10 June 2007 Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Genesis 14, 18-20; Psalm 110; 1 Cor 11, 23-26; Luke 9, 11-17
On 8 September 1264, Urban IV, published the Papal Bull, Transiturus, which introduced the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, to commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Though the commemoration of the Eucharist is in the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, the new feast — celebrated after Trinity Sunday — gave an opportunity to appreciate the Eucharist more deeply. The reason for the new feast is not profound, but practical: holy week is subdued and sad and our minds are set on the Passion of Jesus. Thus, in order not to lose sight of the importance of the Eucharist, the Church decreed that we focus on it more deeply on Corpus Christi Sunday.
The way we look at the Eucharist — or the mass — is influenced by how we look at our bodies. We do not regard a person as someone who HAS a body; but a person who IS a body. Let me explain. When we regard a person as someone who has a body, any part of the body is not important, because it does not constitute his person. We look at the person’s body as a system of muscles and bones and nerves where the soul resides. So when a hand is cut off, we just say that it is just a part that has been separated, and not that important — like the hand of a doll or a part of a toy car.
But when we think of a body, we think of the whole person. A large proportion of amputees (50-80%) experience the phenomenon of phantom limbs. They feel the body part that is no longer there. They are that hand, so to speak. When someone is raped for example, they do not feel that it was only a part of their bodies that was violated, but the whole of themselves and their lives.
Thus, the consecrated bread and wine are not something, but someone. In communion, whether one drinks from the cup, or eats of the bread, they receive Christ fully. The intention then of the mass is not the production of the sacred species — of bread and wine — for keeping in the sanctuary or for adoration, but to create a united body of Christ which is the Church.
When we come to mass every Sunday, we do not attend for the sake of fulfilling an obligation; but in a greater sense, we come to celebrate with Christ himself; with the community who are members of the Christ’s body. Thus, each of us IS Christ’s body; and collectively as a community, we are HIS body too. We come to mass as a community gathering around the table.
Now our lives. When we come to mass like silent spectators, saying our individual prayers, watching the round wafer being lifted up for everyone to see, receiving communion if they would like to, impatiently cutting short the celebration by leaving during announcements, we become a collection of individuals (like a system of muscles, nerves and bones) watching something that was being done in our behalf.
But when we participate, each one contributing to a meaningful Eucharist, then we are experiencing Christ. We become one body. We become truly the Mystical Body of Christ.