The Celebration of Corpus Christi
A reflection by Fr. Peter Jaram
There is a story about the composer Robert Schumann. He once stood up to receive the applause after performing one of his own piano works. “Wonderful, Maestro,” someone in the audience shouted, “… but what does it mean?”. There was silence in the auditorium. “It means this,” replied Schumann, and sat down and played the piece again.
Might it have been said to Jesus, “Wonderful, Master, but what does it mean?”. “It means this,” he replied, and took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and shared it. And that action has been played and replayed ever since.
The Thursday after Trinity Sunday is the celebration of Corpus Christi Day – The Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. Eucharist, means ‘thanksgiving’. So, somewhat tautologically, we are giving a thanksgiving for the Eucharist! This is something that has been done in many different ways, unfailingly for many centuries.
Our own celebration in the present circumstances is different, please use the prayers and readings below.
The chant/hymn ‘Tantum Ergo’ is usually included in celebrations and there are quite a number of interpretations on ‘You Tube’ which you may ﬁnd helpful for your devotions.
Come, adore this wondrous presence,
bow to Christ, the source of grace.
Here is kept the ancient promise
of God’s earthly dwelling-place.
Sight is blind before God’s glory,
faith alone may see his face.
Glory be to God the Father,
praise to his co-equal Son,
adoration to the Spirit,
bond of love, in Godhead one.
Blest be God by all creation
joyously while ages run. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ,
we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament
you have given us the memorial of your passion:
grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries
of your body and blood
that we may know within ourselves
and show forth in our lives
the fruits of your redemption;
for you are alive and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High.He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything.
I kept my faith, even when I said,
“I am greatly afﬂicted”;
I said in my consternation,
“Everyone is a liar.”
What shall I return to the Lord
for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful ones.
O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacriﬁce
and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!
1 Corinthians 11.23-26
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 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.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my ﬂesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his ﬂesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the ﬂesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my ﬂesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my ﬂesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 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.”
You have blessed all generations,
O God most high,
in Jesus, our compassionate Saviour,
for through him you invite us to your kingdom,
welcome us at your table,
and provide us with nourishment in abundance.
Teach us to imitate your unfailing kindness
and to build up Christ’s body, the Church,
by generously handing on to others
the gifts we have received from your bounty.
We ask this through our `Lord Jesus Christ , your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen
‘I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,
and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ - John 6.35