to priests on Holy Thursday (the special day for priests what with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper), which were good to get out again on this Thursday, when the joy of the feast is fully expressed. Let’s take a couple of snippets from his letter of 2005, published just ten days before he died:
Jesus said: “Do this in memory of me”. The Eucharist does not simply commemorate a fact; it commemorates Him! Through his daily repetition in persona Christi of the words of the “memorial”, the priest is invited to develop a “spirituality of remembrance”. At a time when rapid social and cultural changes are weakening the sense of tradition and leading the younger generation especially to risk losing touch with their roots, the priest is called to be, within the community entrusted to him, the man who faithfully remembers the entire mystery of Christ: prefigured in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New, and understood ever more deeply, under the guidance of the Spirit, as Jesus explicitly promised: “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26).
“Mysterium fidei!” Every time he proclaims these words after consecrating the bread and wine, the priest expresses his ever-renewed amazement at the extraordinary miracle worked at his hands. It is a miracle which only the eyes of faith can perceive. The natural elements do not lose their external characteristics, since the “species” remain those of bread and wine; but their “substance”, through the power of Christ’s word and the action of the Holy Spirit, is changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. On the altar, then, Christ crucified and risen is “truly, really and substantially” present in the fullness of his humanity and divinity. What an eminently sacred reality! That is why the Church treats this mystery with such great reverence, and takes such care to ensure the observance of the liturgical norms intended to safeguard the sanctity of so great a sacrament.
Beautiful, no? Yes! It is good to remember such good encouragement of priests in these days. Saint John Paul, pray for us!
Benedict, of course, has put great emphasis on the liturgy, being found, if you will, by the Triune God there. Here’s a bit from Sacramentum Caritatis (a most wonderful post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation):
The Eucharist reveals the loving plan that guides all of salvation history (cf. Eph 1:10; 3:8- 11). There the Deus Trinitas, who is essentially love (cf. 1 Jn 4:7-8), becomes fully a part of our human condition. In the bread and wine under whose appearances Christ gives himself to us in the paschal meal (cf. Lk 22:14-20; 1 Cor 11:23-26), God’s whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us. God is a perfect communion of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At creation itself, man was called to have some share in God’s breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). But it is in Christ, dead and risen, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, given without measure (cf. Jn 3:34), that we have become sharers of God’s inmost life. (16) Jesus Christ, who “through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God” (Heb 9:14), makes us, in the gift of the Eucharist, sharers in God’s own life. This is an absolutely free gift, the superabundant fulfilment of God’s promises. The Church receives, celebrates and adores this gift in faithful obedience. The “mystery of faith” is thus a mystery of trinitarian love, a mystery in which we are called by grace to participate. We too should therefore exclaim with Saint Augustine: “If you see love, you see the Trinity.”
Seeing Love: seeing the Trinity. Yes.
Pope Francis has, as well, given us something upon which to be nourished. Fear not! He has! Behold:
The Eucharist is Jesus who gives himself entirely to us. To nourish ourselves with him and abide in him through Holy Communion, if we do it with faith, transforms our life into a gift to God and to our brothers.
I’ll take that. This goes right to the Sacred Heart of it all. Jesus has come to give Himself as a gift to us so as to give us as a gift, through, with and in Himself to our Heavenly Father.
It’s all about Jesus. We must never forget.
I recall a Cardinal, a good friend, who would always stop me as I was walking away after we said our goodbyes after a bull session high atop San Callisto or up in Saint John’s Tower or at the Casa Santa Maria or wherever. He would say: “George! Remember!” I would turn and stare at him, always wondering to what this could possibly refer. To my great shame – shame I tell you – I have only figured it out, decades later, right now as I type this. He was, of course, speaking to me of the Most Holy Sacrifice during which Christ bids us to remember Him each time we offer the Last Supper. Thank you Jesus! So: